Willow High’s Ferris Bueller
Tue, 08/01/2023 - 12:32pm admin
A lifelong resident of Willow Springs with children of her own once told me that in every class at Willow Springs High School, there is “one” boy. For the Class of 1964, it’s fair to say that one boy was Bill Tandy.
I emailed a WSHS classmate of his that before Bill became a Missouri State Trooper, he was our Ferris Bueller, the main character in the 1986 teen comedy movie. She responded, “Perfect!” Like Ferris, he was admired by his peers, but from the prospective of some teachers, he occasionally colored outside the lines.
Like Andy Hardy in the MGM movie series of the 1930s and 40s, Bill’s adventures occasionally caused predicaments with authority figures. While fictional Andy Hardy’s father was the town judge, Bill’s dad was Captain John Tandy, the commanding officer of Highway Patrol Troop G in Willow Springs.
Bill once reset the clock timer at the high school causing an early dismissal of classes. This sufficiently peeved principal Fred Thomas that he expelled Bill and required an appearance of Captain Tandy before Bill would be readmitted. I remember Bill telling me how embarrassed he felt that his dad had to take time from work and show up in his Patrol uniform. I can’t imagine Bill’s older sister, the ever-pleasant Helen, committing an infraction of school rules. His older brother John, however, may have had some familiarity with the school bell system.
In my view, Bill had a bit of Tom Sawyer, too. While he never conned anyone to help him whitewash a fence, boys seemed eager to follow his lead in dubious situations. For me, this became apparent at Baptist Church Camp in 1961.
Bill persuaded me to sneak off with him to the drugstore in Van Buren to buy hydrogen peroxide. He had charisma, but, apparently, felt he needed something more—such as blond hair like Dobie Gillis, the popular TV character. When we got back to camp, he convinced Truman Grogan and Eddie Mack Hill (both WSHS Class of ’65) to join him in bleaching their hair. Although clueless about the process, the three of them, nevertheless, ended up towheads, and they definitely got the desired attention from girls.
But church camp provided at least one embarrassing moment for Bill. First Baptist Church of Willow Springs had its own cabin that could accommodate forty boys and girls. Shaped like a World War II military barracks, it had a wall down the center that partitioned the girls from the boys.
The entrance had a foyer with chaperone bedrooms on either side, for Pastor Floyd Gentry and Pansy Belle Hord. The knotty pine wall that separated the boys from the girls allegedly had a couple miniscule holes. One day, Bill stood on his bunk, which was adjacent to the interior wall, exploring for one of the holes. His enthusiasm equaled that of a prospector searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. From the way he was dancing on his bunk, he had struck gold, but his enthusiasm was short-lived.
He didn’t realize a silence had come over the room, but he stopped dancing when Pastor Gentry rested his hand on his shoulder, and asked, “Bill, what are you doing? The barnyard Charleston?” Without turning around, Bill slid down the wall and covered up with his blanket. The room exploded with laughter, and the wall exploration ended . . . at least from the boys’ side.
Ping pong tournaments at the church camp snack bar, the Nibble Nook, were ongoing events that Bill usually won. But a local gunslinger, a table tennis whiz from Van Buren, Lynn Spence (WSHS Class of ’64), arrived on the scene and a showdown was inevitable. With bragging rights on the line, Lynn and Bill squared off in the championship match, surrounded by onlookers inside the Nibble Nook. Others observed from outside through the screen windows. Of the match, Bill said, “I remember playing Spence but can’t recall who won. I recall Lynn always had his tongue hanging out from the corner of his mouth when stressed.”
Church camp proved to be a training ground for Bill’s social and interpersonal skills during the election for the camp king and queen. The staff divided campers into two separate “political” parties—the Nibblers and the Snackers. After each party selected king and queen candidates, the campaigns started.
Willow Springs was part of the Snackers party, which nominated Bill as its king candidate. The election campaign involved a flurry of activity, with signs, posters, stump speeches, and a bit of political chicanery—Bill changed the sign on the Nibble Nook to “Snackers’ Cranny.” The enthusiasm of Bill’s supporters prevailed, and the Snackers crowned Bill as the camp king.
Bill’s political talents continued when he and classmate Mike Warning ran against fellow classmates Deanna Collins and Pat Stringer in the WSHS student council election. Campaign signs covered the hallways, lockers, and bathrooms. Inside the cover of the 1963 Willamizzou, a two-page spread photo shows Tandy and Warning standing on the auditorium stage surrounded by posters.
The campaign wasn’t without “personal” attacks. At the time, Dial soap was the leading deodorant soap in the country, with an advertising slogan: “Aren’t you glad you use Dial: (Don’t you wish everybody did?)” The Collins/Stringer duo used this popular catchphrase to suggest the Tandy/Warning team could benefit from using Dial soap.
Principal Fred Thomas and home economics teacher Ruth Mathieu expressed concern that the campaigns had become unseemly, although neither intervened. Undaunted, Tandy and Warning posted a large sign in response: “If Elected We Promise to Use Dial!!!! –Tandy and Warning.” Bill won the election and became the student council president, with Mike as his VP.
As an athlete Bill wasn’t the most naturally gifted, but nobody worked any harder. Bill contracted polio as a young child that left his dominant right arm smaller and weaker. His left arm compensated, and he could beat most righties in lefthanded arm-wrestling contests.
Bill had his best athletic success in football. Teammates elected him varsity co-captain his senior year, and he received all-conference honorable mention from the South Central Association. Although in junior high football, his participation had more curious results.
As an eighth-grader on Willow’s first junior high football team, after the Cubs punted against Mountain View, Bill said, “I recall running toward the punt receiver and hearing a loud thud on top of my helmet making my ears ring [and] the football bounced off my head right in front of me. I ended up in a pile of players scrambling to recover the ball. The referee broke up the dogpile and stated the ball was down where it hit the Willow player, and he pointed at me.”
But junior high track provided Bill (and me) with regrettable distinctions. Coach Buddy Bennett required everybody to participate in at least one running event at track meets. He relegated the slowest plodders to the mile run—four times around the track.
Winning a medal in the mile run was never a possibility for me. My challenge was not coming in last, and the only person between me and that disgrace was eighth-grader Bill Tandy. At each track meet, Bill and I raced for the distinction of being next-to-last. I must confess that Bill always won that honor.
To be continued…