Thursday, May 31, 2012

SATCH


We called him “Satch.”

The younger Satch


It has been over 40 years since Satch was last seen in downtown Sutton. Before that, he was a daily fixture, walking the downtown streets, greeting everyone, running errands, talking to himself, auctioneering off parked cars and doing all the things that made him Satch.

When Satch died, the newspaper tribute included these words:

“He was a man who had dedicated his active life in the service of others. He was a man who looked upon everyone as a friend. He was a man who was loved and respected by all who knew him. He was the kind of man whom the great Greek philosopher searched for in vain, an honest man.”

Then the tribute went on to say some nice things about him.

Almost two generations of Sutton residents know Satch only by legend, if at all. They need to know that for decades, Satch was at the top of the list of what those in nearby towns thought of when they thought of Sutton. You did not forget Satch.

I do not know the clinical name for Satch’s “condition,” nor am I certain of the cause of his condition. Some of us recall talk of an accident or perhaps an illness, but it is likely that Satch was born with his condition. We only knew Satch as a grown man with the mental capacity of a youth, or maybe a child.

It had to be awkward for strangers when they first encountered Satch, a grizzly man behaving quite beyond the bounds of “normal.” I remember my Mother trying to dispel my fear of this strange man on our Saturday night trips to the creamery and downtown stores. I wish I could remember what she said then that “explained” him.

Satch was born in the German-Russian village of Balzar on September 18, 1905, the first child of Alexander and Katherine Idt. He was given his father’s name and technically went through life as Alexander Idt. I suspect a few who knew him are learning his real name for the first time.

The Idt family included little brother William when they immigrated to Sutton in 1910; George was born about a year later, John in 1907 and a little girl, “Eugene” came along about 1921. Satch’s father died in 1924 leaving Katherine with boys of 18, 16, 13 and 6 and her three-year old daughter.

If Satch’s was a congenital condition, then it would have shown up before they emigrated though he was “normal” enough to take on a daily newspaper route of 150 customers as a boy where he became known for reliable, all-weather service according to that newspaper tribute.

As an adult Satch led a very busy life running errands for the elderly, delivering packages for businesses, doing yard work and other odd jobs collecting payment in nickels, dimes and quarters that all went home to Mom.

Shoemaker Clint Carl had the contract to carry mail between the Depot and the Post Office that was on the north side of today’s Cornerstone Bank. Satch was his unofficial, faithful assistant. One of my indelible memories is of Satch pulling a large two-wheel cart, faded red I think, or was it green, between those two destinations. What ever happened to that cart? Is there a picture of Satch and his cart somewhere?

Satch was an auctioneer. Well, not quite. He mimicked Henry Bergen’s auctioneer call with a contagious enthusiasm. He would stop two or three people on the street and proceed to auction off a parked car with price calls that climbed and then dropped to a final sale price that was generally “a quarter.” School kids walking from the school house to lunch at the old auditorium were spectators to his sale of Bauman’s Farmall Tractors across the street.

Before the Tuesday afternoon livestock sales at the old sale barn east of the highway, Satch would climb into the auctioneer’s booth and conduct his own imaginary sales followed by his weekly rendition of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” When it was time for sales to start, Henry Bergen would take over from Satch after buying him a piece of pie and a cup of coffee at the barn’s lunch counter.

Satch contributed much to Sutton and the people of Sutton looked out for him. From time to time someone tried to take advantage of Satch but Sutton residents had Zero Tolerance for such behavior.

When Satch’s clothes became a bit threadbare, business men would chip in for new clothes at Abbie Griess’s men’s clothing store.

Those who knew Satch have been waiting for this next story. Satch was a fan of Sutton High athletics.

Coach Miller, Satch and Coach Kaeding

No, that does not really describe Satch’s relationship with Sutton High. To say that Satch was a Sutton fan is like saying Puccini wrote some nice music, or that a pair of aces is a good start in Texas Hold-em.

Satch lived for Game Day. He was Sutton High’s Promoter Extraordinaire. He could not contain himself as he walked the downtown streets. “Go Sutton” and “Sutton’s gonna win” were only two of the lines he’d shout to no one in particular. He’d step into each store and shout, “Ballgame tonight!”

Satch was the Water Boy for the football and basketball teams. He loved every player and every coach. As far as I know, every coach fully accepted Satch’s role on their teams. The front seat on the team bus was his. And when the Pep Band broke into the Sutton Fight Song, it was generally under the capable direction of their No. 1 fan.

Satch was struck by a car one night after a game, probably in the 1940’s. He had a broken pelvis and other fractures. He spent two months in the hospital and another four months bedridden. A downtown collection covered his hospital bill plus the purchase of a sweater with a big “S” on the front. At halftime of a basketball game the Pep Band played the fight song as Satch stepped out to conduct, as usual. As the song ended, a small group walked out to Satch and presented him with his Letter Sweater. Satch had a big smile as he put on his new favorite sweater while every spectator reached for their handkerchiefs to get “something” out of their eye.

So far, no one has pinpointed exactly when or how Satch’s schtick ended, I was not living here and hope someone can fill in that detail. It seems that he faded from the scene more than stopped. He was slowing down in the early ‘60’s and his mother died in 1965. His eyesight failed and his brothers in Kearney moved him to a home.

One day at the home Satch was sitting in his room at the window – perhaps he could still detect light – when Coach Jim Kaeding from “way back” came to visit him. Coach Kaeding quietly opened the door and paused. He said, “Hello, Satchmo.”

Satch threw his arms into the air and shouted, “Yeah-bo, Coach Kaeding.”
Portrait of Satch on the south wall of Maury's in Sutton

Alexander Idt died on July 29, 1976. He was buried at the Sutton cemetery in his letter sweater.

- Jerry Johnson, December 2011

This article first appeared in the January, 2012 issue of Sutton Life Magazine. For more information about this local Sutton publication contact Jarod Griess at neighborhoodlife@yahoo.com or at www.suttonlifemagazine.com or at 402-773-4203.

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