Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Wisdom of Zak

Jim Wyman (the author) in 1966
Zak's graduation photo from 1966

The New Place was a teenage nite club located on Rt. 31 between Algonquin and Crystal Lake that operated from 1965-68, and before I get to my second New Place posting, there must be a bridge from New Place #1 to #2, and that bridge is the wisdom of the late Jim Pietrzak, Zak.

Zak once said to me, "We're lucky to have the New Place 'cause we can meet girls there.  The girls in our class are so stuck-up it's sickening."

Now our class was the Class of 1966 at Crystal Lake Community High School in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and the more I thought about my next New Place posting yesterday, the more I thought about Zak's words.

He was right!

I'm not sure what the girls in our class had to be stuck up about, but they were.  Certainly I was not one to ask any of them out because I was shy.  But Zak asked lots of them out and so did Ace.

I remember Ace asking one girl from our class to the Homecoming Dance sophomore year and she laughing in his face.  Ace's family had money and prestige in Crystal Lake.  I could see the girls laughing at me or Zak; we were strictly lower middle class, but Ace?  He was a good looking guy and always had a hot car and lots of bread (I'm using Zak's words now!  "bread").

The girls in the Classes of 1968 and 1969 were friendly, but the girls in our class and most of the girls in the Class of 1967 had their noses up in the air.

I do remember one time trying to strike up a conversation with a girl from the Class of '67 named Linda whose mouth was full of braces and whose face featured some nasty blackheads.  She sneered at me, turned on her heel, and walked away.  Linda's parents lived in the ritzy part of town called Lakewood, and I guess she had no time for a Lake St. boy whose dad worked for Railway Express delivering packages.

As Zak said, we were lucky when the New Place came along.  Not only were the girls from out of town better looking than the Crystal Lake girls, but they were eager and willing to go out on dates.

I'm going to talk about them a lot more in future postings, but the girls from Woodstock were the best of the best.  Every time I hear Cyndi Lauper's song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," I laugh and think of Sandy Nelson leading about ten girls from Woodstock into the New Place and all of them giggling as they ran up to us.
The irony of all this was that later, the guys these snobby girls in our class actually did date--the jocks and rich guys in our class--began to show up at the New Place and go out with the Woodstock girls.  As it turned out the jocko rich guys didn't much like these snobs in our class either.

Zak died in 2002, but there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of the things he used to say.  Zak, you were right, my friend!  We WERE lucky to have the New Place, and luckier still to know and date the girls from Woodstock.

Rest is peace, buddy.  I'll be looking for you in the great hereafter!

Get ready because New Place #2 is coming soon!



  1. Mr. Wyman - These posts are phenomenal. Great idea. I'll be in touch soon. - M. Vainisi

  2. I remember Zak and his younger bro, who was in my class. 67. I remember Zak was a National Merit scholar. It always shocked the snobby kids to discover we working class kids had brains.

    1. Zak & Ace were both National Merit Scholars, and when the school had the photo taken of the scholars, Zak and Ace held up their awards with their middle fingers showing.

      The principal, Mr. Wolf, and the rest of the Nazis missed it, and the photo was published in the Herald and placed prominently in a display case in the commons outside of the cafeteria.

      At parents night in the fall of '65, a parent pointed out the one finger salutes to Mr. Wolf, and he pulled my mom & dad into his office and vented his displeasure to them.

      My mom and dad were horrified, and when they came home, they started screaming at me about Zak and Ace being National Merit Scholars and giving the finger in the picture.

      "What is that supposed to mean?" my old man asked me.

      "I guess they don't care much for Crystal Lake High School," was my reply.

      My parents, who both graduated from CLCHS, harumphed and said they thought it was an outrage. I just laughed, which made them even madder. "Quit yelling at me," I said. "I didn't do anything!"

      "You should have been a National Merit Scholar too," my mom said.

      "Maybe," I responded. "But I probably would have given the finger too if I was!" I said.

      "Maybe it would be better if we all went to bed," she finally said.

      And so we did!