As I write this, I’m anticipating the 2013 Muncie Southside High School All-Years Reunion planned for this upcoming Saturday night, August 10th. Since this is a multi-year gig, and since it’s been better than thirty years since I was a senior, I’m not altogether sure just how many folks I’ll know. I’m sure it will be fun regardless, but I can just imagine myself sitting there in a room full of complete strangers and not remembering anyone. I’m pretty sure it won’t happen that way, but….it could.
In light of the reunion, I thought I’d try to put together some random memories from each of my years, and see if they make any cohesive sense. There probably won’t be a moral in this story…and maybe nothing useful, but I hope it’s as interesting for you to read as I’m sure it’s going to be for me to write.
1976/1977—My Freshman Year
I can’t remember my first day. I was probably so nervous that I blocked it out. I do remember an anxiety dream I had just before the beginning of school: I walked into school and headed to class only to realize that I had forgotten to put on pants. I spent the balance of the dream trying to find a way to get back home to get my trousers.
Here are some other random memories from that year…
A. Teachers that I recall: Mrs. Moses for Freshman Science, Miss Seibold for Freshman English. I enjoyed the English class quite a bit. I used to regularly write technically accurate sentences that were also completely off the wall. Miss Seibold would often get so tickled with them that she’d use them as the examples on the board. I also had Algebra, and I must have had some sort of Social Studies, but I don’t remember who the teachers were. My home room teacher was Mr. Gorin. He was a cool guy, but you could never tell if he was looking at you or not. If you had him, you understand. If not, well, I’m not going to elaborate.
B. I had a shop class. Architectural Drawing. Why they let me in there I’ll never know. Even the teacher was mystified. I had not yet taken Geometry, so I had no clue regarding many of the methods needed to easily do my project. The project, by the way, was to design and draw the layout of a house. We had to draw the basic floor plan, but we also had to do electrical and plumbing drawings, and do a street view. To make matters worse, I couldn’t be just like everyone else and draw a simple rectangular ranch home. Nope. I had to draw a diamond-shaped house. There was not one square room in the entire design…very few square corners. That was pretty ambitious for a kid with no geometry knowledge. If you’re wondering, I did pass. Got an A. Probably a sympathy grade.
C. I think I also took another shop class that year. Electricity. I built a cool little photo-sensitive switch from a kit I got at Radio Shack, and the teacher taught me how to build the circuit board. On a painful note, I also learned the hard way that if you grab the soldering iron by the wrong end, the pain will be beyond intense! It was a true iron…a hot rod on one end and a handle on the other. I was soldering a wire splice. I had twisted the wires together and then reached over to grab the tool without looking. I got the wrong end and let out a scream! Ouch! It hurts even to think about it.
D. I had grown four or five inches over the summer before my freshman year. One of my friends saw me on the first day and was amazed, but I hadn’t noticed any change. I went from being a pudgy 8th grader to being a tall, slender 9th grader. Really…I had not noticed. I still felt pudgy.
E. I was ahead of my time. I had so many books and notebooks to tote back and forth to school and home that it made my one-mile walk pretty tough. So, I had a bright idea. I had an orange backpack, and I thought it would be awesome to load it up and carry my books to school on my back. Of course, no one was doing that in the mid-1970s, so I was harassed mercilessly. “Nice purse, Mike! Hahahaha!” The backpack went back in my closet beneath my Farrah Fawcett t-shirt. Now, here we are years later and all of the kids carry one. Call me a visionary.
F. The last few weeks were all about the squirt gun. I wrote about that in a different story: The Year of the Squirt Gun
Ahhhh. Sophomore year. I no longer had to worry about suffering a freshman initiation by being stuffed in a locker or having my head flushed in a toilet by a senior! None of those things ever actually happened to me as a freshman, but I had been constantly wary…especially when using the rest room.
A. This was the year of the song that just would not go away! “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone. Oh, how I hated that song! It still sets me on edge all these many years later!
B. I finally took Geometry. I had two different teachers. I don’t recall the name of the first teacher for the first half of the year, but I earned B’s in her class. In the second half, I got switched to Mrs. Denton…and my grades crashed! I had NEVER earned less than a C in any class I had ever taken,…EVER!… and I barely got a D in the third nine-weeks…my first grading period with her. In the final nine-weeks, I really buckled down, worked harder than I had ever done for any other class, and barely scraped up a C. I’m afraid that I did not leave her class with warm feelings toward her.
C. I had Driver’s Ed with Mr. Jay. He was a tough teacher, but I got along okay in his class. He liked to take you driving and give you trick instructions. For example, we might be driving through Indian Village (A residential neighborhood near the school) and he would tell one of us to pull over and parallel park in some random spot. Of course, being really nervous to begin with, we’d miss the fact that the “spot” was either in front of a driveway or a fire hydrant. His response was not pleasant.
I remember two Driver’s Ed class projects: 1) Planning an over-the-road trip. You had to calculate the EXACT mileage from Muncie to wherever you decided to go by counting up the tiny little numbers between markings on a road atlas. (Google Maps makes things so much easier these days!) We also had to calculate fuel costs and trip times. I planned my trip to Birmingham, Alabama. I don’t know why…I just did. 2) I had to draw a complete and detailed map of the entire downtown area of Muncie. I remember spending hours crisscrossing the various streets and scribbling down the various lanes and other details. Let’s just say I was probably a bit obsessive about getting it right because I was determined to get a “Waiver.” A waiver meant that you didn’t have to take the driver’s test at the license branch. I wanted to avoid the branch test at all costs because my dad’s 1968 Chevy Nova had a manual transmission, and the school had trained us on automatics. Ultimately, I got the waiver, but not before promising Mr. Jay that I would practice like crazy before I got my real license.
D. At the beginning of the year, I still had a HUGE crush on Tena. I lived for the passing glimpses I got of her in the halls between classes. I remember that if I happened to be lucky enough to see her, I’d get a giant smile that I couldn’t control…so much so that my face would honestly ache afterwards. By the end of the year, the crush was gone: The Summer of 1978
This year, for me, was all about basketball and a girl! South’s huge rivalry with Muncie Central was at a fever pitch, and we had a good team. On top of that, my class year’s normally lackluster enthusiasm morphed into a really hot spirit of true school pride! Further, I had started dating in the summer before, so this was my best year in high school. Toni and I were a steady thing in my Junior year. She was a Delta Eagle, but that didn’t matter because the one thing that is more important to a teen boy than school pride is the affection of a girl.
A. I had a Zoology class with Mr. Phillips. We dissected a shark and a fetal pig. The shark was cool, and it was very interesting when I pulled a smaller fish out of its belly. However, the craziest thing that happened was when one of the boys decided it would be funny to cut off a chunk of fetal pig and toss it out from our classroom window and into the open window of an English class. It did not end well….but, I have to admit it was funny.
B. Even though I had grown substantially and was a little taller than many of my classmates, I was still prone to being occasionally bullied, and there was some of that in my gym class that year. I had taken a class on basketball, a sport that I loved to watch, but at which I had few personal skills, and my ineptness led to a good deal of ridicule. The teacher didn’t actually teach us anything about basketball. He just let us play for about an hour while he did whatever he did. Anyway, somehow I had become friendly with a couple of the varsity basketball stars that year, Clint Conklin and John Benford. Really John more than Clint, but Clint was in the basketball class with me, and I remember him stepping in when some bullies were up to no good one day in the locker room. It wasn’t anything too serious, but he stopped them anyway, and I’ve always appreciated it.
C. We used to have school pep rallies before big games where the whole school would gather in the gym to get all fired up. We sat in different sections by class year. There was one particular rally that stands out in my mind from that year. Everything seemed quite normal. There were cheers from the cheerleaders…the band was playing…the players were firing us all up…then… Well, then someone in our junior class area broke open some sort of STINK capsule. Oh, man! The smell would make you wretch and gag! Putrid! As an entire class we suddenly rushed down from the bleachers to the gym floor, which obviously freaked out the teachers. Since they were surprised and confused, they thought we were pulling some sort of prank and ordered us all back to our spots. Obviously, we didn’t want to obey, but in the end, we had no choice. Holding our collective noses, we returned to our section with many groans and complaints.
D. Muncie South had a very competitive basketball team that year. I remember going to so many games either at our gym, the Muncie Fieldhouse, or even traveling to away games. Clint Conklin, John Benford, Smoky Vance, Eddie Childress, and some others. We had hopes of knocking off the usual favorite Bearcats in the Sectional, and I think we had a shot at it too. But, unfortunately, Smoky Vance got booted from the team right before the tournament started. I never knew the real details, but the story I was told was that It was frigid cold outside and he refused to get off of a Muncie Career Center bus to go work on a jobsite. Part of his punishment was to be expelled from the basketball team. It was just wrong! Some might say that knocking off Central that year was a pipe dream since they went on to win the State Championship, but I still think we had a shot.
All high school kids live for their senior year. Even the nerdiest senior commands the respect of the incoming freshmen. One more year! One more year of forced servitude to the whims of various instructors. All kinds of special senior events…some sanctioned…some not so much. I was too much of a nerd and too straight-laced to participate in the non-sanctioned stuff. I could say that I regret that, but the truth is that I’m so far removed that I really don’t care much either way.
A. I had Botany class with Mr. Shannon. I learned about photosynthesis and marijuana propagation. Mr. Shannon taught the photosynthesis part, and some of the other boys in class taught the weed-growing part. Botany was right after lunch, and a few of the guys would go out to their cars and get a little high during the break. You could tell when they did by their red eyes and the stink on their clothes. Just for fun, they took some seeds and planted them in the planter boxes in the Botany greenhouse. Before you could say “DEA,” there were little pot plants springing up. I don’t know if Mr. Shannon recognized what they were or not, but if he did, he never said a word.
B. One of my guys in my class year got busted breaking into cars in the parking lot. Several of us were watching him through the second-story windows before one of our classes started. One the girls said to him through the glass and across the distance that was too great for him to hear: “You’re busted!” The next day, we watched the police come cart him away. He was a good kid who got on the wrong track and made some bad choices.
C. I had signed up to take Chemistry, and herein exists one high school choice that I do regret to this day. I signed up for it, but I didn’t really need it to graduate. I had enough credits, and I didn’t need another HARD science class. So, I attended one day, and then dropped it. Instead, I spent that hour as a student assistant to Mr. Phillips in his Freshman science class. That difficult job consisted of distributing and retrieving papers from the kids in the class, and losing at least one game of chess to Mr. Phillips per day. Basically, I wasted that hour. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken the Chemistry class.
Finally, the end of my Senior year arrived in May of 1980. I had skipped my prom because I didn’t have a date (I had broken up with Toni, and she had graduated the year before and gone away to school in Tennessee.), and I was working a lot of hours at K-Mart anyway. But, proudly, I was excited for graduation. I was the first in my whole family to graduate from high school. It was a huge deal! Looking back, that momentous night at Emens Auditorium seems sort of anti-climactic. I had my red cap and gown. I walked down those aisles with my classmates. I listened to those speeches. And, all the while I never considered that I’d never see many of those kids again. I’d spent thirteen years with some of them. I just walked across that stage, took my diploma, and wandered off into life without looking back. Some of them I didn’t care to ever see again…I’m sure we all have some kids we’d just as soon not remember,… but there were also a lot of those classmates that I genuinely liked, and I was just oblivious to the fact that without school to force us together, we might rarely, if ever, cross paths again. I suppose you just don’t think about those kinds of things when you're eighteen years old.
I don’t know who I’ll see on Saturday night. Familiar faces to which I cannot put a name? People who remember me, but I cannot remember them? Lots of folks that don’t even ring a tiny little bell? And just maybe a bunch of those kids that I genuinely liked and left behind oh so many years ago.
I hope so.