Only Time Will Tell
I was fortunate to be a recipient of advice regarding what to expect as I left high school and made my way to the college scene in the fall of 1970. With numerous friends and relatives all willing to give me guidance, I found myself at an advantage over others that weren’t so lucky.
One such unfortunate guy was Bob Nelson. Apparently no one ever told Bob to leave his high school letterman jacket at home and never brandish it on campus at all – ever – for any reason – even if the power and heat went off and frostbite was imminent.
Bob previously attended North Penn High School ** just outside Philadelphia and was a very good football player in his day. He proudly wore that North Penn jacket every day, everywhere, every time he left his dorm room our freshman year at Shippensburg. He became a campus icon in the first few months of our college careers. He and his jacket were infamous.
Despite friendly coercion, and blatant hints, his jacket never left his back. Finally the gang in Old Main told him frankly to quit sporting the jacket. “You are no longer in high school," they would say. “Take that coat home and leave it there."
Bob, Specks, Fungi, Bub, Scales, and Robert (all the same guy, I might add) shed the comments like a good linebacker sheds blocks. He absolutely refused to listen or cooperate with his friends and their suggestions. He was as stubborn as a mule, and just as hardheaded too. (No football helmet pun intended.)
So, as usual where immature males reside, a devious, unscrupulous plan was put in motion by some of the guys in the Old Main dormitory.
I was not an angel, as many who know me would attest. But my scheming was no match for two sophomores living in our dorm, Gene Lakin and Jeff Nagy. (See the Great Train Ride of '71 story.)
These two guys were each about 6’2" tall, thin as a beanpole, and as slippery and sneaky as any night prowler could be. Besides all that, they were intelligent. They had come up with a plan to teach Bob a lesson.
Was I involved? Yes, of course.
It was about 10:00 pm on a weekend night. Two other juvenile men and I ran the diversion of starting a pinochle game with Bob in the mix. Meanwhile, with Lakin on hall-watch, Nagy squirmed up Bob’s locked dorm room door and slithered through the transom at the top like a snake climbing a tree to get bird eggs out of a nest.
That jacket was out in the hall within 10 seconds and in Lakin’s hands.
From there, Gene promptly ran down four flights of steps, sprinted out of the dorm and then climbed the Kriner Diner clock tower on campus. He precariously placed the jacket on the hour hand. This is how I remember the approximate time of the evening – any earlier and the jacket would not have been secure.
I made some excuse to look out the window during the card game to witness the final stage of the crime. Today, I can still visualize the black shadowy outline of the guy who would have made Spiderman envious. Lakin clawed that clock tower, at night, with one hand while grasping that North Penn jacket in the other. With the clock’s light in the background, he resembled a spooky Halloween figure in front of a full harvest moon.
More quickly than the ascent, was the disappearance of the silhouette into the night, once the mission was accomplished. “This guy should be a Navy SEAL," I thought. Amazing!
Within minutes, the two pranksters returned to the card game and announced, “Well Bub, your jacket has been taken care of."
“I doubt that," replied Specks, as he adjusted his glasses. “That jacket is safely locked away in my closet in my room."
“Maybe you better take a look at the Kriner Clock," retorted Nagy.
I thought Bob was going to cry when he saw his priceless treasure on those clock hands. With obvious concern in his voice, he asked in a panic-like tone, “How am I supposed to get that down?"
In perfect unison, the Nagy-Lakin duo answered in rehearsed harmony, “Only Time Will Tell, Bub. Only Time Will Tell."
**North Penn is nationally known for its football program and has been featured on ESPN documentaries. Bob was a linebacker for the Knights and was well respected on the gridiron. Thank God he was easy to get along with, as I have wondered many times what he would have done if he ever really got mad. He may have kicked the crap out of all of us simultaneously.
Bob later served as our Senior Class President in ’73-’74 and was the President of the Alumni Association just a few years ago. Today, he laughs at this story, and admits he still sports his North Penn jacket at times.