|1961 Yearbook, Hiram High School|
Eddie was a year older than I, and when we moved to Hiram near the beginning of the 1956-57 school year, I was going to start seventh grade. For homeroom, the entire seventh and eighth grades shared a large room on the main floor--Mrs. Rood's classroom; seventh graders sat in the front, eighth graders in the back.
And that's where I first noticed Eddie Troyer. He sat right behind me, and I knew, having seen him around, that he was much bigger than I. Tougher looking. I was a small lad in seventh grade. See photo below of our seventh grade basketball team. I'm the guy with the snazzy red kneepads, second from the left in the front row. (To my right, by the way, on the end, is Lester Detweiler, an Amish kid whom I fervently envied: He got to quit school at the end of the 8th grade! He was also a fine little player--much better than I. And current FB friend Ralph Green is also in the front row, third from the right).
Eddie was taller, leaner, broad-shouldered, and, as I would discover a bit later, an excellent basketball player--perhaps the best in the school. My freshman year I still remember watching the most exciting basketball game I've ever seen--and I mean ever: Our Hiram Huskies varsity beat nearby Garrettsville in triple overtime (sudden death), and Eddie, a sophomore, made some key shots and foul shots down the stretch that made possible that impossible win.
But Eddie was a rebel. He wore his jeans low, his collar up, his hair greased (rebel uniform in our day). And he would quit the team later on (or was he kicked off? he did like his cigarettes and some proscribed liquid substances--and I think I remember a confrontation with the coach?). As I look in his class yearbook his senior year, I don't see his picture anywhere--no individual picture, no group. Did he not graduate? I don't remember. I can't find a single picture of him anywhere.
But I do remember some Eddie Troyer stories, listed below in no particular order:
- The eighth graders had to write a term paper for English. Eddie's, I remember, was something about metal alloys. He showed it to me in home room, just before he was going to turn it in. And I saw on the cover he'd made: Turn Paper.
- After a year or so living up on the Hiram College campus (on Dodge Court, for you Hiram fans), we moved down Hiram's north hill to 11917 Garfield Rd., the house where Prof. David Fratus (ret.) still lives--they bought the place from us when we moved in 1966. Eddie lived nearby, just up the hill a little bit on the other side of the street, and so we somehow (how?) achieved a sort of peace, Eddie and I--even a kind of friendship, one that my father was not very pleased about. I started greasing my hair a bit, talking tough to much smaller kids.
- On the north side of our house was a field that Dad wanted to convert to lawn. I knew that Eddie's family had a tractor, so I recommended him to Dad, who hired Eddie to plow and disc and seed the field. It took Eddie awhile to get around to doing it, but he did, and if you drive by that house now, you can see ... lawn! A nice one. We should call it the Edward C. Troyer Memorial Lawn.
- We liked to play pick-up touch football games on the nearby lawn of the Hiram College President. (The Troyers lived just across the street.) We weren't trespassing: Trevor Sharp, the President's son, was one of the players. Eddie played sometimes--but we were all afraid of him, so he ran for touchdowns with impunity. One day he showed up for a game wearing track shoes--with spikes. My little brother (five years younger than Eddie) broke away on a play and was sprinting (well, insofar as little Davi could sprint) for the goal line when Eddie caught up with him. He slowed Davi by spiking him in the calf. That ended the game and commenced a trip to Dr. Sprogis.
- One summer day, up at the Hiram College tennis courts (which, then, were behind what was then the library; it's now, among other things, the computer center), I was witness to a bloody encounter between Eddie and a classmate of mine (whom I will not name but will call Thor). I had been playing tennis with one of them (can't remember? I played both), when the other showed up, and the fireworks began. Words were exchanged. Threats. Then Thor took one of Eddie's tennis balls and smacked it up on the library roof. Oh, now it was on!
- And quickly over. Thor smacked Eddie a few times in the face. Blood. Thor got Eddie in a headlock.
- Eddie: You've got blood on your shirt.
- Thor: It ain't mine.
- Then--a moment of terror ..
- Thor: I'm going to ram your ****ing head into that net post.
- Eddie ... [I don't remember what he said--but whatever it was, Thor released him and headed off in search of Loki, I guess.]
- The entire time I was sitting in the bleachers, a lone fan at what I thought would be a championship bout--but ended up being a championship rout. I was terrified the entire time. Because, you see, I was friends with Thor, as well. Eddie came back to the bleachers and told me he was going to get a pipe and kill Thor.
- Didn't happen.
- Thor, by the way, is in the basketball picture above. Ain't tellin' you which one he is, though.
- I don't remember Eddie's involvement in any school activity other than basketball. It's possible, but he was sort of simultaneously in and out of the school. He seemed to have a life (lives?) elsewhere. I wish I knew more.
I don't remember, either, when Eddie and I drifted apart. Probably when I started getting involved in so many school activities--plays, music, sports, etc. I never saw him after high school; he never attended any of the Hiram Schools reunions--at least none when I was there.
But I do remember this: Eddie Troyer had a heart. During those months I was hanging out with him in junior high, I learned that he was far softer than his public image. He was kind to me--for no discernible reason. And my fear gradually evaporated and transformed into something very like admiration. He could drive a tractor. He could make foul shots at the most critical times. He knew about metal alloys (I'd never even heard of them at the time). He wasn't afraid of authorities. He did what he wanted.
Not all those things worked out for him at the time, but when I got the news yesterday about Eddie, I was sad. And that sadness lingers today.