Herndon DAt long last, the story can be told. At the recent reunion, I was approached by a guilt-ridden miscreant who, once he was assured that the statute of limitations had run out, agreed to spill the beans on our class’s 41-year-old mystery: “Who salted Memorial’s courtyard?”

Today the promised email arrived. Read on.

The Perpetrators. L to R: Kirkpatrick, Sublett, Mills, Herndon.

The Alledged Perpetrators. L to R: Kirkpatrick, Sublett, Mills, Herndon.

Subject: Raid on Memorial
From: Hap Herndon
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 2014 16:40:21 -0500

My recollection is not as sharp as I’d like, however, I’m pretty certain of the facts that I’ve captured here (verified with some help from Steve Kirkpatrick). Unfortunately, we can’t remember who at least one of the additional participants was and I didn’t want to guess. Maybe he’ll step forward.

People might think that the event happened spontaneously one afternoon. In fact, it was a carefully thought out and well-planned assault (no pun intended)…

It was, of course, the run up the the annual Edison – Memorial clash. I was dating a girl from Memorial through all of high school and knew lots of folks there. That provided me with a great news pipeline for everything Memorial.

One of the things that I had heard was that Memorial had planted and was nurturing a new, pristine lawn in the courtyard area of their building. They promoted it like it was the holy grail. In fact, it was going to become the perfect target (i.e. canvas).

As we brainstormed ideas for how what we wanted to do, we agreed that we didn’t want to cause permanent damage or do anything that we (or our fellow students) would be ashamed of and live to regret. BUT we knew that we needed to leave Edison’s mark on foreign soil (so to speak) as an “in your face” message for Memorial. It was our senior year and we needed to remind them that this was not JUST another game on the schedule. Nope. They needed to be reminded that this was the showdown against THE EDISON EAGLES.

We knew that we wanted to target Memorial’s courtyard grass. We knew that spray paint wouldn’t last long or that a sign/banner/flag could be easily removed. We thought about a dead horse – maybe impaled by a giant eagle beak – but finding animals that would cooperate would be difficult and messy (just kidding). We wanted to do something that would last longer. We decided that rock salt on the grass would be perfect. The fact is, it would prove to be MORE than perfect.

In determining who would be a part of the team, it was important to ensure a couple of things of the participants: 1) you had to be available – including for practices/dry runs, 2) you must be willing to take on and execute the mission (no chickening out at the last minute!) and 3) you must be sworn to secrecy. And so, our carefully-selected team* was assembled: Steve Kirkpatrick, Clay Sublett, John Mills and me. (* There was an least one additional participant and we regret that we can’t remember who this member of the team was.)

We started by developing our plan. We determined a role for everyone. Four of us would each take the four lines that make up the “E” and the fifth would be the driver. Additional roles included someone to “count off” as we would take our positions on the “E” and lay down the salt and someone to serve as a lookout (both roles were combined with existing roles).

In the week leading up to the event we practiced at my house. We decided to make the ‘E’ about 15 feet high and ensure that it faced in the direction that everyone would recognize easily when they first entered the building each day. We came up with a system to ensure precise execution. At the count of “1” the four of us that made the ‘E’ would each take our positions on the ‘E’. At the count of “2” we would prepare our bags of rock salt (each bag would be pre-cut with the same size holes so that the salt poured evenly for all of us). And, at the count of “3”, we would each simultaneously walk our pre-determined paths.

Sublett had the critical role of driver. We decided that a pick up truck was the best type of vehicle to use since you could pile out and back in quickly. He was the only one with a pick up. He was also the mission’s look out – another critical role.

We agreed that the entire episode – from the time the truck pulled up to our leaving the scene – could take no more than 30 seconds to execute. Anything longer put us at risk of being caught.

We picked Thursday of game week to execute our mission. We figured our best window was late afternoon – a couple of hours after school was out but before it got dark. That way we thought we might actually be mistaken for Memorial students still there after school. Night time was too risky for fear that we might look very out of place to a security guard.

D-Day (E-Day?) arrived. The weather cooperated beautifully. There were very few cars or people in and around Memorial’s driveway. We went in, laid down the salt in the perfect shape of a 15 foot ‘E’ and then fled. I remember that we were yelling in jubilation all the way to my house. Everything went exactly as planned – and practiced. Not a glitch.

Or – so we thought.

Unfortunately, the ONE thing that we didn’t consider was the possibility of someone getting information that could identify the truck. It turns out that Memorial’s janitor witnessed the entire episode and copied down Sublett’s license plate number. Since we left a calling card it was pretty easy to figure out which school to call. It was downhill from there.

One by one, we were called into Mr. Cox’s office the next (Friday) morning. After the lecture that we each received, our punishment was handed down: we had to report at sunrise on Monday morning to pick up trash in the neighborhoods surrounding Edison. We had to do the same thing after school each day. Our punishment lasted a week.

We all agreed…it was a small price to pay. And it did nothing to discourage us from being proud of how we had represented our fellow Edisonites.

BTW – not only did the rock salt kill the grass in the perfect shape of an ‘E’ but the grass (and sod) retained the effects of the salt. I heard that they tried to spray paint it green but made it worse because the colors didn’t match and now our ‘E’ was green! They eventually had to dig up the sod and re-plant it.

Personally, I enjoyed the heck out of the fact that some of Edison’s most accomplished (including both the Senior Class President and Treasurer as well as the Student Congress Vice President) were involved and picking up trash for a week. I always found something ironic about that fact.

So…that’s our story and I’m sticking to it. GO EAGLES!

Hap Herndon ’74
(the vertical leg of the ‘E’)

[Editor’s note: Now that’s leadership! How did they spread the salt? you may ask. In recounting the story, Hap said that they were inspired by the movie The Great Escape. If that’s not enough of a hint, watch this. The clockwork precision of the rehearsal reminded me of another great WWII film, The Dirty Dozen, but I can’t find that clip. –SM]

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