I was flipping through Facebook earlier today and happened upon the photo of American astronaut, fighter pilot, and former U.S. Senator John Glenn.
Back in the earlier sixties, there were two men who were absolute heroes to the young boys at Lincoln Elementary School in Brilliant, Ohio. One was local boy Bill Mazeroski, who hit the greatest home run in baseball history to defeat the Yankees in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. The other was John Glenn – no explanation necessary.
I met both men in my youth.
Mom and Dad took us out to eat one Sunday evening at the Vine Cliff Restaurant in Rayland, Ohio. Maz, who was from nearby Rush Run and would one day buy the golf course next to the Vine Cliff, was visiting with friends in the lounge. I didn’t see him at first, but Dad nudged me and said, “There’s your boy.”
And there he was. Bill Mazeroski – eating fried chicken and having a beer alongside some mere mortals
“Go over and say hi,” Dad said.
I would have sooner walked up to Jesus Christ and started a conversation. “No, I can’t do that. That’s Bill Mazeroski.
Dad took me over to make do the introduction. Maz shook my hand, was extremely gracious, and to this day I can’t remember a single word of the conversation.
I didn’t actually meet Glenn when I was younger, but he gave me a nod and waved, and that counts when you’re nine-years old.
This chance meeting occurred about the time Glenn was making his first run for the senate – 63-64 – and he had stopped in Brilliant, Ohio, to look at a pollution meter that was on a garage roof at the home of Bea Helmick, who lived just down the street from me.
This is when Steubenville was the dirtiest city in the country and Brilliant was right behind. People were becoming concerned about the pollution and they had installed these meters to test the air. I assume this was part of a campaign stop, but I don’t know for sure.
I was walking back to school from lunch and the first American to orbit the earth was with a group of folks in Bea’s back yard.
I waved. Glenn nodded and waved.
I went flying back to school to tell everyone I had just seen John Glenn.
“Where?” they asked.
“In Bea Helmick’s back yard.”
Their collective response: “Right! John Glenn is in Bea Helmick’s back yard. Yocum, you are such a liar.”
It’s funny now, but it was practically tragic back then to have had a brush with greatness and not one kid in the school believed me.