Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Can't Blame Chet Culver Because His Dad, John, Was An Athlete At Franklin. But, Truthfully, We At Wilson Hated Those Thunderbolts From the Eastside

Consider this a change in direction.

I'm going to veer off today to politics, which is very similar to a couple of other things I sometimes write about -- sports and journalism.

Among the reasons politics, sports and journalism have a lot in common is that all three have plenty of bullshitters and phonies.

Severe memory problems prevent me from recalling all of the folks in one or some of those three areas, but I do remember a few of the participants.

One is John Culver [left] -- the father of Chet Culver [right], a man who wants to become Iowa's next governor.

Let me say right now that I have no reason to believe that either John or Chet is a bullshitter or a phony.

If you can believe the polls -- and, most of the time, I don't -- Chet is going to win the race to be governor.

I have nothing against the guy, and I have nothing against his dad, either.

Not anymore.

But I do know that I didn't like the guy -- John, I mean -- when I was a kid.

You see, John attended Franklin High School in Cedar Rapids, and I attended Wilson High School.

That was enough right there to cause me to dislike him.

The architecture of Franklin and Wilson, as well as the gyms where the teams played basketball, was much the same.

Roosevelt and McKinley, the other public high schools in Cedar Rapids at the time, were also architectually similar.

But back to John Culver and Franklin.

We at Wilson didn't hide our emotions about Franklin.

We hated those bastards with a passion over there on the eastside.

We were the Ramblers from the southwest side, they were the Thunderbolts.

I never saw a Thunderbolt I liked.

We [or at least most of us] were the Bohemies [actually, kids of Czech descent] who went to Sykora's Bakery to buy kolaches and Pohlena's to buy jaternice.

[NOTE: This is Ron Maly's editor butting in. For the benefit of the non-Bohemies who are reading this, I told Ron he should explain what jaternice is. He said he's going to coffee and told me to do it -- explain what jaternice is, I mean. Anyway, jaternice is a sausage-like food generally made from pork snout and pork jowls, ground and mixed with cereal and spices. It's still popular in Czech and other ethnic homes in Cedar Rapids and elsewhere. Neither John nor Chet Culver would probably know the difference between a jaternice and a jalapeno. But that's just me talking. By the way, at the top of his column, Ron has a photo posted of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library at 30 16th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids. Anything and everything you want to know about the Bohemies will be there. Now back to Ron's column.....]

Our dads wore their undershirts when they went into what were called the "beer joints" on 16th Avenue.

I didn't check, but I'll bet the dads of the Franklin kids wore real shirts -- maybe even shirts that were ironed -- when they went into the Me-Too Grocery Store or a place where you could buy a cold one in a glass.

There was no school Wilson wanted to beat more in any sport than Franklin,

They had the money, we didn't.

Our dads worked at Penick & Ford or Link-Belt Speeder, if they worked at all.

Their dads worked at the bank and loaned us money.

That immediately gave us enough incentive to beat them.

Bill Barnard never let his Wilson football players forget that. I recall Barnard, who had been Wilson's coach forever and who had a speech impediment, reminding a big lineman who had a Czech name of that late in a Wilson-Franklin game at Hill Park -- where the Cedar Rapids schools used to play.

Barnard stared at the big lineman who had a Czech name and said, "This is the last chance you're ever going to get to beat these guys!" Barnard screamed.

The big lineman with the Czech name listened intently because you always listened to Barnard. Wilson went on to win the game, and made life much easier on the southwest side for the Bohemies for another year.

The kolaches from Sykora's tasted a hell of a lot better the next morning, too.

John Culver is about three years older than me, and I remember when he played football for Franklin.

Nobody from Wilson liked him -- probably because he was a good player.

Listen, we didn't like Jack Elgin, either. Elgin played baseball, and probably football, too, for Franklin. He later went on to coach football at Valley in West Des Moines.

I liked Elgin a lot better then, even though there were many people from West Des Moines who didn't.

It didn't help the Wilson-kids-hate-Franklin-kids feeling when Barnard suddenly resigned as Wilson's coach to take the job at Franklin.

I never forgave the guy they called "Barney" for that.

I still don't, even though Barnard has been dead for many years and Wilson and Franklin are now elementary and junior high schools.

But back to John Culver.

He made something of himself, as did many Franklin graduates [as did many Wilson graduates].

Culver was a friend of the Kennedy family and was a legislative assistant to Edward Kennedy in 1963, but we'll forgive him for that.

Culver graduated from Harvard University as well as Harvard Law School.

He was a Marine captain from 1955-1958, and began practicing law in Cedar Rapids in 1963. He soon entered politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in Iowa as a Democrat in 1964. He served in the House from 1965 until 1975.

In 1974, Culver was elected to the U.S. Senate, winning the seat left open by the retirement of Harold Hughes. Culver served one term 1975-1981], then Culver was defeated in a bid for re-election by Republican Chuck Grassley in 1980.

I hope your health is all right, John.

And I hope your kid Chet does well in that race he's in.

Time heals a lot of things.