My cousin Bobby Board died at his home in Houma, Louisiana, this past December, three days after his 77th birthday. He and his older brother Joe grew up at the top of Cherry Lane in Christiansburg, on what we all called Mockingbird Hill back in the day.
Bobby was seven years older than me and six years younger than his brother. I considered them to be my big brothers. They should be in the Hall of Fame of sibling rivalries, and I was part of the competition. A beneficiary actually. They vied for my affections at times.
While I am sure my memories of our time growing up as a family are overly romanticized, and they were definitely limited in time, they are warm and fuzzy and dear to my heart. My life was way better because of my cousins Joe and Bobby.
They lived in a single parent home, without a car, the single parent home a rarity for the time, a car not an absolute necessity in Christiansburg of the era but limiting. We were in and out of each other’s houses constantly and were always together for holidays and Sunday church. And lots of other days. Joe and Bobby borrowed my parents’ car for dates. Their mother and my mother and their other sister, my Aunt Maggie, were as close as sisters needed to be. All you had to do was ask my Dad. You rarely saw one “Weaver sister” without seeing all three.
Cousin Bobby was a good looking and smart and conscientious kid who had the albatross on his back of growing up with a big brother who was the best athlete in the area, coupled with an Eagle Scout persona. Bobby was an excellent athlete and student in his own right, but not the football and track star and All-American kid that his brother Joe was. He compensated by being class clown, a proud and self-proclaimed “smart aleck” as folks like him were known then. But with huge doses of charm and kindness thrown in.
Part of what I enjoy about writing is preserving my recollections of those no longer with us. I had thought for a long time about how I would memorialize Bobby. I have decided to tell some funny stories from his youth, ones that maybe only I remember.
He was a classic Christiansburg kid of his time, CHS Class of 1964, well known in school and town. Track and cross country. Pressure to become the football star his brother had been, but lacking some of what that took. But he was funny. Oh, was he funny. You look up “personality” in the dictionary and his picture is there.
I’ll start with a story when Bobby was in the fifth or sixth grade. He was in the “new” elementary school then, next to the high school on the hill, along Radford Road. The classrooms were furnished with metal desks that I assume are now obsolete, with areas under the seat to hold books. For some reason known only to him. Bobby decided to see if his head would fit in that little area under his desk. Getting it in was easy, getting it out not so much.
At the time, Bobby’s mom was a teacher at Auburn High and was not available for these types of situations. So, who gets the call to help extricate Bobby from this predicament? My Dad, superintendent of schools then and a man defined by seriousness of purpose. He gets called at his office and makes the trek to the school, calms Bobby down, and then carefully takes the desk apart so that Bobby is free. It later became a story my Dad loved to tell, but at the time I remember him asking my mom, “Why in the heck would he do that?”
Another favorite “Cousin Bobby” story, from his cross-country career. While Bobby wasn’t the tough football player type, he was a good track man, a sprinter in the spring and a cross-country star in the fall. This story involves cross-country practice, when the six or eight guys on the team left from the school and were expected to run predetermined routes through town and be back at CHS within a certain time frame. Bobby had a predetermined route of course, his own. He chose to run to a certain house in Cambria, the home of a lovely young classmate, sit on her front porch with her and flirt, ending the date by dumping a bucket of water over his head to make himself look sweaty, and having his girlfriend drive him back close to school, where he would finish his “run.” Despite this rigorous training, he did well in the meets.
One final story, when I was an actual witness. I think it was Bobby’s senior year at CHS. It was homecoming week, always a big deal back then. Bobby was working on his class float, in the stall of a gas station garage on Route 8 (Beeken Bishop’s I think) not too far from our neighborhood. I was in the fifth grade. Bobby apparently convinced my parents that he would watch after me, which he did.
I was thrilled beyond belief. Thursday night before the homecoming parade and football game, hanging out with my big cousin with cheerleaders and varsity football players all around.
Bobby was indulging in a habit that he probably picked up from my Dad, one that anyone in school now would find hard to believe. He was chewing tobacco, Red Man as I recall. Even then it wasn’t something a kid did flagrantly, so he was carrying a wax paper Coke cup to use as a spittoon. The cup was about half full when Bob Maschlich, a teacher and assistant football coach, a big, tough Pennsylvanian and all around good fellow, walked up to the truck bed and picked up Bobby’s Coke cup. Just as he was taking a swig, Bobby yells, “Coach, it’s tobacco juice!” After taking his gulp, Coach looked at Bobby and said, “Right you are, Board.” Still one of the funniest scenes I’ve ever seen.
I have a lifetime of memories of front yard football games and Sunday dinners and sleigh riding down Cherry Lane with Bobby. I miss being able to pick up the phone and call him when I am driving home from work.
Bobby’s senior yearbook tells all you need to know about him. Each senior picture had a sentence to try to capture the essence of that particular 18 year old. Bobby’s epithet was “When mischief is brewing, he is doing the stirring.” Truer words were never spoken. RIP Big Brother.