Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I've had several people request information as to what exactly went down with the ceiling tiles in freshman year. So I've incorporated it within my entry on Ron. Here you go.

I first met Ron in 7th grade. We had every class together. At that time he was known as Ron Cuyler. By freshman year, he had become Ron Gretz. I don't know.

In 7th grade, Ron and I always got along. I'm not sure what it was. He was a farm boy. I was born cable ready. But we got along quite well. We weren't friends outside of school. But in school, we were buds.

In study hall that year, Mrs. Westburg was our monitor for one week. Ron was licking his fingers and slapping his wrist, making a loud noise. Westburg thought it was me, and gave me a detention, despite my pleas. Bitch.

I had Ron in Mr. Monka's 8th grade history class. Monka loved to toss erasers at us if we weren't paying attention. One day he nailed Ron in the eye. Ron was pissed, and whipped it right back at him - which wasn't appreciated. But under the circumstances, Monka basically let it slide.

At some point in 8th grade, Ron and Kevin Dehne skipped out of school, took the city bus to Manitowoc, and hung out downtown all day. I was invited to go along, but declined. I always regretted not going. It sounded like they had a great time causing ruckus.

On the day of our freshman orientation, in August, 1985, Ron and I sat together in the auditorium, and pretty much paid no attention to whatever was said. We then walked around the school trying to figure out just where the hell we were supposed to go once school started. In what was perhaps an omen of things to come, Mike Zeman joined us. I think Mike and Ron lived close to each other. I couldn't stand Mike. So it's strange that the three of us got together that day. It wouldn't be the last time.

Somehow Mike and Meff became in-school friends. And Meff shared a locker with Mike up on the the 3rd floor. So Mike and I got to know each other. Ron and I used to hang around together at that time as well. Pretty soon the three of us were hanging around, causing trouble. We would hang out before school, during lunch and after school. We explored every square inch of that school. We found hidden rooms, tunnels, and of course the place where you could actually spy on the girls in the shower. Although in all honesty, none of us ever did.

One day we found ourselves sitting on some steps in the balcony of the basement gym. The steps led up to the back of the stage on the second floor. The balcony was basically used as a storage area for stage props. There was a ceiling tile missing. And one of us put our hand up to one of the other tiles and ripped it down. Why? Who knows. So the three of us started yanking down more and more tiles. It became a game to us. Pretty soon it became a mission to remove as many tiles as we could. Ron was the bravest. He would actually stand on the balcony railing, lean out over the gym, and try to get the tiles out there. One slip, and he'd be dead. They would loosen, then fall to the gym floor causing a racket. Before long, we had quite a pile. So we started stacking them on the stairs. I decided to count them as we went along.

But the vandalism didn't end there. The three of us seemed driven to destroy. In the northeast corner of the balcony was a dead end. There were piles of desks back there. We would crawl under those desks in order to get to the wall. On the other side of that wall were some offices. We came up with a plan to try and cut through the wall in order to break into the offices. Mike even brought a little saw from home. We made a huge hole in time, but never got a chance to finish it.

Every once in awhile, the auditorium was unlocked. So we went in there and made sure the door to the stairs was also unlocked. So we could then always get into the auditorium through the basement balcony, even when the main doors to the auditorium were locked. So we would sometimes hang out in there as well. We were on the stage once and noticed a tiny hole in the curtain. I put my finger in the hole. So did Mike. We then walked in opposite directions. The shredding sound was like something you'd hear out of a movie. It was almost surreal. When we were done, we had a full-length rip in the curtain. Not being satisfied, we did it five or six more times. We essentially ruined the entire curtain.

The ceiling tiles remained our focus. We took down hundreds - 753 by my count when it was all said and done. I don't know what our goal was, or why we continued to do it. We were just driven to destroy.

I learned early on in my childhood that if you want to be a good criminal, you have to keep your mouth shut. But none of us followed that rule. A few people knew of our exploits - Kevin Dehne, Mike Clarksen, Richard Wheeler, Lenny Lewis... The end of the year was approaching. And I couldn't wait for it to come. I was getting scared that we were going to get caught. But did that stop us? No. We kept going. In fact, a red light should have gone off on May 20th. After school that day, Ron and I headed down to the gym. The lights were on. So we loudly messed with the control box until we were able to flip off all the lights in the room. Then we headed up to the balcony to do some more damage. We ran right into the janitor and someone else. They were looking at the ceiling, and talking about the damage. Ron took off running back down the stairs. I calmly walked right by the two guys, out into the first floor area. I was shocked. According to what we found out later, Mr. Wood had put the staff on alert for any suspicious activity. Wouldn't turning off all the lights then heading to the balcony be labeled as "suspicious?" Apparently not. Anyway, not even that stopped us. We kept going until the next day - Wednesday May 21st, 1986. That morning found the three of us in the auditorium. We were in the back, and broke down the door, breaking into the storage area where they keep all of the electronics. I'm not sure if Kevin Dehne was with us that day or not. But he knew what we'd done, and wanted a couple of microphones. His locker was right outside of the auditorium doors by the study hall room. So we got two microphones, brought them to the door, then stuck them in Kevin's waiting duffel bag. A clean crime.

At lunch, the three of us ran into Kevin again. He asked to see the damage we'd done in the gym. So we took him along with us as we entered the balcony area. We didn't do any damage while we were there, nor did we talk about doing anything. I think we were then going to show Kevin the hole we were working on. Mike led the way into the darker area where the props were stored. Suddenly Mike stopped and said, "Hi Mr. Wood." For about half a second I thought to myself, "Yeah right." Then out of the darkness I see a shadowy form step up and proudly yell, "Hello gentlemen." My heart just about stopped. Before Ron could finish his line of "I didn't do anything" Wood continued with, "You boys have caused $5000 - $8000 damage here." Now I'd spent my entire childhood getting into trouble. But I knew this was trouble was to a new degree. I blacked out. Seriously, the next couple of minutes are a total blank. Apparently Wood lead the four of us up to the second floor and separated us. The next thing I remember was sitting in the guidance office. I sat alone and was beside myself, almost in tears. Mr. Boehlke came by at one point and tried to console me. I was choked up and could barely speak. It wasn't pretty.

Apparently Mr. Wood spoke to each one of us separately. He even spoke to people like Lenny Lewis and Mike Clarksen. He took "depositions" from all of them. I was the last one he spoke with. About 90 minutes had passed. And by that time, I had regained my composure and was ready for a fight. He sat me down in his office. The initial conversation went like this:

WOOD: "Spit!"
ME: "What?"
WOOD: (Louder) "Spit!"
ME: "What are you talking about?"
WOOD: (Loudest) "SPIT!"

I had never seen Wood this angry before. His face was a solid red. He was a tomato with hair. Thankfully I'd spent many times in his office in the past. And his intimidation skills were lost on me. I was immune to him by now. Anyway, he went off on me demanding to know what I had done. I stuck to my guns and said I was innocent. He then read me the depositions of the others. They all read pretty similar.

"Burt and Mike took down the ceiling tiles and ripped the stage curtain) (Ron's)

"Burt, Ron and myself took down the ceiling tiles and ripped the stage curtain) (Mike's)

He asked how I could explain those remarks. I told him point blank that he probably scared them into saying something that wasn't true. That made Wood even more furious. After maybe 10 minutes, he realized he wasn't going to get anywhere with me, then screamed, "Get back down to the guidance office!" I was pleased with my performance. But I was pissed at what Ron and Mike had allegedly said. When I got back to the guidance office Mr. Parkinson walked in and placed a phone call to someone. Whoever he was speaking with, he inquired about some microphones that he thought had been misplaced from the auditorium storage room. When it rains, it pours.

About an hour later, the three of us along with Kevin were reunited in Wood's office. This time a police officer was there. Mike was beyond depressed. He fully admitted to everything. Ron then did as well. I was so pissed at them. Honestly, they really had nothing on us. Had we all stuck to our guns, we'd have been free. But I knew I was sunk. Wood was screaming at the officer that since Ron and Mike had cooperated, they should be given special treatment. But I was to get no breaks. As if Wood had any power... Finally I followed suit. The one who was really pissed was Kevin. Save for the microphones, he was innocent. But it looked for awhile that he might take the fall for the vandalism as well. As we all stood up, he grabbed Mike, shoved him to the ground, and yelled, "Nice fuckin' job Zeman!" The cop didn't do anything.

Do you want to see the police report? Look below. At the time, I underlined a couple of things that were wrong. By the way, look at my birth date. I'll bet that I was the youngest member of the class of 1989. Click it to see the full-sized version.

All of our lockers were searched. And Wood recovered the stolen microphones.

Rumors must have spread through the school. Because between classes, wherever I was, I was getting a lot of curious looks. I was not enjoying the attention. By the time 7th hour began, Chip Pelnar came and brought me my books. I'd left them in Mrs. Fischer's french class during 4th hour, as our lunch break split it. Chip and I actually had 7th hour together - in Mrs. Fischer's class, for language. I know Chip wanted some inside information. But I wasn't able to tell him anything at that point. Finally at about 2:45, we were all free to go back to class. Boy did I get the stares when I entered Mrs. Fischer's room. In the interim, Wood called all of our parents and made them come down to the school, where he showed them the damage. When my mom came home, she just asked me why I had done what I did. I had no answer. I couldn't even look at her. It was not a good time. However, my mom saved us a lot of money. Wood had wanted the stage curtain replaced. My mom touched the fabric and accidentally put her finger right through it. The thing was about 50 years old, and was just about worthless. It was falling apart before we ever shredded it. She pointed out this fact to an obviously displeased Wood. And we only were charged the amount of what the curtain was worth at the time we shredded it - about $500.00. A new one would have cost thousands.

My mom was a social worker. So she dealt with the police and the court sytem on a daily basis. And she said that they could have gotten all of the charges thrown out, due to the fact that we were minors, and were never given the opportunity to consult with parents or attorneys before speaking to the police. So our admissions were invalid - from a legal standpoint. But we were guilty as sin. So she and my dad discussed it, and decided it would be good for me to be charged and pay it all back. Also, she informed me that Kevin Dehne was given a deal to "testify" (so to speak) against the three of us, in exchange for not being charged with theft for the microphones. He took the deal. But since we all admitted our guilt anyway, they didn't need him. I never held that against Kevin. That's just the nature of the game.

On Friday, our exploits made the papers. Below is the article from the Herald Times Reporter. Thankfully Mr. Wood pointed to where the tiles were located. Otherwise the readers would never be able to see them. (Yes, that's sarcasm). Click it to see the full-sized version.

In the end, the final tally came to $2133.33. So each of us had to pay $711.11. I also plead guilty to theft and paid a small fine - maybe $30.00. Being 14, I was forced to get a paper route. I'd always wanted one. But my parents wouldn't let me. Now they had no choice. And even though I was paying 75% of my earnings towards the restitution, between the remaining 25% and my allowance, I was rolling in dough. So I would always tell people that if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would.

I signed a consent degree, along with my parents, my social worker, and the judge. It spelled out the terms of my juvenile probation. You can see it below. Click it to see the full-sized version.

As a footnote to the tile incident I told some people that I was going to remove five more tiles just for the hell of it. I got sent to summer school that year. And sure enough, I did it. I also discovered one tile that didn't get counted. So in the end, a total of 759 tiles were removed. I also took one of the tiles home as a souvenier. I still have it.

After freshman year, Ron and I stayed cordial, to be sure. But we didn't hang out in any capacity. I think Ron's best friend was fellow graduate Brian Klein.

Ron had plans to go into the army after high school. It was all set. But he nearly didn't make it. In our last semster, I had Ron in Mrs. Kluczinski's composition class. For me, it was the fourth time I had her over the years. And it was the first class I ever passed with her! Ron wasn't so lucky. He was struggling. And he had failed. By failing, he wouldn't graduate - and wouldn't be able to enter the army. I happened to be in Mr. Boehlke's office the last week of school. When he left the room for a minute, I noticed a note on is desk that said "Ron Gretz - F in composition." I asked Ron about it. And he assured me that "Boehlke had fixed it." I don't what exaclty he did. But Ron graduated with us.

As far as I know, Ron did enter the army. But he didn't make a career of it. He was back in Two Rivers before too long. I ran into him from time to time at the video store. We never talked much. He had a scruffy beard and an infant. He also looked like he may have been kind of smelly. He ended up marrying a girl named Michelle. They eventually divorced. And she's been after him for child support. It looks like a second woman has also gone after Ron for child support. Last I knew, Ron was still living in Two Rivers.


At Tue Feb 21, 09:33:00 AM PST, Blogger moptopjen said...

wow. good story. i can't believe i don't recall a bit of it w/all the time i spent in the auditorium. i don't remember much about ron, but since much of the post was about Wood.... what a dick. in retrospect, he came across as so desperate for power. i seem to recall that adults about town felt the same. i'm sure he had good points that i'm unaware of - possibly in his home life. but still - who acts like that? u guys were just kids; kids are stupid.

otherwise, i think i liked ron as a person, but can't recall for sure. good post burt. ciao.

At Tue Feb 21, 10:08:00 AM PST, Blogger the_meff said...

God it was fun to revisit that story. I was always on the fringes of what you guys were doing and, if I recall, you may have invited me to tag along on lunch once or twice. However, the reason I didn't was probably a) you and I had different lunch periods? or b) I was chickenshit. (i'm opting for (B))

Y'know, I think the taxpayers of Two Rivers owe you guys a big thanks! Since they were gonna' tear the joint down anyway, you guys just got a jump start on the demolition project!

By the way, folks, I own a tile from that ceiling, AUTOGRAPHED by Burt, no less...

I'll start the bidding at $1000.

At Tue Feb 21, 12:51:00 PM PST, Blogger HappyMama said...

I am not greatly anticipating the day that I hear from our offspring: "But Mom, Dad did the same thing when he was a kid!"

And I really hope it doesn't follow a situation of this magnitude.

But, I knew about this before I married him and bore his lovely daughters, so...

At Tue Feb 21, 09:05:00 PM PST, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

That's a pretty awesome story.

My best Ron memory is of the time he was being way out of line in Mrs. Fischer's class, and she took him into the hall for a minute. When they came back, he was as quiet as... I don't know. Something really quiet. I'm not good with metaphors.

We all spend the rest of the year trying to get Ron to tell us what she said or did. He never told us.

At Wed Mar 01, 08:28:00 PM PST, Blogger the_meff said...

That's what was most compelling about Mrs. Fischer.

She was really nice and interesting and had a good sense of humor and ran a generally thought-provoking class...

...but then she had this creepy PSYCHO side to her that reared its ugly head once per quarter that was nothing less than chill-inducing.

At Sun Mar 05, 06:36:00 PM PST, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

I recently met Ron's ex-wife. Boy does SHE have some interesting stories -- though not necessarily relating to the class of 1989. I may post them here or on my own blog, if I get her permission.

At Sun Mar 05, 06:39:00 PM PST, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Get it.

At Thu Aug 28, 03:55:00 PM PDT, Blogger SamGretz92 said...

Haha...I just learned stuff about my dad that I didn't know... I'm the oldest daughter of Ron Gretz (15), I have a little sister Nicki (13), and a brother Brandon (8). We all belong to my dad but he also has 2 step daughters and 2 step sons... My sister and I are Michelle's daughters and my brother has a different mom. He doesn't live in Two Rivers anymore and my brother is probably the infant you saw with him. Haha

At Sun Sep 12, 04:44:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Ron


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