The High School Years

For some strange reason the City of Wichita really got mad at Beech Aircraft and their attempt to block annexation of the east side of the county from Annexation.  Just as I was to start High School, they blocked us from attending South east High School.  Instead of going to the same school as our brothers and sisters we were given the choice of three other schools.  We could attend the old dungeon downtown called East High, the new school called Wichita Heights or travel 5 miles east to Andover.  It was a strange day when we were all given the choice.  Most of the girls in my old neighborhood chose Heights and the guys chose East.  I guess it was a fortuitous thing that my girlfriend went to  Heights.  I was then allowed to not have my hormones racing during the day at least five days a week.  No more than normal.

It was a culture shock for trailer trash from a neighborhood where no self respecting black man would live to be in a school that was probably 60% black.   My next door neighbor threw a fit and forever washed the cans of Coors beer when he saw they employed blacks in their canning section.  Just once, I will use the word Nigger to describe the only appellation I ever heard them called in our group of poor white trash.  Imagine my shock when on the first day of PE I not only was in a mass class with then, I actually stepped right on the chest of one of the biggest blackest man I ever met.  For some reason he was laying on the floor resting and as I ran over to a loose basketball, thud, I stepped right in the middle of his brand new white shirt.  The evidence was clear, there was a size 12 footprint right covering his name.  I recognized it as the name of one of the football linemen from the year before.  I think the only thing that saved me was that he would have probably gotten thrown out of school had he killed me.  I brushed off the evidence and apologized for not seeing him.  It was the first time I had been called an "MF" by someone that was man enough to tear one of my arms off and beat me with it.  That guy had enough friends with him that it would probably been called one of the worst cases of suicide in 1963.  I lucked out and lived, I think.

I managed to get through High School with no special awards or recognition.  In fact I once saw that I was in the bottom 1/4 of my graduating class in academic performance.  I was supporting a girl friend and a car through most of that experience and trivial things like studying was on the back burner.  One of the first failures in High School was the fact that I flunked 9th grade English and had to take it my sophomore year.  I showed up in a class of almost illiterate students and was singled out by the teacher after class.  She asked me what the heck I had done to flunk a subject like English and immediately set me on a self study  path that allowed her to focus on the students that really could not read or write.  I read at least a book a week in her class and wrote book reports.  I sat in the corner of the room and we basically ignored each other.  Play nice Dennis and we will get along fine.  

Spanish my sophomore year was another story.  The teacher assigned homework every night and I didn't have time to be bothered.  I recall the rule that for each assignment I missed my grade was lowered by one whole grade.  I am pretty sure that several of us had F's by the end of the first week.  I transferred to the Chorus very soon.  For some reason the chorus instructor listened to me sing and I wound up in the Choir the second semester.  I sang my way through High School and I wore the one suit I owned to do so.  We had to buy a Blue Blazer with Charcoal grey pants.  We did look good and sang much better than we as individuals were capable of  singing.  I lettered in Choir but there was no way I was ever going to wear a Letter men jacket with the Choir patch on it.  there were a couple of honest to god letter men that  put the Choir patch on theirs but they also had Track, or Basketball, or wrestling patches.

I worked at gas stations all through High School and I think I did a pretty good job.  My first job was working at a Phillips 66 station and they had real high standards for the restrooms.  I was the flunky and it fell to me to clean them and keep them that way.  That carried over to the Job I had at Rock Road and Kellogg.  On my second night there, I checked the bathrooms and the women's was an absolute disaster.  No one cleaned the joint is weeks and it showed.  I had to get some pretty heavy duty cleaners to get the toiled to not look like it was freshly crapped in even after I cleaned it.  I had to take some auto polish and buff the sink so it would even glow, let alone shine.  I did my best and even left the floor with a coat of wax. 

The next morning the owner's wife stopped by the station and while she was there, she went into the restroom.  She came out and asked "Who cleaned that bathroom?"   I admitted that I had and wondered what I had done wrong.  She came over to me and praised me for doing what had as long as she remembered not been done.  Yep, the reward for good work is more work.  I was forever the Latrine orderly there for the next three years.

I do wish I could really explain my relationship with my girl friend Donna.  I thought I loved that girl but I probably lusted more than loved.  The only thing that really saved us was a fear that if we went all the way it would probably result in a pregnancy that would tie us to a life in Dog Patch.  I am pretty sure that she didn't want that any more than I did.  I even bought her a ring but when we graduated from High School our parents helped us decide to wait at least a year to get married.  Her parents moved to Seattle, Washington with Boeing and she followed as soon as graduation was over.  I went out by bus Christmas of 1965 to visit but even an inexperienced guy like me could tell it was over.  She joined the Navy and we drifted different directions.  She married "Lucky" and I felt lucky to be free of the whole affair.  I found out about her marriage from my father while I was in basic training.

I started at Wichita State and made straight Cs my first semester.  Right after the start of the second semester, I learned to play 10 point pitch in the Campus Activity Center and that ended my college career for that year. One of the guys and I worked out a system of cheating that amazing how simple and easy it was.  We would put the cards in our hands to indicate our strong suit. Left hand cards folded was diamonds spread out hearts.  Right hand folded was spades and spread out clubs.  We would never let on what we were doing and beat about any other group we played.  We both had also played bridge and knew how to play cards well. The only really good thing was they didn't serve beer there.  Cokes and Cheese sandwiches were my breakfast and lunch for a couple of months.

  They required everyone to take ROTC the first couple of years but at the end of the enrollment line I didn't fill out the deferment card so I was eligible for the draft.  The Vietnam War was just beginning to build and I had a fair idea that a healthy single non college student would find himself drafted.

I worked construction from that spring to well into the fall.  I saved nothing but had one of the greatest times ever.  I was about 6'2" and 185 lbs of young enthusiastic male.  I figured out that if I did get drafted I would fly through that training no sweat.  Little did I know that heavy labor just didn't prepare me for running in combat boots.   One of my goals was to not go into the service a virgin.  I managed to work that out and had no idea that while I was eager, I was not a very considerate lover.  Oh well, it was good enough for me.

My car through most of High School was a 55 Chevy.  man I loved those big bench seats.  My dad helped me buy a Renault and I hated every part if it.  In about July we traded it in for a Volvo and I found those reclining seats to be almost as wonderful as the big bench seats in the Chevy.  Oh well, Off to the Army


No comments:

Post a Comment