Wapsie Experience (11/9/17)

Ken Donnelly · Tuesday, November 7, 2017
1957

WL 7 West Branch 14

It was a rainy game held on Armistice Day. Meanwhile Queen Nancy Kennedy was crowned by Bill Dawson, a co-captain, at the intermission of the dance rather than the halftime of the game.

Something new: Sandra Buckman acted as crown bearer.

It was the last game for seniors Ed Hale, John Bodie, Ron Hines, Fred Billick, Bill Dawson, Jack Kirby, Don Jepson and Tom Lascelles.

Jerry McVay scored the only Comet touchdown from the 10 yard line and kicked the PAT as well. Later on Jerry was tragically killed in an auto accident. Our high school National Honor Society chapter, which began in the late 1950s, was named in his memory. I got to know his very fine parents and brother, Terry, another good Comet football man, as I had him in class in 1968.

1958

WL 6 U-High 26

Our queen was Charlotte Danner. Duane Richey presented Queen Charlotte at halftime where she was quoted as saying, "What am I supposed to say?" as she shakily took the microphone.

Our boys were ahead 6-0 late in the third quarter when the wheels came off the wagon during the football game. “A blocked punt late in the third quarter which U-High recovered in the end zone for an easy touchdown was the turning point of a hard fought Homecoming game here last Friday night."

Jack McIntosh must be mentioned for his fine play, "The Comet tailback was not only chiefly responsible for most of the yardage his team was able to gather, but he also played a fine defensive game as well."

Blue and White sports editor Tom Reinsager gave kudos to the spectators in his sports column: "A word of praise must be delivered here to the wonderful West Liberty fans who retained their enthusiasm even when the game's outcome was obvious."

Another Blue and White writer waxed poetic about the annual bonfire: "The fire is like our school spirit, if we feed it, it grows brighter; if we let it go, it slowly dies out."

This same writer wrote words which made me seem visually present on that chilly fall night 59 years ago: "the orange tongues of the bonfire lick at the pitch black sky." (A Grayce Merridith College Prep student no doubt!)

The dance band this year was Dale Thomas and the Bandera Boys from nearby West Branch. (Mr. Thomas is still active as a musician for his local Methodist church.)

1959

WL 0 New London 62

The queen was Jan Barclay. Ken Minor crowned the queen and Gary Burnett presented her the traditional roses. One item new this year; saddle horses and their riders joined the Homecoming parade. Hopefully, they were the very last unit!

I laughed out loud at the Blue and White story headline concerning the game: "Comets Threaten At Game End." (Do you really think so?)

The visiting Tigers were too fast, too big, too strong and scored nine touchdowns! (I've seen many games in Iowa City like this, where I was fortunate to be on the winning side.)

The Comets fumbled twice and five passes were intercepted. One highlight goes to Mike Barkhurst, who caught a pass on the one yard line, but time ran out for West Liberty.

1960

WL 21 U-High 6

The queen was Marilyn Walker, daughter of Lyle Walker, a football star of the early 1940s.

Randy Walker, brother of Marilyn, recently emailed me with the following. “My sister Marilyn was homecoming queen in the early 1960s. I still remember standing in the gym with my parents as she was announced the winner and how happy they were. I was probably seven or eight years old.”

There was a new football coach, Mr. Viet, a former Hawkeye football player who made the 1957 trip to the Rose Bowl with Evy and team. The pep rally was held in the brand new gymnasium on Columbus street. There were pep talks by parents Otto Nealson and Cid Ballou.

A very humorous skit was presented by the high school speech class entitled: "U-High fans versus West Liberty tackle, Dan Timm." While the jury deliberated, a line of cute "chorus girls" by the names of Dennis Wachs, Jack McIntosh, Ron Templeman, Dick Milder and Bob Peterson entertained.

A new unit was added to the Homecoming parade as 4th, 5th and 6th grade students marched carrying banners or rode decorated bicycles. Harold Nelson '68 and Ed Winfield '67 won prizes for their bicycles.

A Blue and White reporter wrote of an "ideal" football player: Ron Ruess "Best Sportsmanship"; Jack McIntosh "Loveliest Legs" and Fred Howe "Most Kissable Lips".

By winning this game the Comets gained second place in conference standings. There were two McIntosh touchdowns and three Jim Petersen extra points.

It should be noted that this win over the Blue Hawks broke a 6-year Homecoming losing streak!

1961

WL 22 New London 20

"The King and Queen will be announced at the victory bonfire lighted in the lot north of the school."

A King? Yes, after 29 homecomings without one, Senior Jim Petersen was elected by the student body as male royalty. The queen was Anne Hawley. I reached Jim on his 53rd wedding anniversary. He recalled standing there in his Comet uniform and receiving nothing; no crown, no flowers, nothing. Apparently the queen got all the attention.

As we will read later, two of the children of Faye Phelps and Jim Petersen were also homecoming royalty. Everyone in the family, in fact, were in West Liberty homecoming courts in their high school days!

As usual, all three schools were dismissed early at 2:30 p.m. so students of all ages could watch the parade. (Today with an evening parade the potential student audience is greatly reduced.)

The exciting game was won on a kick in the last minute with Steve Wilson holding and King Jim calmly kicking the 24-yard field goal.

Homecoming week was a very busy week elsewhere in town. In addition to the game, Iowa football coach Forest Evashevski spoke to the local Masonic Ladies.

Two prominent local men were laid to rest: Frank Moylan, owner of the Moylan Hotel, Globe Cafe, and later a Ford dealership at Saint Joseph's at 9 a.m. on the 17th and Dr. Lester Royal, with 54 years of medical practice in town at 2:30 p.m. the same day at the First Methodist Church.

1962

WL 28 U-High 0

The queen was Ellen Grimm, sister of a future king. Dennis Descoteau was king this year.

Old-time readers of a certain age would appreciate the Senior class float this year which proclaimed: "DUZ WE WANT TO WIN? VEL I GUESS, IF LUX IS WITH US." The float was built around large boxes of soap (Note, for readers under fifty, DUZ,VEL and LUX were laundry soaps in the day).

People watching this year's parade saw many floats, the marching band, cheerleaders, buses, fire trucks, horses, bicycles, color guard, the king and queen and their court and the fighting Comet team (Will we ever see a parade like that again in this century?).

The game's scoring saw Dave Tracy to Descoteau for a 32-yard touchdown;

Descoteau over from the 2-yard line, touchdown; Descoteau a 54-yard run,

touchdown; Jerry Kaalberg, a 4-yard run for a touchdown.

Due to this win the Comets sat alone at the top of the conference standings.

1963

WL 7 U-High 12

The queen was Virginia Eves and the King was Jerry Kaalberg. Co-captains were Mike Varn and Don Daufeldt.

It was a strange game, West Liberty had 16 first downs and U-High 5, yet we lost. At the end of the third quarter U-High led 12-0. Dan Ruess ran into the end zone for a touchdown followed by Bob Harrington kicking with Larry Brennan holding bringing it to 12-7.

There was almost a rally: "The Comets started on their own 20-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. Ruess was thrown out of bounds just short of the goal." Game over.

This year a Pep Club formed, organized by new physical education teacher Cyn Carlisle from Tipton.

1964

WL 38 Durant 0

My cousin, Dan Ruess, was king and the queen was Sandy Wieneke Smith.

This season marked the Comet's third consecutive conference championship title. Nothing like it has ever happened before or since!

For the first half a Phillips to Ruess 29-yard lateral pass resulted in a touchdown. There were four touchdowns in the second half on passes from Bob Webb to Don Wilson and John Grimm. Grimm later had a 51-yard run into the end zone as did Tom Carey on a 5-yard dash.

There were problems at the Homecoming dance as King Dan Ruess recalled, the

school administration forgot to engage a band so it became an evening of dancing to 45 rpm records (For young readers, they were small in diameter records with a hole in the center).

1965

WL 6 U-High 21

Congratulations to Queen Gloria Daufeldt, future mother of Lisa Wertzbaugher, and King John Grimm.

Gloria emailed her memories of that night as follows, “Being chosen as the homecoming queen by the students was something I never expected, and it was very exciting for me. I do remember sitting on the sidelines in folding chairs with the court and being knocked over by a tackle. I never got hurt, I don’t remember who the players were, what team we played, or if we won, but it was a fun weekend.”

Gloria, we lost to U-high, but you are a winner!

The WLHS marching band had their first public appearance in their new uniforms. The New band director was Don Kehrberg.

At the game, Ed Hammen and John Grimm were injured. We were behind 14-0 at the half; second half "Mike Fridley broke from the 29-yard line, giving the Comets their first and last score of the night." Pete Spinden and Jody Beaver had the most tackles.

One last item to mention, as it was historic; two Hispanics, Chuck Ponce and Ed Saldivar, were members of the homecoming court. This was a first.

1966

WL 38 Durant 7

This year the chosen queen was Cindy Porter, she would later marry King Dan Ruess. Guess that makes their four children princesses and princes for sure. The king was Andy DeRiemacher. He's pictured in the Blue and White wearing a necktie, forty-five years would pass before I saw him in a tie again at my Mother's funeral Mass in Iowa City.

When I spoke to Queen Cindy on the phone, she remembered that she felt so accepted at her new school, West Liberty, coming as she did from nearby Nichols (Officials in Des Moines had ordered the closing of Nichols high school and gave parents the choices of West Liberty or Lone Tree to attend).

Then to top it off, King Andy was also from Nichols. “We welcome you, we like you,” said the Liberty student body by their votes.

A new football coach, Gene Worrall, arrived. He’s still with us and living in retirement in Charles City. He had three winning assistants: Keith Grouwinkel, Richard Peters and Tom Brandon.

Game scoring: Terry Ruess on a short run; 2nd, 3rd and 4th scores Ruess

passing to DeRiemacher thrice. The game finished with a 13-yard Ruess run.

1967

WL 13 U-High 6

The queen was Vicky Noll and the king was Larry Barnhill. There was a new arrival on the WLHS athletic scene, Ron Maxson, a new varsity football assistant and history teacher.

The team's co-captains excelled in the game, Terry McVay gained 98 yards in 20 carries and Dave Akers had 7 tackles and 4 assists.

Halftime brought together more queens than Queen Victoria's funeral in 1901. Janice Richards Jehle, Betty Wieskamp Zimmerman, Janice Brown Mohr, Janet Ping Simon, Barbara Romaine Kline, Marilyn Walker Stagg, Ellen Grimm Oostendorp, Karen Felton Beach, Sandy Wieneke, Gloria Daufeldt and Cindy Porter.

1968

WL 0 Durant 16

The queen was Julie Ruess and king was Mick Creno. We had a new head coach, John Kiwala.

The Junior class won a $10 prize for their class window downtown. However, there were no floats as we were in the midst of a four or five year ban on them.

Floats were banned because some boys were "messing around" instead of working on their class float. It was the last year for the parade. The floats wouldn’t be allowed to return until 1971.

The game had its bad moments; Gary Harmon was tackled in the end zone by a Wildcat. Later in the game Rob Black was also tackled in the end zone for a second Durant safety. Two safeties, two touchdowns.

1969

WL 18 U-High 14

The Queen was Jeanette Kline. The king was Leonard Nelson, future brother-in-law of King Dan Ruess.

Again no homecoming parade this year, since there were no floats. All the rest was still in place, including the pep rally, bonfire, game and dance.

"At the bonfire, the Blue Hawks in effigy will be burned after being hung by a rope made from all the ties worn to school on Thursday on "Old Tie Day.”

The game was 14-0 at the half in favor of the visitors from Iowa City. Roger Utley, on a 4-yard scamper, and Leonard Nelson on a 27-yard run, helped bring about the win.

Until this game, the Comets had lost or tied for 17 consecutive games!

This night was an exciting moment for sophomore Gus Garcia: “He rushed through and blocked a U-High punt, the ball rolled to the U-High 15 where Garcia picked up the ball with only clear field between himself and the goal."

1970

WL 6 Durant 12

The queen was Cindy Stalkfleet and the king was Pat Creno.

Something new this year, the GRA girls had a chili supper on Wednesday night for the football team

In the game, Dick Kaalberg was the only score for the Comets on a 4-yard run. Stats: 115 yards on the ground and 41 in the air by the Comets.

But we did have a new high school principal in Robert Bown.

Large white buttons were sold "Here We Go Comets" with Snoopy on the button. The streets of West Liberty were white-washed with words and symbols. Ties were used to make the tail of the Wildcat which was burned at the pep rally.

Friday was "Silent Day". There was to be no talking, and if a cheerleader caught you talking you received a ticket and you had to appear in the afternoon pep rally.

1971

WL 13 U-High 6

The queen was Cathy Rabe and the king was Ron Jensen.

There was an important school board meeting on August 24, 1971. In attendence were Ron Jensen, Student Council president and Ron Maxson, faculty advisor. On the agenda was a plan to return floats as part of homecoming. The board gave their approval.

Among the meeting highlights: lists of parents must be submitted who have agreed to be at the building site each night; the hours of float building are only Monday thru Wednesday from 7-10 p.m.; no school time for float construction.

But, the floats were back! The Blue and White described the scene as follows: "Empty hayracks rattling into town, a huge demand for paper napkins and spray paint, car trunks loaded with tools, boxes, boards and rolls of chicken wire."

"Good news-- "The class floats really filled in a void that had existed since floats were banned. The regulations outlined by the Board of Education for their return apparently not so stiff that the students could not work under them and the floats were a big part of the pep rally on Thursday night and again at the game."

There was an interesting Junior class float: "Speed Will Get U-High.” Was this a reference to Comet running speed or the always vibrant Iowa City drug culture?

"The Comets' first score came in the second quarter when Henderson ran 54 yards for a touchdown and Poeltler kicked the extra point." The second score was by Garcia on a pass from Henderson. Lastly, "the spectacular 95-yard run by Henderson to cross the goal line which was nullified by a foul at the scrimmage line did add to the excitement, though not to the score."

Recently, when talking with King Ron on the streets of Liberty about this week, he smiled and said, "I was king for a day."

1972

WL 21 Durant 7

The queen was Vonda Fix and the king Gus Garcia. Gus was the first ever Homecoming royalty of Hispanic origins. In his case, a journey from Del Rio, Texas to Michigan and finally home, West Liberty. It should be noted Gus had already been the Snow Prince of the winter dance.

Gus told me years later, "I was shocked I got it!"

A stern warning was issued: "It is most important that each student body member realizes the importance of class responsibility and cooperation. The Homecoming week activities will be watched closely and if student behavior is not becoming of the young men and women of WLHS, the 1972 Homecoming program will be cancelled immediately."

Tom Carter returned as quarterback after an early season ankle injury. The first Comet play from scrimmage resulted in an intercepted pass.Then things got much better: Carter a 42-yard touchdown run; Mark Henderson a 4-yard run; a 22 yard pass Carter to Henderson for another touchdown. Randy White kicked all three extra points. Total yardage in the game, Comets 321, Wildcats 98. (I have a special spot in my heart for this year's royalty, I have asked Gus Garcia to be one of my pallbearers and Vonda Fix Ruess married into my family of cousins and has sold a condo for me.)

1973

WL 0 Clear Creek 8

The queen was Sheri Gosenberg and the king was Mark Vetter.

The pep assembly had a speech by the new coach, Coach Finke. His assistants were Greg Guinn, Mike VunCannon and Noel Austin. Speaking on behalf of the parents was Richard Myers.

Theme days this year included: "Button Day", "Tie Day", "Cheer Day", "Silent Day"and "Blue and White Day."

Game summary: Bad weather, bad game.

1974

West Liberty 12 Durant 13

The queen was Jennifer Geertz and the king was ‘Butch’ Wieneke.

An overtime game: "The Comets won the toss for the overtime period and scored on a 3-yard run by Steve Wicks. The important point after was missed. Durant then got the ball and scored on the first play. The Durant kicker then put the ball through the uprights and ended the muddy ordeal."

1975

WL 6 Clear Creek 0

The queen was Marla Duncan and the king was John Kiwala. I spoke with Queen Marla recently and the most important thing she remembered about homecoming was that her date was Tom Hillyer, her future husband.

Brian Vetter was “Mr. Legs” in the first reference to the competition in the 45 years of West Liberty homecomings.

Three new theme days emerged this year: "Tear 'em Up’ Day when students wore patches, "Blow em' Up" Day when balloons were everywhere and "Overhaul 'em’ Day, the time to wear bib overalls.

The 1951 Comet team who beat West Branch 18-7 in their homecoming game, were introduced at halftime.

Outstanding seniors: Brian James, 14 tackles; Tom Bjork, a key interception; John Detwiller, 16 tackles; Brian James scored the only points of the evening on a 3-yard run.

1976

WL 20 Durant 6

The queen was Melinda Geertz and the king was Wayne Machovec. "Mr. Legs" was Noe Garza, his award was a pair of "Leggs" pantyhose!

Coach Olson and parent Ken Noble gave pep rally speeches. New this year was a 7:30 a.m. breakfast for coaches and players with milk and donuts.

As for the game, we had five fumbles and still won handily. Noted Rotarian Jim Carey scored first on a one yard plunge. Jerry Kiwala to Adam Feldman for a 57-yard touchdown and the last score was courtesy of the same duo.

Senior linebacker Noe Garza received the game ball for his great play this season for the Comets. This was his last game as the family was moving.

1977

WL 39 Clear Creek 0

The royal couple was Lori Lodge and Jerry Kiwala, brother of King John.

Good defense and potent offense made for the big victory. We scored first on a 7-yard run by Jeff Achenbach; Jeff followed this with a 42-yard run for another touchdown; Leon Larson blocked a Clipper punt and Mike Chaffee ran into the end zone with the loose ball; Brian "Animal" Luedtke gathered up a fumble and ran 65-yards for another Comet score. All this in the first quarter!

The second half saw touchdowns by Jerry Kiwala and Mike Bown on a 16 yard run. Then the game was called due to lightening with two minutes left in the third quarter. Jeff Achenbach had great stats; 103 yards on 9 carries.

1978

WL 8 Durant 13

Linda Hillyer and Jeff Achenbach reigned over the festivities this year.

(Note: I could NOT find either an Index nor a Blue and White story of the Friday, October 6th game in the subsequent 10-12-78 issue.)

A new "Day" was added this year: "Grease em' Down" Day. Young Ed Bjork was hired for $1 as a certified, volunteer assistant coach (He later moved to the dark side and resides in Mt. Vernon to this day).

The Blue and White editorial writer was incensed with the fans in a fiery editorial the following week. "Yes, West Liberty students, if spirit was rated on a one-to-ten scale, you would have received a minus-five for your efforts at last Friday's game. Remember high school and its students are a source of pride in the community. The reputation of the school is only as good as the students in it."

1979

WL 27 Clear Creek 0

The Index reported: “Comets Crush Clear Creek-a happy Homecoming."

Two young women tied for Homecoming queen in the balloting: Becky Ruess and Deb Stucker. Just one king, Tom Wertzbaugher. The game hero was Jim Kiwala who passed for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The Comets had 283 years in total offense, Bill Pelzer had four carries for 33 yards and one touchdown. Rick Weinard and Ray Colemen also gained many yards for the Comets. Both Scott Harmon and Bill Pelzer intercepted Clipper passes. Comet defense allowed CCA just 3-first downs the entire game.
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