Friday, April 15, 2016

Winside High School Days: Angst and Triumph

This week marks the 102nd anniversary of my father’s birth, so he is on my mind. On 13 April 1914, Verne Clinton Troutman entered the world. Born at home on a farm in Stanton County, Nebraska, he had the bluest eyes and blondest hair a kid could have.  A cute little round-faced boy, he was the fourth child and third son of Clint and Mary Troutman. That’s a tough position, the youngest of three boys. 

Verne, about age 3.
 His youngest sister Virginia told me that Carl and Verne often bickered and fought, and Jim would attempt to referee. Finally, their dad bought them boxing gloves and let them duke it out. I don’t know who won. Those boxing gloves would later attain significance in Verne’s life.

In earlier blogs, I’ve written a few stories about my dad, his adventures and misadventures. I haven’t told about his greatest humiliation: he failed seventh grade. His sister Virginia, always his defender, said his class included several high achievers; he was not the most studious. Also the family had moved to town from country school, so perhaps he was behind his classmates in town. Dad said the teacher didn’t like him. For whatever reason, his teacher saw fit to make him repeat seventh grade. He was devastated. I’m not sure he ever got over it. For sure, my dad was the best at math of anyone I knew. He could solve a math problem in his head quicker than any of us could figure it on paper. Reading, however, was not his forte.

Neville remembered that when they moved to town, “the town kids made fun of James and Carl because they wore knee pants. Verne told me that James met them back of the school house and gave them a fight. They said, ‘Those country boys are strong!’”[1]

The three oldest Troutman children, Neville, James, and Carl, went through school in the same grade. Neville said, “I started to school with James. One of the teachers put Carl up in our class. He was very good in math. He won first [in the state in a math contest] in Lincoln.” His math teacher, Miss Ruth Schindler, who later became James’ wife, no doubt coached him. The Troutman trio graduated together in 1929 at ages 18, 17, and 16, respectively. Their class of seventeen sat on the stage, and Neville wore a “ pretty green dress.”[2] Verne was two years younger than Carl; Virginia was about a month shy of two years younger than Verne. They ended up graduating the same year also, 1932.

James, Carl, and Neville, senior photo, 1929.
 1930 was a banner year for Verne. First, on 14 September 1930, his Hereford won grand champion at the county fair.[3] Second, he miraculously recovered from a ruptured appendix at a time when most people died. Virginia described her fear when her parents took Verne off to the hospital: “I went out behind the barn and knelt down on my knees and prayed and cried. I was so afraid he would die.” To everyone’s great relief and joy, he survived. Virginia credited his recovery to a miracle from God. That same week, another patient in the same hospital died of peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix.

Third, the Winside High School boxing team of which Verne was member won the 1930 tournament held at Winside High School. WHS was fortunate to have a twenty-three-year-old coach who had been a former Mid-West A. A. U. boxing champion in the welter-weight division, Gerald M. Cherry.[4] Cherry also coached basketball, and Verne was on that team, as well. Mr. Cherry was a favorite of Verne’s teachers.  Fourth, the 1930-31 basketball team he was on won twelve out of thirteen games that year, one of the best records in the school’s history prior to 1940, and Coach Cherry produced winning teams in all five years of his tenure at Winside.[5]

On the back of the photo below, Verne identified the boxing team members: (left to right) Robert Wilson, George Moore, Verne Troutman, Warren Selders, Harry Jensen, Marvin Trautwein, and Coach Gerald M. Cherry. Verne also identified this photo as the 1930 champs, but The History of Winside identifies the second photo below as the champions. It remains to be determined which source is correct.
Winside High School boxing team, 1930 (?).

Winside High School boxing team, 1930 (?)
The History of Winside identifies the above boxers as Donald Katz, Richard Moore, Robert Wilson, Hamer Wilson, Verne Troutman, Carl Anderson, and Coach Gerald Cherry.6
They were all good athletes, those Troutman brothers. James and Carl excelled at basketball. Neville liked to watch her brothers’ games: “My dad made me mad once. He would not let me go to a basketball game in Wayne. James and Carl played and James was the star player. I cried.” The caption under the photo below names the players on this 1928-29 Winside High School basketball team: Back row: Allan Francis, Coach Herbert Brune, Carl Troutman; front row: James Troutman, Leo Jordan, Howard Witt, Manfred Wolf, and Ross Holcomb. James and Carl were seniors.

1928-1929 Winside H.S. basketball team with James and Carl.
 Verne ran track, played basketball, and boxed, and he saved all his ribbons and other awards from athletic events. In the attic of our Nebraska farmhouse, a big green trunk with a rounded lid full of Dad’s high school memorabilia enticed his children to explore. He used to show us, once-in-a-while, his awards and tell stories of his athletic adventures. 

1932 Winside High School basketball team.
Verne identified the above players: front row: C. B. Misfelt, Robert Wilson, Verne Troutman (honorary captain), Norris Wieble, C. O. Witt; second row: Raymond Graef, Frank Wieble, Cecil Jordan, unknown; third row: Monte Davenport, Coach Cherry, Arnold Porter.

1 Neville Troutman, “Neville’s Memory Book with Virginia’s Memories of Country School,” compiled by Sharon Lamson, Troutman Family Newsletter: This One’s a Keeper!, 1998.
2 Ibid.
3 F. M. Jones and F. J. Dimmel, History of Winside, Nebraska: Northside, Railroad, Growth and Development — Winside, Settlement and Growth to the Present, p. 228 (no place, no publisher, 1942).
4 Ibid, p. 91.
5 Ibid, p. 101.
6 Ibid, p. 91.

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