DR. WALLACE: I have been reading your column in the Gary Post Tribune ever since I was a teen, and I still enjoy reading it. You once wrote a column about your friendships with high school buddies that lasted for many years after graduation. I always remember that column. Is it possible that you could print it again so my teenage son could read it? — Thanks, George, Hobart, Ind.
GEORGE: The column was titled, "Close Friendships Can Last Forever," and it appeared in the Post Tribune in March of 1994. I hope your son enjoys it as much as you did!
TEENS: Do you sometimes wonder if you will keep close friendships after you graduate from high school and possibly college; after you get married; raise a family and move away, far away from the old hometown? Well, wonder no longer. Friendships last forever.
Growing up in the steel mill town of Gary, Indiana, athletics and good friends were most important in my very enjoyable teen years. High school football games at Gleason Field, basketball in Memorial Auditorium, running track at the Goshen relays, and going "all out" for two miles at the Cresmore Country Club during a cross country meet. These were the good old days when Patti Page was singing "The Tennessee Waltz" and Louie Armstrong found his thrill "On Blueberry Hill."
Evenings and weekends were spent discussing sports and debating the merits of the Cubs versus the White Sox. Kenny Enderline (the greatest Cubs fan of them all), Bob Locke, Tony Franke, Gene Onofrey, Dan O'Connell, Skinny Ennis and the Karras brothers (Ted, Alex and Paul) and I were all close friends.
But after high school graduation, the group started splitting up. Some went into the military, (the Korean War was in full force) some went off to college, while the rest remained at home and worked in the steel mills. Even though time and distance made it difficult to keep in touch regularly, the bonds of friendship remained as strong as ever.
Last week, Ted Karras called from Gary and said that his brother Paul, Hobart High School football coach Don Howell and he were coming to California to visit his brother Alex and good friend Tony Franke for a few days of fishing. He invited me to come along. I hadn't seen Alex and Paul in many a year, so it was a great chance to visit with these friends once more.
Again, the conversation revolved around athletics (mostly football) and the wonderful times we had together growing up in the Steel City. All three of the Karras brothers were high school all-state football players at Emerson High School, and Alex was a high school All-American. Ted became a superb offensive guard for the Chicago Bears and has a World Championship ring to prove it, while Alex became an all-pro defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. Paul was equally gifted as a player, but an injury while playing at the University of Iowa cut his career short. Don Howell is questionably the most successful high school coach in America. His Hobart High team has won so many Indiana State Championships that the fans expect a championship team every year, and they usually get their wish.
As the boat, captained by Tony, headed back to the harbor, we were still discussing the "good old days" and who caught the most fish. Paul claimed victory (actually, Coach Howell won) and we all agreed when Alex announced that the winner had to clean all of the day's catch. As the sun slipped into the Pacific Ocean, we all piled into the van, tired and hungry, and headed to Alex's beach house.
"Hey, Guys," shouted Tony, "this is just like it used to be!" We could all relate to that.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.