CUYAHOGA FALLS — A retired newspaper man is sharing his memories of growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, attending classes (and parties) at Kent State University and losing his deferment in his new book, "Virginity Lost in Vietnam."
Self-published through a partnership with Act 3 in Cleveland, Lange’s coming-of-age memoir is a detailed account of Lange’s idyllic childhood playing in the woods around Water Works Park, working at Stutzman’s Foodliner, looking for love in places like the Dome in Kent, and being sent to Vietnam where he and America lost their innocence.
Born in Pennsylvania, Lange grew up on East Bailey Road in the Falls and graduated from Falls High in 1967. He writes about first noticing girls at Price Elementary School and getting closer to them at Price Junior High during after-school dance classes taught by Charles "Charlie" Boyd.
He tells of the friends he ran with at Stutzman’s who greased their hair and caused trouble in their neighborhood. A front-page story in The Falls News called them a "teen-age gang" and described a series of violent encounters and truancy issues involving the boys.
"Virginity Lost in Vietnam" does not focus on the bloody battles of Vietnam. Instead, the stories explore the hearts and minds of the men who served in Vietnam. Throughout the book, Lange mixes his own experiences with details of what was going on in Ohio, America and the world at the same time.
"That era in our country’s history is most interesting to my generation, but is interesting overall because of the friction that engulfed the country and what we grew up with at that time," Lange said. "I did a heck of a lot of research and fortunately I had the Internet to save time."
Lange said he spent about four years writing his book. During the first three years he got about half of it done while he was still working part-time. After he retired in 2016 he was able to write the other half in a year. Lange is frank in his storytelling, sharing intimate details of sex, war and racism.
Major influences in his life, Lange said, were his sixth-grade teacher Mr. Hibbard at Price Elementary who got him interested in geography by showing him how to read and draw maps. He said his Boy Scout leaders and his swim coach, Tod Boyle, were also inspirations.
After serving two years in Vietnam, Lange went back to Kent State and got his degree. He also attended the University of Akron. He was a journalist for 40 years, retiring as editor of the Chagrin Valley Times. He’s won many awards for his editorials and columns. He now lives in Carroll County.
"Virginity Lost in Vietnam" is available online at Amazon.com or act3creative.com.
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SteveWiandt_RPC.