Eric Lian carries the Olympic torch through a mass of enthralled elementary students to start Award Ceremonies in the 1992 Mt. Eccles Olympics. Photo courtesy of Trudy Bendzak

Ah, what wont make the news these days.

Headlines, Anchorage DailyNews, March 1, 2020 edition: JBER airman demoted for peeing in office coffeemaker.

A Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson airman was demoted and receiveda letter of reprimand for peeing in his squadrons office coffee maker, statesthe article.

Formally charged as a violation of Article 92, dereliction of duty,the unnamed airman knew or should have known to refrain from urinating inthe squadron coffee maker, according to the redacted charge sheet.

Hmm. One would hope so.

And it gets better.

The incident occurred sometime between Jan.1 and Oct. 31, 2019,but the document does not stipulate how the crime was discovered.

Wait a minute. Thats 10months. Did this occur more thanonce? No wonder the office workers weregrumbling about bad coffee every now and then.

Was it an uptick in use of cream and sugar that created suspicionthat something was amiss?

Regardless, the crime was certain newsworthy, as there always hasbeen peculiar fascination with functions of the excretory system, right?

Why, I can recall a popular CHS Wolverine Cheering Section chantin the 1980s when Valdez came over for basketball games.

Give me a U, give me a R, give me an I, give me an N, giveme an E. Whats that spell? URINE, screamed the student body. Whats that mean? URINE Wolverine Country!

The message to the Buccaneers was quite clear, and were nottalking about peeing in a coffee pot.

However, it turns out this by-product of our excretory systemgained even more brief but famous notoriety at Mt. Eccles Elementary.

Many may not know that Cordova has the only couple to both benamed Alaska Teacher of the Year, in Trudy (Bodey) Bendzak and Jerry Bendzak.

Trudy was honored in1975. She taught First Grade that year,and emphasized basics, including spelling.

Jerry taught P.E. in the schools low-ceilinged basement. It was originally intended for storage butconverted to a cement-floored open area known as the Hound Pound.

Benzak knew how to motivate and excite youngsters, but languagearts were not his forte.

From 1978 to 2000, Bendzak ran an Mt. Eccles Olympics coincidingwith the Summer Olympics, which occur every four years.

During those special years, he selected 18 countries, put theirnames in a hat, and had kids from Grade K-6 draw the team they would be on fora wild variety of Olympic events. Theyincluded both team events such as balloon volleyball and scooter hockey, aswell as individual events such as races around the school, beginning with 1/8mile for the Kindergarten (1 lap) through a full mile (8 laps) for the 6thgraders.

The kids learned all about their respective countries; and thewalls of Mt. Eccles auditorium were adorned with flags of each they had made,which included slots to display the medal counts as the events were completedthroughout the year.

Bendzak even found tapes of the national anthems for each country,which were played as event winners came up on stage to receive their gold,silver, or bronze medals, which included a Mt. Eccles logo, and were meticulouslyengraved with the names of the winners.

The program was a resounding success, and the awards ceremonieswere big events. This was years beforethe recent addition and remodeling of Mt. Eccles, and they were held in apacked cafeteria/commons, with proud parents on hand along with all thestudents.

Before one of the presentations in 1992, Bendzak decided to talkabout the Olympic Flame. He had a smallwooden model of the torch on a dowel which a student (in this case Eric Lian)held high while running into the auditorium and pretended to light the Olympicflame to start the ceremony.

Bendzak then explained the device that held the flame throughoutthe real Olympics was called an urn.

Perhaps inspired by the puzzled look of the kindergarteners in thefront row, he then proceeded to spell it:

U R I N E.

To this day, he remembers my wife Sue, who was teaching thirdgrade at that time, frantically shaking her head.

All the other teachers at the back of the room who werent bentover laughing were frantically waving their hands in the universal sign forNO!

But the damage was done.

A whole generation of Cordova students would never spell urncorrectly.

But they were ready when the Valdez Buccaneers came to town.

Cordova Chronicles: Just when you think you've heard it all - Cordova Times

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