The roots of someone who gets into the area of education and coaching can usually be traced to their immediate family. I am very proud of my family. They homesteaded a farm in Gage County in Nebraska almost 150 years ago. My brother and I still own that farm of 200 acres. However, farming and coaching are not similar in any fashion unless you count the weather affecting basketball travel and farm ground at the same time.
There is one thread to the education field, but why spoil the fun until the end of this story. First, I want to tell you about my grandparents on my mother’s side. Their names were George and Alma Schachenmeyer. I really have to think about the correct spelling when the credit card company does a security check and asks for my mother’s maiden name.
My grandfather, George, was one of the most decent, honest men I ever met. He also was the tightest man with money I ever met. He was so frugal; he would wash out catsup jars with hot water and use it as a final helping on his food rather than through away the last ounces of the red substance. He borrowed money only one time to buy his farm and paid it back a year later. The only time I saw him cry was when he gave me $2,000 to buy a car to take to college. I fibbed a little and told him it was college or Viet Nam. It wasn’t far from the truth.
My mother died when I was eight years old. That was George and Alma’s only child. They wanted my brother, Roger, and me to spend as much time as possible with them. In all that time, we farmed, gardened, did carpentry, and worked from sun up to sun down. In all those years, I only remember playing catch with my grandfather once. I don’t think he ever saw me play a high school game. He told me the noise bothered him, but I think it was the $1 admission fee that bothered him the most. Sports to Grandpa George just took up time that could be spent doing more important things.
My grandparents on my father’s side were much more liberal. Everyone called my grandfather Bill. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time with him since my other grandparents dominated my life. I was all they had left after the death of their only child.
From the stories I have heard about Bill, I wish I could have gotten to know him better. For one he was a land speculator. He partnered with his brother to buy land in the 1920’s near where Cody, WY is located today. The goal was to raise horses and ship them back to Nebraska. They shared a common boundary with the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody.
I was told they never saw Buffalo Bill, but they did run into his wife once while both were checking the fence lines. Grandpa Bill was creative. He owned a bank during the Great Depression. Instead of going bankrupt, he asked the local patrons to invest in the bank to keep it open with the promise of a good return. He repaid the entire customer’s money with interest and the bank is still open today.
Grandpa Bill was very generous with his money. He believed in education and demanded his two children attend college. He gave others in the community his own money so they could farther their education. Bill loaned money so local businesses could open. The only thing he never did was coach.
I barely remember my mother, Arlene. There are a few memories of a “Wally World” type vacation to California the summer before she died. However, I will never forget when my mother got me drunk. Actually, I did it to myself and I was only five years old.
One Thursday a month, the men gathered at the fire house to play cards, drink beer, and work on fire-fighting techniques (right!). The women would gather at someone’s house on a rotating basis to play cards and have sweet alcoholic drinks, pretending they weren’t seeing double on the cards they played.
One Thursday, my mother hosted the women. As one of the kids, I snuck up to my mom’s place at the card table and steal a few swallows of her drink. She was too busy being a good host to notice.
I didn’t feel funny until I woke up about the time my dad arrived back home. The women had all gone and the first thing I remember is being held over the toilet while a vomited. I never heard dad raise his voice to my mother other than that night. I believe his exact words were, “You know, he’s drunk.” I thought I had the flu. I broke training, but mom never did like sports anyway.
My dad, Billy, served in World War II as an advanced scout for his army unit in the Philippines. He had it pretty rough during those days. Dad had played high school basketball and summer baseball. He even played a year of college football at Dana College before the war began.
Dad had an interesting career in his few years in the military. He was a fence guard in New Mexico as they tested the new dooms-day weapon, the nuclear bomb. He survived all that with a severe case of malaria and went on to be the postmaster in Clatonia for the next 30 years. I saw him play a little softball, but his biggest sporting interest was as an arm-chair quarterback on the limited television schedule of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
After my mother died, Dad took only 11 months to marry the evil step mother, Mae. Mae had a tough childhood with her father being an alcoholic. The largest athletic conversation I had with my step-mother was the day I came home from college my freshman year. I always leaned against the refrigerator as she often lectured me on my poor life choices.
When she was on a diet, her motivation hung from the refrigerator door. It was a poster of a 400 pound woman that was totally naked (shown from the back) who was grocery shopping. The grocery cart was overflowing with potato chips and the caption at the bottom read, “Dieting?”
As I starred up at my mother’s dieting motivation, Mae asked me when I was going to give up sports and find a real profession. Apparently, she figured my motivation in attending college was more in evading death in the jungles than learning the coaching profession.
The one true influence that shoved me into the field of education and coaching were my Aunt Tootie and Uncle Gene Else. Of course, I was named for my uncle. Uncle Gene had lettered his freshman year at Gonzaga, which was close to his hometown in the state of Washington. He had enlisted in the Navy and sent to Doane College in Crete, NE where he was enrolled in a Navy officer program called V-12.
There he met my aunt and he never again returned to Washington to live. He coached at Milford and so did I. He coached at Clatonia and so did I. Gene Else finished his coaching career at Doane College. I spent 15 years at Doane myself. I guess you could say I mirrored my uncle’s career.
My uncle and my dad didn’t get along very well. Uncle Gene could give me constructive advice while my dad gave me emotional advice. My Aunt Tootie, the smartest of them all gave me the best advice, “Don’t listen to either of them.” I did listen but only took what I could use. However, I always did what my aunt suggested. All are now dead except for Aunt Tootie. I still listen.