Bill Tandy, Part 2
Tue, 08/15/2023 - 3:34pm admin
My last column, “Willow High’s Ferris Bueller,” not surprisingly, generated a lot of responses. From his school days in Willow Springs; his service as a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper; his position as Director of Transportation for the Associated Wholesale Grocers; and as the Potentate of the Abou Ben Adem Shrine in Springfield, Bill touched the lives of many people. And after meeting him, I doubt many forgot him.
Shortly before his training began at the Missouri Highway Patrol academy, Bill told me of his decision. After mentioning his father, he said, “That’s what I’ve really always wanted to do.” He had never mentioned it before, but it didn’t surprise me.
With Troop G headquarters located on the outskirts of town, troopers often resided Willow Springs and were admired members of the community. Their children were our classmates. Names like Taylor, Tandy, Koehler, Carter, Gooch, and Weaver are some that come to mind.
Off-duty interactions with troopers were common. Lem Carter could occasionally be seen playing snooker at Doc’s poolhall on Saturday mornings. I played baseball on town teams with Mike Weaver, and remember him expressing concern about getting in fights at games, as it would reflect poorly on him as a trooper. Captain John Tandy regularly served as the Training Union director for Sunday evening services at First Baptist Church. And Bob Gooch headed up the Baptist Church softball team.
Speaking of Trooper Gooch, he once apprehended Truman Grogan and me for a few purloined sodas at a church party. Our nascent criminal minds had not accounted for the fact the returnable bottles would be counted. He let us off easily—diminus non curat lex (the law is unconcerned with minor matters).
Bill, of course, had greater familiarity with the trooper rank and file, which I suspect contributed to his career choice. But Bill possessed an innate ability that made it a natural fit, namely, his acute eyesight and remarkable observation skills.
One evening, while sitting in a booth at the Daisy Queen, Bill noticed my mom’s car heading eastward toward the city limits. He also noticed that I was driving, and he knew I was only fifteen and did not have a driver’s license. The prankster side of Bill’s brain must have redlined, because he followed us past the Big Y, and then closed the gap between the cars and rotated a flashlight with a red lens above his dashboard to fake us out.
“Jeepers, the cops!” My mind raced through a parade of imaginary horribles that might happen. As I pulled over to the shoulder, in the rearview mirror I saw Bill’s car make a quick, tires-squealing U-turn back toward town.
In another instance, Bill demonstrated his power of observation when he and Truman Grogan drove to Columbia for some event. As they cruised down a main thoroughfare, Bill said, “That looked like Coach Case in the car that passed us.” Joel Case had been the WSHS football coach in 1963-64 season. Bill followed the car, and sure enough it was Coach Case, who stopped his car and invited them to a party that night.
In the summer of 1967, Royce Yardley (WSHS, 1966) and I were driving to our jobs at a Boy Scout camp near St. Louis, and a few miles north of Rolla, a Highway Patrol car pulled behind us, with the emergency lights flashing. A uniformed trooper got out—Tandy, again. At the time, he was a recruit at the Patrol academy and was on a routine patrol. He recognized my car and wanted to warn me about a radar trap farther down the road.
Sometime ago, I wrote an article that covered an incident from a 1963 football game between Willow Springs and the Mountain View. I posed the question: Did you ever wonder what type of skulduggery might take place at the bottom of a pile of players after a gang tackle? Stealing the ball? Biting? Gouging? All of the above? A former Mountain View player, whom I referred to as “Smith,” described one such incident by saying, “I had a memorable meeting with one of your teammates.”
Smith expanded on the memorable meeting and said, “I remember being tackled and was on the bottom of the pile, face down. One of my hands inadvertently ended up inside the faceguard of a Willow Springs player. Before I could move my hand away, this player started biting hard on one of my fingers. With the weight of the players on top of me, I couldn’t move or use my other hand to defend myself.”
Smith said he tried to use his “free fingers that he didn’t have in his mouth” to scratch or poke the Willow player (“Jones”) to make him release his fingers. “The pile broke up and the biter let go, but I didn’t determine who he was.”
At the time, Smith was dating a Willow girl and says, “On a date a few nights after the game, she asked me if I had been bitten by anyone during the game. I told her the story, and she said Jones proudly confessed to her that he did it. We both had a good laugh.” I had a good laugh, too, since I knew Jones.
Although the two never met after their encounter at the bottom of the pile, Smith says, “Despite his biting tendencies, I hear he is a good man.” He added, “If you are still in touch with him, please tell him that he made an impression on me that I won’t forget and that I wish him well.”
I kept identities of “Alias Smith and Jones” anonymous because both players had become esteemed citizens in their respective communities, but now I can reveal that the biting Bear was Bill Tandy.
When I contacted Bill to inquire about his alleged “Hannibal Lecter” behavior and asked him to fess up or say it wasn’t so, he claimed his biting was purely defensive to keep from being poked in the eye. As to what actually happened, it remains unsettled.
Did Bill have a sensitive side? Maybe. In the WSHS production of the musical Oklahoma, Bill played cowboy Will Parker, opposite Janice Zimmerman (WSHS, 1963), who played Parker’s girlfriend, Ado Annie. A scene called for Bill to kiss Janice, but he was hesitant to do so because his good friend had a crush on her. When the time for the kiss arrived, he removed his cowboy hat and shielded their faces giving the appearance to the audience they were kissing. A few years ago, Bill said, “I still regret not kissing her,”
I knew Bill was a smart guy, which he later demonstrated in college, graduating magna cum laude from Drury College and earning a Master’s degree from Central Missouri State University, but I knew little about his scholastic endeavors at WSHS. But his classmate Sandy Davidson recently shared her memory of studying with Bill and Fred Corl for Mr. Pamperien’s trigonometry and math analysis class.
They would meet at Mrs. Tandy’s candy store located behind Bill’s house, across from the high school. “On math nights,” Sandy says, “Bill, Fred, and I would work together on math problems. The three of us would work together into the wee hours of the morning. Sines, cosines, secants, cosecants, tangents, cotangents.... Those were the days . . . I guess you could call us ‘The Three Mathketeers.’"
Sandy shared another, more poignant recollection of Bill. “On November 22, 1963, Bill came flying into class. My recollection is that class had already started and Bill interrupted it by yelling, ‘President Kennedy has been shot.’ Some of his classmates thought he was joking and told him that he wasn't being funny. Then he repeated, ‘No, the president has been shot.’ The agony in his voice and his distraught appearance let us know this was no Bill Tandy joke. So that's the way Mr. Pamperien and his students learned of the death of JFK. If anybody ever asks me, ‘Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?’ I can answer, ‘Yes, in math class. I can see Bill Tandy....’ "
On the Willow Facebook page, Buddy Stuart (WSHS, 1965) summed up Bill’s passing when he wrote, “The Class of ’64 has lost part of its heart and soul.” Joe Corn (WSHS, 1965) expressed the feelings of many: “The loss of a great lifelong friend.” And from the radio communication code troopers know well, I’ll add: 10-42, June 17, 2023. Rest in peace, Bill.