Note: This is the first in a two-part series on one of the greatest bags to ever grace the halls of Wachusett – Fred.
This week the Wachusett Alumni Association announced its slate of inductees for the 2008 Wachusett Hall of Fame. Topping that list was Fred, the bag owned by senior class president Mo Cheeks.
As many of you know, Mo Cheeks purchased Fred in the fall of 1991 from the Wachusett book store. “I needed a bag to carry my books in,” Mo Cheeks explained. “Up until that point, I carried my books in my hands and when my hands were full, I used my arms.”
The cost of Fred at the time? $37.23, which in today’s market, adjusting for inflation, would have equaled $58.37. “Whatever the price,” Mo Cheeks said, “it would have been a steal.”
Fred’s legacy is well known to members of the Class of ’94.
He averaged seven books per day at the height of his career, carrying a record 12 on May 28, 1992 during final week. It is a record that stands to this day.
“It’s just so fitting that on the 12th anniversary of that amazing feat that Fred finally gains the recognition he deserves,” Doug Laidlaw said in a phone interview. Laidlaw was one of the lucky few to hold Fred during his time at Wachusett. “I will never forget the moment Mo Cheeks let me carry Fred. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Mo Cheeks had to scratch his head because it was itchy. And he had to put Fred down. Well, as many of you know, Mo Cheeks never put Fred down. He would rather lose his right arm in a wood chipper. So I offered to hold him for a few seconds. It was the greatest moment of my life. I didn’t wash my hands for the rest of the year.”
Pat Tinsley called Fred “the big ticket. He was the real deal. They just don’t make bags like that anymore.”
During his junior and senior years, Fred never missed a day of school. “The most remarkable aspect of that run was the fact that Mo Cheeks never used a locker those two years,” an astonished Amanda Fish said.
In additon to books, Fred held hair gel, a calculator, a ruler, Wachusett track shorts, a contact lens case, knee pads, foot powder, nail clippers, swimming goggles and a mustache trimmer. “He will be the bag by which all other bags will be judged,” economics teacher Mr. Jaquith said.
“A bag like that only comes along once in a lifetime,” valedictorian Diana Carlson said.
But perhaps Fred’s greatest legacy will be a moment few had the chance to witness. Right after Mo Cheeks pulled the trigger and unloaded the dough for Fred, upperclassmen looked at him with envious eyes.
“Fred was the subject of both hostage and death threats,” class historian Adam Porcaro recalled.
Those threats became a reality in February, 1992 in an after-school melee that will never be forgotten. Mo Cheeks was heading to the buses when he was accosted by the bad boy crew of Matt Conley, Brian Bergeron, Steve Dzik, Pat McNamara and Tom Bull. They demanded he turn over Fred. “I had nowhere to go,” Mo Cheeks admitted. “So I ran.”
He led them on a chase that went through the dungeon up the glass staircase to the second floor of the halls of Wachusett High School. Fred never left his side. “Most bags would have given up,” Porcaro said. “But Fred is not most bags.”
Standing in front of the guidance offices above the entrance to the school, Mo Cheeks and Fred nearly met their match. He was surrounded on all sides. He threw Fred down the staircase and then jumped after him. “The whole way down, Fred broke my fall,” Mo Cheeks said. “I nearly hit my head on the staircase several times, but Fred was there to cushion the blow. He saved my life.”
Fred received a Medal of Bravery for his heroics that day. Looking back, Pat McNamara admits that he and his cohorts were out of line. “We never should have been there that day,” he said. “We just wanted a great bag. We thought if we had Fred, our class would be considered the best ever.”
But Fred never let that happen. Thanks to Fred, the Class of ’94 has maintained its standing as the best class ever. “Sometimes you forget just how important he was,” Porcaro said. “But in the final analysis, Fred will always be synonymous with our class and the success we have achieved.”
The second part of this series will ask “what’s next?” in an exclusive interview with Fred who has never spoken publicly before. He will talk about what he’s achieved, what the hall of fame award means to him and where he is going.