Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Mr. Franke (Bob) was the 8th grade science teacher at Clarke.

Mr. Franke was one of the most popular teaches I've ever had. Everyone loved the guy. I think the reasons for that are pretty simple. He was a nice guy. And unlike some of his coworkers, he treated kids with the utmost respect. One of the most endearing qualities about the man is that it was clear that despite his age and position of authority, he never forgot what it felt like to be a kid. He could relate to his students better than any teacher I ever had.

See my entries on Mrs. Olsen, Ken Bartz, Tim Loucks, Peter Flora and Brett Gruetzmacher for more stories about Mr. Franke.

Mr. Franke had tables for desks - two people per table. I sat with Ken Bartz all year. For awhile, Ken and I had this game we made up. We simply called it "points." We awarded each other various points for whatever trouble we would cause in class. One day, we took a test. At that time, I had one of those pens that had about eight different colors on it. Actually, it may have been 12. Ken dared me to take off the end of the pen, spread out the colors so they were side by side, then make a mark from the top of my test to the bottom, right down the middle of the page. Then I was to do it from left to right also. It couldn't be light. It had to be noticable. I ended up doing it. The next day, as we got into class, Franke pulled me aside and confronted me with the mess I'd made on my test. Believe it or not, I tried to lie my way through it, claiming that it was simply an accident. I tried to make him believe that the pen had fallen down, and had somehow made a mark all the way down the page. Meanwhile, I can see Ken sitting in his seat behind him. Ken's body was convulsing with stifled laughter. Franke looked at me in utter disbelief that I was trying to make the mark look like an accident. When I insisted that it had been, he looked at me and said, "Twice?" Remember, I had made the same lines acorss the page as well as down. In retrospect, I'm sure Franke would have had more respect for me if I'd have come clean. But, oh well.

Franke had a ton of stories to tell. I can't remember the whole joke. But he mentioned more than once about a car that was a lemon. He said, "The carburetor doesn't carb. The generator doesn't gen. And the pistons... don't work either."

One time Franke told us the story of how he got frostbite. He and his friends got a flat tire. So he helped change it. About an hour later, he suddenly had major pain on his ear. I guess he recovered from it though. He always had two ears.

One day Franke had a human skeleton in his room. This event actually happened in 7th grade. His room was right next to Mr. Stodola's. Sometimes they would open the curtain between the two rooms, and have a joint teaching session between science classes. Anyway, on this day, he mentioned that years earlier, the skeleton somehow fell forward from its hangar, then shattered onto the floor in several pieces. His response was "Oh shit." But he called the place that had loaned him the skeleton. They laughed and said it happened all the time. It was no big deal.

At the beginning of 8th grade, Franke told us that at the end of the previous year, he had asked his students how the 7th graders (us) were, and what he should expect from them the next year. He said they (the class of 1988) trashed us, saying we were awful. Franke said that really irritated him, and that he didn't believe them.

One of Franke's most memorable stories was one he told us of his time in middle school - specifically the problems he had with his gym teacher. Apparently this guy was just an asshole, and would constantly badger him. One of things that irked him was the fact that he would always mockingly refer to him as "Bobby." Franke joined the basketball team. As it turned out, the gym teacher was the coach. After being verbally abused by this guy all the time, Franke decided to quit the team. By doing so, the team no longer had enough boys to make a team. So I believe the team had to fold. Because of this, when he quit, the school principal made him come to school with one of his parents, and have a meeting with the coach. At one point, the coach said, "What's the matter Bobby - afraid to undress in front of the other guys?" At that point, Mr. Franke said, "With that statement, my dislike for him turned into hatred." Perhaps his experience with this teacher is what helped motivate Franke to be the good teacher that he is. In other words, he would never behave like his former gym teacher did.

Around Christmas time of that year, I went to some sort of Christmas-themed reading at the Manitowoc Public Library. Franke was one of the readers. Franke had a deep, booming voice.

For several months of the year, Franke had a dead owl in his backroom. Yes, he had a dead owl. I think he had planned to stuff it or something. But after awhile, the thing really started to smell. I happened to be in his class after school one day, no doubt being punished for something I had done. I was alone. The janitor, Mr. Debauche came in to empty the garbages. When he got near the backroom, he said, "Jesus Christ! What smells?" He wheeled out the dead bird on the cart it had been sitting on, grabbed it by its stiff legs, and tossed it in the garbage. "What is this shit? Jesus Christ this reeks!" He repeated it over and over. I just started laughing. The janitor seemed shocked.

Mr. Franke once brought in one of those electro-balls. Don't aske me what its real name is. If you put your hand on it, your hair would stand up. He let a couple students try it. Since I had a lot of hair, due to my infamous bowl cut, the class wanted to see me up there. So I did. Franke snapped a picture of me. You can see it below.

Franke was such a nice guy. He was so nice that when I screwed around (which was often) I honestly felt bad about it. It's like I didn't want to disappoint him. Franke had a look that he would give you when he got mad. It was a stern stare. And you knew that when he gave you that look, you better shut the hell up and behave.

Whenever we had a substitute teacher in his wing area, Franke would often stand by the door of the substitute's classroom, and make sure that the students weren't giving the teacher a hard time.

Another story Franke told us was that he almost never gave out a grade of "F." In fact, I think he said he'd only given one out to two different students over the years. He told us that one of those two ended up in jail. For the 4th quarter of that year, I got an "F." I felt ashamed, seriously. I always wondered if in fact I was only the third person he gave an "F" to, or if he was just telling a story in order to scare us a bit. Franke didn't seem like the scaring type though.

Franke once showed us a home video he had made. It was brief. But it showed several members from one of his classes in the 1970's.

Franke once brought liquid nitrogen to school. I think that's what it was anyway. It was the stuff that you can put a tennis ball in, then drop it on the floor, and watch it shatter like glass. It was pretty cool.

Over the course of two days, Franke once brought in the film "The Fantastic Voyage" for the class to watch. I was the only one in our class who had actually seen the film before.

As a senior in high school, Scott Jaklin and I went back to Clarke one day after school. I'm not sure why. But we sat and talked with both Franke and Mr. Schambureck. He was fun to talk to.

I saw Franke again, around 1992 or so. I'm not sure what exactly happened. But I think Franke wandered into a video store in Brown Deer - a store where Meff was working at the time. Franke was looking to purchase a tennis game for Nintendo. They didn't have it in stock. But a few weeks later, they did. So Meff came up to visit. And we stopped over by Clarke after school one day to give it to him. At that time, Franke was lamenting the fact that Clarke was going to be changing everything. Apparently they were going to be removing all the curtains bewteen the classes, and knock down the walls, in order to have three giant classrooms. In other words. each six-classroom setup in each corner of the school was going to be come one big one. I think the art class area was going to stay the same though. Fanke wasn't happy about it. He said it made no sense to him. Nonetheless, it happened. I believe today Clarke refers to each area as a "house."

I haven't seen Franke since. Although I think he spent a lot of time at City News & Video in Manitowoc. I think Franke was friends with all the guys that worked there. That was a great video store. They closed down about a year ago.

Today Franke lives in Manitowoc. I think his wife's name is Judie. He still teaches at Clarke. He obviously loves his job. According to Mrs. Westberg, Franke will teach until the day he dies. Power to him. He's one of the best teachers out there.

UPDATE - 11/13/06 - On Saturday, August 12th, 2006, Kevin Dehne and I took another trip to Two Rivers. On the way, we stopped at the home of our 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Franke. We knocked on the door. A woman (presumably his wife) answered. When we asked for him, she said, “Are you students of his?” I got the impression that over the years, others have stopped by as well. After several minutes (perhaps he was still sleeping) Mr. Franke emerged. I believe he couldn’t remember Kevin. But he at least remembered my face. Mr. Franke hadn’t changed a bit. He was as nice as he always was. He had tons of stories to tell. He had a full house, and he introduced us to several kids and grandchildren. He also took our autographs. Apparently he’s now collecting the autographs of former students. We told him about the blog. He thought it was a very cool thing to do, and promised to check it out. He then took us into his backyard, where we reminisced some more. Franke informed us that he has been teaching at Clarke since the very first year it opened – nearly 40 years ago. He’s contemplated retirement, but hasn’t yet. He still enjoys what he’s doing. Instead, (like Brett Favre) he takes it on a year-to-year basis. Incidentally, because of the full house of family he had, he had to borrow a camper from someone so some people could sleep outside. The camper belongs to none other than fellow former Clarke teacher, Mr. Schambureck. I mentioned to Franke that he had given me an "F" for the 4th quarter. He looked shocked and said, "I didn't think I gave "F's" to anybody." But I earned it! We took a few pictures with Franke. Notice the fake street sign on the fence.

UPDATE - 12/12/06 - Below is the video from that August 12th visit.


At Wed Aug 09, 02:49:00 PM PDT, Blogger Brandon P. said...

Mr. Franke had the best method of teaching us the elements on the Periodic Chart.

The easy ones like Oxygen (O) and Carbon (C) we just had to memorize. Mr. Franke had the following reminders for the tougher ones:

Mercury - Hg - Heavy Goop.
Gold - Au - If you tried to steal gold from Fort Knox, the guard would yell, "A, U!"
Antimony - Sb - Rhymes with alimony. Whenever someone has to pay it, they think, "Son of a Bitch!"
Sodium - Na - Since sodium is bad for you, if someone offers you salt, you should say, "na".
Copper - Cu - When you break the law, the copper says, "I C U".

There were more but I don't have a chart in front of me. Its amazing that I still remember those.

One other thing about his class was that we got to "play" with Mercury on the table tops. We weren't bathing in it or anything but knowing the toxicity and the regulations that now restrict the use and disposal of the stuff, it amazes me that science teachers managed to live as long as they have. Whenever we use a mercury salt or a thermometer breaks in the lab that I work at, we handle it in a fume hood with gloves on. Times have changed.

Mr. Franke makes my group of "A" teachers. Definately one of the best.

At Wed Aug 09, 06:58:00 PM PDT, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

Bob Franke was one of the best people I ever knew. I ran into him once at Ponderosa -- he looks the same.

One of my students had him for science this past year. She describes him as being as awesome as when we had him.

At Wed Aug 09, 07:11:00 PM PDT, Blogger PJ said...

I always wished I'd had Mr. Franke. He seemed so great and nice. I got stuck with Mr. Lehman...didn't care for him a lot.

At Thu Aug 10, 04:29:00 AM PDT, Blogger Brad Strouf said...

Yes, he was and probably still is, the best. I enjoyed his class immensely and have nothing but the utmost respect for him.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:34:00 AM PDT, Blogger the_meff said...

I might as well come right out and say it.

I idolized the guy, plain and simple. He was an incredible teacher and great human being. I was lucky enough to start every day in his classroom. The day ended there too for me, since instead of going home and watching cartoons or whatever, I made his classroom kind of a hangout. I believe Richard and, on occasion, Brian Belongia also were regulars. Seriously, though, there were times I didn't get home until, like, 6:30pm or 7:00pm because i was hanging around Franke's room.

He didn't seem to mind but, after all these years I must wonder, didn't he want to get home? Didn't he have a family too?

Great outlook on life, terrific sense of humor... definitely a prime figure in my formative years.

At Thu Aug 10, 12:00:00 PM PDT, Blogger TWORIVERSWALRUS said...

Good stuff Brandon. I remember playing with the mercury too. We also got to play with dry ice.

As for the periodic chart, I remember his methods also. The "AU" for gold always sticks out in my mind, because I saw the same method played out on an episode of "The Facts Of Life."

The other one I partially remember is "K" for potassium. It had something to do with sitting your "ass" on the "pot." I don't remember the rest though. I'm not sure how we get from the toilet to the letter "K." Does anyone know?

At Thu Aug 10, 08:33:00 PM PDT, Blogger Greg Pagel said...

You take a K -- a krap.

At Thu Aug 10, 09:07:00 PM PDT, Blogger Brad Strouf said...

You had alot of hair Burt...

At Fri Aug 11, 08:19:00 AM PDT, Blogger Brandon P. said...

Lead - Pb - If you have a Pot Belly, you need to get the lead out.

At Sat Aug 12, 07:57:00 PM PDT, Blogger JenO90 said...

I've used Mr. Franke's reminders 13 years later when I was a chemistry instructor at Point Beach nuke plant. Some things just stick!

At Sun Aug 13, 02:48:00 PM PDT, Blogger apeman said...

The coolest teacher indeed. The man had a way like no other teacher that I have ever had. I too remember alot of the elements on the periodic chart. I also remember when he had the contest for the students to make a cooler out of regular houshold supplies. The object was to see who's cooler would allow an ice cube to last the longest.
I had the pleasure along with Burt to see him yesterday and the man looks great. He has that same smile and attitude about life in general. I hope that we can visitr him again in 20 more years.

At Sun Aug 13, 02:51:00 PM PDT, Blogger apeman said...

I meant visit not visitr. stupid r key. One must always beware of the grammer cop.

At Sun Aug 13, 05:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger Brandon P. said...

Hey Kevin and Burt.

What did I miss. You saw Franke? Did you guys do another road trip?

At Sun Aug 13, 09:52:00 PM PDT, Blogger apeman said...

Oh Yeah Brandon, We did it again. Just waiting for it to be posted.

At Mon Dec 11, 08:35:00 PM PST, Blogger CreativeMuse said...

Aaah, Mr Franke's class was the highlight of LBC! Some other memorable lab projects from the class:

Cutting out the styrofoam names with the hot wire - the smell... whew!

Bending the glass tubes with the bunson burners

Most definitely the Van DeGraff generator (steel static generating ball that made the hair stand up!)

The liquid nitrogen - and Franke smashing a hot dog, a rose, a tennis ball. Way cool. :)

Drinking dry ice root beer floats!

I remember the mercury! Wow... think the world has gotten a little too concerned about things?

He had one for Iron (Fe) but I don't recall what it was... somehow FEE FYE FO FUM sticks in my head.

He was by far the best science teacher I've ever had. :)

Thanks for the walk down memory lane!


At Sun Jan 20, 05:30:00 PM PST, Blogger lms88 said...

Ok I to this day talk to Mr. Franke yet. Believe it or not, he retired last year!! I just e-mailed him everything that was said here. I'll let you know his response. Does the class of 88 have a bloger thing?


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