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Lumpy Rutherford..aka Grab a Tab and a Smile!
by Dave LeGates

In the 1960's Coca Cola came out with an innovative beverage for the time. It was amazing in the respect that it was soda-pop like Coke, however it had no sugar in it, hence none of the calories. The average Coke has hundreds of calories and therefore at 15 calories per teaspoon,
it contains about a dozen teaspoons! Made with the sweet taste of a miracle product called saccharin, the new beverage was ideal for a dieter or diabetic who was craving something sweet.

The soda became so popular that its name became synonymous with diet soda. For the usual sugar consumer, the soda had a nasty aftertaste, but to someone who was
watching calories or couldn't have sugar, it was a Godsend. By now you know I am talking about TAB, which, because of the amount of synthetic products that it contained, was rumored to have stood for Totally
Artificial Beverage.

Other sodas copied the revolutionary process of adding saccharin as a sweetener. saccharin became a central feature in many productsintended for dieters,used in coffee and baking like Sweet n' Low and Sugar Twin --- which I think was also part fructose.

A Government study in the late 70's concluded that unionized laboratory rats got cancer when they consumed saccharin. With cancer fears on overdrive, the study was considered such a revelation that the government felt it necessary to put a world ending warning label on every product on Earth that even might be on the same shelf with a saccharin product. Panic was under the big top as people took on a completely unnecessary fear of saccharin. Dieters and diabetics panicked, as many of them had already consumed tons of products containing saccharin.

This was devastating news to companies who manufactured diet products. What the government left out of the information to the public was the fact that in order for the average person to ever get cancer from
saccharin, they would have to consume an ungodly amount of the product, equal to about 40/ 8 oz glasses of Tab a day for over 5 years, which was highly unlikely. Speaking of things named Equal, it was amazing that less than 2 years after the saccharin warning came out, just by coincidence, a new 'safer' product called NutraSweet was introduced.
(chemically aspartame)

As far as Bill Webster was concerned, he would've volunteered to be one of the laboratory rats to see how much Tab he had to drink to get cancer. His garage was loaded with cases of his beloved 1 calorie passion. Bill was seldom seen without a pink can in his hand. He
would've told you that if it wasn't for Tab, losing the over 120 lbs that he lost would've been impossible.

Bill Webster was a fat little kid who at his heaviest was 280 lbs. In high school he resembed the squared headed friend of Wally Cleaver's, Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford,
hence the nickname "Lumpy" (oddly enough he had curly red hair of their other "friend"Eddie Haskell). Bill was kind of a nerdy kid who didn't have a lot of close friends, but everyone seemed to know him, for good or bad.

Bill had another passion..sports! Not able to be an athlete,
Bill still loved to be around sports and athletics. All sports, any kind! In high school, in order to be close to the sports teams he volunteered to be the manager and score keeper for many teams, earning team letters and jackets. Bill was as much of a team member as anyone

else, and can be seen in many of the team photos. The problem was that Bill could be SEEN in the team photos. Tired of the still many closed-minded weight insults he endured and perhaps himself, he went to his doctor and sought help for his ever increasing girth.

Bill was at the time considered an extreme case and he was put on an unheard of 500 calorie a day diet, something today that would be considered deadly. It was during this time that Bill replaced his undying love for sweets with cool refreshing Tab. Bill started his diet over the summer while he worked scoring the softball games for our Rec
Department, like I did, and tempting his diet at times working the concession stand.

Over that summer you could see a change coming and by
the time he had goneback for his senior year, he had already lost sixty pounds. At the softball games, Bill was a favorite of all the teams and he was kind of a mascot who the guys would take out with them.

Bill loved it, because they often went into bars (he was still underage), where sports was the high topic of conversation. Bill wasn't interested in the drinking, he just loved the conversation about sports with the people and everyone was impressed with his unbelievable knowledge. He was like a walking encyclopedia.

Bill had a glazed kind of smile as he talked to you that if you didn't know him better, you thought he was perpetually high! He loved to talk and he loved company of people of who liked sports. He also relished his solitude to get caught up on sports things and to play with another passion, cars.

By the time Bill was 18, he had lost well over 100 lbs and he was looking really trim. He wasn't a real handsome guy, but the fact that he was loaded with personality made him quite popular. He could expound on so many subjects even outside of sports. He was very polite and respectful. He had no real college plans for after high school, but one
of the guys who owned a bar offered him a job to tend bar in the place, and Bill was a natural there. Some teams just started going there because Bill was working the bar.

Bill's life outside of work was like a living ESPN. Bill was ESPN before ESPN! Able to go anywhere at the drop of a hat and had the cash on hand to what ever he wanted, Bill would load up his car with a case of his beloved Tab and sought his love of sports. Any sport, anywhere, anytime!

It was around this time that I got to be friendly with him,and occasionally he'd call up and ask if I wanted to go to a hockey or indoor soccer game, or I'd call him if I had tickets for something.

Having worked together at the Rec Center and been friendly with him, we get into many sports related subjects. I was a few years younger than him, and thought real highly of him. I always thought I knew a lot but Bill was simply incredible. Sometimes the rides were the best part because not only did you get caught up on the latest sports news, but he'd also give me a laugh by telling me what latest sporting events he had been at. For example he'd get all excited over telling you about a lacrosse game between two schools from some far away part of the state. He'd give you details and the names of some of the better players.

Sometimes it was ridiculous, because he'd call and ask if you wanted to see a girls waterpolo match in the next state. Anything at all. If you just happened upon a sporting event like a tennis match or an out of the way college baseball game, everyone who knew Bill had a story that they would go by a sporting event and see his car or if they went to watch it, he'd be there with that glazed smile and a Tab. Bill loved our local minor league hockey team, and was the only person I ever knew with one season ticket! He was at so many of those games that some people thought
the team would go home if he wasn't at the games.

When ESPN came out and rendered Bill obsolete, people could tune into them to find out the latest on Australian Rules Football, instead of asking Bill! In 1984, Bill had no real ambitions it seemed, until the guy who owned the bar he worked in, wanted out of it and offered to sell it to Bill.

Bill got excited, because having worked in the bar for quite
a while and knowing he had such a great rapport with the clientele, the sky was the limit on what he could make. He wanted to turn it into a sports bar and restaurant, which were starting to become popular. Bill didn't have a big investment, but he had savings for a down payment and
he thought getting a business loan for the rest wouldn't be a problem.

However going to bank after bank turned out to be fruitless, as nobody seemed to want to lend money to a young guy for what was viewed as a passing fad.
The real business crazy 80's hadn't kicked in and the huge loans hadn't been distributed. He spent a lot of time trying to raise the money for the investment, but the owner wanted to sell very badly and had another
buyer he was forced to sell.

Now Bill not only wasn't going to be able to buy the bar, he couldn't work there either anymore. Depressed and unconsolable, Bill went home and instead of reaching for a Tab, opted to drink a bottle of dry gas. His mother found him dead shortly after.

Bill's mother at one point down the road called my mother. The two didn't know each other, but she wanted my mother to tell me what had happened. I was living out of state and had lost touch with Bill, having no idea he had passed away. Bill's mom told my mom that Bill thought highly of me and she wanted me to know. My mother assured her that I always spoke well of him and she would give me the news.

A few years later, my brother Mike and I were at one of the minor league hockey games with my son DJ. Between periods, we were relaxing in our seats and Mike looked up at the rafters at the retired player numbers
banners and the championship banners and said "You know, they ought to have a banner of Lumpy up there smiling that smile with a can of Tab." I found it hard to disagree.

Somehow I think he is up in the rafters watching anyway, or where ever particular fans congregate! Today he is probably at a cricket match in England! He was a nice little guy and I think of him often.

Business for Tab has never quite been the same since. Was it the saccharin? I don't think so!


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