A Baby Boomer's Scrapbook

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Grades 11 and 12 at Meridian High:

In the summer of 1962, about 9 weeks after a diagnosis of stomach cancer and an unsuccessful surgery, my Grandpa Bishop died. I went to live with Grandma for several months so she wouldnít have to be alone until she was able to move to a new house near my Aunt June in Coleman.

Of all my brothers and sister, I was chosen to live with Grandma because Mr. Anthony, Meridian ís Art teacher, and his wife lived in an apartment at his parentís home just a few houses up the street from Grandmaís place and arrangements were made with Mr. Anthony for me to ride to school with him. I remember that when school started he had a Plymouth Valiant and, part way through the school year, he traded it in for a new Corvair. Either car was a huge improvement in com fort over the school bus but I liked the Corvair because it had a better heater and the ride to school was warmer. I gave him $3 a week to help pay for gas (I always got ďAísĒ in Art, by the way, do you suppose that there was a connection?).

While Iím on the subject of getting back and forth to school, Iíll mention one thing that I remember about the bus rides after I moved back home from Grandmaís house. We used to play cards on the way home. Although there may have been more, I remember two of them, a game called ďEuchreĒ and a game called ďPepperĒ.  Other than the cold, I donít remember much else about the bus rides.

Back to Grandmaís.

Living alone with Grandma was a major life style change for me. After growing up as the oldest kid in a house full of kids (5 brothers and 1 sister), being treated like an only child was a dream come true.

At home, although Mom did all the laundry and fixed all the meals, I had to iron most of my school clothes. While I was with her, Grandma did that for me. At home, I had to pack my own lunch, Grandma did that for me too.

The best part was the meals. For breakfast at home, Iíd usually fix myself a bowl of cold cereal before I got on the bus. At Grandmaís house, when I got up she had a hot bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat or cream of rice waiting for me and, if I was still hungry, she would fix eggs and bacon or sausage or ham and toast or whatever else my little tummy desired.  At suppertime, unlike at home with 9 people at the table, I didnít have to scramble for the last scoop of peas or potatoes or macaroni and cheese and, at Grandmaís there was always a second helping left if I wanted it.

Best of all, although it was one of my regular chores at home, at Grandmaís house, I never had to do the dishes.

Another big change from home was that I had the bathroom all to myself. I didnít have to share the sink to wash up or brush my teeth. At home, when we took a bath, several kids in a row had to use the same water because our hot water heater didnít have enough capacity for more than a tub or two in one night. At Grandmaís, I had the tub or shower all to myself.

Although about the only programs that had it at the time were Bonanza and Walt Disney, Grandma also had a color TV and I didnít even have to fight with her over what channel to watch.

Except for the temporary disconnection from the neighborhood kids that I would have ridden to school with on the bus, I had it real good. I did ride the bus home on Fridays, though so I could spend the weekend at home.

Anyway, time to go to school.

The School:

Over the years, some people have told me that their high school experiences were terrible and that they wouldnít want to relive them for all the money in the world.  The opposite is true for me. Given the opportunity to do it all again, I might like to change a few things but, even if I couldnít, Iíd gladly repeat the experience, even the occasional emotional pain that went along with the emotional highs. It could be that my memory of things past is much better than the way I felt at the time, but I think that Meridian High from í62 through í64, the Ď64/í65 school year at Utah State and the months I spent working and playing in the Midland area before I had to leave in 1966 were some of the best times of my life.

My memories are somewhat fragmented so Iíve had to lump 11th and 12th grades together because I am no longer sure about the sequence of some of the events. A review of the í64 yearbook helps some but not quite enough. As I write them down, I hope what I remember and record here is not too far from reality but, if I make mistakes about people or events, or say something about someone that they would prefer was left unsaid, I hope I will be forgiven. At this point in my life, Iím lucky to remember whether I did something yesterday or I did it last week.  I guess thatís just a problem, as we grow older, that we just have to live with.

I donít know why I remember it but on one of the first, if not my first day at Meridian, Mr. Anthony dropped me off at the front entrance to the school while he drove around and parked in back. The air was clear and cold and, even though the sun was shining real bright over the trees as came up from behind the school, there were just a few flakes of snow falling as I was walking up to the door. I donít think that I liked school any more than most other kids so, for me to remember such a day, I think I must have been kind of excited or at least kind of anxious.

Since Mr. Anthony and I almost always got to school before the buses arrived, I usually went Mr. Anthonyís room first and helped him set up the room for the dayís classes. Although I would occasionally try to engage Mr. Anthony in a little conversation, he seldom said much. We would sometimes talk about cars (something that both big boys and little boys had, and still have, in common). When he was in high school, he liked to drive his dadís í55 Chevy, which he knew was a hot car around town even then. When I started riding with him, he told me that he was restoring an old car, a 1926 or Ď28 Dodge sedan I think.  Parts were hard to find and, on a teacherís pay, he didnít have enough money to do much with it so conversation about the old car wasnít repeated very often.

Riding to school with him every day did change my perspective of teachers. Before spending so much time with him, I thought of teachers as sort of special, like doctors or judges.  You know, people that you were expected to respect and revere because of their station in life.  After I got to know him, Mr. Anthony seemed more like an uncle or a next-door neighbor. Since he was not too long out of college, I started to realize that he (and some of the other young teachers that we had) was only a few years older than us high school kids and still almost as much in the process of learning about life as we were. Although some (like the coach) could get little pushy at times, teachers were not as intimidating to me from then on.

Because it was so small relative to the Midland schools, the whole Meridian High experience was less intimidating in general. And in contrast to the fact that almost everything at Meridian was new, new rooms, new lockers, new books and new furniture, new smells and new sounds and sights, many of the kids were like old friends and, in every class, I could sit next to someone familiar. It was also nice that the classes were mixed in grade so that there might be 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders in the same class. That made it was easy to get to know kids in other age groups.

The Classes:

The classes that com e most easily to mind are Mr. Anthonyís art class, Mr. Wardís class (Government & Economics?), Mr. Reidís  English class, Mr. Reidís study hall (I guess you could call that a class. We did learn some things there.), Shop class with Mr. Goretski, Mr. Spencerís Science class and Coach Schueleís gym class. I must have had Mrs. Peek for something but Iíll be darned if I can remember what it was. Other than Mrs. Davids (my guidance counselor) and the Principle, Mr. Nichols, I hardly remember a thing about any of the other teachers or classes.

Of all the classes in school, the one that sticks in my head most is gym class.  Maybe I remember gym class so much because of the routine. Change clothes, exercise, play some game, exercise, shower, play grab-ass in the locker room and change clothes again, every day, day after day.  Couldíve been the smells.  Itís hard to forget a locker room. Or maybe it was just because we spent so much time in the gym itself. Gym class, assemblies, basketball games or other after school events and dancing or just fooling around at lunchtime after we ate. Donít know for sure.

The cafeteria - library - study hall was kind of the same as the Gym.  We spent lots of time there too.

I never did much studying in study hall, too many distractions. It was easy to find a place to sit near or next to a girl.  Even if guy was shy, he could pretend he was just there to study when he was really just there to look or tease.  Although I hate to admit it, sexual harassment wasnít beyond me at that point and in study hall I would, nerd like, occasionally sit across from a girl a low cut blouse or V necked sweater and try to lob small wads of paper at her cleavage. Juvenile behavior to be sure but, since no girl ever smiled and ripped open her shirt to give me a better target, I must have eventually figured out that it wasnít as cute as I thought and quit doing it.

The library seemed to have so few books that I quickly went through most of ones of most interest to me that, after a while, I usually only wandered through the stacks so I wouldnít have to sit quietly at a table during study hall.

As for the cafeteria, I almost always brought my own lunch and only bought milk but I loved the dinner rolls and whenever I had some extra change would buy as many as I could.

I donít know what artsy things I did in art class but I do remember who I did artsy things with most of the time. Although I wish I could say otherwise because Iím trying to convince my 16 year old daughter that school is more important than boys, but for me, at that point in my life, girls were more important than school. So I always tried to sit with girls. There were only tables and no desks that I remember so we usually sat four or five around a table and it was easy to work and talk to each other at the same time. As long as we didnít get too loud or rowdy, Mr. Anthony would let us do tha

I didnít like Mr. Wardís class very much. That was probably because he expected us to do more work that I really wanted to do but I'm pretty sure the extra effort he required was good for me even if I didnít work very hard at it.

Early on, he decided to try an experiment and asked us to tell him what grade we should get in his class and that would be the grade that heíd give us for that grading period.  I figured I was good for at least a ďBĒ and thatís what I told him. Unfortunately, he didnít quite keep his word. Just before report card time Mr. Ward came to me and saidÖ ďMax, Iíve been looking over your work and it looks to me that, if you were honest, youíd agree with me that you only deserve a ďCĒ for your efforts. I will keep my promise and give you a ďBĒ if you say so but I really think that you only did ďCĒ work. What do you think?Ē

I took a ďCĒ.

That was an interesting lesson but Mr. Ward did teach me with something practical that served me well in every class I ever took from then on: How to take any multiple-choice test.

Somewhere along the line, he had learned the psychology involved in writing multiple choice tests and he decided to pass along a few simple rules on how to take them so you could com e close to passing one almost every time even if you didnít know a thing about the subject of the test.

Things like:

            If one of the answers is ďall of the aboveĒ, choose it.

            If one of the answers is ďnone of the aboveĒ, donít choose it.

            Choose the longest answer.

            Donít choose the shortest answer.

            As a last resort, choose answer (b) because it is correct 40% of the time.

There are more good rules but I donít remember them all any more. I may have eventually gotten these rules from someone else but, having had to continue going to school off and on for most of my life, I ought to be forever grateful to Mr. Ward for telling me about them early on. Of course, Mr. Ward never gave us a multiple choice test while I was in his class.

I remember Mr. Goretskiís shop class mostly as a major lesson in safety hazard control or the lack thereof. Shop tools can do serious injury in the hands of a high school student and I think there were at least a few very close calls.

A popular thing to do in shop was to make metal bowls by spinning them over a wood form on a lathe. If you pushed a little to hard or long with the forming tool at the wrong place or wrong time, a very sharp piece of metal would go flying across the room at a fairly high velocity. It didnít take more than one or two of those sheet metal missiles for me to learn where not to stand whenever someone was attempting to create one of those potentially life threatening works of art.

In Science class, Mr. Spencer was sometimes sort of a jerk and did his best to do something to embarrass you if did something that he didnít like. I never saw it but I think I remember stories of him making a kid push a wad of gum across the floor if caught chewing it.

As a track coach, he a pretty good guy and was more like a big brother than a teacher but, for some reason, he had a different personality in science class. Iím probably wrong but even though I think he liked to coach, I donít think he liked to teach.

One grading period he gave me an ĎFí that I didnít think I deserved (my first ever) just to get my attention (I didnít finish a project but I added all the points and should have gotten at least a ĎDí) and although I worked a little harder after that, the next grading period he gave me an ĎAí that I didnít deserve because I think he figured out that he got my attention. I guess the technique worked on me but I thought it was kind of a strange thing to do at the time.

One thing I did like about Science class was I sat next to a girl for a while and it was easy to play footsy. Whenever Iíd catch her dangling a shoe from her toe, Iíd try to kick it off. I think Mr. Spencer caught me doing that and gave made us sit apart from then on. Do you suppose thatís one reason why I thought he was a sometimes a jerk?

Mr. Reid was kind ofÖ well, different. I think he started out at Meridian as a substitute teacher but eventually became a full time English teacher. In addition to being a teacher, I think he was a political party worker or failed politician of some sort. Iím sure he was a Democrat because he had a picture of himself shaking hands with Jack Kennedy.

Considering that photo, it seems ironic that I was in Mr. Reidís class on the day it was announced over the PA system that President Kennedy had been shot. I think Mr. Reid took it pretty hard and all class work ended after that news.

We didnít have to sit in too many of his classes for a few of us guys to figure out that Mr. Reid could be pretty easily distracted from the English topic at hand. Whenever we could, we would try to get him off on a tangent and talk about hunting, fishing or sports or whatever we thought he might be interested in. This was an easy way to waste several minutes of class at a time and if we timed it right, he might even forget about it or run out of time to give us a homework assignment.

I donít remember for sure, but I wouldnít be surprised if we did the same sort of thing to him in his Study Hall. You know, have someone distract him at one end of the room while others did something foolish on the other.

Extra Curricular Activities:

I did try out for sports a couple of times. There was no football in the Ď62/í63 school year so I missed my calling there. As short as I was though, I did try out for basketball when the season started. Although I couldnít shoot, couldnít dribble or couldnít pass I think I was otherwise very good at basketball. Unfortunately, what got me cut from tryouts was a jump test. The coach put a piece of masking tape on the wall about 8 or 9 feet up and we all had to be able to touch the wall above the tape. Good friend Bob Davids was able to pass of course because he was so much taller than me (at least an inch). Iím sure I would have had a brilliant basketball career if I had just been able to jump high enough to pass that test.

In the spring of that year, I tried out for baseball and, being marginally better at that than at basketball, I made the team. The school didnít have a good baseball diamond so the team was often bussed to a park or a field at another school. I had trouble staying late for practice so I was kind of invisible and when I was able to get to a game, I always sat on the bench. I did manage to play one time. Iím not sure who we played (I think it was with the Midland J.V. team) but we played at a park somewhere in Midland . Even though we lost, I felt pretty good that I got a hit and made it to second base at least one time in my second attempt at a baseball career (remember the first grade?). I donít think I played ball again after that game and didnít finish the season.

In the Ď63/í64 school year did have football but I donít know why I didnít try out for that. Could have been that I was just a wimp.

Rather than try Baseball again, in the spring of í64 I decided to try the Track Team, even though it meant hitch hiking home every night that we had practice. I only could go fast enough for short distances so Coach Spencer put me on the 440-yard relay team. We may not have won but I think I held my own during the first race or two with other schools. I messed up though when, in one practice session, I didnít warm up enough and pulled a leg muscle. I didnít run in race again until the last event of the season (which we also lost).

I remember the track practice sessions pretty well. In addition to practice sprints and hurdles, every night we had to run north on M30 for about a mile, then run south for two miles and then back to the school. Bob Davids was also on the track team and I often ran with him.  He was a very good athlete but I never understood why he wanted to be on the track team. Almost every time we would make that three-mile run, Bob would have to stop and throw up on the way back. After he threw up, he was fine but I donít think that I would have continued to keep going like that if Iíd had the same problem. Bob was a pretty tough kid.

Although some of the guys were very good in their track events, as a team, I donít think we did all that well and I donít think that I was the only one who was surprised when the coach announced that we would be going to the state championships at Central Michigan. Unfortunately, runniní with the big boys from other schools at this event only demonstrated one thing to me, my career as a track star was over.

I had the first leg of our first relay race. The track was 6 or 8 lanes wide and, as you may know, the starting blocks in each lane are staggered behind each other to account for the larger radius of the outside lanes.  I was about a foot shorter than the big black guy in the next lane but he started out several yards behind me so I figured I at least had a chance to keep up with him. For a few seconds after the gun went off, I was pumpiní my little legs as fast as they would go and thought I was doing well when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the black guy com e strolling by with long strides that made it seem like he was taking only one step for every three of mine.  I suspect to a casual observer it looked kind of like a mouse raciní with a kangaroo. I knew right then and there that I was never going to go for the gold at the Olympics but did my best to keep up anyway as I watched the rest of the runners disappear off into the distance.

Letís see, failed baseball player, rock star, artist, editor, mathematician, basketball player and failed Olympic gold medallist. It was beginning to look like my list of career options was getting pretty short.

I did enjoy jumpiní on the trampoline though and joined the Trampoline Club. Relatively speaking, I was pretty good at bouncing around. Had it been a com petitive sport, I might have even succeeded in being at least mediocre at it.

Dancing in the hall and in the gym at lunchtime was probably my favorite thing to do during the day at school. I wanted it real bad, so my dad helped me buy a reel-to-reel tape recorder from the Sears & Roebuck store in downtown Midland . I couldnít afford to buy many records and the tape recorder made it easy and cheap to record music off of the radio. One day I took the recorder and a couple of my tapes to school and at lunchtime I set it up in the hallway near my locker in the southeast corner of the school. Fortunately, the teachers never asked me to stop and we were able to dance and listen in the hallway almost every day for a long time. I donít remember when it happened but eventually the teachers or the principle must have decided that it would be better for us to dance in the gym and they set up a record player there and I took my tape recorder home.

I tried not to miss attending any of the ball games because, like everyone else I had friends on the team that I wanted to cheer on, I wanted to be with friends and, at the home games, dance in the gym or the cafeteria after the game.  I know we almost never won and I donít remember much in particular but I really had a good time at all of the games that I went to.

cheer_up.jpg (182085 bytes) Who can you pick out and name in this crowd?

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