Boogie must have written checks. I’m sure of this, yet in all my years working at Leo’s Country Mart, I can’t recall having any idea what his real name might have been.
Boogie was Boogie — a man displaying a boisterous antagonism that helped cover up a seemingly good heart.
When I heard the news that Boogie had died, I felt the sadness. Then I had to try and explain to others who this man was, which proved extremely difficult to do. His story seemed important, but how could I write it without knowing his name.
Besides, maybe I was the only one with fond memories of a man who could easily be seen as more crotchety and hurtful than friendly.
Turns out I wasn’t alone, and with help from a local TV report, I now feel more comfortable sharing a little about Edward Kline, better known as Boogie. If nothing else, Weston, Mo. and the surrounding region lost a memorable character when Boogie died just before the July 4 holiday.
To know Boogie was to be confused by Boogie.
I knew Boogie for his approach to the checkout lane at the grocery store, his gruff voice alternating between a sarcastic but friendly greeting to barking out specific instructions. He generally either came through chewing on a cigar or with tobacco on his lips.
Yet, that didn’t tell the full story of Boogie.
No, Boogie was known as a mischievous but caring bus driver in the West Platte School District. The story goes that he once bought a van just to help transport a special needs student to and from school. Boogie attended sporting events like religion, providing plenty of critique for players and coaches but also being one of the first to congratulate them on accomplishments.
Boogie became so well known that Penney High School graduate and current University of Wyoming football player Kellen Overstreet tweeted out the following after learning of the avid fan’s death: “Always enjoyed talking with him at West Platte sporting events. I’ve never seen him without a smile! Rest in Peace.”
And oh the nicknames Boogie gave out.
If you encountered Boogie and he liked you, he would always remember your name. That was probably easy because he made up a nickname for you. From the reminiscing I’ve seen, some made much more sense than others.
As I said, Boogie was a regular at Leo’s, and I worked a lot during high school and my early college years. I saw him a lot, and he got to know me.
I think I had another nickname, but eventually, he settled on calling me “Greased Lightning,” or more accurately “lightnin’” when he said it.
I can explain.
I’m not sure how he even figured it out, but my senior year, I played Sonny in Platte County High School’s performance of “Grease.” This was the first theater production held in the school’s auditorium, completed, I believe, in the spring of 2001. I still have copies of the musical on VHS if you’re interested.
As usual, there was a little publicity surge for people to come. I’m not sure how Boogie heard about it — maybe just talking to me or in the newspaper — but he loved the idea of me being on stage and performing.
So I became Greased Lightning. Sigh.
I lived with this for years after my graduation until I moved away from my grocery store job and into journalism. Being at a newspaper in St. Joseph, I would occasionally see Boogie but never really talked to him, always assuming I was a distant memory at that point.
This past winter, I walked into a crowded North Platte High School gymnasium, stopped in the entry way and started scouting for my best spot. I found myself standing next to Boogie, who slowly turned and looked in my direction.
Focusing intently, Boogie took a moment and a smile curled up on his face, “Greased Lightnin’,” he said. I acknowledged and asked how he was doing. This would be the last time I saw Boogie, and the poignancy of the moment stuck with me during the past couple of weeks.
Boogie never forgot a name, as long as you didn’t expect him to call you by the one given to you at birth. Greased Lightning will miss your playfully cantankerous attitude, and Platte County lost a truly memorable character.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.