He was so huge he seemed to take up the entire aisle as he marched past me.
“Children I want you to meet your new classmate, Bobby,” Mrs. Estrem, our fourth grade teacher, announced from the front of the room. “Please make him feel welcome.”
I couldn’t believe it. This kid was big enough to make two of Slick or me. Heck, Mouse Mason would fit in one leg of the bib overalls he was wearing.
I guess that’s what made him seem so massive. His attire was composed of a checkered shirt, bib overalls and black work boots – just like the farmers when they come to town Saturday nights.
It was the first day of school, 1948, and I, along with the other seven members of my class, sat there pretty much in shock. We’d been like sisters and brothers for the past three years and now we had this newcomer invading our ranks. This immense newcomer.
Bobby wasn’t that much taller than the rest of us, he was just a whole lot wider. Back then most kids were thin. Bobby was broad. And, as we were soon to discover, immensely strong. He could pick us up and toss us around with little effort.
Thankfully, Bobby was a happy go lucky kid, not a bully. Once school let out he would walk across the street to his home and we would rarely see him again until his father, Dale, arrived from work.
For some reason, Dale seemed really old. Much older than the rest of our fathers. But that didn’t seem to bother him or Bobby. No sooner had his vintage Oldsmobile pulled into the drive and Bobby was all over him. It was as if he hadn’t seen him for a long time.
Turns out Dale had been an aspiring baseball coach and Bobby was now his most enthusiastic (and only) pupil. After a warm greeting they would walk across the street and down to the school’s ancient baseball diamond. Between them they would drag a big canvas bag filled with baseball gloves, bats and a large quantity of baseballs.
Dale would take his chosen place on the pitcher’s mound while Bob would grab a couple bats and swing them violently about as he prepared to dig in next to home plate.
For as long as it would take Dale to pitch the bag full of baseballs Bobby would drive them deep into right field. For Bobby was a left-handed batter of great power something like Babe Ruth. He would loft each of the balls out of the ball diamond, across the road and deep into the side yard next to the Lutheran parsonage.
When Dale finally ran out of balls he would pick up the canvas bag, walk slowly across the outfield, over the road and deep into the parsonage lawn to retrieve the baseballs. Bobby, in the meantime, would grab an old bat and hit rocks from a nearby gravel road.
This procedure would take place until after sunset when Dale could no longer find the balls. He and Bobby would then slowly make their way back home dragging the canvas bag between them.
Bobby and Dale continued this ritual from early spring until the first snow storm sent them home each winter. I’m sure they spent the entire off season planning for next year.
I believe it was sometime during our junior year in high school that Bobby discovered a new love. He traded in his bat and glove for an accordion. To this day I have no idea what brought about that unusual transformation. All I know is he seemed overjoyed with the change.
Dale, however, found it difficult to accept. For months he wondered around like a lost puppy. Finally he came up with the idea of selling sponsors six-inch by eight-inch hand-painted signs covering the entire exterior of his car to finance a trip across the United States. But that’s another story.
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)