Remembering Al Berryman

It seems that this Covid 19 thing has me reminiscing quite a bit. I have all these memories of people and events over the years that have stuck with me. Now that I have started writing these blogs, I have the opportunity to share them. Here’s a story surrounding a friend of mine, Al Berryman

I was born in Michigan and lived there as a kid, and even though I’ve spent most of my life in Arizona, if you asked me where I’m from I would say Washington. I lived there for less than 10 years from the time I was 12 until I was 21. A good friend of mine in those years was Al Berryman. Even though our lives went in very different directions when we left high school, we connected several times over the ensuing decades. Al was a big sports fan, and he was also very smart. He was one of those guys who knew the name of the guy who played shortstop for the Boston Red Sox in 1958, and what his batting average was. Al was a devout Catholic. When we went out on Friday nights, if we wanted a burger we had to wait until midnight because he couldn’t eat meat on Friday.

When we graduated from high school, I went to the University of Washington, about 20 minutes away from the house I grew up in. Nevertheless, I was out on my own from the time I graduated high school throughout my college years. I paid my own tuition, books, plus food and lodging, by working part time during the school year, and usually two jobs during the summers to catch up. 

My friend Al went to Notre Dame. He was from a more affluent family, and Al’s Dad took care of all his college expenses. There was something called the Draft back then, more formally called involuntary conscription. While I was able to stay out of the military with a student deferment, I eventually had to end my career as a professional student and get my college degree. I graduated from the University of Washington on Dec 19th, and got my draft notice from the U.S. Army on December 21st.  

While I was waiting to report for my induction I took some vacation time and flew to San Francisco where my friend Al was between semesters at the University of San Francisco law school. We had a week of great fun, hanging out together in San Francisco. Al was sharing one of those old Victorian San Francisco walkups. His roommates were all on Christmas break so we had the house to ourselves. San Francisco was in its heyday. We visited Sausalito, Filmore West, Haight-Ashbury, and more. It was a great week.  

Soon after, I reported to my draft board for induction into the Army. 
I was one of the lucky ones, never went anywhere near Vietnam. Eventually, I wound up stationed here in Phoenix, where I met my future wife, married, and finished my 2 year commitment to the U.S. Army. We stayed right here in Phoenix. My friend Al Berryman and I touched base rather infrequently. He wound up working for a law firm in Fresno, California and I had a career here in Phoenix in the Major Appliance Industry.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I had season tickets to ASU football. They were really good seats. They were on the upper deck, but they were on about the forty yard line. I never knew who owned the two seats next to me because each game there was somebody different sitting there. Until one day, when ASU played Notre Dame. My brother-in-law was visiting from California. He was an ASU graduate and a big fan, so I took him to the game.

The seats next to me were occupied by this scrawny long haired fellow, and a guy who was a giant. He must have been 6’7” and 260 lbs. not an ounce of fat, and atop his head was this baseball cap with the initials ND. The scrawny guy introduced himself and said that he’d had these seats for several years, but this was only the second time he’d been here. He explained that he owned some McDonald’s restaurants and gave the seats out to employees. Then he introduced us to his guest. “Say hello to George Kunz. Drafted #2 in the NFL behind OJ Simpson. Since OJ is now in Jail, I figure that makes George here the #1 pick.” George had played professional football as an offensive lineman for a decade, and was visiting from his home in Las Vegas, where he also owned some MacDonald’s restaurants.

We were having a great time visiting with these guys and watching the game. Notre Dame was beating ASU, and George was cheering them on quite vociferally. I was starting to get annoyed, so I said something like, “Tell me George…did you go to school at Notre Dame, or did you just play football there?” It was a very bad move on my part. Very Bad. Of course, I wound up apologizing and all was forgiven, but the damage was done.

Some years later, Notre Dame was back in Arizona to play in the Fiesta Bowl. A few days before the game I got a phone call from my friend Al Berryman. “Let me guess” I said. “You’re in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl“.  Sure enough, he was. We made arrangements to meet for lunch and get re-acaquainted. Over lunch I told him the story about George Kunz. He told me what a bad mistake, I’d made, and I told him that I knew. He said, “I don’t think you do. George was not only an All-American football player, he was also an ACADEMIC ALL AMERICAN.”

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