Columnist: I wore the fish, and other recollections

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 1, 2016

Rich Simpson

Contributing columnist

“[Person’s name] report to the bath house, please, [person’s name] report to the bath house.” I can still hear that loud speaker announcement during my days swimming at Callaway Pool.

Then there came the day I was rewarded for meeting the challenge of the deep end. I had earned my fish — that felt piece of fabric shaped like a fish.

I was no longer a regular run-of-the-mill swimmer. I was now one of the few, the proud, the wearers of the fish. Watch out LaGrange. There’s an aquatic A-Team member in our midst.

I was proud of my fish. I had accomplished something in my young life. I could now explore the deep end at Callaway Pool. I had arrived.

I made sure not to appear to forget where I came from. I was once a shallow end dweller and I would remain in contact with those whom I had left behind. I was certainly not better than them, just more accomplished.

I wore my fish with pride. I probably wore it longer than I should have. In fact, at my wedding rehearsal, my lovely bride to be told me she had a lot of relatives coming from out of town and she wondered if I would mind not wearing my fish during the rehearsal or the wedding.

It was time to put my childhood in the rear view mirror.

Pegged pants and blue-top socks

Who remembers the fashion style sensation of the late ’50s pegged pants? Everything was normal on these pants, except the bottom. The calf area of the pants was tighter. I don’t remember ever gravitating to that style.

I might have been too busy putting thumb tacks under the heels of my shoes. That special sound they made when you walked down the halls of LaGrange High School. And to have professionally attached taps on your shoes elevated your status to an elite hall walker.

A huge part of the boys’ daily lives was blue-top socks. We wore them in P.E., and we wore them in class. The blue was at the very top of the sock. Part of the elastic ring.

I tried too hard

Once I discovered I could make people laugh, it became an addiction. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a natural high.

One year on the first day of school, my goal was to see how fast I could get a laugh in each class. Somehow I compared it to scoring a touchdown. It was quick, which produced that natural high.

In the short term I felt like I was successful in achieving my goal. In the long term I came to realize, over the years, that I was seriously overdoing it. It was a clear case of overkill. You live and learn.

Part of the learning process came at the hands of one particular LHS teacher.

On occasion I would stop by this teacher’s class while class was in session, stick my head in the door and simply say her name. She would smile, the class would laugh and I would be on my way.

One fateful day my comedy tour came to an abrupt halt. She didn’t smile. It was a scowl. Lesson learned.

An idea

I wanted to get this down before I forgot to mention it. Over the years, I have had and lost so many ideas and jokes while in the shower or driving down the road.

Comedian George Carlin once said, “If you’re going to be in comedy, you need to have a tape recorder with you at all times.” The same thing should hold true for ideas.

I have an idea for a television commercial for Duke’s. A housewife is in her kitchen.

She looks at the camera, with a smile on her face, and proclaims: “I’m putting up my dukes!” She has been grocery shopping and she’s stocking her shelves/refrigerator with Duke’s Mayonnaise and other Duke’s products.

The purpose is to use a catchy, well-known phrase to stick in the minds of the viewers so it will translate into purchases at the grocery store.

The spirit of LaGrange

If you’ve lived in this beautiful city long enough to become dialed-in, you are well aware of the spirit of LaGrange. If you or your kids have had the public school experience, attended sporting events, pep rallies, parades or some other community events, you can’t help but get that feeling.

I remember sitting in my car in an Atlanta area strip mall. Late ’80s, early ’90s. My wife was in one of the stores.

I was reading about the LaGrange Grangers football team and its quest for a championship. The next sentence brought tears to my eyes. It described the encouraging signs in the downtown store windows, which were supporting the team.

At that moment I pictured the square, the stores and the signs. And I felt the spirit of LaGrange once again. I moved away from LaGrange on Aug. 6, 1965. The spirit came with me. I can feel it to this day.

Rich Simpson is a former LaGrange resident and a LaGrange High graduate who worked 42 years in radio. He may be reached at