Running up and down telephone poles, putting out fires, and causing mischief around the town is how Donald Hayes lived his life. He was born in Lyons across from the school and grew up in that same house. He got in trouble just like every kid, but in some creative ways.
“After the war with Japan,” he said, “there was a big bonfire on Main Street and we would go steal apples because that was the only time we wouldn’t get caught.”
During the summer the streets would be as hot as lava so when Don and the neighbor kids wanted to go swimming, he would give them all rides on his bike to the pool. It wasn’t just carpooling kids that made his summers busy. He also had a variety of jobs from working at the gas station to mowing lawns to painting barns.
When he wasn’t causing trouble or working he was playing sports. He played basketball and football in high school and his football coach went on to help Nebraska go to the Rose Bowl. One moment he remembers from basketball is that he got $2 for making the game-winning shot against Tekamah and was told that he could play in the pros because of it.
He was one of 32 in his senior class and after graduating he was drafted into the Army in 1952. The following year he was on his way to Korea and said it wasn’t too memorable. It was just a little over a year when he came back to the United States and started work in South Dakota and then later on in Fremont.
He then came back to Lyons to work for the telephone company and soon married his wife Ilene on September 15th, 1957. They both worked for the telephone company and met each other at a party for those telephone companies.
His life of mischief did not end after he graduated. Not only did he climb up telephone poles, but he also fell off a couple. As if falling off telephone poles weren’t enough, he also spent 25 years as a volunteer fireman. He remembers a time where the old elevator caught on fire and all the sirens were going off, but somehow he slept through it.
One of the challenges that he has had to overcome is cancer. He said that the toughest part about it all was the day when the doctor told him that he had cancer.
Change in Lyons is one thing that he has noticed. “Saturday nights were the big thing back then,” he said. He used to go skating, bowling, and saw a movie almost every Saturday. Some more events that he really loved were going to the state basketball games.
The whole town would go and it was an amazing sight. “The last person in the gym was the one who shut off the lights,” he said. Donald Hayes has lived one heck of a life and I’m glad I’ve been able to hear it.
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