(After a dozen Jackson High School Reunions and opportunities to speak as adults to the adults that taught us, a revelation about each of our teachers emerged for many of us. They were human, caring, compassionate people who we frequently misunderstood… and who sometimes misunderstood us as well.
But as time went on, it was possible to connect with many of these teachers on a personal level. Some of us did. The following is a story from Steve Hamilton, who graduated in 1963 and who, like many of us, feared as much as respected Mr. Pechonick.)
No one that entered the world of John Pechonick came away unaffected. He was a masterful teacher and a coach that unrelentingly challenged his players on the field. He possessed an uncanny ability to help everyone around him excel. He could intimidate and stimulate at the same time.
He could turn a piece of chalk into a cloud of dust in a blink of the eye. (He would throw it against the chalk board with enough force to render it to dust, with a sound that would wake up everyone in the room… and in the next classroom).
This was John Pechonick at Jackson High School; but, what do you know about this teacher out of the class-room?
In the mid-eighties I found a new hobby, collecting and restoring anything old and coin-operated; jukeboxes being at the top of the list. Soon after buying out most of the old radio and TV repair shops around Jackson, I received an improbable and startling telephone call. John Pechonick invited me to his house. If you are reading this and never new Mr. Pechonick you may not appreciate the honor/horror potential in the previous sentence.
Late that same afternoon I reunited with Mr. and Mrs. Pechonick. The common factor being antique electronics. That day John became my teacher again; but, this time was very different. We became great friends. Two or three times every month we were together in his shop working on his old radios and my old jukeboxes. I provided most of the old parts and John the electrical knowledge. I didn’t charge him for hundreds of old discontinued, impossible to find tubes and parts, or the technical manuals on all the extinct equipment. (It was impossible to read the stuff without an engineering degree). He never charged me for his expertise either. We developed a wonderful, personal relationship that I cherish to this day.
In the early 90′s he bought a mini-van, to load the floor model radios. John called with some concerns about what he had just purchased. When I arrived at his house, he opened the hood, then looked back at me with a combination of anxiety and confusion as he pointed to the empty space. Where is the engine?
I tilted the driver’s seat and pointed at the little 4 cylinder engine below it. He stood looking at that engine, silent… as he thought about it. Finally he said “lets go get a cup of coffee”. He never mentioned the van again. A week or so later, John and I were working in his shop, I noticed the car he had traded-in for the van was back in the carport. He must have returned the van the afternoon the motor went missing and reversed the deal. I never asked him.
The day John and Sarah left Jackson to return to Lawrenceburg, Sarah handed me the green and red 1950′s Coke clock that hung over her desk at school. John handed me a little bit of his heart, he did not want to leave home. We both were moved to tears standing in their front yard on Westmoreland. The moving van, Sarah, John and John Jr. left Jackson for the last time. I stayed by myself till dark, trying to cope with the loss of a great friend, one that I never expected to have. Steve Hamilton JHS 1963.
New Bridge Bio Films