John 1963

By Loren Steinhauer

I hesitate to write a story about a specific UCUer. In our world of wildly dispersive media, travelling at light speed, there is a good chance that the subject might hear of it and read it and who knows what might be the response! So then, here are some personal recollections about one of my buddies who won’t read this unless there is more contact between this world and the next than I know about. He passed away about fifteen years ago.

John hailed from the very small town of Index, just off Highway 2 about half way to Stevens Pass. Raised by a single mom, he had lost his father at an early age, an Air Force pilot who perished in a crash. John, his twin brother, and seven others of us moved into UCU the fall of 1963, he as a freshman, me as a sophomore. Slightly taller than me, he had blond hair, combed diagonally over the top in a jaunty style. He had movie-star good looks, was strongly built, and had a fine, resonant voice. He could have passed for a younger version of Lloyd Bridges, star of the Hollywood TV adventure series Seahunt. Gifted with a bit of swagger John had a sideways smile hinting that he had something up his sleeve. Mouthy in an amusing sort of way, he enjoyed aiming his humor to “poke” playfully at others. I was the target at least once. On a summer weekend he took me home in his ’59 Ford for an overnighter with his family. There I met his mother and younger sister, who may have been 13 or 14 at the time. After introducing us, John immediately remarked that I should consider marrying his sister. It was the kind of stuff that embarrasses one deeply yet forces a smile at the same time. It probably embarrassed her even more, but then I’m sure such she knew to expect such things from her brother.

My best memories of John were from the summer of ’65 when we roomed in what’s now called the “presidential”. We were the only two residents in the Mens House that summer. I enjoyed those days a great deal, in large part because of his companionship. The previous year had taught me how dreadfully lonely summer at UCU can be after the buzz of activity during the school year. John made it a lot more

He paid a great deal of attention to his hair and with obvious success, keeping things organized by applying a brand of hair oil, still popular in those days. Once while fixing himself up to go out, he quipped: “It’s about time for an oil change.” As a child I had been inflicted by hair oil, Vaseline Hair Tonic, applied richly by my mother before hustling me off to Sunday school, my head shining like a brand new bowling ball. By junior high school I had rejected this preparation in favor of a care-free crew cut. However, since moving into UCU I had let my hair grow a bit longish. By the way, the Beatles, with their bowl-top do’s, first hit it the big time in the U.S. the fall I moved in. I wasn’t emulating them in particular but merely reflecting a trend of the mid 60’s, although I never made it to hippie class. Observing me struggling with the organization of my mane, my roommate showed me how to do it better.

Wiry and strongly built, John exercised intentionally. I watched him drop, shirtless, to the floor and pop off forty rapid-fire pushups. This inspired me to strengthen my own scrawny frame, something I had attempted off and on−hoping to look better for the girls −but with little success; I didn’t have much material to work with. (With the same intention I had taken a weight-lifting class as a freshman when PE was still compulsory at the UW; I got a “C”.) Imitating my roommate, I made a run at building a habit of daily pushups. On day one I struggled but managed to grind out twenty. On day two I paid for it big-time, suffering with incredibly sore triceps and “pects.” The habit lasted a few weeks but failed to survive the summer.

John was on the receiving end of the most severe prank I ever knew of at the House, hazing worthy of Frat-style irresponsibility and recklessness. His tormentors, Christians all, stripped him to his underwear, attached a ball and chain to his ankle (wonder where they got that!), drove him to Burien, tossed him (and it) into a dumpster, and vanished. Afterwards John remarked that the hardest part of the ordeal was climbing out of the dumpster with his ball and chain. The ball went out first, almost garroting him on the edge of the dumpster. While I was not a party to this prank, He was also the victim of the only serious prank that I ever conceived and engineered, but that’s another story (wait for “IED@UCU”). Why did I choose John as my target?−don’t remember; probably because he was “safe.”

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