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60's era Barney Finds New Way to ‘Bee’

Jim Hamilton '65 (center) has retired to a life as a bee-keeper.

November 2012

While putting on a beekeeper's jacket and veil to attend to two hives on his rural Montana spread a year ago, gentleman apiarist Jim Hamilton '65 was stung by a sense of déjà vu.

"While I was putting the thing on, I said, "Geez, this isn't the first time I have done this,"' the actively retired pharmaceutical salesman said recently. "Give me a couple of poms poms and a marching band and I could really get going."

Accompanied by a pep band and pom-waving cheerleaders on loan from nearby Marycrest College, Hamilton strapped on a black-and-yellow striped bee suit and a massive paper mache head one Sunday afternoon in 1964 to follow the Fighting Bees basketball squad into battle in the character of Barney the Bee.

Then a gungho junior, Hamilton was filling in for an injured male student who played the role fulltime. He distinctly remembered the opponent at the Assumption High School gym was the big-school Creighton Bluejays led by future NBA standout and former NBA head coach Paul Silas.

Memorable, too, was an encounter with a well-oiled male fan who mistook his Barney for a Bernadette.

Hamilton had returned to St. Ambrose only once since graduating and spending a year as suburban Chicago high school science teacher, a stop that earned him a deferment from being drafted at the height of the war in Vietnam.

Ultimately, he said, survivor's guilt caused him to enlist and he spent two years in Vietnam.

On return, he applied to Rocky Mountain region graduate schools and was accepted at the University of Montana. The Big Sky Country has been his home ever since. The father of two retired from sales in 2004.

Hamilton found his latest hobby while attending a honey festival near his home in Florence, Mont., two years ago. After sitting in on a couple of instructional clinics, Hamilton caught the beekeeping bug.

Hamilton's hives produced a lot of honey, as well as a keen sense of nostalgia for his alma mater, he said.

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