Grad shares ‘Sugar’ sweet memories of ‘Great White Nope’

MEMORIES—Class of 1984 graduate Kim (Tucker) Bartlett holds classmate Chris Carlson's time capsule contribution of a poster of his idol, CMU's standout basketball player, Melvin "Sugar" McGlaughin. Sugar regularly poured in 40 points per game during that era.

MEMORIES—Class of 1984 graduate Kim (Tucker) Bartlett holds classmate Chris Carlson's time capsule contribution of a poster of his idol, CMU's standout basketball player, Melvin "Sugar" McGlaughin. Sugar regularly poured in 40 points per game during that era.

by CLIFF & NANCY HILL
and CHRIS CARLSON, RHS class of ’84

In covering the time capsule story in the Tuesday, June30, 2009 edition of The Rockford Squire, we communicated with Rockford High School (RHS) centennial class of 1984 members from all over the country and the world.

One such ’84 graduate was Chris Carlson. Chris is the grandson of Ted Carlson, after whom the RHS football stadium was named the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium (“The Ted”). At the RHS graduation ceremony in 1984 his proud father, Dave Carlson, who at the time was a Rockford School Board Member, presented Chris his diploma. Chris, now 43, works and resides in Tokyo, Japan. Chris knows a thing or two about the newspaper business. He is employed as the news bureau chief of the Far Eastern Division of the Stars and Stripes Armed Services Newspaper.

We contacted Chris to see if he would share any memories of his RHS years and what, if anything, he might have placed in the centennial class of ’84 time capsule.

Chris recollects what he placed in the time capsule and has a great story to go along with it. We loved the story and believe you will too, especially guys.

This is superior storytelling, the likes of which you would seldom read in a “local” newspaper (except for the Squire, that is!).

So here in an endearing and self-deprecating style is Chris’ story in his own words:

In the time capsule there should be a poster of former Central Michigan University (CMU) basketball star Melvin “Sugar” McGlaughin. I doubt if anyone from my class will remember the story behind the poster, although there may be a couple of guys.

Anyway, Melvin was guard out of Creston High who could shoot from downtown. When I was in high school, I remember watching him pour in 40-plus points during a couple of games at CMU. This was before Dan Marjerle put CMU’s basketball program back on the map. Although Melvin’s teams didn’t do much in the league standings, he always put on a show and he was my idol.

As for me, during my freshman and sophomore years at Rockford I played basketball. Well, to say I “played” is overstating it. You see, my skills were more up to par with someone nicknamed “The Great White Nope” than with the sweet-shooting Sugar. I was slow, shot (pushed is more like it) the ball from my chest and couldn’t touch the backboard if my life depended on it. A nine-inch vertical will do that to you. But boy could I put on clinic during pre-game warm-ups. I’d dribble between my legs and around my back and then make some funky pass that I had no idea where it was going. You could say I was a First Team All-American when it came to warming up. But when the game started, I would find my rightful place at the end of the bench and cheer on my teammates. And I could yell with the best of them-still can. When I did get into a game, I did what any team-oriented scrub does: fire that rock up whenever the chance came.

During my sophomore season, I started calling myself “Melvin.” To be honest, the moniker didn’t help my game or my playing time, but I didn’t care. In my own little world, I thought I was as sweet as “Sugar.” And, believe it or not, there was one game where I proved I had the touch from downtown.

It was against West Ottawa. Let me set the scene:  Nine seconds left in the fourth quarter and we’re only down by… 37 points. Yep, it was my time to shine. Yep, I was the kind of player you put in with only nine seconds left and the game completely out of reach. But I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get on the floor.

Since I was a point guard-they had to label me something in the program-I received the out-of-bounds pass from Kurt Clark and brought the ball up the court, not forgetting to dribble a couple of times between my legs and around my back for good measure. As I crossed half court, I noticed Dennis Cavner wide open under the basket, flailing his arms to get my attention. Although I knew he had an easy two if I shoveled the ball his way, I could feel it was my night to shine. So as the clock ticked down, I stopped at the top of the key and fired up the most beautiful shot. (The ball was actually a knuckle-curve that was anything textbook, but as you get older it’s nice to put a little polish on your memories.) SWISH! Nothing but net. Me and the rest of the scrubs actually ran off the court in celebration.

Yeah, back in 1984, Rockford wasn’t a powerhouse like it is today. Kentwood ruled the conference, so we took pride in the little victories, even if it was a shot from a scrub.

I didn’t play varsity basketball. In fact, during my senior year I put my vocals to use as the PA announcer during the games. That was more up my alley, but I’ll always cherish those nine seconds at West Ottawa when “Melvin” hit the big shot.

I’m sure there will be other trinkets in the capsule that will only have special meaning to a person or two. So there’s the story behind the poster.

I can’t believe it’s been 25 years, although my graying hair and beard say otherwise. Although I won’t be there to celebrate and reminisce with my classmates, I will be thinking of them as the memories pour out from the time capsule.

Thanks for contacting me. Ya know, even though I live in Japan, Rockford will always be home.

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