Reilly returning to his roots

by marlys good

Describe in your own words what it was like to grow up in Greybull, we asked 1948 GHS grad Bill Reilly. The retired lieutenant colonel, who lives in Missouri, summed it up in three words: “What a dream.”

He is coming back to Greybull next week to recapture part of that dream, and to share with his daughters and extended family memories of his old stomping grounds, although they have changed a lot in the ensuing 60 years.

The Friends of the Library will host a small reception for the Reilly clan from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, July 29, at the Greybull Public Library. Friends are welcome to stop in, have some light refreshments and a cold drink, and visit with Reilly and his family.

It’s altogether fitting that the reception is at the Greybull library as Bill’s parents, Earl and Barbara, donated the land for the library in the late 1960s. The Reillys were long-time Greybull residents where Earl first was the manager, then part-owner of the Greybull Elevator; they later built the Reilly Motel, now the K-Bar; were active in various civic organizations and were dedicated members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Bill left Greybull in July 1948, headed to West Point. West Point was not his first choice for college/career. He shared, “I expected to go to the University of Wyoming; my folks were thinking of Gonzaga in Montana, but Dick Krajicek had me scared about all the discipline they had there. So When Sen. E. V. Robertson talked to Supt. Quigg about West Point appointment, I agreed to at least look into it.”

The rest is history. His career in the army has taken him all over the world, and his visits to Greybull have been dictated by brief vacations, furloughs, etc.

But his memories of his hometown grew fonder as the years went by.

They go way back to “Mrs. Foe’s kindergarten to Harvey Michaels, Nellie Fletcher, J.C. Quigg — the whole bunch. That (last) trio really got me excited about science, and the atom. And then the A Bomb, which blew much of my learning out the window, so I had to learn more about that field. I learned a lot of geography by plotting World War II with pins on a map on my wall.”

He had “fantastic friends,” and recalls that “I was high scorer with the mighty Greybull Junior High Dinosaurs one time with eight points.” And then there are his memories of playing in the band. Said Reilly, “I was the biggest kid in the sixth grade so I got the tuba.” His recollections go back to high school basketball, and football plays on the “Rocky Clod Bowl, GHS initiation dodging seniors to avoid being driven out of town, being de-panted and having to walk home.” In an aside, high school initiations are long-gone, but remain some of the funniest memories of alumni of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Reilly will enjoy sharing memories of the first Days of ’49 celebrations, high school proms, local dance bands, The College Inn, popular teen hangout right across the school from the main entrance to the high school; Rexall Drug and chocolate cokes, and Harry and Helen Kimball’s Helenary Shop.

He has already shared stories with his daughters about camping, Tin Can Alley, the fort he and his friends had in an abandoned refinery tank near the river, Sheep Mountain Cave and “trying to stay awake for Midnight Mass and the heavenly Sacred Heart Choir.”

But most important are “the local World War II heroes and the general kindness, courtesy, decency and patriotism of the town. There was no way, even in some dark hours, that I could slink home and face that crowd.”

As natives of small towns have learned, the best thing about the small town is that everyone knows you; the worst thing about a small town is that everyone knows you.

Join Bill at the Greybull library, meet his family and reminisce with him about days of yore in Greybull.