John Johnson

John Johnson yearbook photo John Johnson photo at age 67


When no one appeared to be organizing a 50th reunion I realized that if I didn't do it, there would be no reunion. I'm not an organized person, so I'm certainly not the best candidate to get this done. My aversion to Facebook doesn't help. So I decided to create a reunion website and hope the classmates with whom I'm still in touch could find other classmates and the reunion would just happen. I believe it will.

I've been happily married to my wife, Mary, for 29 years. We have no offspring. We've always lived in Ann Arbor. Here's a photo of Mary, me, my brother and great buddy, Barry (RHS 69), and his wife, Kathy at a Detroit Tigers game last summer.

John and relatives at a Tigers' game


Mostly retired, I have my own small typesetting company, American Typesetters, that prepares books for publication and ebooks for the web. It's a downsized remnant of the company that employed me for 20 years, but which went out of business because our major customers cut costs by transferring their work to lower-wage countries such as India, China, and even Viet Nam. My employer's demise was an unfortunate consequence of the internet providing new ways to move information around the world.

My first Roosevelt memory: Back in the summer of 1962 my parents said they were going to enroll me at Roosevelt and Dad and I drove to Roosevelt to see it. We tried the front door near the auditorium, but it was locked. As we walked away, I noticed some text scrawled with chalk or a crayon at the base of the wall next to the door: "I return to the place of my youth only to find the door barred." A strange piece of graffiti; I never forgot it. I was unsuccessful when I tried to Google it, so it must be an original passage by an RHS alumnus from long ago.

I enjoy science-fiction books and movies. Mr. Armstrong (first name Roger) was an art teacher at Roosevelt before Tom Dodd arrived. He had an amazing collection of science-fiction paperback books. There were so many books that every row of books on his shelves had another row behind it! Inspired by Mr. Armstrong, I now have my own giant collection of more than 3,000 science-fiction paperbacks. Almost all my shelves are two rows deep in books. I named my man-cave in the basement where my library lives "Tranquility Base" after the Moon-landing site of Apollo 11.


Photo of John sitting next to his Insight hybrid car

In 2000 I purchased the first hybrid car delivered to the midwest: a Honda Insight. I saw the prototype for this all-aluminum, super-aerodynamic car-of-the-future at the 1999 Detroit auto show and ordered one for myself the next day. However, production didn't begin for another year. The first couple hundred of them went to customers in California and Oregon. Then Honda loaded Insight #221 into a small enclosed truck that could carry a single car and sent it to Ann Arbor just for me. My dealer and the company were tired of me bugging them.

Honda knew about me and my lust for their Insight because, while I was waiting, I created the first website in the country dedicated to this car. I called myself Insightman and my website Insightman.com. For a many months, it was the only place to find information about this newfangled car. Many Honda dealers used the information on my website to sell the Insight before Honda came out with their own brochures.

The Insight changed my driving style completely. I stopped driving fast and became a hypermiler: someone who drives very carefully to eke the maximum number of miles per gallon from their car. I can achieve more than 100 mpg for short distances. My best month-long average was 85 mpg. Real experts set a record of 1534.2 miles on a single 10.6-gallon tankful of gasoline (over 144 mpg!), but their average speed was less than 20 mph. I could never stand driving at speeds that slow (and the cars driving behind me would agree).

When I learned that Honda was going to stop making the Insight after 2006, I sold my 2000 Insight and bought the last one I could get. I'm still driving that great car. Last July in Indianapolis I attended InsightFest, the largest-ever gathering of more than 60 owners of this rare automobile (only 14,000 were made). It was great to be around such a large number of people who are as crazy about this unique car as I am. More than once my name tag elicited, "So you're Insightman! Glad to finally meet you!"


John rides his ElliptiGO bicycle

I have many bicycles. I have too many bicycles. In 2012 I purchased what is essentially an elliptical exercise machine on two wheels. It's called an ElliptiGO. It is twice as heavy as a regular bike, it has no seat, and, because it is ridden standing up, it is extremely un-aerodynamic. Despite those negatives, I liked the ElliptiGO so much that all my other bikes have been gathering dust since I started riding it. The ElliptiGO is slow (about 14 mph), but I can see over SUVs and cars seem to notice it more than a regular bike. Also, I lost more than 20 pounds soon after I started riding it. Another benefit is that it provides an alternative excuse when young whippersnappers cruise by me at 20+ mph on their Tour de France-style bikes. My longest, hottest ride was 107 miles in mid-July (through Hell, Michigan, naturally). Boy, were my feet tired!


Photo of baseball card and Sputnik music box

Finally, a chronological capsule of my school/work history:


Now don't tell me you can't write a better, less-tedious story than this one!