Growing Up In Libertyville in the Thirties and Forties
The War Years at Libertyville Township High School
Libertyville High School
Libertyville High School Details
The Second World War began on September 1, 1939. My family heard about it on a radio at gas station somewhere in the plains heading toward Yellowstone Park. Later, at the Liberty Theatre, we saw newsreels of German battleships shelling Schleswig-Holstein. The war didn't seem too close until Pearl Harbor, but then it dominated every aspect of life. The Monday after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Underbrink called an assembly to talk of what might lie ahead. He had tears in his eyes and spoke with difficulty. He harked back to the first war when he was the principal. My mother recalled his speech in 1917 when he left for the army.

 

For high school boys there was a big unknown out there and by 1944 there were already deaths from our class, and several from other classes. Life went on, of course. Saddle shoes were in vogue, khaki pants, argyle sweaters, and girls wore skirts and sweaters. There was "sock hop" dancing in the gym during the three lunch periods. Sports seemed to take on added importance and the high spot for the class of '44 was the untied, unbeaten softball teams which featured stalwarts like Daryl Luce, Gordon Olson, Paul Schaefer, John Kruckman and others. The "Nautilus" for 1944 is on my bookshelf; many of the kids are dead now, most of the teachers are, but names and faces stay in memory.

 

Libertyville High School, 1956
Libertyville High School, 1956 Details
Art Bergstrom coached football and basketball. His skills soon made him the head coach at Bradley University. My parents knew Larry Crawford who taught typing and coached track. My father was a friend of A. E. "Pop" Johnson who taught science, including chemistry. We visited Pop at a summer camp for boys he ran in northern Wisconsin. Pop was, for years, director of the chamber of commerce. "Ole" Olson taught general science. He was a forceful, nice guy. Miss June Miller taught history, and for me made it a lifelong interest. Miss Anna Johnson taught English. She introduced me to the pleasures of poetry, especially Shakespeare, by reading aloud. Until that time I hadn't realized that poetry can be music. Edgar Russell taught business courses like commercial arithmetic and bookkeeping. He always wore black suits with splashes of chalk where he had banged erasers together. I remember how sad he seemed and how the class laughed when he told me it looked as if I'd be the first person to ever flunk commercial arithmetic, but he relented and squeezed me by with a D. Kermit Dehl taught English and somehow made the study of grammar interesting. Once he compared grammar with architecture, a simile that helped me years later in college rhetoric. C. Wayne Andrews taught manual training and shop. He was self-effacing and effective. Once Mr. Underbrink came into the shop and stood behind a student at a wood turning lathe. A chunk of wood spun off and narrowly missed the principal. "Andy" observed quietly that the students were trained not to stand within lathe range. Under Andy's guidance a number of boys made solid model airplanes to be used by flight trainees in recognition training. There were other teachers, of course. I didn't realize until years later in college and graduate school how good many of them were.

 

Over the years I've bored people with stories about Marlon Brando, who was at LTHS in 1944**. He came from some other school, lived out of town, east of the river and didn't mix with other students. I sat across from him in a study hall in the school cafeteria for several months and he never spoke. He was small, but muscular and one morning he turned on a much bigger boy who was hitting him with spit balls. The resulting fight brought Mr. Underbrink to restore order. I'll never forget his comment to Brando, that "you'll never amount to anything." At that time most would have agreed.

 

**Editor's note: Marlon Brando attended Libertyville Township High School from 1938-1941.
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