Out and About

by Phil Johnson

Football in the Mid-Century

The North Park College class of 1960 was the first to earn bachelor degrees at the school. That was 40 years ago. John Bergstom, Glenn Anderson, Norm McGregor, and Mel Soderstrom, classmates who were also football players, took the initiative, along with Jack McAfee of the class of 1961, to organize a reunion of the football teams of 1956 through 1962. These were North Park’s winningest years. In 1958, for example, the Harold (Yank) Swanson coached Vikings won 7 and lost 1. In 1959, they won 6, lost 1, and tied 1. These were the first two season of four-year college competition.

The football reunion was a big success. Norm McGregor put together an outstanding slide show of photos and articles mostly from the NPC News and from Cupolas (our yearbook). About 35 former ball players, many of them with their wives, arrived at the Campus Center for the evening’s festivities. In some cases, recognition was less than immediate. Only Arnold Almer was prepared to challenge the current NP Vikings on the field.

Long ago these fellows played football at North Park College

The evening was special beyond the expectations of many of us. Exuberance emerged quickly as we got reacquainted. Cameras flashed as rapidly as our offense once fired. Bob Bach, assisted by Phil Johnson, was the MC of the event. Phil read a poem "It’s Time to Thank Our Old Coach Yank" recalling Coach Swanson and the seasons 1956 through 1959 in particular. President Horner addressed the gathering. He spoke about his dream for athletic facilities that will make North Park competitive with other schools in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW). Head NP football coach Mike Liljegren not only took the time on a busy evening before the Homecoming game with Augustana to join us, he had also studied the record-book. He told us more than we knew about records set in our era that are still standing. Coach Liljegren’s energy, commitment, and character inspired us and we began to believe a revival of NP football fortunes was possible with his leadership. So, we were very disappointed to learn that Coach Mike resigned just prior to the completion of this issue.

Most of all, though, we enjoyed our stories. We laughed a lot and shed a few tears. We remembered our departed Co-Captain, the great linebacker and halfback, Dick Barretto, who died of diabetes. Dave Swanson spoke for the men from the early 60s who did such an outstanding job in NP’s first years in the CCIW. We kept going pretty late for some old guys who are usually in bed by 10 p.m. Wives expressed their surprise at finding the evening very enjoyable for them as well. It was fun to get together, we were glad that we could still walk and talk, and it was a special delight to discover again how much we like each other. — PJ

The Story of Some Heroic Survivors

Lawrence Sutin teaches at Hamline University in Saint Paul and is author of a number of books: Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, A Postcard Memoir, and Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance. The last named book is a story of the author’s parents who, as teenagers, escaped from different Nazi labor camps in Poland. They met in the woods during the winter of 1942-43 where they joined a Jewish partisan group.

Larry told us some of this amazing adventure and love story as we listened, spellbound, at a salon in the home of Carolyn and Glenn Ayers. By hiding in the swamps, Jack and Rochelle evaded the 20,000 German troops who were sent into the forest to put down the resistance. Eventually, they escaped and made their way, in 1949, to the United States.

Larry said that though many holocaust survivors do not speak about their experiences, his parents were among those who did. In time, he came to realize that this was an important story which needed to be told and he set upon the task of doing so.

One wonders what everyday life is like for people who have had such an intense, world-historical experience. I wonder what it is like for children of persons whose lives have been so significant. Perhaps the blessing of stories that save people from meaninglessness. I think of the Abazon tribesman described by Chenua Achebe in Anthills of the Savannah who spoke of the gifts from the "Owner of the World" and evaluated them as follows:

The sounding of the battle-drum is important; the fierce waging of the war itself is important; and the telling of the story afterwards—each is important in its own way. I tell you there is not one of them we could do without. But if you ask me which of them takes the eagle-feather, I will say boldly: the story. (p. 113)

In addition to getting an introduction to Sutin’s books, listening to a great story, and enjoying delicious food and atmosphere, I learned from Larry about Lamed Varnik—the number 36 in Hebrew. It refers to the 36 righteous because of whose presence on earth, Yahweh spares the world from destruction. We discovered that we know a person in common who may be one of these 36. — PJ

In the Rockies.

As a boy, I enjoyed the book Winky Lost in the Rockies by Ken Anderson. Over an extended Labor Day weekend, we spent some pleasurable time in the heart of the Rockies. Our hosts, Sherod and Phyllis Miller, good old friends, Pietisten supporters, and couples’ communication experts put us up in a cabin on Bear Creek. One afternoon, warning us of bears, they guided us up through woods to a peak from which we had a wonderful view of mountains and valleys. Were it not for our guides, we, like Winky, were lost in the Rockies. As it was, we returned safely down the mountain without meeting any bears. Thanks be to God and to Sherod and Phyllis. — PJ

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

See all articles by Phil Johnson