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Thursday, Mar. 26, 2015

Gray Matters: Humor to brighten a winter day

Friday, February 22, 2008

(Photo)
When my son, who is helping plan a class reunion for this coming summer, recently spoke of the effort it took to track down former classmates and faculty, it struck a bell. When the classes I taught compiled their reunion lists, one faculty member's name, Carl Zehnder, always seemed to be mentioned first. This fine educator and coach first came to Marcus for the 1943-44 season. A year or so later, he was called up for Navy duty in WW II. At war's end he returned for a few years and then went on to Rock Valley, where he finished out his long and highly successful coaching career.

During vacations while Carl and June lived in Marcus, he worked for my late husband at the Dorr Feed Mill, so we became close friends. After they moved, we often met at Cedar Cabins near Ashton for steaks and conversation.

I will leave it up to the guys (there are still a few around who played for him) to tell of Zehnder's coaching prowess, but today I want to tell you of his sense of humor. In those years, the era of the "Twist" was just getting underway. That was the new-fangled dance where each partner more or less did his/her own thing. The first time we saw it done was one evening at Cedar Cabins. A fellow was really into it, twisting away, while his poor partner just stood there in the middle of the dance floor, bemused and embarrassed. Carl, a great dancer himself, was the first to notice.

"Just look at that idiot," he exclaimed. "He's making a fool of himself and look what he's doing to that poor girl." Soon, totally disgusted, he got up, walked across the floor, politely tapped the girl on the shoulder and danced off with her. I will never forget the look of astonishment on her goofy partner's face. Only Zehnder could have carried that off as he did !

Another most amusing story which he told on himself also bears repeating. It seems that, at war's end when his ship returned to port in San Diego, he continued on duty at the Naval Base for a period of time. By then, Elmer Bjornstad, a fellow legendary teacher whose field was music, was living in nearby La Jolla. At June Zehnder's suggestion, her husband called the Bjornstads. Delighted to hear from him, they invited him to come visit. They assured him he would have no problem finding their place. He should simply go to the base entrance, board one of the La Jolla busses, which ran by every fifteen minutes, and get off at such and such a stop.

But, as Carl amusingly recounted, it wasn't that easy. He tried for several days. There were any number of "La Jolla" (as in Jolly with an a) busses going by, but he never did see a "La Hoya" bus. As well as being a great coach, the guy was, as they say, a real "hoot!"

I hope this bit of humor has brightened your day, particularly if it's as gloomy and frigid when you're reading it as it is now, as I write.