Photo by Jan Laugesen/unsplash
Because of some of the happenings in this rendition of what went on in the locker rooms of our youth, I will once again retreat to my mystical, Disney colored, Greenwood Cove to present vignettes of what occurred in those bastions of male machismo, far from the eyes of our adoring fans and girlfriends.
Brian got his first view of a locker room when he “played” for OLOLM (Our Lady of Love and Mercy) in the CYO Basketball League of the day. It was highly competitive, and, though well run, Brian got to see his first version of cheating up close and personal.
In those days the players had to check in and be weighed and measured. However, the coaches, in their desire to be “winners” usually substituted the smaller, second string players to check in for the older, more mature players, who, most likely, would not have passed the muster, and who went on to bring victory!
Brian, checked in as “Nunzio Rovallo”, an older boy with a budding five o’clock shadow and height and weight far superior to Brian’s 4’8″ 80 lbs.
Somehow, the officials never caught on to this ruse and it was used by pretty much all the teams, especially OLOLM’s hated rival, St. Patrick’s Cross from the big city.
So early on Brian got to see how much the will to win pervaded the Catholic community, and though he was Catholic, he, early on, began to disdain the athletic practices of the Catholic high schools, who recruited players constantly, and, just as constantly, denied it. (Later on he, too, was recruited by one.)
Brian also saw his first fight in a locker room, when, the Preacher got into an entanglement with an opposing player in a shared locker room. Both boys were stark naked but that didn’t stop the Preacher from setting it up and cold cocking the opposing player, knocking him silly, and giving him bragging rights for time immemorial.
The Preacher was a CYO star in those days, noted for his side-saddle foul shooting stance and he led the OLOLM Crusaders to more than one title. In high school, a Catholic one, his star faded and he never again reached the athletic heavens he held in CYO.
Brian meanwhile, never saw the court, except for practice. Four years of practicing. Four years of the team winning championships. Four years of not playing.
He went on to far greater success later on and even had the former CYO coach recruiting him for older age bracket teams. At first he refused. Later they became good friends.
Junior high school presented the next exposure to locker rooms. The one at Elder Ridge School stunk! It was small, had very few lockers and always had equipment, used tape, and papers all over the floor with the cloistering smell of wintergreen absorbed into every particle of air, not to mention the smell from the urinals.
The junior high football coach, Mr. Mayne, had been a lineman at Fitchburg High in central Massachusetts. It was a football power and fielded big teams. In his infinite wisdom, Mr. Mayne felt Brian was too small to play football and would not issue Brian a uniform, making him a manager instead. So, Brian managed the team.
The standout occurrence at ERS was when the older boys tried to convince the younger newcomers that the jockstraps were really nose guards, getting the more gullible to put the smelly, urine reeked, and who knows what else what, contraptions over their face.
Because Brian read just about everything, he knew that these were not nose guards, though he had seen some pictures of old-time nose guards in books and some did look just like jockstraps.
In the 8th grade Brian moved on to GCHS. Again the locker room was small with many of the same derelictions as the one at Elder Ridge. He did notice that many of the lockers had large dents in them.
Later he found out how they got there.
It seems two of the players, Dan “FunnaHead” Barker and Bob “The Magic Wand” Rendisi, would have contests ramming their heads in the lockers to see who could make the largest dent!
They did this with no helmets on! (Years later both boys have memory lapses and other recurring trauma. This was long before we learned about CTE.)
The other memorable occurrence that year came when Jim Hatchaway (more about him later) was roughing up a newcomer at practice. He was brutal and eventually bloodied the new kid’s face up. Finally, Coach Cherry had had enough and stepped in to stop the slaughter. Hatchaway, who was an 18-year-old man, with muscles on muscles, bridled against Coach Cherry’s interference and challenged him to a fight. Wiser heads, in the form of assistant coaches and captains stepped in and calmed the situation down.
Brian was shaken by this incident. He was always taught to respect authority, be it parents, police, priests, teachers and coaches. He knew Jim Hatchaway was a bully. A mean bully. A quahogger, Hatchaway was about 5-10 and 195 lbs. All muscle. For fun he would stop cars on Main Street, get into an altercation with the driver and either beat him up or grab the keys out of the ignition and throw them out of sight. He was someone you didn’t want to mess with thought Brian. Or, so he thought. Weighing in at 95 pounds soaking wet, Brian tried not to mess with anybody.
But, all that was to change the next fall when the “Hauggers” were scheduled to move, along with the rest of the student body, to a NEW high school, built by the townon former farmland along Seedar Avenue.
Brand new school! Brand new classrooms! Brand new fields! And brand, new locker rooms! But, the happenings inside were not to change that much!
END Part One of Locker Room Games
Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks that contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.