Journey back with me, if you will, to a long ago time... It was December of 1976. Not only was there no internet at that time, there were no computers in our high school. Those wouldn't arrive until several years after I  graduated. In fact, it had stirred up quite a bit of excitement when we had gotten in a few IBM Selectrics for Ms. Gehrman's typing class. (By the way, Ms. Gehrman would be proud - my fingers still rest proudly on the home row.) With no Facebook or texting or Tweeting to do, we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves. 
     On one special December day, we amused ourselves with Wall Ball. 
     Now, if you go to Google or Wikipedia and look up "wall ball," you will find articles about a playground game that incorporates a rubber ball and, logically enough, a wall. The dearth of information about wall ball circa Mossyrock in 1976 just goes to show how incomplete those sources of information can be. (Not really.)
     Here's how The Great Wall Ball Episode of 1976 came to pass.
     My best friends were Harold Crook and Jerry Weible. Harold had been one of my best friends since Kindergarten and Jerry since third grade, when he moved to Mossyrock. I don't want to say we were nerdy boys, but if Mossyrock had an AV Club, we would have been officers. As it was, we were founding members of The Science Club, The French Club and we were all in Drama. If that doesn't establish our nerd bonafides, nothing will.
     On the last day before school let out for Christmas vacation, Harold and I were supposed to be working on putting out an issue of The Vintage Viking Newspaper. Harold and I were Co-Editors and Jerry was the Art Director for the paper. I hope you caught the key word in that previous sentence: supposed.
     With Christmas vacation looming, a great ennui overtook us and we couldn't muster up the energy to begin work on writing or editing the paper. In fact, we spent the initial part of the morning in a great Mossyrock tradition: heater sitting. Mossyrock High school classrooms were heated by large radiators with blowers that sat against the windows. It was a long-held tradition to sit right on top of the blowers, sucking up as much heat as you could until just before you received an actual first degree burn. Then you would hop up suddenly, rubbing your backside for all you were worth and yelling "Ow, Ow, Ow!" until you sat back down on the blower again. I told you: we had to amuse ourselves.
     At some point in the morning, though, I walked by Harold with a crumpled piece of paper in my hand and, for reasons that will never be known, attempted to throw it past his head. He ducked, swatted it down and said something witty like "Ha! In your face In-mung!" (In-mung was my derogatory nickname among my friends. I felt blessed to have received one so benign.)
     Of course, I had to retrieve the piece of paper and try and throw it by him again. And again. And again. It didn't take long before we had appropriated Mr. Bartee's tape dispenser and we were wrapping tape around pieces of paper to weigh them down a little and make them fly in interesting ways. Soon after that, we marked off a section of blackboard that was our goal, a pitch-line for throwing and rules for pitching and defending. In short, in about ten minutes, we created a game. 
     For the rest of the day, we were consumed by playing wall ball. Aside from a break for lunch, I remember that we stayed in that room playing all day, until early release at 1:00. Over time, Jerry rolled in and played a few games with us as well, but as he was not there for the creation, he didn't seem to share our all-consuming need to master the intricacies of wall ball. 
     At the beginning of that day, we believed that day would last forever, as final days before vacations often do. Instead, it had flown by in a series of whoops, hollers and curving paper balls. Just a few minutes before 1:00, Harold and I put the room back in order and caught our buses for home. 
    A few weeks later, when we came back to our classroom, I found the remainders of the game - a tape-wrapped "ball" and a piece of paper with our scores on it. The fever had passed, though. We threw everything in the garbage and never played wall ball again. 
      To everything, there is a season, even something as rad and beautiful as wall ball. 

 


Comments

Alice Holman
12/17/2013 5:12pm

is that an actual picture of one of our classroom blackboards?? If so...which one?

Reply
12/17/2013 6:01pm

No,Alice... that's just a free picture I found here on Weebly. I looked at about a thousand pictures looking for a blackboard that at least resembled our old classroom. Glad it was close enough to make you ask!

Reply
Harold Crook
12/17/2013 8:53pm

The short enthusiastic life of Wall Ball was quite fascinating. As I recall, we eventually left off with the taped up paper ball and went using a styrofoam heart of a Christmas tree ornament. The ball could really be made to curve. Eventually we even had Jim Bartee playing a bit. Then, as you said, it just died - a life about as long as a cicada, short the incubation period.

Reply
12/17/2013 9:26pm

"A life about as long as a cicada, short the incubation period." You always did have the soul of a poet, Harold. Good memory, too. Now that you mention it, I clearly remember the styrofoam ball, which flew much better than my initial creation. The thought of Jim Bartee playing a round of wall ball with us will keep me smiling tonight. Blessings, effendi.

Reply



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    Shawn Inmon

    I am a writer, Realtor, KISS imitator and sales trainer. But, more than these, I am a husband, father, grandfather and caretaker of two chocolate Labs.

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