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Richie and Me, Part 10



After the train ride from Chicago, we were picked up in Milwaukee by Port Washington students and their parents. It all was a grand greeting and we were soon settling in for the week with our adopted families.

The roads were clear but there were several feet of snow everywhere. My adopted family was the Strauss family.

Paul was their only child, a junior whom I seldom saw in school. He was a straight “A” student who planned to major in engineering in college. I have no idea how we were matched up, straight “A’s” and engineering, but we had a good time together for a short week.

His dad sold snow-making machines. In Wisconsin, you have to make snow?  Never understood that one.

Mrs. Strauss treated me as her second son, providing me a comfortable home, breakfast and dinner if we were there. Ronnie Owen probably had the best week with his hosts, twin boys the sons of a minister.

On our first night, there was a progressive dinner with all of the homes on the same street. We deep south natives were walking up and down a snow-covered street and sidewalk as if it was April in Alabama, meeting and greeting.

At every stop there was a new adventure with German food. As students, we were in class just as if we went there. We attended their student government meetings and any other meetings that interested us.

We played basketball against their basketball team at their afternoon practice. Several days we were invited to local civic meetings for lunch. Ronnie, Richie and I were asked to speak at the meetings about Greenville and Alabama. We were extremely well-received.

On our last day in school, as I walked past the principal’s office, he flagged me down and asked me to make an announcement over the PA system for the Alabama students.

Mrs. Walburn wanted all of us to meet in the cafeteria at 11 a.m., about 30 minutes before lunch, to discuss our departure plans.

I thought to myself, Ronnie is the senior class president, this is his job, but I stepped up and said in my best Greenville and South Alabama language, “Will all y’all Greenville students report to the cafeteria at 11 a.m. before the regular lunch hour?”

Roaring laughter all up and down the halls of the school! I stepped back, surely surprised, and asked what I had done wrong.

The principal said, “Nothing Carter, you did just fine”. My southern drawl and I had been set up.  Mrs. Walburn tried to hide her smile.

During the week an incident occurred that involved Greenville and Port Washington boys. Richie and I heard about it but knew nothing about who might have been involved.

On the way home on the train, Mrs. Walburn called six boys, including us, to her seat. She did not reveal any specifics about the incident or any of the boys supposedly involved.

In her best “Mrs. Walburn voice and poise” she told us that she was going to give us 24 hours to tell our parents if we were involved.

At the end of the 24 hours, she wanted to hear that we had told our parents about the incident and our involvement if any.

We did not need to report our parents’ response. She told us we were on the Greenville High School Honor Code and she expected us to honor it. No one admitted or denied involvement.

On the night of the incident, Richie and I had been out with a mixed group of students and knew nothing about it.

A couple of years ago, over dinner we told our wives about the trip, about the incident, laughed about it, but 60 years later we still don’t know who was involved.

In April, the Port Washington students came to Greenville for a week. It was another fun week with our new friends.

They attended classes with us, attended our club meetings, participated in sports practices, were taken to the beach for a day and taken on a hay ride.

We tried to involve them in all of our usual everyday activities just as they did and they were invited to speak to Greenville’s civic clubs.

Some of us kept up correspondence with our Wisconsin friends for a number of years.

On an RV trip through the Midwest and into the northern states several years ago, Robert and Sandra Croley visited Port Washington. They came away with a continued favorable impression.

On the same trip they were able to walk across the Mississippi River at its headwaters in Bemidji, Minn.  They walked across the Mississippi River!

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