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Memories of John Part 4

Page history last edited by Cary Jensen 13 years, 4 months ago

Part 4 - More Stories and pictures

 

John - the Prankee and the Pranker

 

I think I first met John in 1977 but moved from Houston in 1985 and only saw John occasionally after that but he - the sharply defined individual that he was - lives in my mind as if I talked to him only yesterday. The thing I remember the most is his distinctive way of using his voice - there was always a crazy glee in it on top of a crisp mid-western accent.

 

I remember a prank that was played on John. I think the perpetrator was Richard. Somehow he had gotten access to John's keys when John was out of town and sheetrocked the bathroom door, and entire hallway wall, in John's house. John and Patsy returned to find their bathroom vanished without a trace. I think John was deeply honored by this prank. He never minded when someone out-pranked him.

 

In the early 80's John and some other people including my brother David and his wife Betty, came over to my apartment for a Chinese dinner. We were all sitting around in the living room. I left briefly to go to the bathroom returning to find that John had orchestrated a quick prank - all the furniture in the living room had been turned upside down and everyone was sitting on ‘air’ chairs. I don’t remember how it happend but somehow in turning the furniture back over - a window was broken. John, always extremely well-mannered, appeared first thing the next morning with a piece of glass to replace the broken window. - Patty Yingst, Austin

 

When I met Richard I immediately was brought into the life of John. Their lives overlapped as they egged each other into new adventures. The magnitude of practical jokes played on John (or should I say with since he enjoyed them?) by Richard, Dave and the crew have become the stuff of lore. There was the huge 5 foot geodesic tomato with an empty box of miracle grow knocked over beside it in John and Patsy's backyard. Or the time John returned from vacation to find a huge papier-mâché snake winding it's way through his house- and to boot it appeared to have eaten poor Richard and Dave who were calling for help from it's belly. Then there was the time Richard decided to exchange all of John's extensive sci-fi collection for harlequin romance novels....this is only the beginning of the list. John knew how to create a good laugh and how to enjoy one. He knew how to make life a little lighter for us all- Alison

 

I always wondered why he kept giving us his keys, especially after one trip when we put live goldfish in every container in his aprtment that would hold water. Who knew that the chlorine would kill them all and he would come home to uncountable numbers of dead goldfish? - Tom Gardosik

 

John was essential in organizing and executing GSA/Valhalla's participation during Beer Bike

 

Ringleader of the circus that is GSA Beer/Bike! When I first met John in his front yard, I said something like: “Man, I saw you almost wearing that TuTu riding at Beer/Bike. That was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen.” John loved telling that story because that was exactly the effect he intended. It was no problem recruiting me afterward. John may not have been the fastest chugger, but he was willing to practice, on and on and on…

 

What man could inspire other men to dress up in silly frocks and parade and ride wearing them in Beer Bike. He was my guru of absurdity and could always look resplendent in his dress. Brad Kraus

 

When he wasn't busy helping, he was busy just being himself. And he could load a full keg into a vehicle like it was empty! - Peter M.

 

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A couple pictures

 

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My two favorite souls in one shot!

 

 

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John is checking to see if this is O'Doul's.

Just as an aside, Since I was always on a bike, I'd beg John and Patsy to take me to Spec's and Patsy said (about John) it was like taking a kid to a candy store.

 

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When a new manager was coronated, John would welcome them. This is Pete Walker's bottom after beer bike.

 

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I was very blessed. I got to spend many Saturday mornings with John. Paul was there you can ask him! I was cleaning and John was fixing the taps or the plumbing or some hole in the wall that happened on Friday night. He didn't help every weekend but just having him there was cool!

 

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I took this picture on my birthday. Patsy had made her fantabulous seven layer dip. But just look at the way they are looking at each other. I really thought this was a "pie" moment.. LRay

 

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John never took things too seriously. Backstage at Ellen and my wedding, I was so nervous I was about to puke. John broke the ice with one of his "clown tricks" throwing his top hat in the air and catching it on his head. Afterwards, Ellen and I were left standing in the courtyard surrounded by 50 bagpipers not having a clue as to what to do next, John walked into the center of the circle and said "Let me be the first to shake your hand" I'll never forget his hand buzzer!-- wally.

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And seeing as how it was John who introduced me to Wally in the first place (for which I shall be eternally grateful), what about the time the two of them almost got me fired? It was 1977, I think. Late for my 7:05am bus, hung over, and jonesin' bad for a smoke (I remembered smoking what I was certain was my last one the night before, when they'd dropped by with beers...) I noticed a beautiful, absolutely virgin, unopened pack of B&H Menthols on the floor, right next to the sofa. I grabbed it, hauled fanny down Sunset (I could see the bus coming!) and ground my teeth all the way downtown and into my office. Just as I hit my desk, my boss (Ponce de Leon, no kidding) wandered in. "Hey Ellen, got a smoke? I'm so desperate, even your menthols would be good!"

 

"No problem," I said, "I've got a whole fresh pack." I pulled that pack out, opened it up, rapped it smartly to get some smokes to stick out, grabbed one and handed the pack over to Ponce. As he was pulling his out of the pack, I lit mine, blissfully took a big drag and handed over the lighter. I'm not sure who was more amazed at what happened next... Yes, he got a loaded one, and the ensuing 'snap-crackle-pop' was pretty spectacular. Luckily, Ponce had a wicked sense of humor, but for the next 15 years, he never smoked another one of my cigarettes without first checking for loads.

 

Needless to say, John practically wet his pants laughing when I recounted my "You know, the weirdest thing happened at work today" story that night at the bar. -- Ellen

 

John was awesome! (The pen is mighter than the snake, but not a balloon)

 

John was just flat out awesome. I remember many many times throwing kegs with John, cleaning crap up in Valhalla, and his universal knowledge of how everything at Valhalla worked. My most poignant memory was the week the men's toilet backed up. John and I pulled it off the wall. He told me right before we pulled it off, I'd better get a mop. You can guess why. Some jackass shoved something down our toilet, and we spent hours trying to fix the damn thing. Snakes, water, hoses, nothing worked. It was orientation week for the freshmen, and it was me, John, and the Valhalla toilet on the Keck lawn for 3-4 hours. Finally, we stuffed this rubber balloon down the toilet, filled it up with gallons of water, hoping to shove our mystery object out the other end. BOOM, water everywhere, and a god-damn ball point pen. It was a pain in the ass, but a hell of a lot of fun, too. Valhalla will run through a lot of managers, but it'll never be the same without John Schroeter. - Kyle Allen

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He was in good practice. I remember the time when he and Patsy lived on Verone and the one and only toilet at their place backed up about 4am during a New Years Eve Bird Welcoming Razzmatazz afterparty. Sombody had flushed one of John's wind-up bathroom toys (the otter). Next time I saw that damn otter, it was chained to the wall. -- Ellen

 

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This picture of John was taken during the "great american smoke out" at Valhalla on August 13, 2005.

 

John and Patsy are two of the kindest and most genuine people I have met in my life. John is who I have always wanted to emulate in my life, very unsuccessfully I may add. There are so many memories that make me laugh, and then want to cry at the thought of never spending time with him again. One of the scarier memories I have was when John was working with someone (Marshall maybe?) on the other person's car. The project commenced on Friday morning if I recall. On Saturday, some of the mysterious key holders of Valhalla were holding a vigil (i.e. drinking heavily) around 10 in the evening, when John walks in, slams a couple of beers, and announces something like: "well, back to work". Turns out he had been working on the car for over 24 hours straight, without sleep, but with lots of beer. His idea of taking a break was to ride down to Valhalla on his bicycle while he was trying to stay awake, pound a couple beers, then ride furiously back to resume work. I think he finished sometime Sunday afternoon. John, I love you and will miss you terribly. Maybe you can pound a couple of beers in the great beyond, and hurry back down here? - Deba

 

John was unsurpassed at the art of making a stranger feel welcome.

 

I still recall my first visit to Valhalla some 20 years ago. What I remember most about that evening was John's casual, offhand, brief but comprehensive explanations of everything; no more time spent than needed, but not a second less either. Some may have thought he wasted his time; I think he savored every moment, and knew how to get the most from each one of them...often by giving them away. - Russ Ault

 

I first met John in the fall of 1976 as a sophmore at Rice. I was encouraged by an upperclassman in the chemistry department who was on the rifle team with me to check it out. So one fair autumn afternoon, a Friday, I wandered down and joined the crowd. John was the one to greet me behind the bar, with that welcoming, but slightly mischevious smile we all came to know and love. Brad Kraus

 

I met John in the fall of 2003. He had stopped on the way through to the twin cities with the fish car to visit Lisa. A heroic welcome was planned, diverted by unforseen masses of intolerance. They took a room and bought us breakfast, jeesh. MK

 

John snuck me out of the hospital.

On one of my several stays at the Texas Medical Center, John (and David Cooke) snuck me out of the hospital the same evening the doctor unplugged me from the wall and pulled the tube out of my chest...for an evening of fun and frivolity at Valhalla!

 

As a graduate student, John spent some time at the hospital lab (and you thought changing the labels on the canned goods caused problems). He grabbed some scrubs and a wheel chair from supplies and off we went. The problem? By the time we closed Valhalla, the hospital was pretty much locked up too. John was able to get us back into the building but not past the security guard. His solution? You’re on your own now!

 

Needless to say the head nurse and my doc weren’t too happy with us. -- Therese

 

John always had a spring in his step.

 

 

Here is John on his 50th birthday using the walker we gave him. Once he realized it was made from pogo sticks nothing could stop him. If you look carefully at this picture, you'll realize he has the thing bouncing about a foot in the air at this point. He got higher with practice, until we had to turn off the ceiling fan lest he get an unneeded haircut.

 

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John Visits in Corpus Christi

 

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Some Pictures from his 50th Birthday.

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John as the Maker of Community.

 

I love being at Valhalla. It makes Rice a special place. A place where people come together as COMMUNITY - the guys from Facilities and Engineering, the students, the faculty, people who are part of Rice. Community like this is rare in our world, an oasis in which we are refreshed in beverage and in comaraderie. And this is John's legacy to all of us. John recognized the opportunity 30 years ago and got it started. And then he kept it going and going and going. With his energy. With his hard work (switching out kegs and doing all kinds of work. And most of all his love for the place. Each time we hoist a Shiner or whatever, we will bless and thank you, John. -- Kim

 

John was always there.

The problem with discovering John’s mortality is remembering ours. If he cannot go on forever, who can? I will remember the things that we have down. Crawling behind the rat wall (before there was a rat wall) to see where it would lead; sitting on the steps after the bar was closed to see who could tell the last joke; uncountable moves from home-to-home with John’s orchestration, especially the time where he built a marvelous plywood windbreak for Patsy’s truck to keep our plants from wind damage (possibly forgetting the effect of a giant plywood sail on the drivability of a truck); croquet in the back yard; working on repairing something in the bar; preparing for days on end for a party. But when it comes down to it, I will remember him most as the nicest, kindest person I have ever known. - Tom G.

 

God Almighty Damn.

Hitting me hard.

Sitting up late with old glass Valhalla mug of white wine--all I got, not much of a drinker anymore --

Remembering...

Who's gonna recongnize me

& grab me up in a big bear hug before I recognize him?

Who's gonna open a bottle of wine & make sure I'm supplied all evening?

Who's gonna get me out on the dance floor 'cuz he knows my song?

How about June '79, right out of the hospital with famous bicycle accident -- broke femur & ankle - John showed up on his purple Kawasaki & picked me up.

Spent first night out of hospital with him in the house on Holcombe.

Recall watching the sun rise.

Later in wilder days.

From up on the roof of the same house

a bottle of Mateus in my hand

Seem to remember painting his face

& he painted mine

-- Fluorescent colors of course.

Cleanup parties on Saturdays

before the days of bartender and janitors

--we were all bartenders then--

the lights went out after a spring flood in '91

went to Valhalla anyway &

found it candle lit.

Beautiful beery ambiance

for tis old romantic

who once again needed a place to go,

It was John 7 years ago who called my neigbor- He seldom called, so we knew is was major - & off I went in

 

Trusty Toyota truck.

You Lisa Ann, Showed up with him that day in New Ulm.

The last time I saw him in late July of '99 waking Jimmy Don.

 

I'm up here in redneck land, but I remember.

Patsy, my heart goes out to you.

 

Vaya con Dios, John.

A'bientot

Sayonara

An old friend misses you.

Not ready to say goodbye.

Pamela Ruth Taylor

 

 

 

 

Memories of a Prankee

 

In convincing me to become Valhalla Manager in 1976, John told me that he'd "help me out the first six months but after that he was moving away. " Of course, he told Wally the same thing back in '73, and then Nasir in '77, Thor in '78 . . . .

 

I was on the receiving end of many of John's pranks in the the late 70's and early. When Rosemary and I get married, we received 9 donut makers in total from John, Wally and others. We had a good laugh and then donated 8 of the 9 to Goodwill. I kept the 9th one and, soon after, decided I'd use it to make a donut. I plugged it in and, as it was warming up, it suddenly emitted a great plume of reddish-purple smoke. John had painted a smoke-generating oil on the non-stick surface of the donut maker. I kept waiting for a call from the police (now, it would be Homeland Security) that I'd given a terrorst device to Goodwill.

 

At that time, we were living in an apartment condo in West Houston of I-10 that had a large proportion of retired people. One Saturday morning, we awoke to find a mutated version of the Kip's Big Boy in the courtyard of our complex, about 10 units down. The whites of it eyes were painted to look bloodshot and instead of holding a hamburger, it was a holding a giant joint. As I was going out to inspect it, a crowd of 6 or 7 of my older neighbors surrounded and started talking loudly about vandals (and, possibly, hippie communists.) They suddenly started striking and rocking it, and when it fell over, several of them began kicking it.

 

In the Summer of '77, John and I decided we would bring something diferent than meat and beer to the GSA summer picnic. Safeway was having a 39-cent sale on cream pies (lemon, chocalate and banana-flavored.) We bought $100 of pies and took it to the checkout. The cashier (think a 70's version of Dwight Schrute from "The Office") eyed us suspiciously and asked what we planned to do. We gave him a long answer about Rice, GSA picnics and the pieing tradition. He looked at us skeptically and said that he needed to check with his Manager as he did not know if "it was legal to sell pies for this purpose." They eventually accepted the GSA check and gave us our pie. Despite my best efforts, it was Schroeter 10, me 0 over the course of the next 12 hours with pies. I finally gave up after two weeks of being pied by John and Wally.

 

John had the largest collection of science fiction and one of his favorite author's was Jack Vance. Most of Vance heroes were semi-scoundrels, particularly the lead character in "Eyes of the Overworld," whose catchphrase was, "They don't call me 'Kugel the Clever' for nothing. He would say this after doing something particularly stupid or destructive, such as finding the meaning of life in the form of a sea urchin, which he subsequently boiled and ate. I'll always remember John saying, after some particularly ingenious prank or plumbing repair, "They don't call me 'Kugel the Clever' for nothing." He had no equal. KP

 

***

 

I have not yet written anything about John because I really can't seem to recall anything from that era in any detail for some reason. However, as I read the expanding memorial pages, vague (but happy) memories begin to return and I too want to honor John.

 

I’ve known John since about 1983 and I have hazy memories of blow-ball, trips to Seabrook followed by shrimp boiling and beer drinking for hours BEFORE the Bartender’s ball, bowling for TVs, shaving cream covered nakedness, and hosts of grad’s standing on the bar mooning me (me?). I remember the (first?) giant pie coronation. Who WAS the bartender that year? Was it Stephanie? Anyway, I was fortunate enough to be standing on the steps and receive the giant pie-ing, like a glorious communion.

 

Once in Valhalla, I pontificated at great length about the abuse of graduate students, especially those in the architecture department, theorizing that it would be cheaper and more effective to put prisoners in grad school! Richard and John then proceeded write up the thesis and send it in for publication. It remains on my resume to this day:

 

Carter, R., Schroeter, J., and Valoir, T., “Economic measures for the U.S. penal system,” J.I.R., 31: 2-3 (1985).

 

I remember riding in beer bike on a small tricycle, the last rider, when one of the undergrad teams tried to make us pass the finish line in front of them by trying to haul us over the finish line. John leapt to my rescue, calling for backup, and a whole host of beer drinkers held me back and hauled the OTHER guy over the line. We lost again, thanks to John!

 

When I think of John, I always see his beard, tiny amounts of spandex, hairy legs, those high top sneakers and the crazed grin. Life will not be the same hereafter, and I vote for a YEARLY John Schroeter Memorial Celebration! Tamsen

 

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Tamsen, the first giant pie coronation was Dave Schaffer and me on April 20th, 1985. We were the first two-headed managers, and the ceremony was delayed two weeks due to rain. Dave and I were handcuffed together on the "throne" (so we could not run away) when the pickup truck carrying the pie arrived. After we got creamed and the pie fight was waning, I tasted the filling, which was Cool Whip. Richard immediately shouted at me to stop, pointing out that the pie had been sitting around since the scheduled April 6 date. Of course, John was one of the giant pie conspirators. Cary

 

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