Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My "Link" to Bob Berstling (1959-2013)

Bob's 1977 AKHS Yearbook photo
It was sad and strange to go to the wake of my Admiral King High School classmate Bob Berstling last night.

Although I hadn't seen Bob in a long time, I'd known him all my life. The Berstlings lived on Carmelita Court, and the corner of their backyard butted up to the yard of our W. 30th Street home. So we played together as little kids in the early 1960s and were in the same kindergarten class at Charleston Elementary.
One terrible memory from that era that I'll never forget is the time Bob got hurt while playing at our house. We were both running, going from the house into the yard, when Bob accidentally put his hand through a glass storm door. I still remember Bob sitting on a stool, crying, while my Mom bandaged him up. (Fortunately this was back in the era before people became sue-crazy.)
When I was halfway through first grade, my family moved, so I didn't seen Bob again until we met up at Masson Junior High. It was at Admiral King, though, where I began to hang around with Bob again. Bob and I had mutual friends, and we all ate lunch together every day at the same table.

Some of the silly things we did at lunch – such as daring one of our gang to toss a piece of food at a cute girl at a nearby table – still make me laugh. Bob was usually the instigator in these hijinks, good-naturedly threatening to "cream" someone if they wouldn't carry out the dare.

It was during this lunchtime tomfoolery that I first heard Bob's funny laugh. It was a gleeful giggle that slowly erupted into an explosive "HAW-HAW-HAW!!"

Around junior year, I joined a polka/wedding band that Bob was in called The Four Links. The band consisted of four high school kids: an accordion player, a drummer, an electric guitarist (Bob) and me (on trumpet & trombone). The bookings, etc. were handled by a few of the parents, usually by Bob's father (Robert), a great guy who was a musician himself.

Thinking of my time with Bob as a "Link" makes me smile to this day.

The Four Links all wore big burgundy bow ties and matching checkered black and white vests (which our mothers sewed from a pattern) that made us look like an underage barbershop quartet.

We were all so shy that we never sang on any of the tunes. Every song we performed was an instrumental – except for Tequila.

We were so afraid of the audience that we were even afraid to address them. I remember him once that the accordion player had to threaten Bob with bodily harm to announce over the microphone that "The Four Links will now take a short break."

We played at the Saddle Inn in Avon Lake, Emerald Valley nightclub in Lorain and many other halls and venues. I feel sorry for the people who hired us to play at their wedding receptions. But it was fun to play out and be around Bob.

That's the thing I remember most about him from those high school days. Bob was a kind soul who was fun to be around and who could make you laugh. And it was even better if you could make him laugh, just to hear that distinctive guffaw.

I didn't see much of Bob after I came back to Lorain after college. Sometimes it's hard to keep high school friendships going. But I was always glad to see him when I ran into him at Willow Hardware or Fligner's or some other place.

Bob was a great guy and will be missed.


-Alan D Hopewell said...

I can relate; I lost my best childhood friend, Micheal McDowell, to an aortic aneurysm back in '88-he was 32. We met in first grade, and were friends until his death-Mike featured in a number of the entries in POINTING THE CANNON.

To this day, I still find myself thinking," What would Mike think of that", or, "Mike would've really dug this".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Dan. I lived in Loretta Court...right next to Carmelita Court and Bob, myself, Eddie Joe Gettridge would always play baseball in the court....shoot marbles...play guitars....that was back from 66-70. And I agree...Bob's laugh was great....you could not help but laugh right along!!!! He was also very full of energy...one of the fastest base runners I had ever seen!!!

Jeff Rash