VIRG FOSS: After 57 years, Lipstick Bandit revealed
For 57 years, I've harbored a secret that I never shared with my parents, my sister, my best friends or even my dog. The recent incident involving vandalism of a locker room by two Grand Forks Red River basketball players prompted my decision to ...
For 57 years, I've harbored a secret that I never shared with my parents, my sister, my best friends or even my dog.
The recent incident involving vandalism of a locker room by two Grand Forks Red River basketball players prompted my decision to unburden myself of this deep, dark, dirty secret.
The two players who did some damage to the room at Wahpeton High School following Red River's first loss of the season, a buzzer-beating basket at that, will be punished with suspension and by having to pay for the damage.
In 1955, under the stern but sensible discipline of Floyd Nelson, I suffered my fate in relative obscurity after my own destructive deed.
I was a starting guard on Nelson's South Junior High freshman basketball team in 1955, shortly before our family moved away from Grand Forks. We were a pretty good team, with a starting five consisting of Pete Fritzell, Tom Reynolds, Gary Pladson, Jim Brown and myself.
Because we steamrolled most junior high teams, Nelson booked a game for us against the Manvel High School varsity team, in the Manvel gym.
If you've ever been to that gym, there's not much distance between the end lines and the nearest wall. The Manvel team in 1955, consisting of upperclassmen who manhandled us outmuscled kids, slammed us into the wall a few times. I recall.
Even though we won the game by a few points, we weren't too happy about our bumps and bruises, I remember.
Somehow I got my hands on a tube of lipstick I had found somewhere around the stands in the gym.
That's when I had the brilliant idea of using the lipstick to write the final score showing South Junior's victory on the walls in the Manvel locker room. So I did that.
The next day at the end of practice, coach Nelson lined us all up and said he had something to say.
He said he had gotten a call from Manvel about someone scribbling all over the walls in the dressing room, and they were none too happy about it.
The coach said, "I'll be in my car in front of the school after you boys shower up. The one who did the damage can join me in the car and we'll go to Manvel and clean up the dressing room."
So Floyd Nelson and I scrubbed walls in the Manvel dressing room until the lipstick writing was gone. He didn't say a word to me, just joined me in the cleanup. His message to me came through loud and clear without words being spoken.
He never told my parents about it, and I certainly wasn't going to confess to something they didn't know about.
But the Red River incident in Wahpeton the other day convinced me that now might be a good time to come clean and show that boys could be boys way back then, too.
Coach Nelson's subtle handling of my errant ways left a lasting impression on me and set me on a path to a better life, I'm sure. I can walk through the cosmetics department of a store these days without any urge to pick up a tube of lipstick and do something stupid.
The punishment given to the Red River players seems fair to me. Just like the punishment Coach Nelson handed me -- going back to the site of my meltdown and cleaning up my own mess -- was a humbling experience for me.
So there you have it, the confessions of the Lipstick Bandit of some 57 years ago.
Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at email@example.com or at (701) 772-9272.