One of the most repeated stories told of an incident that occurred at Milford Twp Cons School revolved around a high school play in which a shotgun blew a hole in the wall of the stage in the gym.
On Oct. 27, 1953, the juniors and seniors (classes of ‘54 and ‘55) put on a play, “Comin’ round the Mountain”. The simple plot involved a bunch of city slickers coming to the home of a hillbilly family and one of the visitors wanting to elope with one of the attractive daughters.
Near the end of the play, when the city slickers were fixing to leave with the attractive daughter, I, who played the part of her father, decided that something had to be done to prevent this elopement so I pointed my 16 gauge shotgun at the back wall of the stage, (actually, that represented the front door of our humble cabin) and pulled the trigger. A quiet snap followed almost immediately by the most horrendously loud explosion and cloud of white and grey smoke was the result. The noise echoed in the confines of the stage and gym with such an extreme volume that it was surprising some plaster didn’t fall from the ceiling. When the smoke had cleared enough to see– there on the back wall, about 5 ½ -6 feet above the floor, was a hole about an inch and a half in diameter in the press board that served as a wall. Needless to say, the crowd was a little aghast and we players were more than a little taken aback by the unexpected commotion of the blast. During rehearsal all we had done was point the shotgun and say, “Boom”.
I had the next line after the blast and that was, “Does that do anything to change your mind?” And never in the history of Milford Twp dramatics (or for that matter, rarely in the history of theatrical performances) has a line been delivered with such a tone of convincing inflection. “Yes, yes–- yes it does!” said a very nervous and convinced Forest Petrus. He was the fellow who was the romantic interest of my daughter and the instigator of the elopement plot. The audience just absolutely roared in laughter and applauded their encouragement.
After the play many people came onto the stage- among them Coach Cochrane and Superintendent Hauswirth. (You know- the most authoritative people in our remarkable school). Coach Cochrane, who also was the principal, was his usual ‘laid back’ self and commented something to the effect “You guys put on quite an entertaining performance” and E J Hauswirth*, who rarely said anything to me, said, “You boys really did it this time!” And he said it in a almost dry, matter-of-fact way. “You boys” —that was Dave Allen and myself. That was all that ever was said to me about the incident from the point of view of any discipline that might have come from the blast.
This memorable incident was all precluded by an event three or four days earlier when Dave Allen brought a couple of shotgun shells to school after being asked to arrange for a shotgun blast for the play. (He brought the shotgun and the shells to School on the bus) He had heard that if one were to take the shot out of the shells and replace it with damp Kleenex tissue it would make a good “blank”. So, a few days before the play, in a corner of the area behind the stage, we took the shot from the shell and finger pressed a bunch of damp Kleenex into the shell and then, setting the butt of the shotgun on the floor and pointing the thing at the ceiling, we knelt down and cautiously pulled the trigger. A loud and mushy boom and the Kleenex sailed up to the ceiling and stuck there. Perfect!! So we made the other shell for usage the night of the play. Well, the best plans of mice and men—we hadn’t anticipated the drying effect that a few days would have; and apparently the Kleenex dried to a relatively hard mass and that was the culprit the night of the play.
For years afterward people would ask me about this incident and I could tell by the way the question was formed and asked what some of the things they had heard had been. Even 15 or 20 years later strangers might mention it and ask something like, “Aren’t you the guy who took the shotgun to the school up at Milford a few years ago?” “Hey, Dale, what were you doing blowing a hole in the wall at your school?” etc. etc. So I could imagine that with each telling of the story it was embellished and enhanced to the point that would make the tale of the incident sound like the description of insurrection by the students of majestic Milford Township School.
Also, for years afterward, when ever this subject of this story comes into the conversation, mention is always made of just how lucky all of us had been that evening in that no one was hurt; that no one was standing behind the wall where the projectile came through the wall and might have ricocheted in the walk way behind the stage. When the play was being preformed that evening I had thought about the possibility that Kleenex might ricochet off the wall and strike the other people on the stage so I aimed almost perpendicular to the wall before pulling the trigger. And so, a legend was created by simple process of closing an index finger.
*E J Hauswirth had been a Captain in the Army between the wars and thusly was probably not used to being a “direct disciplinarian”. Play cast photo on page 262.