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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 155: Red Buhrmann, College Roommate

It's Just Me Again No.155 Red Buhrmann, My College Roommate
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by Chuck Hinman

I have written about my experience of "leaving the nest" and the parental probation I was on when returning to college for the 1939-40 term. The college was Peru State Teachers College at Peru, Nebraska. It was only ninety miles from where I had grown-up on the farm near tiny Liberty, Nebraska.

For those not adept at math, that was over seventy years ago!

Delzell Hall, the sparkling new dormitory for men was a couple weeks from completion. Boys who had come to the fall term expecting to stay in the new facility were "put up" temporarily in the gym. It had the appearance of a barracks with a hundred or so cots in neat rows.

During this interim period, if you came to school without a roommate in mind, one was suggested for you. I was introduced to a tall, smiling, red-haired young man from Martell near Lincoln, Nebraska. We hit it off from the beginning and it turned out to be an excellent match. His name was Wayne (Red) Buhrmann. Like me, he was a farm boy from a small Nebraska town.

Since we had different goals for our time at Peru, we didn't have any classes together. When students weren't in class, they often studied in the library. When we were relaxing, we soon developed a circle of friends that hung out together. One of those for Red was Carl Wirth who became a lifelong friend but is now deceased.

My circle of friends with whom I "hung out" were bridge players, Cliff Harding, Merlin Broer, and "Father" George Griffin. We had the dubious distinction of introducing "strip bridge" to the campus of a thousand oaks. Our parents would have shot us had they known what their hard-earned bucks were financing in addition to a college education! I credit those wild days as making me the tough bridge player I am at ninety years of age. I hate playing bridge in just my underwear especially if it's co-ed. I just rarely do that anymore!

I was the only one in my circle of friends whose immediate goal was a one year stand. Most every one else was there for four years.

Red's and my room was on the first floor overlooking the football field. Each had a single bed, a desk and study lamp, a chest of drawers. We shared a clothes closet and lavatory. The rest of the bathroom facilities were across the hall from our room and shared with the rest of the guys on our floor.

Red and I were good enough friends that we occasionally "horsed around" wrestling each other good-naturedly - never to the point of getting mad and going to fisticuffs.

Red wore blue pajamas (I never owned a pair of pajamas in my life). He always went through a rocking motion on the side of his bed when taking off and putting on his trousers and pajama bottoms. I wonder if he did that all his life.

The most popular dining facility was the cafeteria in one of the women's dorms. A $5.00 meal ticket lasted a long time compared to today. My total cost per year to go to college at Peru was $250.00 - a mint of money in those days.

Girl friends? Yes, Red dated some but name/s escape me. I dated Elda Wyatt of Unadilla.

The only time I remember eating where Red ate was in the 41-42 term when Red was rooming with Carl Wirth. I was back at Peru after having taught a rural school near my home at Liberty, Nebraska. My roommate that year was Billy Berger. Red and I and a bunch of other boys were eating the evening meal at a boarding house that served meals to boys who didn't live there. Red's girl friend worked there. It was December 7, 1941 and the table talk was the shocking news of the Pearl Harbor attack announced a few hours earlier on that cloudy Sunday afternoon.

My days at Peru and seeing my good friend Red on a daily basis ended when I left school in May 1942. I was drafted in September 1942 and of course most of you know of Red's war and POW experience.

The next time I would see Red and wife JoAn was when we had lunch with them at Knolls in Lincoln. We were both retired and our families were raised and gone. That was the first time I met Red's wife - JoAn (Thickstun) from Omaha.

By then, my wife Connie (an Okie) was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. They returned the visit at our house in Bartlesville, Oklahoma several years later. We just picked up reminiscing good old Peru days where we left off at Knolls.

Then I learned that Red was dying of cancer. Connie and I had been to Omaha to attend a reunion of my war-time buddies. We stopped by the farm to pay respects. I thought it was nostalgic to the point of tears that Red was in his trademark pajamas and robe (an obviously sick man). Red showed me around their dream home. Connie stayed in the car as we were just going to stay a minute. As you can imagine, a thousand memories flooded our minds of better days as two old former Peru roommates shared an emotional embrace and said our final good-byes.

Precious memories? You had better believe it!

This story was posted on 2011-03-06 03:26:24
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