We had an assistant coach who was quite a catch at Cedar Falls High School. His exploits on the mat were legendary. In addition to being a national Champion, he was nearly undefeated in his college career. He was a short man but his shoulders were so broad no one ever noticed his height. But he was short. His nickname was Beets which did not come from his wrestling career in that he was difficult to beat. It came from the fact that he was little and when he stood up in the beet fields that grew near where he grew up you couldn’t see him.
He was like a lot of coaches then who were wonderful in their sport but were hired only for that sport. Their other job at school involved a lot of study hall supervision, drivers training, and so on. Now he may have moved beyond study hall, I simply don’t know, but at Cedar Falls High School his main job was assistant wrestling coach, which was followed by assistant track coach, and Study Hall.
I loved having him for study hall. He let me go to the gym to work out which was important for wrestling. A lot of people signed out for the library and Harley Grew was one of them. Now Harley Grew was a fictitious person. He was cut from whole cloth. Some of the smarter kids in my class signed him up as a new student in high school with all of the necessary paper work. Harley had a list of classes every year and he had homework which was completed by someone. His classes included study hall and it was someone’s responsibility to sign him out for the library. All of the teachers knew he was made up but graded his papers anyway. The principal, C.C. Standard and Assistant Principal Norm Jespersen knew he was fiction but dealt with his attendance or lack there off in stride. Almost all of them, students and staff, knew Harley Grew was made up.
My dad was an instructor at the University in Cedar Falls. He was a Professor of Education. I used to say, when the topic came up, he taught teachers to be teachers. Many of my instructors in High School had a class with him. Dad’s specialty was school administration so Norm took several classes from him and during their break Norm told dad of the exploits of Harley Grew. I suppose he told him because I was in the class who had made up Harley though, in truth, I only signed him out a time or two for the Library from study hall. Everyone knew Harley Grew was made up except one person who thought he was real and supervised him in study hall, Beets Dotson.
Mr. Dotson’s main job was making sure everyone sat in their seats and the hour didn’t dissolve into spit wads and paper air planes. It was also his job to make sure everyone was where they were signed out to be and it was the inquisitive mind of Beets Dotson who discovered Harley Grew was never where he was supposed to be. He often said one day he would catch Harley Grew somewhere other than the library and was slowly putting together a case on the truancy of Harley Grew. Naturally the person he spoke with the most was Norm because it was Norms responsibility to punish those cutting classes. One day Beets marched into Norm Jespersen’s office. He slammed down a bunch of paper work on Jespersen’s desk and said “I finally have the goods on this Grew kid and he isn’t in the library. He’s never gone to the library and I can prove it.”
Norm held his laughter through many of these discussions.
Beets clenched a fist full of sign out sheets from study hall and turned red with anger as he told Norm about how he had looked everywhere for Harley and the kid wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Norm finally told him, “Beets there is no Harley Grew. He doesn’t exist. The kids in the 11th Grade just made him up.” I can imagine how Beets anger and the flushed red in his cheeks slowly subsided as the truth sank in. His shoulders slowly slumped as he turned and walked away to the sound of Norm Jespersen’s laughter.
I probably heard story at the supper table one night because Jespersen had shared it with my dad who then told everyone in our family the story of Beets and Harley Grew. As you can imagine my Dad got a big laugh out of the whole adventure as did I. But it was with pride when I heard Harley’s name again spoken by our class Valedictorian as she talked his adventures in Cedar Falls High. His name was announced as part of our graduating class. C.C. Standard said his name with all of the others as we walked across the stage to accept our diplomas. Harley Grew had graduated from High School and could now go off to college, or get a job or go off to fight in the Viet Nam War or could do all three provided a member of our class was there too.