Jerry Haynes, ’44, is arguably Woodrow’s greatest product, influencing generations of young minds with his twisted sense of humor – that is, peppermint twist.
As a child, every morning at seven, I sat down to a steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat and a warm friend: Mr. Peppermint. He retired has candy cane last month.
I first met him at a birthday party for a fellow student at Lakewood Methodist kindergarten in 1963. That’s where I also met my classmates Joe Sholden, Joe Jones, Mark Moore, Carter Campbell and Gaylin Willard, who went all the way through school with me.
Handing out those peppermint candies, the tall, then 36-year-old Mr. Peppermint was the first TV star I’d ever seen. Not even seeing Rosanne years later could compare.
I don’t know if it was his easygoing manner or just that he was a Wildcat, but his show felt comfortable.
Officer Friendly on Channel 4 (what was the name of that duck he had?) had a studio audience, like Bozo. And speaking of clowns, Ajax and Icky Twerp were from Fort Worth.
Mr. Peppermint didn’t have the Three Stooges, but he had the ultra-cool Felix (not Fritz) the Cat. The Master Cylinder and Va-voom were hilarious.
Between cartoons, one could learn how to make a stove pipe Lincoln hat from a Quaker Oatmeal box. After that, there was the Slinky commercial: “A slinky, a slinky, a wonderful, wonderful toy. A slinky, a slinky for every gir—l and boy.”
Let’s not forget that Mr. Haynes invented the cordless phone (albeit rotary) when he dialed up someone on his cane. Pantomime aside, he did 90 live minutes of ad-libs and extemporaneous shtick with Mr. Wiggly Worm and those plywood characters I watched in the ‘60s.
Peppermint Place was good training for Mr. Haynes, who went on to star in many movies and plays.
In 1983, he returned to Woodrow to film “Crisis at Central High” with Joanne Woodward. Yes, her hubby Paul Newman has been to Woodrow. Our interiors stood in for the real Central High in Little Rock, where black students were first integrated during the raucous rancor of the Civil Rights movement.
It is interesting to note that some of the Woodrow students who appeared as extras couldn’t understand why blacks hadn’t attended school with whites in the first place.
The twisted one also has returned to take in some of our alma mater’s famous musicals.
In 1994, he celebrated the Golden Anniversary of his class, organized by Junie (Jessie Bond) Richardson.
“One of my biggest thrills was emceeing senior assembly with Jerry,” she has said.
I’m excited to have been on the stage where he debuted and to be a former fellow member of the Pan American Student Forum. I wanted to tell him that when I recently observed him sitting alone at Highland Park Cafeteria, but we don’t bother stars here.
So open up the peppermint schnapps, enjoy your retirement and come on home, Jerome.
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