While this past winter was indeed one of the mildest I can recall, the long winters, historically, in concert with what the young have always perceived as the interminable length of a school year, has often led to some strange ways to break up the monotony.
You may recall the amount of snow produced by four storms in a row bestowed upon Boston in 2015, delivering so much snow that many young folks started taking flying leaps off roofs into snow banks. Such occurrences became so common that it prompted Boston Mayor Martin Walsh to call a news conference to implore the scamps to stop jumping into those mountainous piles of cold fluff.
I can still remember the line Walsh used when His Honor said, “This isn’t Loon Mountain,” alluding to a famous New Hampshire ski resort. My Boston-born father would have loved that line.
Such restless hijinks, the spawns of boredom and a certain dearth of maturity by the young certainly have a lengthy history. And, sad to say, some end tragically, such as the several instances, from Panama City to South Padre Island and other sun-drenched places favored by collegiate spring-breakers, some of whom not only leave their academic stresses behind but also their good judgment, when they decided the easiest way to get to a buddy’s room is to try to jump from one hotel-room balcony to another.
Other hijinks don’t, of course, end tragically but surely have led to bouts of gastric distress. I thought about that recently while reading a terrific book given to me by my baseball pal Jim Martz, the retired Major League baseball scout. In the book “A Legend in the Making,” which chronicles the season of the 1939 New York Yankees, the author Richard Tofel uses the narrative technique of interspersing historical events and pop culture at the ends of his chapters.
One such interspersal speaks of the youthfully inspired pastime of the late ’30s that began at Harvard when a student bragged to a friend he’d once swallowed a goldfish. A $10 bet ensued, and suddenly the goldfish he kept in a bowl in his dorm room was no longer to be seen and money exchanged hands.
Following some publicity, others joined in, with one student from Franklin and Marshall College swallowing three. Meanwhile another descendent of aristocracy swallowed two dozen as the numbers continued to rise on campuses from Michigan to Boston College and on to MIT, despite a plethora of health warnings by adults and vehement objections by those who espoused animal rights.
As far as outrageousness, Tofel’s research peaked when he came upon an incident involving a University of Illinois fellow who decided to swallow five live mice, each wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
As far as my personal history with such outrageous digestive moments, I’m proud to say I know them only through observation, not personal involvement, save for one unfortunate moment.
My childhood pal Tim Seggerson once came to my house to sleep over, providing him a one-night respite for the chaos that ensued in a Seggerson house of 11, exchanging that for the relative tranquility of my house and its four occupants.
Timmy Segg bet me a quarter, a considerable sum for a sixth-grader in the early 1960s, that I couldn’t drink 10 glasses of Ovaltine and eat a jar of Franklin’s Dry Roasted Peanuts after I bragged about my digestive powers with those, my favorite consumables.
I took the bet and upon the completion of the feat, I collected my quarter, I felt fine, that is, for the short term. Within a half-hour as we laughed at the sloshing sound I could produce when I turned my shoulders back and forth rapidly, the long-term effects took over when an amazing stomach ache took root, and, by dawn’s early light, I’d posted a personal best in trips to the bathroom.
The incident cured me forever as a participant over such demonstrations. However, I did witness a couple more while a student at Miami University. My freshman year, the star of Harris Dining Hall, no doubt, was a fellow freshman from Rochester, New York, who, on a pretty regular basis and for the right amount of money, would allow anyone to concoct a bowl of anything that was, in and of itself, consumable, from condiments and butter to table scraps. And, he would eat it.
Then a Sig Ep brother of mine who hailed from Rocky River in the Cleveland area took such outrageousness a lot further during my sophomore year. He used to finish his Wiedemann draft at The Purity, our favorite uptown watering hole, and then proceed to bite off chunks of the pilsner glass and chew it for long periods of time before swallowing.
My, what sometimes passes for high entertainment among the young! Oh, and as for me and that Ovaltine moment, I honestly can’t recall ever having another glass. I switched to Bosco!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.