50 stories for 50 years: ‘Midnight Riders’ Cruise Kennedy; Bicycles are Seen Riding the Halls

Mady Kircher, News Editor

50 Stories for 50 Years is a yearlong series, written by Hannah Ratzer and Mady Kircher. Throughout the 2017-2018 school year we will be republishing stories from all 50 years of past publications. We hope to show off Kennedy’s rich history and success through this series.

In 1972, janitors were more than just cleaners, they were guards.

The following is pulled from Volume V, Number 7  of the Kennedy High School Torch, published on Thursday, February 17, 1972.

‘Midnight Riders’ Cruise Kennedy; Bicycles are Seen Riding the Halls

If you should ever find yourself wandering about the halls of Kennedy High School late some evening, say around 12 p.m., keep a look out for three characters riding through the building of bicycles or motorcycles.

DON’T PANIC, or think of doing anything rash- these “Midnight Riders” are not vandalists; they are custodians who work at JFK from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., seven nights a week.

These custodians ride the bicycles around because it’s quicker and easier than going on foot. “Try walking from pool area to boilers three or four times in a row- you’d prefer aa bike too” explains Larry O’Brien night custodian. Larry owns a ’67 BSA “chopper” motorcycle which he rides to and from work during warmer weather. He keeps it in the shop room behind the stage when he is working.

William Helm and Don Dixon are the other two janitors working the late shift at JFK. As custodians, their duties include general maintenance work- cleaning floors, windows, desk- as well as keeping a watch on the building.

Helm, who was formerly employed at Cedar Rapids Washington, stressed that, “My most important job is guarding the building from vandalism, and to keep watch on the mechanical process like the boilers and lights.

In charge of second floor, O’Brien would prefer working a day shift, “taking care of teacher’s needs.” He believes that working the night interferes to a certain extent with his social life. In contrast, Dixon says he likes “working the night shift because everyone is out of the way and he has less work to do. He maintained that “Teachers are too demanding: always yellin for something else. As far as interfering socially, Dixon disagrees because, “You always have the weekends!”

Practically alone for eight hours a day these men, seemingly, would have a lot of time to think or become lonely. However, Helm fins that he is never lonely because, “there is always so much work to do.”

O’Brien finds his thoughts centered on “Everything. Why I don’t have a million dollars or why I need a million. I only see the other guys at lunch so I start talking to the rabbits in the science rooms.” He adds that they are not very good conversationalists.

“It gets pretty spooky in the auditorium around midnight, especially when the pipes start rattling,” according to Dixion.

Cedar Rapids school buildings are patrolled 24 hours a day, sometimes by these janitors, sometimes by members or the Cedar Rapids police force. Helm believes that such watch-dog activities help tremendously to cut down on the amount of vandalism, people still attempt to enter the buildings.

On the first night after school started this year Dixion reported that “two men on a motorcycle tried to remove the sliding glass door in the home economics area from its track. Another incident occurred after several kids threw a couple of hammer hatches through some windows. These windows cost the tax payers 500 dollars apiece to replace.

One-night last summer Dixon discovered a girl of high school age sleeping outside the building. She told him that she “had no place else to sleep that night.

“These custodians are also in charge of replacing and repairing items which are broken or removed during an act of vandalism. In the past these items have included fixing broken chairs in the cafeteria as well as installing new partitions in the restrooms.

As a plea to the students O’Brien asks that the students refrain from writing on the desks. He reads them all and adds, “There is nothing I haven’t read.”