Friday, February 03, 2006


I first met Ken in 5th grade. At that time, he was kind of hanging around with Randy Klein. Ken and I got along great. And we remained friends (mostly in school) throughout the rest of our scholastic careers.

Ken was kind of a bundle of energy. He wasn't the smartest guy in the world. But he was a lot of fun to hang around with. I also had him in Mrs. Casey's class in 6th grade. Along with Greg Flemal, the three of us hung out together all year.

At some point in 6th grade, Ken started bugging me about having some sort of fixation about Patti Malley. It wasn't true. But Ken wasn't shy about vocalizing it. I wanted to kill him sometimes.

We went to Mr. Burnstad's class for spelling and language. One day he gave us a bunch of tricky questions. Ken came to me for help. The question he got was something like, "How much dirt is in a hole eight feet deep with a circumference of 12 feet." He asked me how to calculate that. I told him, "Ken, there is no dirt in a hole."

Ken and I used to play rock, paper, scissors in class. We would add a few things though. First off, nothing ever beat "rock." We would simply slam our fist down on the hand of the other person. In addition to the three basics, we also added Pac-Man, Frogger and Donkey Kong to the game. It was never established what beat what - with the exception of "rock." Rock always won everything. We would then crush each others' hands with our "rock.'

Speaking of Pac-man, we had Mr. Kjelstrup for art class. We once had to carve an object out of plaster of paris. For the life of me, I just couldn't do it. So the day before it was due, Ken took my chunk home, and carved a Pac-Man for me. It was brilliant! The lighting is bad. But you can see it below, along with a frog made in Mr. Spatz' class the year before.

Ken and I invented something that I referred to as "cough talk." Now I've come to realize that John Belushi did the same thing when he coughed "blowjob" in "Animal House." Of course other people have probably done it too. But we weren't aware of any of that at the time. We would either, cough, clear our throats or even sneeze, while saying a word. It was a great form of communication. Although years later, Mr. Longhini figured it out.

Sometime in 7th or 8th grade, Ken, Chad Daffner (the two of them were freinds for years - probably due to their involvement in wrestling) and myself went over to one of my neighbors, Bobby Streu. Bobby's dad owned a construction company. And they were pretty well off. They had three or four ATV's in their backyard. Somehow all four of us piled onto one vehicle and tore off in the fields and "pit" area between Bobby's house and Clarke school. That thing could go about 50 MPH. And Bobby wasn't shy about opening it up to top speed. All was fine until he drove us into a ditch - sideways. My teeth slammed into Ken's skull. How I didn't lose any is a mystery to me.

Ken and I had a few classes together in 8th grade - including Mr. Franke's science class. We shared a table together and used to torment (along with Mark Schreiber's help) Peter Flora and Robin Richmond.

One day I was in Mr. Kern's english class. Ken was next door in Mr. Fencl's reading class. Ken and I would sometimes cough back and forth with each other. One day Ken went nuts. He began coughing and hacking my name over and over again. He was so loud that he could be heard in all of the classrooms in the area. Everyone in Kern's class were laughing their asses off. They knew what was going on. But the teachers had no clue.

Ken and I use to play this game. I think we simply called it "points." We made up a chart with various activities we could do. It ranged from swearing loudly in class, all the way up to kicking the teacher. We had about 100 things on the list. Of course we would sometimes go off the list as well, and play it by ear. One day I had a hardcover "Which Way" book. Ken dared me to fold it in two. Of course all of this was taking place as Mr. Franke lectured. And Ken and I sat at the first table in the front of the room. I put the book in my lap, tried in vain to fold it. After working on it for a few minutes, this impossibly loud ripping noise took place. A few people looked at us. But somehow Mr. Franke didn't hear it. For whatever reason, Ken and I couldn't stop giggling. We tried and tried to stop. But once we started, we just couldn't let up. Things got worse for us when I pulled the book out of my lap, and saw that indeed, I had ripped through the hard cover and had managed to somewhat fold it in two. Then Mr. Franke gave us that "look." He had a blank, silent stare that he gave when he got really angry. We were getting that look. I looked right at him and burst out laughing. Then Ken did the same. He was not amused. I ended up getting banished to a table in the back, with Ann Rank. He told her that if I got out of line, she had permission to smack me.

Later in the year, Ken and I were in the back of the room. Mr. Franke had put Ken in charge of the remote control for the filmstrip. All he had to do was press "forward" everytime we heard the beeping sound. What Ken didn't know is that there were buttons on the projector itself - which was in my reach. I would sometimes press "reverse" or press "forward" before the beep. Ken got a lot of stares. But he didn't get in trouble. Eventually he figured out what I was doing.

Ken's dad was a truck driver, and was on the road a lot. He was gone so much that when his dad came home, Ken got to leave school early to go see him.

In our freshman year, Ken was on the wrestling team. But something happened in the second half of the year. I don't know if a bunch of the team had a wild party or something. But several of the members got kicked off the team - including Ken. I remember Ken getting called out of Mrs. Fischer's language class. She asked him if there were any guys left on the team. Ken said, "a couple."

I also had Ken in Ms. Sapa's literature class that year. One day, Ken pulled out his student I.D. card, and began reflecting the sun into Sapa's eyes. He only did it periodically. So he got away with it for awhile. When she finally caught him, she chewed him out. Later on in the semester, when progress reports (deficiency reports for those who aren't doing so well) came out, Ken got one from her. There were various categories which could be checkmarked for areas of improvement. Sapa had checked "maturity." She had also circled it!

In our junior year, Ken would often hang out with Kevin Dehne. In reality, Kevin was hanging out with Ken's sister Dawn. Kevin had been a runaway, and I think he stayed with her for some time. Dawn had somewhat of a "tramp" reputation. Anyway, Ken and Kevin would often call me on the phone, claiming to be the "Phantom caller." One night that fall I ran into both of them. Ken was drunk out of his mind. I happened to have my micro cassette recorder with me. Ken came up to the car blabbering "Phantom caller, phantom caller... I gave up my identity." When asked who he was now, he replied, "I'm the fuckin' swiss cheese man." I still have the tape.

Ken wasn't with us our senior year. I guess he just dropped out. Over the years I ran into him from time to time at the video store. He had married a woman named Laura, and had two kids. He wasn't very talkative. They divorced in 1998.

In 2000, Ken got cited for killing a bear without a license. That cost him a hefty fine of over $2000.00. Ken has found himself in and out of trouble - mostly for minor offenses. But he has spent a month or two in jail.

I ran into Ken in 2003, at Ponderosa in Manitowoc. Despite the divorce, I believe he was with his ex-wife and their kids. We spoke a little bit. I ran into Ken about a year later as well, at a video store in Two Rivers - in the old Coast To Coast building. He was goofy and friendly. Last I knew, he was still iving in Two Rivers.

UPDATE - 7/20/06 - On July 15th, Kevin Dehne and I stopped in to see Ken. He's currently living in the trailer park, just north of Two Rivers. He's been there for several years. In fact, he's turned his trailer into somewhat of a mini-fortress. It even has a "basement." Ken has a million stories to tell. He currently has a girlfriend of three years. Ken refers to himself as a "cheap date" - having "for the most part" given up drinking. Now he prefers Kool-Aid - but only green Kool-Aid. He gave me a glass, just prior to the below picture being taken.

UPDATE - 11/11/06 - This is the video from the day Kevin and I went to visit Ken. The video was too large for one Youtube clip. So I had to break it down into parts one and two.



UPDATE - 4/16/07 - Kevin Dehne found a photo of he and Ken. It was taken at some point in the 1990's. Look down to see it.


At Sun Feb 05, 07:05:00 AM PST, Blogger the_meff said...

Ken was normally a friendly guy and I never had any issues with him but...

Some days...

I dunno' if his meds hadn't kicked in or what...

He'd be totally whacked... as in Tazmanian Devil, white tornado of chaos whacked...

Fun to watch!

At Sat Feb 11, 11:45:00 AM PST, Blogger jenny said...

oh kenny, please forgive me for this one..
Ken lived behind me..I tantalized him with"Kenny Bartz farts when he eats sweethearts" He hated it! Sorry kenny!
Am I the only one who called him Kenny? Must have been a neighborhood thing..

At Wed Feb 22, 06:52:00 PM PST, Blogger mimikatemom said...

Kenny always made me smile...I didn't really know him but he seemed nice enough. Shy even. I remember him walking down the hall sort of bouncing his shoulder off the wall every few feet.


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