Dave Schodts — The Friendly Hood
Sixth Street in Austin, Texas is famous around the world today.
During my four year stay at St. Edward’s High School between 1958 and 1961 6th Street was a different street. It was a place one tried to avoid.
Times were less politically correct so we were warned to stay away as we might “get rolled by a spick”. We did venture though, some of us for cheap haircuts at the Barber College which was on 6th Street. Also on that street was a bookstore that specialized in pocket books. I tried to find books that had sex parts in them. I was much too embarrassed to pick out the serious ones so I limited myself to buying The Viking by Edison Marshall and the medical novels of Frank G. Slaughter which contained interesting scenes in the backrooms of hospitals.
Our boarders were classified into the white anglos (never called that) and the Latinos. The Latinos were boys from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In neither classification were boys like me that looked like the Anglos but spoke Spanish, the Hungarians (some who spoke Spanish) and the Mexican/Americans who lived mostly in Texas.
The Latino movement was in its infancy and there were intimations of things to come when Texans of Latino extraction started being elected in such places as Carrizo Springs and Crystal City. But few of these Mexican/Americans would acknowledge that they spoke Spanish.
In St. Ed’s some of these Mexican/Americans tried to Anglicize their name. If your last name was Reyes you might change the name (or at least its pronunciation) to Reys.
In my Freshman year I remember wearing khaki pants with razor sharp creases. These pants came back from the laundry with so much starch you had to pass your fist through them before you put in your legs. I matched the look of these pants with extra long pointed shoes from Thom McAn shoes. I guess I was trying to pass as a pachuco. But my hair was blondish and my duck cut didn’t pass muster.
By my Sophomore year my tastes had changed and I would save up money to buy cordovan Bostonian loafers at Hart Schaffner Marx and expensive slacks at Reynolds Penland. Both stores were on Congress Avenue not far from the Stephen F. Austin on the corner with 5th Street. My career as a hood was very short-lived.
In my junior year I met my first real hood. Or, it seemed to me, that Dave Schodts was one. He was handsome with dark slicked back hair. He had a perfect duck cut. I suspected he carried a switch blade. I avoided eye contact with him. He joined the school band to play drums. He was cool because he played drums. I wasn’t. My alto saxophone was too small to have the glamour of a tenor saxophone.
I saw Dave Schodts for the first time since 1961, when I graduated (he stayed on as he was from the class of 1962), in the 2009 St Ed’s High School reunion. I would have never recognized him as he was now a full blown tobacco chewing cowboy with a huge white moustache. He didn’t look the hood and with his Texan accent I found him charming and not so intimidating. I had never suspected back in his drumming days that he spoke perfect Spanish. This time around, last week I was able to chat with him at length. It seems we both had a fondness for Reynolds Penland except Schodts preferred his slacks in layers of five or six at the same time and ditto with shirts and ties. He liked to walk out of the store with all of them on.
Schodts was no angel but there is one story I can tell here that will not compromise anybody. It seems that he and his buddy Ronnie Luster, class of 1961 (both were in our track team and they could run like the wind) went to town with a couple of other of my classmates. The latter pair had a fondness for transporting cars that weren’t theirs to such places as Buda, Texas and then driving back to Austin with cars from Buda. The four wanted to buy wine and found themselves without funds.
One of them had an idea. There was a wishing/well/fountain inside the grounds of the State Capitol. The idea was to steal the coins. The two car transfer experts hid behind the bushes while Ronnie Luster and Dave Schodts stripped down to their skivvies. They went into the pond. Dave Schodts had his head under the water, grabbing the coins and passing them on to Ronnie Luster. He came up for air and suddenly heard police sirens. He noticed some men running in their direction. They knew immediately that they were going to be caught so they ran as fast as they could (in skivvies). They got as far as the metal spikes fence. Knowing they could not linger (both Luster and Schodts were hurdle runners, too) they jumped the fence. Neither had shoes. On the other side (the north side of the Capitol) it was empty field. They stepped on broken bottles. They ran, anyway. When they knew they had escaped they were joined by their two buddies (who had their clothes) and went to a gas station to find toilet paper to patch up their bleeding feet.
The problem now was going back to St. Ed’s and explaining to the extremely tough Brother Rene why they were bleeding. They arrived at St. Ed’s (with no money and no wine) and Luster and Schodts told Brother Rene that they had gotten into an argument as to which of the two was the faster. They had raced and and cut themselves in the bargain. The cuts were so bad and so deep that both Luster and Schodts spent three days in the hospital.
I asked Schodts if his crooked nose was the result of one of his many fights. To my astonishment this was not so. It happened when he was cranking up some heavy machinery. I asked Schodts if he carried a knife. With a smile on his face (I told him not to smile for the photo here) he said he only had brass knuckles.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.