1977 (Freshman, age 14)

I served on Student Council, having been elected as a freshman. Twenty-seven years later, I’d be sitting on a plane bound for Europe, reading in USAToday about eight deer hunters in Northern Wisconsin who were shot by a Hmong man who had also been deer hunting. One of those killed was Bob Crotteau, who was also elected to Student Council his freshman year in high school and who can be seen kneeling in front of me in the picture.

Since I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, I played basketball my freshman year. According to the coach, I had a fairly high vertical jump, but beyond that, I was awful at the sport. I’m not sure we won a single game—although our team actually had some genuinely good players—and I nearly scored a basket for the other team. We were playing Cumberland and my cousin Trudy was on that other team. So embarrassing.

I ended up an A student all through high school, but apparently not a perfect one. Halfway through ninth grade, my chemistry teacher sent my parents a deficiency notice, saying I wasn’t working to capacity. Sigh.

Cast Picture: Oklahoma

One day in 1977, I noticed some strange numbers on a Dr. Pepper bottle: 10, 2 and 4. I couldn’t puzzle out what they meant, and chances are I asked my mom or dad who probably told me we had a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Rice Lake and I should send them a letter and ask them. Which I did. A kindly man named Harold A. Nelson replied.

1978 (Sophomore, age 15)

Backstage with Stacy, Melinda and Gretchen, doing three one-act plays. At the cast party, I got my first kiss.

I made the pom-pom squad my sophomore year (there are no freshmen on the squad), which would become a huge part of my life over the next five years.

Cast Picture: Brigadoon (Summer Music Clinic)

In Brother Goose, I played Eve, described as “an attractive, rather helpless Southern girl” whose boyfriend Wes, “a good-looking boy whose main interest in life is making an impression on girls,” was played by my brother Jeff!

1979 (Junior, age 16)

I played the lead in The Butler Did It, a whodunit that was quite hilarious. In my role as Miss Maple, a take-off on Miss Marple, I was to have grey hair. But we ran out of grey hairspray, so I powdered my head instead with white talcum powder. When I got shot (supposedly) and fell into a chair, it puffed around me in a cloud. My friends in the audience laughed, and I struggled to play dead as giggles bubbled up.

Cast Picture: Fiddler on the Roof (Summer Music Clinic)

I went to prom with Steve, my history teacher’s son. The next year, when I got tasked with creating the backdrop for prom pictures, I felt confident I could offer something more pleasing.

Jill (age 16): The Way We Were(Music)

Jill (age 16): My Favorite Things(Music)

Jeff (age 19): I Got Plenty of Nothin’(Music)

Pete (age 18): Old Man River(Music)

Thompson Family (1979): Irish Blessing(Music)

1980 (Senior, age 17)

Playing the lead in 1984, (which seemed eons into the future at the time), I was opposite John, a next-door neighbor whom I had played Matchbox cars with under the oak tree in my back yard when we first moved to Rice Lake the summer before third grade. As I recall, our stage-kiss was more like an awkward, frightened peck.

I was honored the fall of my senior year at a luncheon held by a local women’s club.

Cast Picture: Hello Dolly! (Summer Music Clinic)

My one night as Dolly in Hello Dolly! was a proud moment for me.

I was asked, by my dad, to sing at a Renaissance Dinner held at the UW-Barron County campus. Here we are singing a Christmas carol together. At the time, my parents were divorced and he was struggling with alcoholism. But still we carried on.

My brother Jeff and I also sang together at the Renaissance dinner. Huzzah!

My mom put her foot down the time I won 100 bottles of Leinenkugel’s beer from a Z-100 radio promotion. Since I wasn’t yet 18, I had used her name for the contest. In the end, Jeff ended up with 100 bottles of beer on his wall.

I went to prom my senior year with a foreign exchange student from Sweden, Jonas, who couldn’t drive in the States so I picked him up in my mother’s VW Rabbit. (And didn’t I create a lovely backdrop for the prom pictures?)

View Part Three

Return to Walker: A Spiritual Memoir