Bisonalities Again


A quarterly Newsletter dedicated to the Alumni of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools
January 2014------------------------------------------Winter Issue ------------------------ Volume 15 - Number 2

Welcome to the Bisonalities, Again, a newsletter dedicated to the alumni (students, teachers, and administrators) of Waterford and Fort LeBoeuf High Schools. This newsletter will be issued quarterly. New issues will be posted for viewing on the Web site on, or about January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

The Bisonalities, Again Web site may be viewed by going to:

The success of this newsletter will depend on you. I need contributors. Do you have an interesting article, a nostalgia item, a real life story, or a picture you would like to share with other alumni? Do you have a snail-mail or an e-mail address of one of your former classmates? If you do, please send it to me at the following e-mail address:
or at my snail-mail address:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
Tel: (301) 535-9263
Fax: (301) 375-9250

Please, NO handwritten submissions.

The Bisonalities, Again Newsletter is available to any and all alumni, teachers, and administrators of Waterford or Fort LeBoeuf High Schools on the Web site, free.

If you know an alumnus, teacher, or administrator who would be interested, tell them about the Web site. None of the material in this newsletter has a copyright unless otherwise noted. If you wish to make copies of this newsletter and distribute it to other Alumni or friends, please feel free to do so.

If you are reading this newsletter on-line and would like a printable version of it, a PDF version is available on the web site. That is, a file that can be read and displayed by the FREE Adobe File Reader. This will allow you to print the newsletter exactly as if you had received it by snail-mail. If you would like a PDF copy of the newsletter, it is located on the Main Menu under "Past Issues Bisonalities Again."

I love everything that's old, - old friends, old times, old manners, old books, and old wine.

Bob Catlin - Class of 1956

Bisonalities Blog

We have another story written by Dave Rutkowski, Class of '67. Rut has written several stories for the Newsletter and I hope he becomes a regular story contributor. Thanks Rut!

After mowing my yard for the last time, this year, it reminded me of a poem that the late Herb Walden wrote in 1998, called "Mowing the Lawn." It is included in this issue!

Kudos to Benny and Darlene Hunt who recently purchased the Joe's Auto Parts building. This building is the oldest retail building on High Street and has been in grave danger of falling into complete disrepair. How wonderful they are willing to invest their time, energy and money to preserve this building of huge historical significance. Benny and Darlene have always been active in celebrating Waterford's history with their involvement in the FLB Historical Society and handling of Waterford Heritage Days for many years. A huge thank you is owed to both of them. The on-lines are quotes are called "Brainy Quotes." They were written by Oliver Goldsmith, Irish poet!

A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is
wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future.

The deaths shown below were published in the Erie Times and on the web site.

Virginia "Ginger" PatchenFLBHS1962
Shirley EliasonWHS1954
Ida Crocker HirstWHS1955
Judy Wolf BabayFLBHS1961
Melody Da ValleFLBHS 1978
Betty BrownFLBHS1976
Matthew WassonFLBHS2008
Sharon Hazen ChapmanFLBSDNurse
Sam SteenFLBHS1962
L. Lorraine CarterFLBSDSecretary
Louise Moore HailwoodWHS1946
Jane TupitzaRobinsonTeacher
People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.
Gym Class Heroes
By Dave Rutkowski, FLBHS Class of 1967

Did you ever notice how some smells transport your mind back to school? For instance, sour milk always reminds me of elementary school. It seemed like there was at least one kid vomiting every day. The janitor would roll up with his mop bucket and wringer on wheels, and after cleaning up the used bologna sandwich and Ho-Ho, would sprinkle some kind of sawdust looking absorbent material around. The smell that resulted was a sickly-sweet sour milky odor. Not entirely unpleasant smelling, mind you. Just one of the many odors, like mimeograph ink and white paste that made up our youthful scholarly existence.

Another smell that transports me back to school is varnish. Opening a can of varnish brings to mind the first gym class of the new school year, when your olfactory senses are hit with that great smell of newly varnished maple gym floor, as yet untrod upon by P.F. Flyers. Ah, gym class! If asked to name their favorite class, the nerds would say "science", the jokesters would say "lunch", the slackers would say "study hall", and the jocks would invariably answer "gym". As would I!

Anyway, even though I wasn't a jock, I loved Gym. Gym was my time to shine. I was too small and clumsy to play varsity basketball; never played Little League because summertime was work time on the farm; didn't like sticking my face in some other guy's sweaty wrestling armpit; and never lasted beyond 7th grade in football. (I was a motivated player in search of a position.) Coach Flynn first had me on the line. I was real good there, except for the fact that I couldn't block. So he moved me to split end, which was good because even though I consistently dropped the ball, FLB never passed anyway, so it really didn't matter. But I was also slow, and they got tired of waiting for me to run back to the huddle. You know, if the Bisons had adopted the "lonely end" position, where the player just stayed flanked out wide and never came to the huddle, I could have been a star. But they didn't, so, since I couldn't catch a pass, and quickly found out I couldn't throw one either, Coach Flynn tried me at quarterback. Hey, no passing. I'm your man! Except that I couldn't hand off either. So, maybe, defensive specialist? Well, that seemed to be going well until I tackled Sterling Chase in scrimmage, and wound up looking through the ear hole of my helmet. I am not making that up. Coach DeLuca looked down at me, shook his head, and said, "Maybe you should try another sport, son."

So Gym class was my sport of choice. Back in the '60's we had Gym class. I didn't take Phys Ed until college. Phys Ed was too high-falutin' a name for Fort LeBoeuf. Maybe those obnoxious Prep kids had Phys Ed, but we had Gym, notwithstanding the fact that Coach Orris was known as Physical Eddie. Ed Orris and Carm Bonito were my gym, and health, teachers through my school years. I really respected both men, and they could be demanding, but fair. It seemed as though every boy at LeBoeuf could do a pretty fair impression of Coach Orris ("Nyoo, boice. Run out some laps.") Coach Bonito was a former golden gloves boxing champ. If two guys got in a fight at school, they were brought in to Coach. He would have them put on the gloves, and wale away at each other until one gave up. The winner would then have to box Bonito. Can you imagine that happening now?

Luckily, I never had to box, but I was a gym star. Well, maybe not a star, but at least a meteor, or maybe an asteroid. I once made two triple plays in one softball game. On defense, I might add. Playing center field I charged in and caught the ball for one out, stepped on second for the second out, and tagged the runner heading back to first for the third out. I'm guessing the runners thought I would never make the catch - but I did, and the next inning I did it again! Another unassisted triple play. No major leaguer has ever had two unassisted triple plays, let along two in consecutive innings. But I did. You can look it up. Well, maybe not look it up, but you could ask Tommy Bisbee, because he actually kept statistics for gym class, and probably still has the box score.

We played 7-man football, with everyone eligible. In one game I was the center, and ran a great pattern, coming open just as the ball arrived. I turned and chugged down the field. Standing in the end zone was Coach Bonito, and as I ran I was already accepting his offer to join the varsity and revive the passing game. Alas, I was tripped up from behind on the 5 yard line, stumbled and fumbled at the 1, and the ball flew through the back of the end zone as I slid to a stop at Coach's feet. Much like DeLuca earlier, he looked down at me, smiled, and said "Tough luck, Ski."

Tommy Bisbee figured prominently in my wrestling prowess, also. Since we were the same weight, we were always paired together in the drills. We quickly hatched a scheme that probably did not really fool Bonito, but still got us both an "A" that term. If we were being tested on takedowns, we would let the other guy take us down. If tested on defending the takedown, why, that would happen, too! We each sacrificed for the betterment of the other; the epitome of teamwork. The only snag we hit was when our class wrestled the other period class for an assembly and, with the other guys not part of our scheme, I was pinned in about 15 seconds. But that still beat Bisbee who only lasted 12.

Speaking of schemes makes me think of what was probably the funniest thing to ever happen in a gym class, ever. We were playing a baseball hybrid that was played indoors, half gym, with wrestling mats as bases and a softball-sized hollow rubber ball. The ball would zoom off the bat, sometimes ricocheting off several walls and pushed-up bleachers. But the bunt was a great weapon. With the infielders holding one hand in front of the face, and the other in front of valuable territory below the belt buckle, a bunt was usually a sure hit. I don't remember who was batting, but Billy Beeman was playing third base. Expecting a bunt he charged toward home mat, but the batter swung away. The ball hit Beeman right in the chest when he was about 6 feet from the batter. (To make matters worse, it was a shirts vs. skins game, and he was a skin). I can still hear the whomp-smack sound of ball hitting flesh. Bill went flying backwards, the ball arched toward the ceiling, and a silence fell over the class. When Bill shook his head, got to his knees and said "Damn", we all burst out laughing like it was the funniest thing we ever saw, which it was. At least until we looked at his chest, and saw smack in the middle of this belly the reddening circle with the letters Spalding prominently displayed in reverse. THAT was the funniest thing ever. Nothing says humor to a teen age boy than another teen age boy being possibly tattooed for life by a playground ball.

After every session we had to take a shower before heading off to the next class. The locker room was a great atmosphere of communal togetherness and a mutual respect for each other, or not. Shoes switched with others, towels knotted through the mesh of the locker, padlocks switched, soap in the back pocket, and towels snapped on bare butts were all a daily part of the 10 minutes allotted to "shower up", dress, roll your gym shorts, t-shirt and sneakers in your towel and line up waiting for the bell.

The communal shower was a place of potential great angst also. Nothing makes a teen age guy feel more inferior than being in a shower, nude, with 24 other guys your age and discovering that you're coming up a couple inches short, in height.

HEIGHT!! Geeze, keep your mind out of the gutter, this is a family story.

And still, to this day, the smell of yellow Dial soap takes me back to those days when some of us were gym class heroes.

Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.
Flag-Draped Body of Famous War House was Buried Standing up in Waterford's Diamond
By Arch Bristow

He was the only horse in all the state of Pennsylvania ever accorded a military funeral, with an address by a preacher. Wrapped in a great American flag, he was buried standing up, in the exact center of the Diamond, at Waterford. An old war horse, his name was Frank. He had a long and magnificent army record and he died in Waterford on the Fourth of July, 1887, amid the roll of drums and smoke and roar of cannon. If this be not a picturesque and vivid tale, then where might you find one?

The story of old Frank, Waterford's famous war horse, was told to me by Cynthia Stranahan Brotherton, which is a guarantee that all the facts are meticulously correct. Mrs. Brotherton makes a hobby of history and is known for the care she uses in collecting data. The odyssey of the old charger begins below the Mason-Dixon Line, when, a handsome dapple-gray, he was captured from the Army of the South and became the Property of Col. W. O. Colt. Horses are philosophical animals. When Frank, who no doubt had a fine record in General Lee's forces, found himself under the saddle of an officer of the boys in blue, he changed his viewpoint and galloped into action just as valiantly as before, explaining he had really always thought the North was in the right after all. That a war record he had, this famous horse. Carrying his brave rider into the smoke and din of battle, leaping, undoubtedly, as the horses did, over many a poor fallen soldier who lay wounded on the ground, dashing hither and yon in the powder-pungent smoke clouds, with swift death whistling by on every side, bearing the Colonel here and there as he shouted orders to his advancing men, the swift gray horse earned every honor bestowed upon him later. Into the battles of Petersburg, Yellow Tavern, Weldon Railroad, Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, Five Forks, and Tonsal's Station he galloped, putting swift legs under Colonel Colt and aiding, who can say how much, in the very outcome of each battle. Was it Napoleon who said of his officers, "A good horse is half the man?"

It was while plunging at the head of the 16th Michigan that Frank, the famous Waterford war horse, was injured, struck in the withers by a flying fragment which lamed him. Later, as the grand review of the army by the vice president and his cabinet, Frank pranced proudly in the parade, wearing a start-studded blanked as befitted a horse of his rank, and silver buckles on his bridle. The music and marching made him dance; he really hoped it was the beginning of another good war.

Colonel W. O. Colt, the owner of Frank, was born in Waterford in 1832, a son of Henry Colt, Jr. a grandson of Colonel Henry Colt, Sr., and great grandson of Major William Colt, men who were among the early builders of Waterford. Colonel W. O. Cold enlisted in April, 1961, in Company E, the older Erie regiment and served three months. In July, 1961, he reenlisted in the 83rd regiment. Colonel Colt was wounded several times. At the Battle of Five Forks he was credited with capturing a regiment of the enemy's artillery. And his splendid horse, Frank, undoubtedly had a hand, or four very good feet, in it.

And so, when the last cannon had boomed, the smoke had cleared and the Civil War was over, Colonel Colt came riding his faithful horse home to Waterford. Horse and rider were given a royal welcome when they entered the town, the dapple gray well cared for but weary with the long road, loaded high behind the saddle with bags, blankets and all the personal paraphernalia of the Civic War. While the Colonel was toasted, his horse was petted at the taverns, and all of Waterford was proud of them both.

From then on the life of Frank, the war horse, was destined to be one of uninterrupted peace and quiet. He was the pet of the village, a privileged character, exempt from the laws regarding horses and cattle running at large, free to roam where he liked. Even at night he roamed, and the neighbors, hearing a noise about the back yard, perhaps a moving of pails, on the back porch, would sleepily ensure themselves, "It's only Frank nibbling around." And early in the morning, the good Waterford folk, lighting their wood fires to cook bacon and eggs, looked out the window and saw old Frank, now growing to be a white horse instead of the youthful dapple gray, browsing in the lush grass about the green borders of Lake LeBoeuf.

It is true; on certain days the Colonel saddled up his old war steed and rode him in to Erie, tying him to one of many hitching posts along State Street. And the equine veteran was even known to cultivate a little corn at times, a job he did as willing as going to war. And each Fourth of July he took prominent part in the celebrating at Waterford, prancing like a two-year old at the head of the procession, neck arching, tail up, like the real steed of battle that he was. And time passed and the old horse grew older still, his side's whiter, his mane and tail shabby and aged looking. His poor old belly came down in a curve like a chair rocker; he began to be quite swaybacked. And then, he in the thirty-fifth year of his life, on July 4, 1887, came a very great celebration in Waterford. "Tatta-rumm, tatt-rumm, tatta-rumm, tatta-rumm, beat the drums, while the fifes of the band squealed their high, exciting notes. Old as he was, his sprung knees now shaky, old Frank actually pranced and cavorted at the head of the parade. But when the muskets rattled and a cannon boomed close by, it was all too much for poor old Frank, the Civil War horse; he sank suddenly down in the dust, and died of the excitement. They buried old Frank that day with full military honors, wrapped in the largest American flag that could be found in Waterford. They buried him standing up, in a grave in the center of the public diamond. They kind of thought he would like to be on his feet, all ready, on resurrection day, to gallop off and find his master.

Editor: Thanks to Gary Morrison, class of 1971, for forwarding this story to me.

Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to
prevent it seldom has justice enough to accuse.
Mowing the Lawn
By the late Herb Walden, FLBHS Class of 1956

Well, spring has sprung,
And winter is gone,
And once again
I'm mowing the lawn.

Grass growing like crazy
Hither, thither, and yon.
Looks like a long summer
Just mowing the lawn.

Oh, I get some rest
From dusk until dawn,
But the rest of the time
I'll be mowing the lawn.

Sometimes I break
To go to the john,
But in a few minutes,
I'm back mowing the lawn.

My summer fishing
Is more off than on,
Since, I'm way too busy
Just mowing the lawn.

I'm getting real tired
And starting to yawn,
But I can't take a nap
Cause I'm mowing the lawn.

Lots of jobs
Seem to go on and on,
But they're nothing compared
To mowing the lawn.

By the end of the summer
I'll look old and drawn
Cause I've spent so much time
Mowing the lawn.

In the years that pass
Long after I'm gone,
I'll be remembered
For mowing the lawn.
"Here lies Herb Walden"
(My tombstone---engraved upon)
"He didn't do much
But he sure could mow lawn!"

Herb Walden - 1998
Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.
See you all next issue!

I need Stories!
Next Issue
Issues Menu
Main Menu