The Renfroe Files: 1982 World’s Fair With Robert, Elmo, & The Wampus Cat Band

Granted, it has been about 35 years ago as I type this, but somethings you don’t forget.  I remember you didn’t go to sleep around Robert Saunders and Elmo Irby. Which is why I did not sleep for about 48-hours.

Let me back up a little bit.  I was in my high school band.  Yeah, I was the kid who got talked into playing a baritone back in 6th grade instead of the much more portable trumpet as I had originally set out to play.  So I was the guy who had to lug a good sized case on and off the bus until I could drive. At least I didn’t get talked into playing the tuba.  You clarinet and flute players had it made.

During my Sophomore year in high school, we found out that the Wampus Cat Band had been selected to march in the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. I think we sold candy bars as a fundraiser, but I am not for sure.

Anyway, in the summer of 1982, an unruly mob of teenagers, a few parents, and our just promoted band director Mickey Siler boarded a couple of chartered buses one muggy evening and set-out for an overnight drive to Knoxville.  We drove during the night I think because the folks in charge thought we might actually sleep during the trip if we drove at night. Thereby keeping the shenanigans/noise level down.  Nice try.

It was a pretty tight schedule, as I recall. We were to arrive at a FEMA styled trailer park where we would be housed then went off into the fair to wander about doing the rides, exhibits and attractions.  The first night was when I found out you did not go to sleep around Robert and Elmo.  As soon as I drifted off, cold water right in the face. Jerks. Nice. Nod off again, ice down the underwear. Ok, I would show I could stay up as well.  And I did.  We marched the next day, then wandered around the park with me in an exhausted daze.  I think Gaylon Ross kept me awake when we would sit so I did not get left at the World’s Fair and miss the bus ride home.

The plan, like the drive to the fair, was to load everyone on the buses in the evening for a ride back.  I remember sitting on a rock wall waiting to board the bus, when a parent approached me and ask if I felt okay. Apparently I looked kinda peeked.  I had been up for a long time, and honestly answered that I had felt better. Looking at me, I guess she thought I was nauseated, because she gives me a Dramamine.

You know what happens when you give a Dramamine, which has drowsiness as a known side-effect, to an exhausted 16-year old? Well, I don’t either because I basically blacked out.

When I say I do not remember getting on the bus, I am serious.  I don’t remember anything until we pulled into the Conway High parking lot early the next morning and to my perception, no time had passed at all!  It was like time-travel! I remember one fella saying they actually checked to see if I was alive, because I would not wake up when we stopped to eat.

If I ever have to do a long road trip and I don’t have to drive, I might try that trick again. Better than flying!  But I still wouldn’t go to sleep around Robert or Elmo.