Everyone Should Have a Lifelong Friend Like Ed Sherman

   Silliness at its finest

   Dolph L. Hatfield, Ph.D.

Ed Sherman and I have been friends for more than 65 years. We have had a most unique and wonderful friendship and one that we have cherished and will cherish forever.

One of the most wonderful things that we all share in life is having friends. I’ve been fortunate in having a lifelong friend, Ed Sherman. We met in the 8th grade at El Paso High School in the fall of 1951. We became friends in our junior year and did our best to make up for lost time in not getting to know each other better prior to this time.

First, a little background on how our friendship evolved. Ed was president of the student body and I was the class representative from my homeroom to the weekly meetings of the student council. This group implemented the running of school affairs related to the students. Ed asked me to head the auditorium committee. My duties, with several helpers, were to be sure the stage of the auditorium was clean, carefully set up and ready for the weekly gatherings of the student body.

I became a bit over involved in my duties as head of the auditorium committee in that I not only thoroughly cleaned and organized the stage, but had my helpers climb into the rafters with me above the stage to remove the graffiti that had accumulated over the years. One piece of graffiti that I did not remove was written by my father who had left his name “Haskell D. Hatfield, 1924”. When I told Ed about all the graffiti being removed except for the one piece, he agreed that it should remain for posterity.

In the spring and summer of 1954, Ed and I became closer friends. I was elected student body president to follow Ed in the fall semester. Over the summer and fall semester Ed and I were invited to numerous parties given by our high school friends. At each party, we took over the gathering by singing and doing skits which we would ad-lib and entice others at the party to join us. We thought everyone at the party enjoyed our silliness with only the host or hostess and their parents perhaps not sharing in our folly. We left each of these functions apologizing to the person who gave the party and their parents for being so disruptive. Ed and I always got a huge kick out of ourselves and laughed endlessly as we thought we were so funny and cleaver.

 

During the summer between our junior and senior years, we entertained ourselves ad-infinitum. For example, on one of the main streets in the Kern Place neighborhood, where many drivers would drive well over the speed limit, the police would wait on one of the side streets where the drivers would come over and down an incline and catch those speeding. Ed and I would wait at the top of the hill where the police couldn’t see us and wave to divers to slow down. After about 20-30 minutes, the police would drive up to the crest of the hill to see why there were no speeders. Ed and I would start strolling along the sidewalk as if we were only out for a brief walk. Speeders would pass the police car coming in the opposite direction, leaving the officers even more perplexed.

One summer day, Ed and I were having lunch at my home and one of us said “we need to get out of town and let off some steam”. My mother overheard this and quickly replied “What do you think you’ve been doing the last two months?”

We also found a black widow spider with her egg sac outside my home and put the spider and sac in a Mason jar with several tiny holes in the top of the jar. The eggs hatched and we proudly had a jar with hundreds of black widow spiders. To our chagrin, my mother placed a book over the top of the jar smothering our colony of spiders.

The fall came and school started again. More parties by our friends and more acting up at the functions by Ed and me. Soon friends started inviting either Ed or me but of course we would show up together— to cause more trouble envisioned by the party giver and more entertainment envisioned by us. We now began to realize that despite the goodwill of our friends, we were being much too silly.

Ed and I were graduating in January 1955 and thus had only the fall semester left at El Paso High. The Senior Follies was a skit put on by the senior graduating class before the entire student body as one of the weekly functions in the auditorium. Our skit called for a blank pistol to be shot twice. Ed and I rented a pistol that came with 20 blank cartridges. Of course, following the Follies, we felt we couldn’t return the gun with 18 unused cartridges. We decided to start using the blanks by driving up beside a car at a four way stop with two lanes going in the same direction and wait for the person driving the car on our right to look left. One of us would have the gun hanging out the window and as soon as the person would see the gun and looked frightened— bang! And we’d drive off laughing as hard as we possibly could.

In 1954 in El Paso, anyone subjected to such a stunt would realize they had been the brunt of an antic and would then move on. Fortunately, it was as simple as that back in those days.

We decided ….. to stage a murder.

Getting low on blanks, Ed and I thought we had to do a super, duper shenanigan to polish off our remaining cartridges and decided to stage a murder. We quickly found several friends who were more than willing to join our caper. We carefully plotted out the murder that was carried out as follows: Ed, one of our friends and I went into the larger of the two drugstores in Kern Place and told the manager we were looking for someone with whom we were very angry, we heard that the marked person was coming to this drugstore and let the manager see our pistol. Just then, a person entered and one of us said “That’s him.

We approached the marked person and he looked terribly frightened. One of us said “Come outside. We have business.” We shoved our frightened desperado outside the door and onto the sidewalk near the street with the store manager in hot pursuit. One of us pulled out the gun and fired our last three blanks. The marked person fell to the curb clutching his stomach while a car pulled up, stopped and two individuals hopped out of the car, picked up the “dying” person and threw him into the trunk of the car. The car sped off as the three shooters made haste to their waiting car, jumped in and also sped off.

Amazingly, when the three shots were fired, all of the people in the area came to a sudden halt, watched the murder scene unfold and curiously did not try to intervene. None of us ever looked back or visited the area for several weeks. To our knowledge there were not any consequences.

…..Ed’s enormous achievements in high school.

Following our graduation, I visited our vice principal, Mr. Lloyd Sanders. Mr. Saunders was very much admired and respected by students and parents. I was speaking with Mr. Saunders about Ed’s enormous achievements in high school. He told me that no graduating senior had ever obtained all three of the highest possible honors bestowed by the school in its history— and he did not think it possible that another graduating student would ever have the combination of the qualities that Ed had in achieving these honors which were the respect and admiration he had from the faculty to name him All El Paso High School Boy, the popularity he had with the student body to be elected president of the student body and the intelligence and dedication he had to his studies to become valedictorian of our graduating class.

 

In the spring and summer of 1955, Ed and I lived at his home and attended Texas Western College, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. Ed made straight As, while I had no interest in my studies and only took courses to be attending college. My grades reflected my lack of interest in college.

Ed and Dolph are off to Europe…..

However, about a month into the Spring semester, while my parents were on vacation, Ed and I decided we could skip the rest of the semester at Texas Western and go to Europe. Ed parents left him a trust fund which he could tap into to cover costs, while I needed my parents’ permission and financial assistance. This didn’t slow us down as Ed resigned from college and I stopped going to classes, but planned on resigning when my parents returned home. The only problem class Ed had in resigning was ROTC as he had to return his ROTC uniform to the person in charge of this program at Texas Western, Sargent Maggio. Sargent Maggio was a bit disgruntled when Ed turned in his uniform and ever thereafter would refer to him as “the world traveler”.

Everyone we ran into, including many friends, teachers from El Paso High and parents of friends, we would tell them that we were off to Europe in a couple of weeks and would see them when we returned. We sang them a song that went “Sailing, sailing over the bounding main, err Ed and Dolph are off to Europe to return when we pleased, to return when we pleased!

Apparently we sang our song to the wrong person as my parents had gotten wind that we had resigned from the university and were getting ready to sail off to Europe. When my parents returned, and before I had a chance to say anything about going to Europe, they sat me down and told me under no circumstances was I going to Europe. Ed reinstated himself into the university and I returned to classes. Ed had to ask Sargent Maggio for his uniform to be returned and the Sargent told Ed’s class that their “world traveler”, Mr. Edward Sherman, had already seen the world in less than a week and was returning to again march with us.”

In retrospect, Ed and I realized that my parents were absolutely correct in not letting us go to Europe. We had no idea which countries we wanted to visit or how to travel abroad.

…..we entered the business world.

Jim Paget, who was a senior at Texas Western and studying for the Episcopal ministry, had been a mentor to many of us in high school that continued for those of us who attended college in El Paso. The Episcopalians, through Jim’s influence, had obtained a home just off campus for the students interested in having a place to relax between classes and/or study, play pool, have coffee, soft drinks and/or sandwiches. Jim asked Ed and me if we wanted to handle the catering facilities at the Episcopal House. We of course said “Yes” and we entered the business world.

We ordered a variety of fresh sandwiches, candy bars and soft drinks from a local sandwich company to be delivered daily. As I recall, we charged $0.25/sandwich, $0.10/candy bar and $0.15/soft drink. We sold only a few sandwiches, candy bars and sodas daily.

We kept our sandwich business going for most of the spring semester with little profit. About mid-semester, Ed and I went to see the Dean of Student Affairs to ask him if we could advertise our business on campus and set up a stand selling our goods. The Dean pointed out that the university had a catering agreement with a large catering business to handle the student dining facilities and we could not complete with them— thus, “Absolutely NO” was the answer to our inquiry.

This didn’t slow Ed and me too much. A couple of weeks after seeing the Dean, the student drama department put on an evening performance at the university. Ed and I decided to set up our business with sandwiches, candy and sodas just outside the auditorium in the main hall of the Student Union Building. About 15 minutes after the performance started, we quickly placed a table just outside the main entrance to the auditorium and loaded our goodies on it with a shoebox of change labeled “On the Honor System”. We hid in a telephone booth where we could watch the attendees coming out at intermission and see them put their money in our box. Low and behold, the Dean came out and carefully looked around to see who had set up the business. Ed and I could see him without his seeing us. He selected a coke to drink, opened it and paid his money. We also had several other takers. The lights in the hallway blinked about 15 minutes later indicating it was time for the audience to return to the performance. Everyone went in except for the Dean.

About 10 minutes later, the Dean finished his coke, carefully looked around to see if he could find the ‘business owners’ and then reentered the auditorium. Ed and I hastily ran to gather up our belongings, quickly transported them to the car and made haste getting back to the Episcopal House to return our products. All in all, not a bad evening’s profit. What also added immensely to the evening’s caper was that we decided to do this about the time the performance started and had already put on our striped lounge pajamas for the evening. The pajamas had recently been given to us as a high school graduation present. We didn’t have time to change. How we managed not to get caught by this over the top shenanigan is still beyond belief.

Ed and I realized how ridiculous our business attempts were. Coupled with this was a rather unpleasant habit of sometimes laughing at ourselves when we were trying to come across as serious businessmen. One of the worst such encounters was when a friend of Jim Paget’s invited us to come to visit his cheese factory so that we could buy large, 50-pound cheese containers until our sandwich business really got underway and we would be selling 100s of sandwiches a day. Mr. Douglass was showing us his many different flavors of cheeses. However, the truth was Ed and I were selling about two to three ready-made sandwiches per day. Ed stepped behind a stack of the large cheese containers while I was left to talk to Mr. Douglass. I could hear Ed laughing which of course meant I was laughing in Mr. Douglass’ face. He was polite but certainly was obviously irritated.

We decided to fold our business.….

After a couple of months, the sandwich service stopped delivering sandwiches, candy and soft drinks since we were selling so few of their products. Besides selling a couple of sandwiches daily, we sold two to three candy bars and only a few soft drinks. We decided to fold our business, take our measly profits and splurge on a dinner at the Kern Place Drugstore. We ordered the steak dinner which was little more than an overcooked hamburger, French fries, a salad and a soft drink. While our dinners were being prepared, we took a couple of the children’s golf clubs off the shelf, a large plastic golf ball and played golf around the store hollering “Fore” every time we hit the ball. The manager was certainly pleased when our dinners were ready, we ate and departed. That evening at the Kern Place Drugs documented the end of our business venture.

One evening when Ed and I invited some friends over, we decided to start filling balloons that Ed had at his home with water and toss them off the upper porch of Ed’s two story home at passing cars. When we hit an oncoming car on the front windshield, the car would come to a screeching halt, the driver would get out of the car and look for the perpetrators. We hid on the porch and watched the drivers and others in the car look everywhere to see if they could locate where the balloons came from. It wasn’t too long before two police officers showed up and knocked on Ed’s front door. As the police were very persistent with the knocking to arouse anyone who might be home, Ed decided to put on his pajamas and answer the front door. He walked outside to speak to the police, rubbing his eyes as if he had been wakened from a deep sleep.

The rest of us hid on the upper porch with water dripping over the edge of the porch and landing downstairs between Ed and the officers. After speaking with Ed for about five minutes, the officers left telling Ed if he saw anyone who might be throwing water-filled balloons at passing cars to call them so they could put a stop to this nonsense.

It dawned on Ed and me later that the police officers knew that the water balloons were being thrown from the upper porch of Ed’s home. First of all, they had been very tenacious in knocking on the front door and seemed rather amused by Ed appearing in his pajamas and rubbing his eyes over having been awaken from a “deep sleep”. They apparently had stepped off the front porch purposely to have the water dripping off the upper porch between them and Ed. Furthermore, they knew that they had accomplished what they came for which was to put an end to the water-filled balloon throwing. We had a good laugh and imagined the police officers did also.

In the morning, Ed’s next door neighbor, who was a longstanding friend of the Sherman family, called and said she sure was worried about us when the police showed up and was glad we did not get arrested. Ed thanked her. We had another good laugh as we knew the police had no interest in arresting us— they only wanted us to stop throwing our water-cocktails at passing cars.

Everyone knew that Ed would become a lawyer someday. None of us realized he would oversee his first trial in the summer of 1955. Ed, a close friend of ours, Jonathan Schwartz, and I decided to visit a ghost town in New Mexico called Mogollon. On our way from El Paso to Mogollon we stopped in a small town to spend the night. We found a rather seedy motel and rented a room where we thought it would be cheaper than the newer, fancier motels. We kept looking at the fancy motel with its large swimming pool that was located just across one of the main streets. We decided to drop by when we went out to dinner to check the cost of a room. To our surprise, it was only a dollar more than we were paying. After dinner, we returned to our motel and asked the owner for our money back as we decided not to stay at his place.

We had obviously gotten the judge out of bed…..

The owner told us we had paid to stay at his motel and he did not have to return our money. We argued with the owner for about an hour and told the owner we wanted to talk to the local judge. After our insistence, the owner called the local judge and the judge agreed to meet us in his chambers around 9 PM. Jonathan kept telling us we must stop insisting on seeing the judge as he surely was going to put us in jail. We told Jonathan that we had our rights to leave this poor choice of motels and move on for the evening— we were going to see this through and not to worry.

We arrived at the judge’s chamber at the scheduled time and met him. We had obviously gotten the judge out of bed as he looked a bit disheveled. After Ed pleaded our case, it became obvious that the judge was not going to take sides with three out of towners over one of his voting constituents. The judge seemed amused by our insistence that we had our rights. He told us that we could either stay at this motel or leave without being refunded. Ed lost his first major trial and we reluctantly returned to the motel.

Back at the motel, Ed, Jonathan and I started horsing around and the two of them pushed me off one of the beds and accidently through the curtains and into one of the large windows breaking it. Incredibly, there was the owner who had been just outside the window and apparently listening to all the noise we had been making. To diffuse the situation, I quickly asked the owner how much we owed him. He said that will be another $14, which we promptly handed over to him. We immediately called it an evening and quietly went to bed.

What prompted writing about Ed’s and my unique friendship…..

Finally, Ed and I began growing up and trying not to be so entertaining, at least from our perspectives, and so silly. We certainly have had a wonderful friendship and have managed to meet almost annually. We enjoy immensely retelling our many stories and laughing at ourselves about as hard as we possibly can. Our wives patiently watch us with our fun fests but not listening as they’ve heard these stories so many times.

What prompted writing about Ed’s and my unique friendship was a recent dinner we had at a restaurant in Washington, DC. Ed and I sat next to each other and Alice and Mary on the far side. Ed and I began retelling our stories and laughing so much we could hardly talk. What we did not realize is that a young couple sitting behind us were listening to our stories and enjoying laughing at them and us as much as we did. When we got up to leave, Ed poked me with his cane and I poked him on the forehead with my finger. This brought gales of laughter from the young couple. Ed and I realized for the first time that they were laughing with us.

Mary and Alice knew that the young couple had been laughing with us the whole time. But it crossed my mind that if these young folks had enjoyed our stories, maybe I should write about our early antics, which in part continue until this day. And so it was.

Epilogue

The story about Ed’s and my very unique and wonderful friendship had indeed involved a lot of folly and foolishness. However, our friendship, interaction with others and involvement in the community, both in high school and thereafter, involved much more than the inanity described.

At El Paso High, we served our school and community well. As examples, we made a number of campaign promises in running for student body president that would benefit the school and students. By fulfilling each of these pledges in our tenures as president, we enhanced the attractiveness of the school and provided several benefits for the students.

In the summer between our junior and senior year in high school, Ed and I visited several homes in El Paso where elderly men or women resided and were being cared for. The number of aged folks residing in each home varied from as few as 4-5 to as many as 10-12.

After knocking on the door of the various homes and introducing ourselves, we asked the caretakers if we could meet their residents, converse with them for a while and sing some songs. The caretakers were very receptive and invited those who lived in the home to meet with us in the living or dining room. The days of these elderly folks were mostly routine with what seemed to be mainly daily visits from loved ones. They were pleased to have Ed and I visit and spend time with them. We stayed about 45 minutes at each place. We talked for a while. Then Ed would play his guitar and we sang various songs, mostly spirituals.

In our senior year, legal developments were taking place that would change our society for the better. In May 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down school segregation was issued. We didn’t fully appreciate its importance, but it was a subject raised in our civics class in the fall. We both were favorable toward its decision even though we had been raised in segregated schools. In our town, public accommodations like theaters, restaurants, hotels and motels were also segregated. Although our parents apparently had not given much thought to segregation, they were open-minded about race relations.

When the Supreme Court’s decision was to be debated in our civics class, we were at the public library doing research and approached a black student to ask his views. We told him that we were in favor of the Court’s decision. However, we were naïve in not realizing that he would be wary of two white students raising the subject— he was non-committal. At this time, we did not appreciate the long and difficult haul it would be for racial equality to start becoming a reality in the South.

In our civics class, students were responsible for selecting a topic to debate and choosing another student or students to debate the other side. Ed’s topic was the inequality of minorities in our nation. He initially established that discrimination does exist in this country and then actively and vehemently debated for the equality of all minorities. Needless to say, our teacher and class were extremely impressed with Ed’s knowledge and understanding of the subject he had chosen to debate.

In my senior year, I was planning on studying for the ministry. I spent most of my evenings in the summer of 1954 working at St. Anne’s Mission in South El Paso managing a playground. Many underprivileged families lived in South El Paso and their children would come to the St. Anne’s recreation area to participate in various activities. The playground gave them a safe place to go each summer evening and kept them off the streets with nothing to do.

After Ed’s graduation from Harvard Law School, he taught at the University of Indiana Law School for nine years, the University of Texas Law School for 19 years and was Dean of Tulane Law School for five years. He remained and taught at Tulane as a professor of law until his retirement in 2015.

Ed was an expert in military law resulting from his two years as an army captain. After leaving the military, he represented service members in a number of cases involving their First Amendment and other rights. He was an officer in the Indiana and Texas Civil Liberties Union and was a volunteer with the Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s civil rights activities. He has written articles and books on military law, civil rights and complex litigation.

I received a BA, MA and PhD degree from the University of Texas at Austin. I then did five years of postdoctoral training: initially at Duke Medical School, then at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and finally at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. I worked with two Nobel Prize winners during this time. Following my postdoctoral training, I returned to the NIH and worked there my entire scientific career.

My laboratory at NIH published several significant articles, both in the nucleic acid field, in which I initially worked, and subsequently in the field of selenium research. I published 297 scientific articles and more than 15 other pieces outside of science, primarily on subjects relating to civil rights. I was involved in the civil rights movement in Montgomery County Maryland in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, and worked with Washington, DC’s homeless in the late 1980s that still continues today. Other areas of interest outside my profession and involvements in the community, including those regarding scientific and non-scientific publications, research activities and awards are discussed on my website (www.dolphhatfield.com\).

Ed and I have relived our many antics numerous times through the years and have had very many good laughs retelling our stories. This has been and continues to be an immense joy to us. Alice and Mary no longer listen to our tales that we still find so hilarious, but they tell us privately how lucky we are to have such an extraordinary and remarkable friendship.

Indeed, everyone should be so fortunate to have a special and novel lifelong friendship as Ed and I have.

 

Edward Sherman