Patterson High School (Gym view)
Back in the sixties, 1967 to be exact, I was in the 7th grade at Patterson High School. Contrary to the current trend, the entire school was 1st through 12th grade, all in one location. We were segregated to some extent, by grade… 1st through 3rd in the original front section, 4th through 6th south of the gym, 7th and 8th in the newest (2 story) section, and 9th through 12th scattered amongst the different sections as needed. One of the areas that had to be shared by the 7th-8th graders and the 9th-12th grade classes was the gym, and that had some issues that may or may not be obvious to all observers.
For some reason the Administration felt that we should not be dressing out with the older boys; maybe we would be traumatized by the body hair, or lack thereof in our case? So, they let us dress out in one of the small dressing rooms on the stage. The one we used was stage left, at the back. It was not very big, maybe 16 by 12 feet, with two showers on one side and a bench along the back wall and hooks to hang our clothes on. Being sort of hidden away back there, we had a few incidents of note that come to mind.
There was a fight in there once—can’t exactly remember the participants, but it was a roaring success of a fight! Nobody interfered until it was obvious who the winner was, and they got over it pretty quick.
Once, I noticed that there was an opening in the ceiling just above the door-frame, and I got the bright idea to set a booby trap. I shoved a short piece of two-by-four longwise into the opening then jammed the door slightly open so that it sat on the top of the door… and then we waited. The door swung open, and Colin Kelly stepped into the doorway with perfect timing to catch the board dead center on the top of his head! Unfortunately, Colin was only about 5 feet tall, and the board had time to reach terminal velocity… “BOCK!” is the closest I can come to the sound, and his eyes rolled back in his head as we had to catch him before he hit the floor! “Oh Shit!” I thought, “I’ve killed him!” But after we splashed some water on him he came around no worse for wear. We all agreed not to try that one again.
But the time that really sticks out in my mind was the one involving gym shorts. At the end of PE class one day, as we were getting dressed, Randy Solar suddenly said, “Oh, shit!” and jumped into one of the showers. He had not even begun to get undressed, so we knew something was up—then we heard him grunting, and a very unpleasant odor came wafting out of the shower; enough to gag a couple of the less hardy among us!
Seems that something he ate for lunch didn’t wanna be contained any longer, and urgently wanted out. Well, it got out all right; all over his underwear and gym shorts. Before long everyone had had enough of the smell and were vehemently urging him to get that shit the hell out of there, or words to that effect, and after a few minutes of verbal abuse his solution was to throw them out the window!
We all had a good laugh, Randy showered off, and we all got dressed and went to the bleachers to wait for the bell. We hadn’t got settled in good when someone noticed Mr. Boudreaux, the Principal, marching across the gym floor with a grim look on his face. I remember someone saying, “Boy, somebody’s in trouble!” as he made the turn to the steps up into the bleachers. Then as he got to where we were sitting, he turned to face us and said: “You boys dress on the stage?” and you coulda heard a pin drop on the moon. Somebody musta nodded yes, and he says, “Come with me.” I’m pretty sure we all had a vague suspicion about what was up, but how the hell did he figure this out so damn fast? Well, the mystery was cleared up soon thereafter…
As we all stood in his office standing in front of his desk, the reality of what happened hit home as he began by asking who had thrown the shit covered PE shorts out of the window. Let me set the scene a little better: The back wall of the gym was bordered by a sidewalk which bordered on Church Street; you either walked down that sidewalk or you walked in the street. The window of our dressing room was about 10 feet above that sidewalk… I think you’re beginning to get the picture. Our misfortune was that he happened to be walking down that sidewalk when the shorts hit the ground, and the shit hit the fan. Well, at least we missed him! And now the Inquisition began.
Nobody would fess up or rat out Randy on the first go-round, so he told us to sit out in the hall until someone admitted guilt. We all agreed that nobody was gonna say who did it, but the pressure began to build on Randy as the last bell rang to let school out. He finally stood up and said, “I’ll tell him,” and we all said, ‘about damn time’or something like that as we had been sitting out there for over an hour. My only regret is not being in the Principal’s office to hear that story!
To be continued; same life, different story…