A long-standing community tradition lives on every Friday, long before most have hit the snooze button…the issues of the day settled over coffee and breakfast by those who’ve been there, and done that.
You can make the point that every town has one. That group of men (even women, I suppose)…the problem solvers, gossip mongers, story tellers, and most of all, friends. They meet at Buffalo Jack’s, in Covington, The Train Stop, in Bradford…at Village Sunoco, in Pleasant Hill.
They meet…for coffee, for beers, for a card game, or just for each other’s company. The less committed meet when its convenient. The really committed meet long before the sun rises.
In particular one group calls itself the Mister Wonderful Friday Morning Breakfast Club, a group with a largely Versailles flavor comprising former coaches, teachers, community stalwarts, and the occasional politician: Tom Donnelly (retired asst. football coach), Dan Norris (retired head basketball coach) Bruce Stahl retired baseball coach), Mike McClurg (former Darke County judge), John huddle (video coordinator for the athletic department and retired teacher), Leon Knore (former principal at Versailles), and venerable hall of fame coach Al Hetrick (retired head football coach with six state titles won at Versailles).
Committed? They have their own T-shirts, for God’s sake…MWFMBC scrawled across the front. They’re a little vain. Dan Norris himself, dubbed “Mr. Wonderful” by the group, is pictured just underneath the initials.
They’re pretty exclusive…the shirts, that is. Barack Obama himself couldn’t order one online, and you can’t get one free if you buy a box of Breeze (laundry detergent), either. You have to be a club member, apparently, and Press Pros publisher Sonny Fulks and I weren’t extended such an invitation (or a T-shirt) recently when we sat in for Friday morning coffee at the old Annie Oakley Cafe (now known as the Wooden Spoon) on route #127, north of Greenville.
By 7 am on most mornings they’ve already been there for a half hour, the first pot of coffee dispatched. Breakfast is served by five after, and then the topics of the day come by way of open forum…the Reds, the Bengals, the Browns, politics, school issues, and as the song lyrics go, whose boots are under the bed.
Between sips of coffee someone asks Al Hetrick if 1), he misses coaching.
“I miss the kids and the games on Friday,” he assures. “But I get to see Mike’s team as much as I want.” His son Mike Hetrick, is the head coach at Brookville.
“But people don’t realize how much time and energy it takes to coach a football team. It’s nice to get in the car and leave when you want to.”
And 2), his opinion on the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to move the state tournament back to the campus of Ohio State University next year.
“Terrible environment in that big stadium,” says Hetrick. “We used to play it there and we’d draw 15,000 people in a stadium that seats 100,000. Why they don’t leave where it is…where people really want it and appreciate…is beyond me.”
Tom Donnelly added this nugget.
“The first time our bus pulled up at the horseshoe the security guy working the gate looked at our bus and asked, ‘What’s going on in here today?’ That’s how much people in Columbus paid attention to the state football tournament.”
Politics gets a lot of play. Norris, the apparent lone liberal in the group is besieged to support the policies of the present administration and its bid for re-election.
“You guys who’ve made all that money have to pay for the rest of us,” he muses kiddingly. Or is he serious?
Old basketball games are replayed.
“Huelsman, you’re the still the worst loser I ever played,” adds Norris.
And he’s probably right.
School issues of the day, and recent election results are considered.
“People are simply tired of paying taxes, of being continuously asked for more money,” says Leon Knore. “It costs too much now. The Ohio Lottery donated 770 million to the schools last year and it only accounted for 7% of the budget.”
“Good to see that the OHSAA has killed the pay for parking thing at tournaments,” someone else mentioned. “That’s horrible for public relations. Looks cheap on the part of the schools.”
Breakfast concluded, the dishes cleaned up, and one last round from the community coffee pot…the meeting is adjourned. Plans made for next week.
“Dave Schmitz (former Versailles assistant and now Lehman assistant) will be sorry he missed you guys today,” said Tom Donnelly. “He talks about Press Pros all the time…reads it every day.”
Good to know. Maybe next time. After all, every week’s like the first time when the MWFMBC meets. That, and friendship, is what keeps ‘em coming back!