By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
At Chandler High there were two groups worth belonging to, the Toads and the Cowboys. Gordon was one of the hotshots in the Toads.
In 1968 a Corvette Stingray was about as cool as it got. Clint Eastwood was starring in For a Few Dollars More.
It was a time when teen-agers were caught in confusing crosscurrents as one era died and another began, a confusion reflected in the airwaves where the sappiness of "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees and "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro fought for space on the charts with the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye" and the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Madras gave way to tie-dye and the fallout from the Summer of Love left agitated teen-agers across the breadth of America.
In Chandler, school administrators tried to keep the lid on by enforcing the dress code: "All buttons on shirts, except the top buttons at the neck, are to be kept buttoned. Dark glasses are not to be worn at any time in a building on campus. Unusual haircuts, beards and bizarre make-up are not acceptable because of its implied defiance of authority."
As popular American culture went off in one direction, long-time residents of Chandler, cotton farmers, dairy cattlemen and servicemen stationed at Williams Air Force Base, went another. The kids at the high school were caught in the middle. While students elsewhere marched against the war, the seniors at Chandler High picketed to demand school parking for their cars.
At one point the football coach gathered members of his team around him and said these damn Toads had been raising too much hell and he expected his players to kick their butts, if necessary, to keep the Toads in line.
That was really rich. Most of the guys listening to the coach were Toads.
Marlene Dibble was neither a Cowboy nor a Toad, though she says she was friends with both groups.
"I was pretty shy in high school," recalled Dibble. "Gordon was always popular. I wasn't socially friends with him. We were both in accelerated English classes together. We attended the same church, Holy Trinity Lutheran. Because I was so shy in high school I never developed a friendship with Gordon . . . or a lot of people. I had a quiet respect for him. I looked at him from afar and I liked what I saw."
In Gordon's senior year the Toads were seen hanging out with an older guy, a longhair who rode a motorcycle. Once in a while, one of the Toads would show up at school with the hippie's bike.
Right after graduation a whole pack of the Toads enlisted--though not Gordon.
Vietnam was raging on living-room televisions in the small, rural community of 16,000. The mass enlistment was just about the most noble event the town of Chandler saw in 1968.
Twenty-one years later, most people still don't know that the Toads had all been busted right before graduation for smoking dope. The older, longhaired guy with the motorcycle had been a narc. In a quiet deal worked out with the judge to spare the parents any embarrassment, the young Toads were allowed to go to war for smoking marijuana. Not that these young men were anything less than patriotic. Given their choice, several of the Toads joined the Marines. They were just that red-
blooded and just that young.
Gordon Grilz was able to avoid the service because, as luck would have it, he wasn't around when the bust went down. When his buddies went overseas, he went away to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
The next time Gordon Grilz was spotted in Chandler, his hair was halfway down his back and he was running with a guy called "Reds" whose nickname didn't have anything at all to do with the color of his ponytail. It was about this time that Gordon began dating Linda Marie. She was the daughter of the one cop in Chandler who had the reputation for being a real hard-ass.
Marlene Dibble's path was a lot straighter and a lot narrower.
She married, gave birth to a daughter and, one year after graduation, landed a good job at Salt River Project. By the time the war in Vietnam ended, Marlene Dibble had settled down. As happens in a well-ordered life, twenty years passed and the next thing she knew it was time to start thinking about the reunion.
One of the first to respond to Dibble's inquiries was Gordon Grilz's good friend, Tex Goins. The cover of Goins' note was a cartoon of an alligator in a courtroom witness stand testifying, "Well, of course I did it in cold blood, you idiot! . . . I'm a reptile."
Once a Toad . . . It seemed like damned near everyone made it back for the reunion. The foreign-exchange student returned from Australia. Members of the armed services came from overseas.
There was old what's-his-name who tried to commit suicide by putting a cherry bomb in his mouth. A beard covered the scar tissue.
Cheryl Lynn Caudhill Kahoun told people she'd become an aesthetician. Asked what had happened to her in the last twenty years, she replied, "In 1972 I was captured by refugees from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters while jogging on the beach in San Luis Obispo. I have spent the last few years in a deprogramming rehabilitation center trying to erase from my vocabulary such words as boss, groovy, bitchin', far-out, sock-it-to-me, tuff, psychedelic, mod, tune in, turn on, drop out, fab, cool."