I know what you’re likely thinking from the title of this story. Shame on you! What happened that Christmas and that summer evening were nothing more than creative acts of innocent fun.
Act I: Early in the Christmas season of our senior year at East, some of us began to build a huge Santa Claus face in Myrna Iddings’ garage. We needed a large place for the 12’ x 6’ jolly countenance. As I (unreliably) recall, in addition to Myrna and me, Brenda Benjamin, Mel Urschel, Kim Corbin, a few other classmates, and Myrna’s younger sister worked on the artistic project.
(Photos: Above, Calvin Ross and Brenda Benjamin; below on the right, Mel Urschel; below on the left, Kim Corbin)
We cut and hammered together a wooden frame and sculpted chicken wire on it roughly shaped as St. Nick’s nose, chubby cheeks, beard, and hat. We then lathered the chicken wire with wet, pasty papier mache (using the equivalent, I’m sure, of a three month’s stash of The Wichita Eagle and Beacon). After the Jolly Old Elf had dried, we painted his eyes blue, cheeks a rosy pink, lips and hat red, and beard white with blue shading. I don’t recall how we sleigh rode him to East High. (Maybe with reindeer rented from Hertz?)
East’s maintenance crew took over from there. They made a 25’ high wooden scaffolding to mount Santa along with “MERRY CHRISTMAS” in 2’ capital letters. Once in place on the school’s front lawn with lights on him at night, the constant smile of our cheery Claus greeted all passersby on Douglas and Grove with holiday spirit.
Act II: A summer after that Christmas season, I had a position as youth minister for the West Side Christian Church in Wichita. One of my tasks was to drive the little darlings here and there in a school bus the church had bought and refurbished with a paint job and church signage.
That summer I asked Myrna for a date to a formal dance. As a part of my pre-date routine (renting a tux, deciding on a corsage, etc.) I thought about transportation for the evening. I hit upon an out-of-the-box idea: “Why borrow someone’s classy car or rent a limo when I have access to a school bus?”
(Left, Myrna Iddings)
On the afternoon of the dance, I parallel parked the six-wheel behemoth along the street curb in front of Myrna’s house to pick her up. It was a big hit with her and her parents who must have snapped two rolls of film on their Brownie camera.
Good sport Myrna instantly joined the frivolity. After managing the three high steps into the bus with her formal gown and heels, she walked straight past the 70 some empty seats to take the farthest one in the back where she stayed for the entire ride. From the driver’s seat, I reached out to pull the handle on the apparatus to close the door panels, turned the ignition key, shifted to one of the low gears, checked the over-sized side mirror for neighborhood traffic, pulled out for turns to Kellogg, and rumbled across Wichita to the Cotillion Ballroom.
Act III: So far this month, I’ve been unable to reach Myrna Iddings Carlock (East, ’61) to warn her about this story being posted on our class website. If you have her contact information, please ask her to call me (423-202-0050). I’d like to know if she’s had as much fun telling these stories over the years as I have.