March 2nd…“TELL ABOUT A HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL THAT YOU REMEMBER.”
Our “ambush” of Tigers at Battle Ground High School were proud of our black and orange school colors. Those colors linked us together under the good-natured and dominant leadership of the “Chief Tiger” who ruled over the hundreds of teenagers that mingled and merged in those halls of education. That regal “Chief Tiger” was none other than Mr. Pat Pettichord. He was a handsome man and used to walk with a type of swagger that exuded the confidence he held within himself. Mr. Pettichord presented an aura, almost a glow surrounding him with that ramrod straight back and an almost military gait as he strode by groups of students each day.
In my adult life, I found out that, in his young years, our dear Principal was considered one of the best in many Track & Field events and was considered strongly as a Track & Field competitor in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Sadly, from the stories I heard, he became quite ill just before the tryouts commenced and hence, he lost his opportunity to compete in the legendary Olympics that year that occurred right under the nose of Hitler, himself.
After completing my 31 years with the Battle Ground Schools as a Custodian, I supplemented my income by working at our local Safeway store. Mr. Pettichord lived just across the road from the store, so I had the pleasure to see him often when he came into the store for groceries and visit with old friends. The ravages of the years had caught up with this great man and he was now with cane and stooped over at almost 90 degrees from degenerative bone issues in his back. It quietly broke my heart to see this manly man, who portrayed all that was good and masculine, from my youth, now barely able to shuffle through the store to secure his daily needs.
Our proud Principal has now passed into eternity. About six months after his death, Mr. Pettichord’s lovely wife, Eva, succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease. If even still standing (at this writing), their quaint little green house, at our town’s very busy intersection, is empty and derelict now with a FOR SALE sign languishing out in their front yard where once lived an exemplary man and his handsome family. Our world loses its seasoning and becomes a bit more bland when we lose these sweet folks who contributed so much to the flavor of our lives by their love and contributions while with us.
To end this chapter on a happy note, there’s the story of how Mr. Pettichord interacted with my girlfriend and I one day. Being the little lovebirds we were, back then, my lady and I were leaning with our shoulders against a brick wall of the school’s Music Building. Yes, we were very close as we nuzzled with each other against the chill of a frosty Fall day. By today’s lax standards, our coziness was considered VERY MILD!!! Yet, up to us walks Mr. Pettichord and directs each of us to separate until there was at least a foot or two of distance between us. I surmise he was trying to shame us by what he said next. “What would your parents say if I took a photo of you two right now?” Being a little too witty for my own good, I smiled and replied, “They’d probably ask for enlargements!!”. Good-hearted Mr. Pettichord had to squelch a smile that almost popped onto his face when he could tell that I had just “called his bluff”. Sobering up, he said, “That wasn’t the answer I was looking for!” He warned us young lovers to “keep our distance” and then walked on his way. Such was one of the fun memories of our Principal in the High School times of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.