Mayville Alumni Association - Est 1887 ~Celebrating 136 years in 2023~
Mayville Alumni Association - Est 1887 ~Celebrating 136 years in 2023~
In October of 2021, I drove up alone to visit my older brother, Tom in Centralia, Illinois. I took my two articles about Ma and Dad for him and his wife Irene to read. Tom and I did, of course, talk about dad and how he treated our mother and us, but it did not prevent my visit from being the best visit with him since we left the farm nearly 60 years ago.
When we moved to the farm in '52 Tom was nine years old and would turn ten in September. I was five, going on six. As you might expect, Tom and I played a lot together on the farm. We spent a lot of time playing in the hay mow, building tunnels, and jumping off the mezzanine hay loft above into a pile of loose hay fifteen feet below. We played basketball on the hay mow floor with a hoop made from a potato bag hung from a hoop of wire and nailed to a barn post. In the winter months he trapped and skinned muskrats and sold the pelts for extra money. I recall going out with him on his trap-line one cold winter morning without gloves and I nearly got frostbitten fingers because of it. We cooked eggs on a campfire in the pasture beside the creek using the tin coffee can lids to fry our eggs until we got chased out by our bull. We never did eat those eggs! We played war in the pasture but mostly played cowboys and Indians along the creek which was influenced by the fact that Tom and Dad had found a few arrowheads along the creek banks. We played football in the backyard with our collie, Bullet. Bullet's 'tackle' was him herding and jumping on us to grab our pant legs. That is also where Tom taught me how to tackle. Tom was an excellent center linebacker in high school and held the highest number of tackles record in one game for a while. I also played center linebacker and used Tom's tackling technique through junior high and high school football. “Get low, hit hard, and wrap your arms around the legs.” I was a good tackler because of the technique he taught me.
But, as many siblings do, we fought. During some of the fights we were brutal with each other. Looking back on the fights I believe I was the instigator of the physical side of those fights. We both had a flaring temper much like our parents, who fought frequently. Big brother teased me as big brothers do, and of course I sometimes aggravated him. I threw things at him, screamed at him, and hit him with my fist which did not phase him at all. Most times I had to jump up to reach his jaw. He would usually just smile or smile and then chase me down. I recall the time when throwing a 3-tine pitchfork at him, I missed and ran, but it really angered him. He ran me down and kicked me as hard as he could in my ribs. There were other things, like tomato sauce I threw at him that splattered on the kitchen wall that Ma had just finished wallpapering. Ma was not happy, but Tom just laughed. Most times Ma would break us up because Dad was off at work. It took both of us a while in life to learn how to control our anger. But no matter the fights, Tom and I were still close on the farm in spite of the age difference, in spite of our fights. After all, we were brothers.
Tom left the farm about a year after he graduated in 1960. When he left the farm, we began to separate from each other lives. I was still in school and still had about 5 more years left to graduate. When Ma and Dad divorced in '59, I chose to stay with Dad so I could finish school at Mayville and play football with my teammates. We remained apart except for when, on rare occasion, he would stop out to the farm to visit Dad and I, or when I would visit Ma every other weekend in Lapeer. Tom's visits to the farm became more infrequent as he became more resentful of the way Dad still treated him, especially after Tom had married. Dad did not attend his wedding and he could not seem to remember Tom's wife’s name Irene, which was the same as our mother, Irene. After Tom had moved off the family farm he lived with Ma in Lapeer. He worked and partied on weekends in his mid-50s Ford Fairlane hot rod and later, his blue 1960s blue Pontiac. But my contact with him became intermittent. He had a job, a girlfriend, and parties to attend and I was still attending Mayville high school. Later I left the farm in the middle of my junior year in '63 to live full time with Ma in Lapeer and finished my last year and a half at Lapeer schools. Tom was working full time at various jobs throughout those years.
Tom married his sweetheart, Irene Herner of Otisville in January of 1964 while I finished high school in Lapeer graduating in 1965. I married the girl next door, my sweetheart Sharron Caryl in February of '66 and was drafted into the army the next day. Tom and I both started families and each headed off in different life directions. Contact was rare and we began to lose touch. He had moved to Illinois and partnered in the purchase of a golf course as I headed for Fort Knox, Kentucky, and New Jersey for Military training and then on to Vietnam in '67. After I got out of the army Tom was struggling financially with his new golf course business and eventually had to give it up.
Later, Tom was hired on at a golf course in a neighboring town in Illinois and became exceptionally good at the game of golf, as he did in any venture he decided to do. He was eventually hired as the 'Club Professional' while honing his game to professional level, winning several tournaments. Later he qualified for and won various prestigious major tournaments like the 1993 'PGA Senior's Championship', the 1994 'Senior British Open', and various other well-known tournaments and became recognized as a major contender on the Senior Champions Tour. Tom was the first and only PGA Club Professional to win the Senior PGA Championship since the PGA Tour Champions was founded in 1980. With his winnings he purchased the same golf course he once worked at as 'Club Pro'. He played the Senior tour for a number of years, eventually retiring from professional golf and selling the golf course to live in the beautiful home that he and his wife designed and had built with his winnings next to the golf course where he started his famous professional golfing life. Later he purchased several acres in rural Michigan where he spends much of his summer months enjoying the quiet life of Michigan's outdoors.
Big brother Tom was four years older and, because of our age differences, could do things of which I could only dream. He was good at football, basketball, baseball, and track. He could ice skate rings around just about anybody. In his younger adult years, he played semi-pro hockey as well as semi-pro football. At one time he also contemplated going into pro bowling. He could dive off a diving board with the grace of a swan. He, like Dad, was an excellent shot with the shotgun as I remember times when they would come home with their limits of pheasants and rabbits. Tom was good at anything he did. I aspired to be like him, but without success. My brother Tom was my hero. He still is in many aspects.
As I look back over my visit with my brother, I am reminded that even though time and distance may have separated us for long periods, it was good to look back on our lives and share the good times as well as the bad.
Cycling Through Life – Tom, My Big Brother
I remember walking with my older brother Tom and a neighbor girl, Pat Graham two miles to Skelton school, the one room country schoolhouse where I attended kindergarten in the fall of ‘51. On the way, we'd find cans, stomp on the middle so it wrapped around the soles of our shoes to elevate ourselves, but mostly to make noise. Other times we would just exchange kicking the can on down the road. On the way home from school one day an 'old' fellow, who lived on the route carved a whistle for me from a hollow branch. The last time I went past there was no trace of that house.
My role in the school Christmas play was a shepherd. My acting debut instructions were to stand at the back of the stage hold a stick and not move. After the play was over, I heard bells from out front of the schoolhouse. In a familiar voice I heard; ‘Whoa Dasher, whoa Dancer, whoa Prancer, whoa, whoa!’ Shortly after, Santa entered the school with a hardy “HO HO HO”. I looked around for my dad, but he was nowhere in sight. Then Santa shouted, “Merry Christmas!” Hey, that's my dad. My dad was Santa Claus! How cool is that!
At noon or recess we would normally go out behind to the school playground but in cold or rainy weather we would play at the back of the schoolhouse. I remember watching my brother, Tom and the older boys draw a chalk marble playing circle on the wooden floor at the back of the schoolhouse Even back then I recall Tom kneeling around the players circle with a very serious look on his face.
I remember one summer Tom and I walking out to M-24 a half mile away from our home to sell fishing worms. When we went home for lunch, we didn't want the worms stolen so we buried them. The worms were packed in dirt filled soup cans without lids. The cans were still there when we got back, but no worms.
During the summer my brother and I would swim and hang out with the owner's kids at King's Landing, a Miller Lake private beach about a half mile north from where we lived. King's Landing was where I learned to swim, but only the dog-paddle stroke and underwater.
I vividly recall nearly being hit by a car while learning how to ride Tom's 20-inch bicycle. I wobbly wandered into a gravel road intersection while watching a car skidding sideways throwing gravel everywhere. I really don't know how close it came to running me over. I can still visualize that car sliding sideways to this day. I just stood there watching it. I had no idea I was in danger. At 4 years old distance, speed and fear were dimensions and feelings I had little experience with.
We had a horse, a pinto named ‘Silver.’ In order for me to ride Silver I would prop a ladder against him, get on, push the ladder away and ride. In 1952 when we moved to our newly purchased family farm near Fostoria, Tom who was about 9 at the time, rode Silver the eight miles down M-24 to the new farm on Rich Road in front of our Hudson automobile my dad drove. My memory of Silver simply disappears from my memory bank and I have no recollection of what finally happened to him after we moved to the farm on Rich road. Many years later my brother Tom told me that dad gave Silver to our farmer neighbors near our previous home at Miller Lake. Dad replaced him with a young bay mare that I would ride the roads with on occasion. That was Babe, but she hated to be ridden. She was quite young, and my dad trained, and saddle broke her with the same beliefs he had in raising children.
When we moved to the farm Tom's 20-inch bicycle was in the trunk of the car along with my tricycle. My tricycle got ran over and crushed when a visitor's daughter left it behind a parked car. Later, the 20-inch bicycle was a handed down to me where I rode it for the rest of my life on the farm. My bicycle was still my main method for local transportation. It was two wheels, a frame, handlebars, and pedals with fading and scarred paint. I did abandon it for a while after I used it to pedal around door to door selling packets of Burpee seeds to the neighbors. With the money I earned I bought a 10 speed "English Racer". It was cool but it had tires that were only about an inch wide and hard. It didn't last long. I beat the poor thing to death on the bumpy country gravel roads. It was also mechanically complicated for a young kid around 8 years old and I eventually went back to my 20-inch hand me down.
I rode that 20-inch bike almost to the day I left the farm but was less often as time went by. From the sale of a piglet litter I raised, I later purchased a red Cushman Allstate motor scooter to transport me from place to place. It, nor I were licensed so most of the time I kept it's travels local on the dirt country roads. However, the serenity I got from riding my bicycle was lost and replaced with my yearn for young teenager's need for speed. There were also neighbor kids near my age that had motorized transportation.
Later, in 1971 after I married and had three children of my own, my wife and I moved two miles south of my boyhood farm home. Sometime after the move, I asked dad what happened to the scooter and the bicycle. In the back of my mind, I guess I was hoping to pass them down to my children. He told me he sold the scooter and gave the bicycle to a relative. When I asked him what relative he told me he couldn't remember.
It wouldn't be until 2010 when I would purchase my Trek 21-speed bicycle and began riding through the countryside of my childhood stomping grounds visiting neighbors, friends, relatives, and old schoolmates. Riding it brought back memories as I rode the same paths of my younger days when I rode that old fenderless 20-inch bike. The rides were peaceful, solitude journeys as I passed my familiar childhood places. I felt like I was a kid again reminiscing my adolescent days up until the day I left the farm.
Some days I would take a ride two miles down the road, stop at the old family farm creek bridge, and kick stones from the bridge into the water below or toss stone bombs at a stick floating in the deep pool created by the water's eddy, like the kid I once was. I would recall when a neighbor fellow, I called 'Old Man Oliver', used to fish for suckers off the south bank. Some days I would prop a foot on the bridge's railing, gaze at the farm and let my mind wander back to the 1950s. I would take a reminiscent trip through the farmhouse where I slept, played and ate. I'd recall Sunday meals my mother would cook. I'd recall the chicken coop where I fed chickens, collected eggs, and cleaned the coop, along with the granary where the grain from the fields were stored and the barn where we milked the cows, stored hay, and did chores.
I'd also recall the day I left the farm and dad, and that meant eventually leaving Mayville school. I would, at times, regret that day because if I had stayed on the farm and finished my last year and a half, I would have played out my senior year of football at Mayville with my teammates. I so loved football. I was told by our football coach I would have my favorite position of center linebacker and be my team's defensive co-captain in my senior year. I would have graduated from Mayville High School with my classmates and team members. It wasn't to be. I headed out down the road at close to midnight not knowing where I was headed but also knowing I wasn’t turning back. This time I was running away from home for good.
I also abandoned a girl in my haste to go. I was too involved in myself at the time to think about someone else. She told me many years later as other schoolmates have, "You just disappeared". Later in life she said to me “We were just kids.”
'Regret' isn’t the best word because if I hadn't left, I would have never met the love of my life, my wife Sherry, and experienced the joys of watching my three children, Dave, Tom and Paula grow and start their own lives and their own memories. Actually, I am rather thankful ... for the so many wonderful years of life and memories of our Fostoria rural home.
'Cycling through Life' - “Life Began at Five”
Gary (about age 4), brother Tom (about age 8), and their mother, Irene Kuzma Wargo, and the "20-inch bike" Gary writes about in his stories. The photo was taken at their Miller Lake area home - circa 1950.
Gary's short stories have appeared in the 2021 and 2022 Historian papers.
Gary Wargo attended Mayville Schools from 1952 until mid-year of his Junior year in 1963-64. Although he did not graduate with his friends, classmates and teammates, he still considers himself a Mayville Wildcat. While at Mayville Gary was active in most sports, except baseball—the one sport that he just did not do well in and likes to tell the story of being evicted from the Little League Team as a ten year old. He attributes that to daydreaming while leading off third base and falling asleep in the outfield.
Football was Gary’s sport and he played halfback, although his favorite position was middle linebacker on defense. The game he remembers most was the Homecoming game in October of 1963, when the Mayville Wildcats took on the Reese Rockets. The Wildcats kept the Rockets scoreless for 3 quarters and in the 4th quarter it looked like the Rockets would win when they pulled ahead 12 to 7. It was in the last seconds of the game that Senior Quarterback Larry Lamiman fired a 70 yard touchdown pass to Jim Plain to win the game— the first Varsity win on the Mayville field since 1960. Gary was credited with 7 tackles during that game.
Gary graduated from Lapeer High School in 1965 and a year later he was sent a ‘Greetings’ letter from Uncle Sam requesting his assistance in fighting the war in Vietnam. Gary married Sharon “Sherry” Caryl on February 8th, 1966 and left for Fort Knox Kentucky on February 9th, one day later.
In 1971 after a three year stint in the Army, which included a year in Vietnam, Gary and Sherry moved back to the Fostoria area. Although they lived just down the road from Gary’s childhood home, their three children attended North Branch Schools.
Gary retired from IBM in 1998 after 29 years of service repairing office equipment, including the IBM Selectrics in Mr. Morrison’s classroom at Mayville High School, and typewriters in Jim Plain’s classroom at Marlette High School. In 2016 Gary and Sherry relocated to the Panhandle of Florida.
Gary has two pages on Facebook and these stories and more can be found on his page “The Old Fostorian” -
He also has a Facebook page called “My Home Town, Mayville, Michigan”. It is open to anyone that wants to join and is “about growing up or living in the great town of Mayville, Michigan.” It is a place to share past and present experiences regarding Mayville and the surrounding areas.