It’s Oct. 29, 1969, and OHS’ resident debate coach and journalism adviser Frank Crane will not be returning to work the following Monday.
Frank Crane had been recognized as Frank Goolsby, a criminal wanted for larceny and fraud in Washington State. The only reason authorities had gotten ahold of him was due to his reckless speed of 90.8 miles per hour while driving on I-96.
Crane’s past life as Goolsby had taught him ways to evade the law, but just like any other criminal, he eventually had his downfall. Goolsby had previously taken his ex-wife’s three children to Seattle, Washington and gotten a job at a local bowling alley. His ex-wife tracked him down and proceeded to take the children back without filing charges. While in Washington State, Goolsby took part in some questionable activities that resulted in his license being revoked, no specific details could be found.
Some time later, a Frank Crane appeared in the Lansing area and applied for a teaching position at OHS. His stunning recommendations made him an obvious choice for the position. As a late hire, the administration didn’t run him through the usual computer background check process which would have proven his credentials to be false.
Crane was the adviser for the Journalism class and coach for the schoolwide debate team. He was well-respected by students and other faculty members for his charismatic personality and dedication to the job, according to Lansing State Journal articles and Hedlun Walton (Guidance).
Walton remembers learning the story of Frank Crane as an informal part of his orientation to OHS.
“He was somewhat of a ‘catch me if you can’ con-man and he was able to pull it off because he was very personable. The kids liked him well enough, [he didn’t] seem out of his element as a teacher,” Walton said.
Crane seemed to be passionate about teaching and interacting with his students, although some of his practices were a bit unconventional. In fact, some of his debate students won an award in a local tournament. They were mentioned in an article written in the Lansing State Journal detailing the events on Sep. 28, 1969. The minister who originally married a man under the name of Goolsby recognized Crane’s picture from the photo in the Lansing State Journal and reported it to the police.
On his way back from a bowling tournament in Detroit, Crane was pulled over for speeding at 90.8 miles per hour on I-96. His lack in ability to provide a license to the police as well as his picture in the Lansing State Journal gave the police reason enough to detain him.
After further investigation, the Okemos administration discovered that Crane’s credentials and “stunning recommendations” were falsified and he was promptly fired. He showed up to OHS the following Monday demanding to teach but was turned away. Crane had paid a bond of 1,500 dollars to stay out of jail but never showed up to his appointed court date set for Nov. 28, 1969. After this point in time, there is no more documentation of Crane’s whereabouts. However, in early 1970 a Frank Crane showed up in the Lansing State Journal again as a participant of an ongoing bowling tournament. There is no proof that this is the same Frank Crane, but his love for bowling shows a strong connection.
Though this was the end of Crane’s time in Okemos, his legacy lives on. Since the incident occurred, OHS staff has reimagined the events that took place, creating their own Okemos legend.
“It probably wasn’t that hilarious at the time considering the school had hired someone who wasn’t qualified to be a teacher, but once a little time has passed you can look back and have a little bit of a laugh and nod at it,” Walton said.
If you’ve ever looked closely, Frank Crane’s name has made appearances on countless example documents such as transcripts and applications, even teacher rosters. To indulge in the humor of it, an unknown individual purchased a brick in the front courtyard engraved with Frank Crane.
“I’ve been here long enough to have participated in this tradition of using the name Frank Crane in place of things, as an example of things, including him in things and it’s just kind of a fun piece of our history,” Walton said.
Walton is largely considered the resident expert on the Crane legend. Part of this responsibility comes with the guarding of an old Okemos High School Teacher of the Year plaque. Sometime during Walton’s career at OHS, the plaque showed up in his office with Crane’s name printed on a sticker and added to the bottom.
“Someone hung this [Okemos High School] Teacher of the Year [award] in my office and you’ll see [from] 1988 to present, Frank Crane,” Walton said.
Nobody knows who put it there, nor why it specifies from 1988 to present because Crane only taught there in 1969. This only further adds to the mystique of the entire story.
We talked to many teachers that have heard of the Crane legend, although most don’t know more than a vague version of the story where the information available has been muddled by years and years of retellings.
In our interviewing endeavors, we attempted to talk to Derm about the Crane legend but were surprisingly unsuccessful. In fact, we were forcefully ushered into an elevator and promptly sent away.
“I’m not in on the joke,” Derm said.
Even Derm, someone who knows pretty much everything about OHS, has very little knowledge of the legend. With the turnaround of staff and administration over the past few years, it’s no wonder that what was once a rampant inside joke within OHS staff has made its way into obscurity taking an impressive man and a great story along with it.
“I don’t think we’ve been quite as good about [using] Frank Crane references, but I think part of the change is in the administration, I don’t think [they] actively use the Frank Crane reference,” Walton said.
Although Crane’s legend has faded with time, there is still an element of mystery to his story.
In relatively recent history, the Editor In Chief of the OHS student paper A. Brad Schwartz wrote an article on the legend of Frank Crane that shed some light on the true events. Two copies of that article were saved: one laminated and pinned up in Walton’s office, and the other framed and hung in the newsroom. Somewhere along the line the framed copy made its way into the staff room and has since disappeared. If you know the whereabouts of this framed article, please tells us because we want it back.