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Gary Houfek is more than just a history teacher. He has a humorous personality, boisterous laugh, knack for “speaking” to crows and a massive cheese hat to boot.
Of all the teachers at Los Alamos High School, none has more craze and charisma than Houfek, which makes for an unforgettable character. He grew up in Wisconsin, the land of cheese and Green Bay Packers, back in the days when, according to him, “you earned an A!”
Teen Pulse staff members Owen Bradbury-Aranda, Alexandra Hehlen, Kenzi Hunsaker and Lily Johnson put the teacher to the test and asked him a few questions about his life in high school.
Where did you go to high school?
“Appleton West High School, in Appleton, Wis. I graduated in 1971. My first year after high school I worked for the FBI in Washington, then I went to Madison and I was actually contemplating pre-law. But by the ’70s, I just wasn’t into it.
What were you like in high school?
“Believe it or not, I was pretty much a knucklehead. I was manager of the basketball team and we took state junior year.”
How did you end up in Los Alamos?
“My sister and brother-in-law had lived here and my parents and I would come out and visit in the summer. One summer, my sister told me that there were job openings at the high school, I didn’t get the job. The next summer, I came back and it was the same situation, but this time I got the job. The land of entrapment!”
What did you like to do in high school?
“Well I was president of the senior class. All the seniors that were graduating voted me in, it was their senior prank.”
Were you a good student?
“Yeah, a 3.5 (GPA). And that was back when you earned an A! Earned an A, I said!”
Who was your favorite music artist?
“During high school it (was) the Beatles. The early ’70s (was) Bob Dylan, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead.”
What was the most rebellious thing you did in high school?
“There was the Vietnam War protest (at) Kent State and my German teacher said she wouldn’t mark us absent if we went to this little protest in downtown Appleton. There were about four or five of us and we drove down there, and there were like 50 people doing a protest. The next night in the paper, in the picture — if you looked at it closely — you would have recognized my dad’s car in the background, but fortunately he didn’t (recognize it). We all got disciplined because the school found out that we had ditched class.”
What was your best memory?
“Winning the state championship for basketball. I was manager of the team my junior year. (Another great memory was) the Ice Bowl game when the Packers beat Dallas. My sister and I were at that game in 1967. My toes still don’t work.”
What was your favorite class?
“I did like history.”
What did you study in college?
“I majored in political science and minored in U.S. History.”
What was the biggest technological advancement when you were young?
“When I was a kid, I always bought 45s — that’s a record with a song on each side. Then music went to albums and that was a big deal because the 45s were cheaper. Another big one is when they started making cars that when you turned the car off, the lights were off. See when I grew up the lights never went off. You had to push (a) knob. It was a constant, ‘did I turn the lights off?’ You know, that is one of the best things that ever happened, cars with lights (that) go off automatically.”
How do you think this generation’s students are different from the students back when you went to high school?
“I never missed school. It seemed like kids were always in school. You were expected to do the work and you just did the work. TV was the only distraction back then. But now with video games and (smart phones) the focus is different. It seems like (there are) a lot more reasons to be absent from school nowadays.”
Since when have you been a Green Bay Packers fan?
What were some of the biggest events, for you, that occurred during the early 1970s?
The Ice Bowl, the state championship in basketball and Nixon resigning.
Why do you yell at crows?
“I don’t yell at them, I speak to them. I speak ravenese. (I tell them) ‘good morning, how you doing?’ Things like that. Caw, caw, caw! They love talking back.”
What is one of the main reasons you are still at LAHS?
“The weather — there’s no wind chill and there’s no humidity — and you kids!”