Sunday, July 1, 2007

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide


August 11, 2005

Old Cowboy, New Tricks: Lessons from Bill Bricker’s Adventurous Life
By F. Josephine Arrowood
Sun contributor
BrickerHorse.jpg
Octogenarian William Bricker doesn’t typically practice inverted postures, but he does turn on its collective head some stereotypical notions of what it means to grow old in youth-obsessed America. In appearance, the white-haired, tanned Glen Arbor resident blends in with many a retiree as he negotiates his three-wheeler bike or white Beetle convertible through town. But beneath his mild appearance beats the heart of a cowboy, passionate teacher, decorated Marine veteran, and fun-loving world traveler.

Like so many of his generation, Bill’s life was shaped by world events far beyond his midwestern hometown of Winnetka, Illinois. The son of a baker, Bill came of age during the Great Depression. At the same time, war was afoot in both Europe and the Pacific, and although the United States was not yet officially involved, young men were required to register for the draft.

“You knew you were living on borrowed time,” he remarks. “Every month, you looked for the letter in the mail telling you to report to the Army. When my number came up, I raced over to the naval air base and joined the Marines instead.”

“At first, we never thought we’d really kill somebody,” says Bill. “Our training put us in the mindset of killing Japanese; the dummies all had Japanese faces, we had to yell things at the targets while using the bayonet.”

November 1944 saw Bill aboard the U.S.S. Wharton, heading for the South Pacific islands of Peleliu (Palau). He recounts the initiation of the Marines by the Navy servicemen running the ship. The “rites” included tomfoolery such as walking along the rigging clad in little more than combat boots while sighting through toilet paper roll binoculars, kissing King Neptune’s daughters — “two of the biggest, fattest, ugliest, hairiest Navy guys they could find!” — and diving into the water, being sprayed with fire hoses, and shouting, “I’m a clamback!” The initiation eventually became a slugfest when some Marines wrested the fire hoses from their tormentors and blasted them, which Bill witnessed from high in the rigging.

The young officer’s initiation into war’s realities was a more serious affair. After landing on Japanese-held Okinawa on April Fools’ Day 1945, the Marines discovered that their opponents had left two-thirds of the island empty, fleeing to the mountainous terrain at one end. Using artillery mounted on railroad tracks in caves, the Japanese poured a constant, lethal rain of fire on troops trying to cross the wide valley below.

Bill’s account of the battle that ensued is as vivid as any Hollywood film, but without the gloss. “You know, in the movies, all the soldiers are shown as grown men, which is false,” he notes. “In my platoon, only one other soldier besides myself was over 21. My ‘runner’ was only 15 years old. He was from a poor family in the South; his parents had lied to get him into the service.”
Bill credits a cheap watch with saving his life during the assault on the cliffs. After an initial dawn attack by U.S. ships at sea firing long-range missiles, and Navy pilots bombing the caves from their Corsairs, the infantry was set to charge uphill at 8 a.m.

“I took two-thirds of my men (about 25 soldiers) up a long narrow hill. We were running, falling, crawling, getting back up and running again, with flamethrowers, machine guns, and other gear. We got to the top, which had been flattened by our artillery earlier. One of my fellows was killed as he dug his foxhole right above me. My runner had the radio strapped on his shoulder; when he took it off there was a bullet hole right through it — and his shoulder. So we couldn’t communicate with anyone.”
When they looked down and saw all the rest of the troops begin their charge, Bill realized his watch had been running 20 minutes fast. So many were killed, he says, including the entire remainder of his platoon.

Dug into foxholes, with no radio, his little group was forced to play a very tense waiting game through that long first day and into the night, enduring sniper fire, combat fatigue, and psychological warfare from the Japanese.

“I had two men in every foxhole, with one keeping awake at all times in case of attack. At some point in the night we heard voices calling: ‘Marines! Tonight you die, Marines!’ I went from hole to hole to check on my men, talking all the while so I wouldn’t be shot by them.” In one hole, he discovered that his machine gunner had dug himself down six feet deep; he had, Bill says simply, “cracked up.”

Later, they heard voices again, and Bill decided it must be a couple of Japanese soldiers setting up a mortar. He and another man crawled downhill with grenades in each hand. When they threw them, the flash lit up the night to reveal about a hundred combatants, who had been receiving instructions from their officers.

“I don’t know how I got up the hill; I must have flown, “ he recalls. The soldiers came after them, screaming, “Banzai!” — a kind of suicide charge by the young troops, made fearless by opium and saki.

When a grenade exploded behind Bill, his right arm took the brunt of the blast. For the next two days, with the injured limb tucked uselessly into his shirt, he was forced to fight with his left hand. Later he would receive the Purple Heart (wounded in action) and the Silver Star (valor on the field of battle), but he never regained the use of his arm, except for a finger and his thumb.

He says somberly, “Back then, we just fought hand-to-hand, face-to-face. We took no prisoners. You got them, or they got you.

“One of my jobs was to do a daily death count of both sides. [To make sure they were dead] we were to bayonet each one once in the belly. One of my men came running to me and said, ’Spider’ — my code name — ‘I can’t do it! There’s a beautiful woman down there!’

“He took me to a spot where a woman lay, with long hair flowing. She had been a ‘comfort girl,’ either a Korean or Okinawan woman forced into sexual slavery,” for the Japanese army’s use. They found two other women on the battlefield that day.

Bill then tells the story of the last man he killed, and how it altered his life.

“There was an officer wounded on the ground, and after I killed him, I collected his pistol, and a bunch of photographs. That was a Marine tradition, to get ‘souvenirs’ off the bodies — things like guns, knives, personal mementos. Later, after the heat of the battle, I was completely worn out. Then I looked at the bloody photos for the first time. They showed the man with his wife, a baby, and other family members.

“That was a day of revelation for me,” Bill states, the distress on his face still strong after 60 years. “Suddenly, I realized this was a human being, not just a rat to be killed. After that, I became anti-war.”
Bill spent the next 18 months in hospitals, battling gangrene in his arm, and the doctors who wanted to amputate. The medical men also attempted surgeries to reattach his severed nerves, but with little success. Bill notes this time as a nadir in his life. “Ididn’t know what I could do, or what I wanted to be,” he says. “And no one talked about my war experiences; they thought they weren’t supposed to.”
“The day I left the hospital, I ran into a man who changed my life,” he recalls of the new chapter that was to open up for him. Wendell Wilson had recently founded the Teton Valley Ranch in Wyoming, and offered the young veteran a job teaching children to ride horses. Bill was able to use his Marine captain skills to teach, organize and encourage youngsters in a new way.

“Being in the hospital for so long creates a lot of doubts in your head,” he remarks. “Going to a beautiful place with physical challenges, like horseback riding, hiking, and mountain climbing, changed my outlook. I owe a great debt of gratitude to [Wilson].”

How did a man with a paralyzed arm learn to be a bronco-busting cowboy? Bill smiles gleefully as he reveals that bronco riders use only their left hand for reining their mounts. Traditionally, a cowboy would keep his right hand free to wield a rifle or lasso while riding the range. Bill competed often as an amateur, winning prizes like Pendleton blankets, belt buckles, spurs, and other prizes donated by local merchants. A spectacular photo shows him in the rodeo ring, riding high on the neck of a wild mule, looking impressive — until Bill reveals, laughing, that he was in the process of being thrown from the animal.

Through college, a 37-year career teaching physical education in the Winnetka schools, 50 years as a Boy Scout leader, and long past the time when most would have gone to pasture, Bill spent 53 summers at Teton Valley, teaching all things Western to generations of children, “from those who loved horses to those who were terrified.” Boys and girls ages 10 to 15 learned responsibility by brushing, feeding, saddling and mounting their assigned mixed-breed quarter horses. Riding lessons included barrels (clover pattern), poles (slalom), and roping, and Sunday was rodeo day.

The ranch, near Jackson Hole, became a mecca for the wealthy and famous as well. Some of Bill’s students included Land Lindbergh, the son of pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh; young Bill Paxton; and a son and nephew of King Hussein of Jordan — complete with bodyguards. The movie Shane, with Alan Ladd, was filmed there, and Bill recalls chaperoning young female campers to the set to see their “dreamboat,” only to come away disappointed upon meeting a short, middle-aged actor whose wife, Bill laughs, “looked a lot like their own mothers!”

In the fall of 2002, Bill was riding his bike in Glen Arbor when a car struck him. The accident fractured his hip, among other injuries, and left him unable to continue his life’s passion, teaching at Teton Valley. “That was my favorite thing to do in the world,” the cowboy sighs. “I miss the horses, but I’m grateful for the long time I had there. I’ve made a lot of lasting friendships,” including his favorite horse General, given to him a few years ago by the ranch’s current owners. Last summer in Montana, a mutual friend arranged a reunion with Land Lindbergh, whom he hadn’t seen in 40 years. Bill travels regularly to see other ranch alumni, and this spring completed grueling back-to-back journeys to both Honolulu and Munich, Germany, invitations that were “just too good to pass up!”

At 85, Bill still seeks adventure, mostly right in Glen Arbor. He has tried storytelling at the Beach Bards’ bonfire, plays cowboy guitar, kayaks on the Crystal River, shows evidence of a strong green thumb in the garden, defeats The New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday, and enjoys gatherings with extended family.

He mentions a movie, Pass It Forward, whose plot involves the idea of bestowing the blessings or gifts that one has gotten in life to another beneficiary. Bill’s own transformation at Teton Valley Ranch inspired him to create a scholarship fund for campers. In addition, he plans to leave the bulk of his estate as a charitable trust to the ranch, so that future adventurers can learn not only how to be “plumb Westerners,” but also learn about themselves, what they‘re capable of, and hopefully, pass on their own legacies someday.

Posted by editor at August 11, 2005 12:02 PM

Mrs. Linklater comments: Funny. This article never mentions why he left his job as a teacher. Or any of the boys he invited into his tent when he was a scout leader. Or any of the kids who were in his troop who ended up committing suicide.

Link to archived comments made about the original article [now deleted] posted by Mrs. L on 11/28/12 HERE:

33 comments:

screaminremo303 said...

I was at a conference years ago listening to Dr. Gilmartin, Cop-shrink guru. Dr. Gilmartin was talking about the differences between Cops and civilians and why we are generaly regarded as assholes. He used some word-association to illustrate his point and we all voiced our perceptions on lifes professions, especially when he used "Scout Leader." The response?

"Pedophile." It was unanimous.

Scott J. said...

This is outrageous. I was a student at Hubbard Woods Elementary School and a Boy Scout in Troop 18, and I have nothing but great respect and admiration from Bill. To recklessly accuse him in this manner is unconscionable.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and so far none of these statements prove anything. Of course, with the world we live in, these kinds of accusations need to be taken seriously, but so far nothing that's been said allows us to take this seriously.

In order to even begin to substantiate such allegations, you would need to state:

(a) what specifically is the alleged misconduct?

(b) when and where did it occur?

(c) can any of this be independent verified?

(d) is there any other relevant information available?

(e) who is the accuser(s)?

Scouting certainly has had its problems, but you libel a lot of fine human beings by blindly linking everyone who's ever devoted a considerable amount of their time and energy to something as important as teaching children how to be responsible citizens and leaders.

I think an apology and a retraction is in order, unless you or someone else is able to substantiate these destructive claims.

Mrs. L said...

Along with two notable suicides, there are an additional three men I am close to who would beg to differ with you. I am quite sure they are the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run out. I have made no outrageous accusations. Only asked some pointed questions.

Scott J. said...

Mrs. L:

It goes without saying that these kinds of accusations need to be taken seriously and with respect those involved.

But your "pointed questions" are done in a manner that implies guilt. They are done without the support of any facts. And, although this may not have been your intention, they struck me as reckless and disrespectful.

The expiration of statutes of limitations has no relevance for a blog post. Rather, it simply bars civil and/or criminal adjudication of claims/charges against Bill. In your blog, you are free to say whatever you like, as is everyone else. The truth always matters, even (and perhaps especially) if it is no longer possible to involve the courts.

If credible information is out there, I am more than willing to consider it objectively. And obviously, if what is implied here about Bill were to be true, I would wholly and completely condemn such despicable and grotesque behavior. I am not here to be an apologist or a defender of such acts.

But so far, however well intentioned, what you've written proves nothing. As such, it cannot (and should not) be taken seriously if we are to live in a just society.

As such, I would respectfully ask that you either use this space to make factual, credible accusations or take down the post entirely.

To leave this as it is is a discredit to you, your blog, alleged victims, friends and former students of Bill, and to Bill himself.

We all deserve better, even on the internet.

Mrs. L said...

Tell you what, Scott, why don't you ask members of your former troop about your scoutmaster. You might learn something.

By the way, I have no intention of taking this entry down just because you're feeling some self righteous indignation. I think you've got your head in the sand and all that implies.

As you know he was a beloved teacher and scout leader. Probably the most popular teacher at his grade school. So what in the world could he have possibly done that was so egregious the Board of Education had to shorten his career? That question needs to be asked. But the Board of Education has chosen to stonewall any pursuit of the answers. For now.

Two generations of scouts in this teacher's troop have told me directly that he was inappropriate with them. But they don't want to come forward because there will be no justice. They fear embarrassment and public humiliation.

I personally know two young men who were in his troop as young boys who later killed themselves in their early 20's. Their deaths have all the hallmarks of the angst that follows inappropriate sexual contact. Who knows how many more there have been.

At the very least, haven't you ever wondered why he never married? Someone who was that handsome and charismatic, albeit very short. Didn't you ever wonder why his formerly popular troop dwindled down to nothing as the boys chose the other troop in town.

All the boys I know who have made claims to me were especially cute when they were cub scouts. They grew up to be very handsome men. Perhaps you were spared because you didn't attract his attention.

I believe what these men have told me. Separately, and on different occasions, I might add. They have no reason to lie about what happened to them. And nothing to gain. My opinion about their experiences is based on what I believe to be factual information.

I also have no obligation to prove anything to you because this is the court of public opinion, a comment section, not a court of law.

Scott J. said...

I do not want to give the impression my head is in the sand. If this is true, Bill’s actions are inexcusable. I am not an apologist or a defender for anyone. You obviously know a lot about this, but let me tell you what I know:

Bill retired from Hubbard Woods scool in ‘85, at age 65. So I am confused that you claim the school board "shortened" his career. Seems normal to retire at 65.

I was active in Troop 18 from 1987 through Bill's retirement from scouting in 1994, when at the age of 74 he moved to Michigan (where his brother lived). Bill visited often in years that followed. Nothing ever gave the impression he was being run out of town.

In the 80s and 90s, the troop was only slightly smaller than the other troop in town. We still had 25-35 kids and there were 5-6 dads attending all meetings and going on every camping trip. Some had been involved for a decade or more. After Bill left, the troop continued to exist. It did not "dwindle down to nothing" as you say. Sure, by his 70s, Bill probably did not compare as favorably to the more energetic scout leaders in the other troops, and scouting in general has declined since the 50s. So, the presence of so many other dads and generations of families up to Bill's retirement seems inconsistent with your portrayal.

Bill continued to go to the Teton Valley Ranch camp through 2002, when he was 82.

I never witnessed or heard of any kind of misconduct by Bill.

So, Bill was able to work until 65, run a troop until 74, and work at a summer camp until 82. There was never a scandal or inquiry, and he is welcomed back to Winnetka when he visits. His move to Michigan at age 74 to be with his brother is not necessarily suspicious, since Bill had no family in Winnetka, which has high property taxes that might not make sense for a retired teacher. I also believe he was married earlier in life, contrary to your assertion. That it did not work out suggests nothing. A lot of marriages fail -- for combat veterans, in particular.

One thing I did hear about Bill was his temper. I recall stories of him throwing benches and once throwing a kid into the street. I never saw him lose his temper, though when I knew him he was an old man. Corporal punishment was common in schools in the 50s, but I imagine these outbursts were disturbing for some kids. Makes me wonder if he had post-traumatic stress disorder from WWII.

Finally, people could have filed charges or otherwise dealt with Bill. The fact that he was able to stay involved with teaching, scouting, and the camp through old age means that no such effort was made. This is not surprising, as the truth can take decades to emerge and often never be dealt with directly. But there have been numerous instances with priests of people coming forward, including in particular the Cardinal Bernardin scandal in Chicago in the late 1980s, whose accuser eventually recanted.

Given all of this, I hope you can understand why it is both shocking to read these accusations... and difficult to believe them. I still think they should be taken seriously. There are enough isolated instances to raise suspicion. No one has ever told me anything like this personally, as they did to you -- but if they did, I can see how you would believe them. They're not just statements made on the internet then. But you're probably right -- it is not possible to prove anything at this point. We are left with dual legacies for Bill -- ones that are impossible to square. It is deeply troubling, if not heartbreaking. If not true, Bill is a victim. But if true, the victims are all of us. In both cases, I think we all lose.

Vince L said...

bill was abusive to me and others. he betrayed the trust others bestowed upon him as a gym instructor. he was vile, despicable and evil. The mere thought of him still has a delitorious impact on my life.

if catholic priests were held accountable decades after they committed crimes against children, why can't bill face an official investigation and possible prosecution as well?

if this bully-animal can be linked legally as a contributing factor in the suicides of former "students," the SOL should be adjusted accordingly. Murder has no SOL.

He has been a perpetrator most of his life with impunity, at least from a legal standpoint. The governing bodies owe the children/adults who were hand picked by bricker to be the victims of his felonies, whatever can be done at this time to hold him accountable. He should spend his last moments on this planet reaping the hell he has sown. He deserves prison.

Mrs. L said...

Wow, Vince, thanks for taking the time to share something that has clearly left a painful memory. I have seen how his behavior affected some people close to me. They were forever changed.

Mrs. L said...

I just received this email from someone else who was in Bill Bricker's troop:


To Whom & All:

RE:BRICKER ~ I do not intend to just pose accusations; I now ocasionally forget where I set my keys. I do have very clear recollections of my first sexual experience .
I just became aware of this blog item this morning, October 15, 2010. I'm a former PE student and troop scout of Bill Bricker. I adored Bricker's Bakery on Elm St. and adored Bill Bricker. Until reading this blog I knew nothing of Bill's military past and I know nothing of his past decades since I was at Hubbard Woods School. I do know my own personal experience with our fearless leader. The pup-tent, oh how I liked that pup-tent; and what transpired within!
There was one, and only one, other scout that had special tent privileges while I was a scout. I can't find him now. The tent, I believe, was canvas. I don't know what happened there with others. I'm certain that most were spared and retain their admiration for the "man". At that time what he did to me seemed so exquisite. Now I understand quite well. DAMN THAT "MAN"! I prefer to remain anonymous. My life has enough contemporary complications.

Yours Very Truly ~ Tent-ative

Vince L said...

Scott, I don't believe you. For you to say you'd never heard of such things about Bricker is ridiculous. He had a reputation for getting it on with pre-pubescent boys for decades dating back to the 50s. And he was not a popular personality at Hubbard Woods, ever.
Plus, don't mention in passing you heard he threw a kid in the street like it was no big deal. For Pete's sake, gym supervisors can go to jail for something like that. Kind of you to pass it off as possible PTSD.
To suggest it never dawned on you that he was a child molestor given his profile is suspicious, too. He was nevwer married. Never dated. Surrounded himself with boys ages 9-12 24/7 365 with no social life or adult friendships is rather suspicious wouldn't you say?
He tells a story of his fondest memories as a war veteran on Public Radio -you can find it- in which he recalls how his boy scout troop stood at attention better than all the other troops.
He was a son of a bitch. He was nasty. Many hated his guts.
He had framed pictures of his favorite fitth grade boys on his office desk.
I bet you are he.

Mrs. L said...

Ha, Vince, it never occurred to me that BB would stop by here in disguise to defend himself.

My family has vacationed in Jackson Hole and we know the ranch he talks about. I would love to find out if any of the kids under his supervision have stories to tell.

Scott J. said...

As I read through the comments, I grow increasingly suspicious as to the identity and the motives of the posters.

To Vince -- Nothing you describe about Bill, Troop 18, or my hometown sounds even remotely accurate. I could quickly muster at least two dozen friends to corroborate this. I tried in my second post to respectfully ask straightforward questions about whether any of this is true. Your response lacks maturity as much as it lacks integrity. Some of your assertions are just plain false, and this will be obvious to everyone who knows Bill. And to those that don't, you'll come off as angry and irrational -- and not have any credibility.

And so you know, the kid Bill "threw in the street," was a teenager who had come onto an elementary school playground and beaten a fourth grader to a bloody pulp. That Bill literally grabbed him and ran him off of the school grounds and tossed him into a quiet street so the teenager would stop beating up a kid much smaller than him seems understandable, given the circumstances.

Now, the post that Mrs. L added from "Tentative" is more straightforward. I don't dispute that these kinds of stories need to be taken seriously. However, there is a factual problem with the story that makes me question whether it is true. When we went on camping trips, Bill always rigged a Native American teepee and always slept in there with the other adults and most of the kids. (Some of us slept just outside the teepee under the stars.) So, there were no pup tents like the ones described by Mr. Tentative. And Bill never would have slept in one with just one kid. Perhaps Mr. Tentative, if he reads this, could clarify, because while I'm sure a lot of scout troops used "pup tents," Bill's troop did not.

Finally, let me say that I find this ongoing online conversation very troubling. My memories of Bill, and the memories of all my friends, are nothing but positive. Obviously, these kinds of accusations need to be taken seriously, but so far none of them are factually consistent. In effect, none of them can be taken seriously. We live in a world where it is only possible to prove people guilty. It is not possible to prove Bill innocent, but he's not guilty until he's proven so, and so far no one has proved anything.

Scott

RDsh said...

How can u still suport that man? I don't see that you don't get it? He touched, penetrated, and was naked in front of me.. I have writtin numerous times and been blown off.. Do you not think that is where you got the title? You can run but not hide? He is a discrase to men. Any chace fo salvation is up to him. I have had issues but I can't imagine his. What a crime of inoscence. Voilation!!!! email me>

Landra said...

I'm totally unable to comment on the veracity of any of the comments. However, I must take offense at "never married" and "never dated". Those phrases are bigoted code words for homosexual. We are talking about pedophilia here, which is in no way the same as homosexuality.

Mrs. L said...

Landra -- I don't think that observing that someone is single and never married is bigoted. Yes, for some, it might be a euphemism for homosexual. But we're not talking about homosexuals here. We're talking about a pedophile -- a person who has sex with children in lieu of adults.

The observation that Bill Bricker never married [he's way past 80 now] and never dated are the two most notable examples of how he fits the description of a pedophile. Plus he was an elementary school gym teacher and cub scout leader. [One commenter on here has insisted that Bricker was previously married, but in the same way he accuses most of the victims here, he has no proof.]

While there are exceptions, the general profile of a pedophile starts with "single male." Followed by "with few close friends in his or her age group, preferring the company of children over the company of adults."

While homosexuals also tend to be single, despite efforts to legalize marriage for same sex couples, most I know are in relationships, dating, or seriously looking for someone, i.e., another adult. Not Bricker.

The pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church has also confused a lot of people about the definition of homosexual v.pedophile, since priests are unmarried men. One confused young woman I talked to was shocked to hear that some of the Catholic priests' victims were young girls. She had only heard about the boys, which -- to her -- meant the pedophile priests must be gay. She extrapolated that to mean that all gay people are pedophiles. And she's not the only one. Ack.

Since posting a link to this article on my high school reunion facebook page, I've heard from other people with knowledge of the inappropriate behavior that transpired with Bill Bricker. I hope to get more comments here from other people who were around during his tenure at Hubbard Woods School.

Unknown said...

I have been thinking about this discussion a lot lately, particularly in light of yesterday’s verdict in the Jerry Sandusky trial and a story in today’s New York Times about a retired Horace Mann School teacher. I’d like to share what I’ve been thinking about…

In earlier posts, I expressed concern over the claims made about Bill Bricker.

My reason was simple: my experiences with Bill were different. They were good. They were positive. In the 10+ years I knew him, Bill was a role model and an inspirational figure in my life.

The same was true for a dozen or so of my friends involved with the Scout Troop. Ditto for all our parents, who also were extensively involved.

Nothing in our experiences with Bill would have ever suggested any kind of mistreatment or misconduct. Nothing about Bill or his life seemed odd or confusing. Nothing would give even the most causal observer any cause for concern. Quite the contrary -- to a lot of us, he was something of a legend.

So I hope all of you can understand why I was concerned over the accusations made here. I honestly wondered whether we were even talking about the same person.

That said, I did say in earlier comments that this needed to be taken seriously. I was not trying to sweep anything under the rug. And, if you look at the first comment, where the commenter basically equates all scout leaders with deviants, that is quite different than the far more personal revelations that followed later. To this day, I maintain that it is unfair and unhealthy to make sweeping generalizations about people, e.g., that if you work with kids or if you are unmarried there must be something wrong with you. I don’t think there should be a place in our society for those kinds of witch hunts.

But when it gets specific, and personal – that’s a different story.

In light of the Penn State scandal, I think one of its most important lessons is that even the most redoubtable of people can perpetrate a lie. And even the most well-intentioned of friends, colleagues, and communities can create conditions that stifle the truth and stand in the way of justice.

So I want to leave this discussion with one thing made absolutely clear: to those who feel there was something terribly amiss with Bill, I hope there is something that can be done here. These are serious, serious concerns. If the people here and elsewhere so desire, these concerns should be raised in fora that are far more substantial than a comment stream on a website. Even if statutes of limitations have long expired, and even if the prospects of the truth coming to light are dim, I would hope that this can be done in a way to ensure that some measure of justice, however inadequate and overdue, is brought for all affected and involved.

If the truth does one day come to light, and if it turns out that the man I and many, many others considered a hero is in fact the farthest thing from one, then I will pray for those who are victims and wallow in sadness for the terrible tragedy of it all. If we are to learn anything from Penn State, it’s that no claim or concern is too small to merit a thorough inquiry. This must be done with respect for all, and in a careful and dignified manner. But it must, absolutely, be done.

God bless, to all.

Scott

Mrs. L said...

Thank you for taking the time to express your position in a very even-handed and empathetic manner. I think we agree -- if there's one thing that Jerry Sandusky's trial reveals, it's that one person's hero can be another person's worst nightmare. From pedophiles to abusive family members, sexual deviance can be the flip side of outwardly respectable people.

I don't know whether you realized that the first commenter was a police officer. Not only did HE perceive scout leaders as pedophiles, but so did all the other police officers at the conference he attended. If any group of people is in a position to make judgement on this issue, it would be our first responders.

Winnetka Native said...

Take a look at the latest comments on the original article about Bill Bricker, "Old Cowboy, New Tricks" http://glenarborsun.com/old-cowboy-new-tricks-lessons-from-bill-bricker%E2%80%99s-adventurous-life/. Someone has initiated legal action about Bill Bricker and the Boy Scouts. Victims, whose identities will be kept private, are requested to contact the attorney listed in the post.

Mrs. L said...

Thanks. Here's the link to the original article -- http://glenarborsun.com/old-cowboy-new-tricks-lessons-from-bill-bricker%E2%80%99s-adventurous-life/

Rich M said...

For what it's worth, I grew up in Winnetka but went to Crow Island, then Skokie Junior High (mid to late 1960s), so Bill Bricker was never a teacher in my school. After Cub Scouts I was in Boy Scouts for just one year before leaving (for other reasons). I don't think I was in Bill Bricker's troop, and I never had any personal contact with him, other than knowing who he was (he was pointed out to me at some Scout ceremony or dinner).

The fact that he was or wasn't married or had no other social life does not impress me. With male teachers at that time one really had no idea whether any of them were married or not. It just never came up. With female teachers, one at least could deduce something from the honorific (Miss versus Mrs.), but not with male teachers.

However, I will say that even being in another troop and in another school, there were widespread rumors about Bill Bricker being homosexual. Every time his name came up in conversation, so did the reference to his being homosexual. I don't recall any specific accusations about him molesting scouts, but how else would kids in that era know something like that?

I myself recall being curious about who he was after hearing these rumors. That is what led to him being pointed out to me at the scout function where I saw him. He never "tried" anything with me (but believe me I would not have been a pedophile's first choice anyway), and I don't personally know any person who claimed he tried anything with him. I have no opinion about Bill Bricker so far as what kind of scout leader or teacher he was in other respects.

Considering how widespread these rumors were even in other scout troops and in schools where he did not teach, I find the outrage and surprise among some of the posters here defending Bill Bricker a bit disingenuous. Nevertheless, a more specific accusation should be made, and Bill Bricker should have a chance to defend, before he should have to "face the music" as so man here seem to desire.

One last note in an ironic vein. At the same time I was hearing all of these rumors about Bill Bricker, my 6th grade teacher at Skokie Junior High was one Dan Hendershott. And there was his fellow teacher and very close friend across the hall, a Mr. Belluomini. Several of the students (even some females!) expressed similar sentiments about both of them. Several students noted the Mr. Hendershott very frequently had a noticeable erection while teaching the class (I missed that, I guess), but in retrospect I have strong suspicions today that he was a having a relationship with one of the male students in the class at the time. Both Hendershott and Belluomini were gone the next year. In retrospect, I wonder if something happened involving them. In fairness, Mr. Hendershott did have my back when I was being harassed by a a bully at that time, and he wasn't half bad as a teacher either. Neither was the legendary Lola J. May, who wrote many of the math books used in Winnetka Public Schools at that time, and who also gave many presentations only on closed circuit TV). I have since heard from female students that Miss May was a lesbian and had been caught after some involvement with one or more of her students. I have no personal knowledge about that either. It does seem that in today's environment, many of us are wondering what was going on in the schools back in the day when this sort of behavior might result in discreet reassignment or discipline, but rarely prosecution.

One question I have. Does anybody here remember the Isaac Walton Lodge, where some scouting overnights were done in the 1960s? Where exactly was that place? Just curious...

Mrs. L said...

Rich,

Thank you for your observations. For clarification, I'd like to point out that confusing homosexuality with pedophilia is unfair to the gay community. They are not the same. Homosexuals are consenting adults. The rumors about Bill Bricker concerned pedophilia, his alleged preference for sex with children. The fact that he preferred prepubescent boys does not make him homosexual.

The rumors I heard about Mr. Bell's firing concerned an alleged homosexual relationship with another teacher and a cache of love letters. I can only speculate about which teacher he was involved with. I have never heard about the teacher who was said to have an erection while teaching, which my cynical nature is inclined to subscribe to active imaginations. Miss May was one of the most popular teachers at New Trier. And one of the best math teachers, ever. She was also very funny. Along with a chunk of the girls' PE department, I'm well aware that there were many lesbians at NT High School. I hope that Miss May's alleged affair with a student was just that, alleged. And she didn't succumb to bad judgment.

Rich M said...

Thanks Mrs. L,

Sounds like you were at Skokie around the same time I was. He was popularly known as "Mr. Bell". If it was another teacher that he had a homosexual relationship with, then I'm putting all my money on Mr. Hendershott without hedging. That he and Mr. Bell were very close friends was very obvious. In 1964-65 (the last year at Skokie for both) their rooms were right across the hall from each other. As for Lola May, I had no special suspicion at the time, but I first heard about her supposedly being involved in something with a female student from one of my sister's friends years later.

As far as pedophilia is concerned, I can only say that I personally knew of one male classmate who claimed that he had Mr. Hendershott's home phone number, and he would not disclose it because he was "sworn to secrecy". That same male classmate eventually made an unwanted sexual advance on me. It was others who commented on his erections in front of class, which I never personally noticed. Also, there was his distinctive snarky voice, sounding very similar to Paul Lynde at times. All of that plus the fact that both he and Mr. Bell were both gone the following year undoubtedly fed the rumors, though I didn't actually put all of this together at the time, only in retrospect years later.

I don't confuse homosexuality and pedophilia, though in some cases I certainly think both can be involved. I am just straight reporting what was said at the time. I think that pedophilia was a much less well known word back in the 1960s, as the mass media did not begin sensationalizing it and feeding hysteria about it until the late 1970s and early 1980s. So I would hear fellow students refer to Bill Bricker as a "homosexual", as that was the word they knew. Nobody used the word "pedophile". But if kids in that era actually knew that a teacher was "homosexual", then that certainly raises rhetorical questions about how some of the kids would come to know this about any adult.

wildernesslover said...

I was a Troop 18 boy scout and was molessted by Bill Bricker numerous times. My first impression of Bill Bricker as a scoutmaster was during a visit to a troop event while I was still in 6th grade over at Crow Island Woods. It was for cub scouts to get acclimated to the troop and work on their Tenderfoot requirement as early as possible. Bill was someone I was in awe of. He was not a compassionate human being. He was gruff and tough with the some of the people who didn't "get" some of the finer points of knot tying being tested that day and he was, to me, always like this and maintained very high standards by being very tough on the outside. But I didn't question his outward coldness then as I aspired to the ideals that he seemed to carry with him because of his war experiences. My experience being molested by him started in 6th grade during the winter at a Boy Scout property (Camp Dan Beard, I believe) which was used in the winter time. I was a 6th grader and this trip was the first scout campouts I experienced. Bill came around to our sleeping bags just after lights out. At first, I thought he was just tickling the other boys but soon became aware he was touching them sexually. I did not have a grasp on this being wrong, but it was uncomfortable to me. I did however enjoy the attention and afterwards, did not prevent him from repeating the behavior on later camping trips through the 8th grade. The last time he molested me was after a bicycle trip to Wisconsin. His actions brought about a revulsion that caused me to go out and throw up afterwards. He was not aware of this and I had no desire to tell him. I left the teepee and made sure no one knew I threw up. What was hard to believe was that he molest kids so openly so that anyone who was curious to what he was up to could see it and also ask around and I'm sure get educated as to what he was up to. From the talk that went around, there must have been at least a dozen boys in our troop who were molested while I was a scout. I don't know the level of pain each has had to live with all these years. There has been a huge load I've had to carry around, that's for sure. Guilt, shame, regret. Asking myself, what kind of weak person would have let that happen? I talked with my brother and he has some of the same feelings as I do. We both were affected but also refuse to let these events define our lives. Boys have been molested in every culture on the globe for thousands of years and I dare to say they probably have moved forward past these experiences in the past better than they do today with all the outrage and venom directed at pedophiles. Bill Bricker is not the only person who left a legacy of good on hundreds and thousands of young people who also violated the inner sanctums of an innocent child's sexuality.

wildernesslover said...

(cont'd) The last time he molested me was after a bicycle trip to Wisconsin. His actions brought about a revulsion that caused me to go out and throw up afterwards. He was not aware of this and I had no desire to tell him. I left the teepee and made sure no one knew I threw up. What was hard to believe was that he molest kids so openly so that anyone who was curious to what he was up to could see it and also ask around and I'm sure get educated as to what he was up to. From the talk that went around, there must have been at least a dozen boys in our troop who were molested while I was a scout. I don't know the level of pain each has had to live with all these years. There has been a huge load I've had to carry around, that's for sure. Guilt, shame, regret. Asking myself, what kind of weak person would have let that happen? I talked with my brother and he has some of the same feelings as I do. We both were affected but also refuse to let these events define our lives. Boys have been molested in every culture on the globe for thousands of years and I dare to say they probably have moved forward past these experiences in the past better than they do today with all the outrage and venom directed at pedophiles. Bill Bricker is not the only person who left a legacy of good on hundreds and thousands of young people who also violated the inner sanctums of an innocent child's sexuality. The last few decades have brought on an incredible level of public outrage that is more damaging than the event itself, in my humble opinion. To me, getting molested was a little bit like losing a wrestling match against a girl when you're in jr. high. You realize someone has exploited your innocence for their pleasure and taken advangage of your trust and admiration for the individual. I'm not talking about being sexually violated. You are either angry at yourself or them. For me it was the former. If you are around people who pick you up off the wrestling matt and chuckle and say move on, you will do that. But if losing that match has made you a disgrace to your team, you feel like an outcast and you might feel that way for a long time. If it is commonly believed that that experience will keep you from ever successfully wrestling again, it may define your childhood. With getting molested, if you are surrounded by people who think molesters are the most horrid scum of the earth who need to be locked up, then the shame and regret can be enormous and crippling. We need to be villigent and not let molesters do their thing, but we also need to be very aware of how we deal with kids who have had this experience. Often there is affection and admiration towards their "preditor" molester figures and to only paint a picture of an evil monster can be more confusing sometimes for the kid than the act itself and lead to tremendous damage. I feel sorry for Bill. I was wounded by him but I forgive him.

Mrs. L said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I notice that some of your first comment is repeated in your second. If you want to submit an edited version of the second comment to replace the one that's posted here, I can do that for you.

Winnetka Native said...

To Wildernesslover,
Please contact attorney Marc Pearlman of KFP Law at his direct line of 312-261-4554 or via email at mpearlman@kfplegal.com. Your identity will be known only to him. Other victims of Bill Bricker need your help. Thank you.

Winnetka Native said...

To Rich M, the Isaak Walton Lodge was on the west side of Portwine Road in the Lake County Forest Preserve in the Northbrook/Wheeling/Riverwoods area of Illinois. It might be the same facility that is today called Camp Dan Beard.

Winnetka Native said...

If you have any information or concerns regarding Mr. Bill Bricker, please contact Chicago attorney Marc J. Pearlman of Kerns, Frost & Pearlman at his private direct line of 312-261-4554or via email at mpearlman@kfplegal.com. Your identity will be known only to him. If you can remember circumstances, dates, or places of instances, it will be helpful. This is the website of the law firm: www.kfplegal.com/

Shame on Teton Valley Ranch Camp said...


I grew up on the Chicago North Shore and attended Teton Valley Ranch Camp for 2 summers in the late eighties. One of those summers Bill Bricker was my counselor (and leader of pack trips) Bill Bricker raped (I prefer this term to molested) me repeatedly. Sometimes his actions were done while I lied still and petrified and others forcibly while i silently tired to hold him back with all my strength.

This took place in the the late eighties nearly 20 years after credible complaints about Bill Bricker were made to officials in Winnetka. At that time Weenie Wilson founder of Teton Valley Ranch camp was aware of the accusations and kept him employed at the camp as well as defended him publicly.

In the late nineties I finally came to my senses and informed the then directors of Teton Valley Ranch Camp of my abuse in person. They seemed to remember me, they listened to me and acknowledged what they heard. It was my (naive) assumption that after that conversation the then elderly Bricker would no longer be employed at the camp.

According to the article linked below as of 2001 the camp continued to honor Bricker and take his money. Shame on Teton Valley Ranch Camp. They were were clearly made aware of these accusations more than once. I am not the only kid who had to fight off demons for years and years because they failed horribly in their sacred responsibility to keep children safe.

http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/Archives/NewsArchive/2001/010718-News.html

Mrs. L said...


At the request of the writer, I have deleted his original post and reposted it here without his full name.

PK SAYS --
I attended Crow Island School. In 4th or 5th grade I became a member of Troop 18 led by Bill Bricker. I attended a weekend trip to the Amaquansippi Trail and during that weekend Bill Bricker sexually molested me. I left Troop 18 not long after than happened and never saw Bill again.

I have moved on in my life, married, had two children and now three grandchildren.

Bill Bricker should be prosecuted, no matter how old he is and no matter how prestigious his exterior reputation is. He was, and probably still is, a pedophile.

Lynn Watkins said...

As of this date Bill Bricker has been arrested in Traverse City, MI. He will be extradited to Wyoming for crimes committed in Teton County, WY. He was arrested and taken into custody from a nursing home in Traverse City, MI. I hope this gives a sense of closure and that the many victims can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that he will soon face a judge and jury for at least one of his horrific crimes against a child.

ebierke said...

To Vince L and Mrs. L, and others who have made remarks about Bill Bricker never getting married (not that this would prove or disprove any molestation charges), please get ALL of your facts straight, because if you are wrong on one accusation you just may be wrong on others: He was married in Sep of 1968 to another teacher from the same district. Please know EXACTLY what you are talking about because I can prove you all wrong! How do I know? I WAS THERE AT THE WEDDING!! He was a hero to myself, my brother, and my family. We used to watch all the slides that he and his wife took of the lovely Teton Mountains, the horse trails, the camps, all of that, plus my brother and I went camping with Bill and his bride on Washington Island in Wisconsin where we had a campfire and cooked dinner over it, he broke out his guitar and we all learned how to sing Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through The Tulips", and had a blast! Plus the snake we caught hid out in the firewood box that we brought up, and made it back in the van all the way to their home.

Today, Oct 8th, 2014 is the first I have been made aware of this situation, and I have known the man since...1964?? I must be getting old.

I'm sorry for those of you that have had bad experiences with Bill. This blows me away. I've been wondering for the last 40 years whatever happened to him.

I hope somebody reads this, though most of these posts are at least 3 years old, and I doubt if Vince L still comes here.

Just my two cents.

Mrs. L said...

Ebierke -- thanks for your comment. I have known that Bricker got engaged for a couple of years, because I found the announcement in the Milwaukee paper awhile ago. Because I am also old, like you, I forgot that I also found the announcement of their wedding in the UW alumni newsletter.. But I really wanted better corroboration. And I got it thanks to the readers of this blog. Having corroboration from people who were actually at the wedding was the best. You are like a lot of people, who had absolutely no idea what Bricker was up to. This has been especially hard for scouts and campers who loved him like the WWII hero he seemed to be. On the other hand, I have had friends and family affected by his pedophile behavior. He is arguably the reason that my high school bff's brother [an Eagle Scout] committed suicide in college after he began hearing voices in high school.