My dream school and my dream girl — one out of two ain’t bad

Jack, left, with friends in Wyoming (Provided photo)

I loved high school.

Maybe I should say, I loved certain aspects of high school. I loved sports, I loved being a student leader, I enjoyed chorus and band.

What didn’t I love? Academics.

If a subject didn’t trigger my interest I didn’t put in any effort. I wasn’t driven to get an A, or even a B. I was content with a C. As a result, my average was just that — average. Out of a class of 82, I ranked 41st.

When it came to applying to SUNY Cortland, Mrs. Hartmann, the school guidance counselor, said, “Well, your grades aren’t very good, but you’ve been extremely active as a student leader and in sports. I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting into Cortland.” Based on her recommendation, it was the only college I applied to.

Jack, second left, with friends in Cortland (Provided photo)

Seven months later I got a “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter. It seems that being student body president, captain of the football and wrestling teams, president of my sophomore class and president of the varsity club impressed them as much as my 76 average.

I took solace years later when I transferred to Cortland and learned that the high school grade average of incoming freshmen was 91. Jeezum crow, I didn’t know that Cortland was an Ivy league school.

My dad had passed away the previous December, so when I suggested to my mother that maybe I should join the Army, her response was, “Like hell you will.” Thank goodness for some sanity in our household: 1967, the year of my graduation, was the second deadliest year of the Vietnam War.

Instead, she had me apply to six different colleges across the country. I remember only two of them, because they were the two I got accepted by — Southern Illinois University and the University of Wyoming. I chose Wyoming because I had never been west of Cleveland and Laramie sounded like the wild west. My mother said, “Maybe you can major in rodeo riding.”

In fall of 1967 I arrived in Laramie, a small fish in a big pond, as a guy who was shy, wasn’t crazy about crowds and found meeting new people challenging. Fortunately I loved the outdoors, because there’s plenty of it in Wyoming.

After two years, as much as I loved the school and the state, I was disappointed in the college’s recreation curriculum. The few recreation courses I took were geared towards municipal recreation and running YMCAs and Boys Clubs. I was more interested in learning about outdoor recreation. My experiences in the Adirondacks, combined with my explorations of Wyoming and Colorado, whetted my appetite for more, and in the back of my mind I wondered if I might be able to make a living doing something in the wild outdoors. I thought perhaps I should give Cortland another try. Its Recreation Education Program was well respected and its Camp Huntington facility in the Adirondacks sounded right up my alley. So, I applied.

Early that summer I got a letter from Cortland’s director of recreation education, Dr. Warren Bartholomew, wanting me to come for an interview. Dutifully I put on a suit and tie and drove down from Phelps to Cortland. I’d never been there and had applied based on reputation alone, so to find my way to the Recreation Department, I had to ask for directions.

I was shy but not stupid: I looked around for an attractive coed to guide me. Sure enough, I took three steps before I looked up and she was walking towards me. She looked like Raquel Welch’s twin with luscious, long flowing brunette hair and sculpted facial features. She had a smile that would brighten up an Adirondack winter. I saw her beautiful figure and immediately envisioned her being the mother of my children.

There was no question, she was the one I should ask for directions.

“Could you direct me to the Moffett Center?” I said.

“Sure,” she said.

“This is the Moffett Center right here,” she added as she pointed to the building next to us.

I was about to head into the building when she stunned me by saying, “Aren’t you Jack Drury from Phelps?”

I almost melted on the spot. My interest in attending SUNY Cortland increased exponentially.

“How do you know who I am?” I stuttered.

“You were captain of the Phelps football team. I was a Clifton Springs cheerleader.” Clifton Springs was our archrival.

We spoke for a short time … or I should say, she spoke, and I mumbled and sputtered. Finally, I thanked her and headed into the building. I was in a trance and remember little of the interview. A month later I was amazed when I was notified of my acceptance.

Being the dolt that I was, I never got her name or telephone number, but when I arrived on campus that fall, I had high hopes of crossing paths with her. I kept both eyes out for her all day every day.

It was well into the semester when I finally saw her. She was across the cafeteria, and I saw her stand up. And as she did, I was about to make my move. But before I could take a step I was stopped in my tracks, my hopes dashed when I saw her take the lacrosse team captain’s arm and head to the exit.


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