Written by Mike Morris
Although most of us guys were not muscle bound at that time in our body development, there were some guys who were. Of those who were, there was this one guy who was NOT very nice. His name was Tommy Gebhardt. His last name may have been spelled differently, but it doesn’t matter at this point! He had failed a grade and was a couple of grades ahead of us newcomers, so that made him much older and much larger than most of us, and he knew we were scared to death of him! He would randomly pick on any of us little guys at any time as he towered over us. To us, this guy was meaner than the proverbial junk yard dog. The classic bully who reminded me so much of the bully kid right out of the movie, “A Christmas Story”, with his toothy sneer and scary laugh and grin. This poor kid must have had the poorest upbringing known to mankind, because at times, he made life for a bunch of us just miserable….probably just as miserable as was his life.
On occasion, my good friend, Louis Holiman and I would go to lunch across the street from the school at a little hamburger joint called Bob’s Burgers ( I think). We would usually get a hamburger, fries and a small drink for about 75 cents. Then we would pool what little change we had left to buy Hershey bars…usually a nickel each. We ate at tables outside the stand that were scattered randomly around the building. When and if we saw Tommy coming to our table, we would quickly wolf everything down we hadn’t eaten because we knew he would take whatever we had not yet eaten for himself. This would make him mad and he would hassle us for a bit, but then he would move on and go around to other tables seeking what he could take from other kids. Sadly, we just did not realize this poor guy had no support from home and was probably just hungry…probably had not eaten breakfast either. He was just out there trying to survive….at other’s expense. Actually, the thing he took from us mostly though, was our candy, because he timed the “visits” when he saw we a Hershey bar on the table and hadn’t started eating it. We would try hiding it beforehand, but found that it would melt in our pockets, making it a real mess to eat.
There was a drug store down the street from the school. Louis and I were shopping there one afternoon after school. I heard Louis call my name from across the store isles. I looked up to see him excitedly waving his hands, so I went to see what he wanted. He was smiling broadly and proudly said, “Look what I found!”. There it was! I heard angels sing! The answer to how to get back at what Tommy had been doing to us and others during our lunch period! Chocolate flavored ExLax bars! Man! What a sinister payback! In time, we finally saved enough lunch money to buy a bar of this stuff (it was expensive!). The big day came. We strategically set the “chocolate” bar out in plain site on the table. When Tommy approached our table on his scavenger hunt, we acted like we were attempting to keep him from seeing it. To our expectations, he immediately grabbed it from our hands and it disappeared in two bites! He never saw the words, “ExLax” boldly embossed in each square of the “chocolate” bar. Later in class that afternoon, we heard someone running down the hall, yelling, and the restroom door slamming to the doorstop! We never saw him, but we soon heard the janitors and their mop buckets along with a lot of mumbling…and a foul odor! And, although we didn’t see him for a couple or so days, we ate our lunches in peace for a while. He never caught on to what we had done, (thank goodness), and it did not deter him from the occasional food grabs at lunch….but it was worth putting up with for what we had accomplished.
Another “Tommy” incident involved one of the muscle-bound good guys named George “T” Barr. Of course, everyone called him T Barr. He looked like one of those Greek god statues with muscle definition everywhere on his body. One day, Tommy was picking on a friend of ours on the entrance steps to the school. Of course, no body wanted to get hurt by stepping in, but T Bar happened to see what Tommy was doing to our friend and he took the initiative to stop Tommy’s bullying. Everyone watching was elated to see that Tommy was about to get his ass whipped! “T” walked up behind him, grabbed Tommy by the shoulder, swung him around and slapped him pretty hard across his face! You could hear the “report” from across the street! “T” smiled at him and then asked him if he wanted some more of that. Everyone watching almost wet their pants they were so happy to finally see someone do to Tommy that they all WISHED they could do. Of course, Tommy didn’t dare fight “T”, because NOBODY was dumb enough to do that! That’s when “T” told Tommy if he ever saw, or even heard of him bothering our friend again, he would, “hunt him down like a dog”! Words that belonged in a John Wayne movie! Our hero…everybody loved T Barr! “T Barr for president!” That moment was etched in all of the observer’s minds! I don’t think anyone has EVER forgotten that scene. Many years later, I was informed that Tommy ended up going to prison. His life ended when the other prisoners beat the life out of him. Sad ending to a sad life.