John and Sharon Merriman have been married for 54 years, even after their minister who counseled them just before their wedding said that maybe they shouldn’t get married. Their approaches to everything were just too different. Well, in spite of all that, it has turned out well and today they are sharing some of their stories of high school days in UnionCounty.
John, who graduated from Marysville High School in 1955, became a much loved and experienced educator, serving as a teacher and then principal for many years in Marysville and Union County schools. Sharon was class valedictorian at Northwestern High School in 1958, and has been with Dayton Power & Light Co. for 49 years.
They turned out to be responsible law-abiding adults, but they also pulled the usual pranks teenagers do when growing up. At this point they’re pretty sure the statute of limitations has expired.
It was the 1950s in Marysville, a time when John said his friends would hop in his car, and each chip in a quarter so they could buy enough gas to drive all over town, since it was just 17 cents a gallon. It was also a time when few residents locked the doors in their home.
There were drive-in theaters in several locations often showing horror movies all night long. You pulled up in your car, hooked up the speaker and you were ready to watch movies for the evening. Plus, you could even bring your own popcorn.
John reminded me that there were only a few Marysville police officers in those days and teenagers knew that if they had already seen them working on one end of town, they were free to go and create some mischief on the other side of town. No, not all the things John and his friends did required police action, thankfully, but here’s one incident that happened at a party.
The prank began like this: three of his friends were inside keeping the victim busy while the other two went outside to jack up his car. The two outside put cement blocks under the axles just enough to raise the car off the ground a couple of inches all the way around. Then the victim was notified of some emergency where he was needed elsewhere quickly. He tore out to his car, started it, revved it and nothing happened – the wheels just spun. Of course, now everyone was watching and laughing, especially because the victim was someone who, I was told, really deserved it!
Then there was the Marysville policeman, Dixie Saygrover. John’s story went like this. He and his friends had been shooting pool at Hoy’s Pool Hall on Main St. They came out and saw several men staggering out of the Tijuana Bar across the street. Then the teenagers heard what they considered to be a classic, crazy statement. Officer Saygrover said to the drunks, “We don’t want drunks on the street – I want you to get in your cars and go home right now!” This is certainly the opposite of what we think now. Of course the boys thought this was hysterical, even then!
John’s acquaintance, Eddie George (not the football hero from Ohio State, but from Marysville in the 1950s), had borrowed his brother John’s car and as had happened several times, lost the keys. When the teenagers returned to the car parked on the street in downtown Marysville, they couldn’t go anywhere, so Eddie decided to try and hot-wire the car to get it started. John remembers he was in charge of holding the flashlight for this event. Then came the Marysville police, stopping by to see what they are doing.
Of course, who would hot-wire a car right on the street. The policeman was afraid they were stealing it. Eddie and John were told to put their hands in the air and then place them on the car. Eddie tried to explain this way, “If I were going to steal a car, it wouldn’t be this one!” Apparently that car wasn’t worth taking the chance of stealing? Is that what he meant? Realizing everything must be OK, the policeman just walked away.
It turns out Miss Valedictorian, Sharon, and her high school friends had their own favorite pranks, which also involved a party. Apparently it was a slumber party and some boys arrived, too.
Someone noticed that just down the street, Dick Taylor, who was also in the National Guard, was at his girlfriend’s house. This gave one of the boys a reason to call Dick’s mother at his home and tell her he was the commanding officer and there was an emergency. Dick needed to immediately arrive at the Armory in full gear.
She must have passed the message on because as the group watched anxiously down the street they saw him tear out of the girlfriend’s house. He peeled down the driveway and headed for home for what he thought was an activation of his unit. This brought a tremendous amount of joy to the perpetrators.
John also reminded me that this was a hunting community and many times in the high school parking lot there would be a shotgun in the trunk of a car because the students were going to hunt after school. Sometimes, one would forget and have their large hunting knife in their pocket when they came to school and were simply reminded to take it out and put it in the truck. How different that is today.
John also talked about what good teachers he had even back in the 1950s and how well prepared he was when he arrived ay Otterbein University on a full scholarship studying to become a teacher.
Despite all the shenanigans, John said he was a trusted member of the high school class and because he had a car, when someone was sick, the office staff would just have him drive that student home in his own car. That could never fly today.
John and Sharon, who still live on family acreage just outside town, have done much for the tennis community over the years. Both are still avid players and John has been a coach and a mentor to the tennis program in Union County. He’s currently working with the Bunsold Middle School to start a girls tennis program.
Much has changed in Union County in the last 60 years, but it’s still a good place for youngsters to grow up.
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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