Gym Shorts!

“…you coulda heard a pin drop on the moon!”

phs_gymview2Patterson 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…

Books. To Read or Not To Read…

“Coach Staples was a straight-up guy, and I had the utmost respect for him, and really wanted to show him that I could do it, despite all indications to the contrary.”

phs-school_sign

PHS housed grades 1 – 12 until 1969 and grades 4 – 12 until 1976

One of the things I have always enjoyed since I was very young was reading. My mom, bless her heart, bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and I taught myself how to read by figuring out what the captions were under the pictures. It was so exciting, and I never lost the love of discovery that you have when reading a good book. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t carry over to schoolbooks…

…and that leads to a couple of stories in one, about my resistance to homework. My Senior year I had to pass all my classes to graduate; and due to the way my schedule worked out, I only had three classes and a Study Hall my last 2 semesters. First class in the morning at 8 was World History with Mr. Guion; second class was Spanish with Mr. Ryburn, then Geometry class with Coach Staples. Piece of cake, right? No.

Did I mention I didn’t do the homework thing? In the 4 years of High School, I brought books home exactly 2 times. Yep, you read that right, twice. (That’s why we had lockers, right? To keep our books safe over-night?) The only good thing about that is that I can remember exactly when and why I broke with my firm conviction that I gave them 8 hours a day to teach me, and after that, I was “off the clock”. The first time was to pass my second attempt at General Math (I shoulda had the option for Captain Math), and the second time was for Geometry. Kinda had a trend going with the Math, eh?

I already had a lock on the Spanish grade. Don Ryburn was a head from California who had a side job dealing drugs, and I happened to be a good customer. He also had a 450 Honda with burnt up wiring, and the deal was that I would let him use my 350 Honda to trace the wiring and re-build the harness on the 450 for a passing grade in Spanish. All I had to do was show up and not cause trouble in class. An iffy proposition, but do-able!

World History was also a lock for me. I had always enjoyed history, and had read a ton of books about everything you can imagine relating to world history. And I sat behind Angie Aucoin, who took meticulous notes during every class!

Before school started every day, I would meet up at Boo’s Grocery with Robbie Sellars, and we would go to the washateria on Grout Street and burn a doobie. Then I would go to class and lay my head down on my desk and go to sleep. On test days, I would blaze through the test in 5 minutes and get an F… and this went on for the first three 6-weeks of the school year.

Tommy Guion would rag on me, saying “You ain’t going nowhere, Blanco. You’re gonna be here again next year!”… but I had a plan… and I implemented it for the last three 6-weeks. I quit sleeping during class. I still laid my head on my desk like I was sleeping, but stayed awake and listened to the lectures. Then the day of the test, before the test, I would borrow Angie’s notes and speed-read through them. The first three 6-weeks my report card was F,F,F. The last three 6-weeks, it was B,B,B—so. I passed with a D. Mission accomplished! The hilarious part was the way Tommy would eagle-eye me during the test—he just knew I had to be cheating to go from F’s to B’s with no apparent change in my classroom decorum! (But, I still have that report card up in the attic for back-up.)

By the time I got to Geometry class, I was awake. I knew it was my Achilles Heel, and required more effort on my part to get a passing grade. Coach Staples was a straight-up guy, and I had the utmost respect for him and really wanted to show him that I could do it despite all indications to the contrary. But I still refused to bring a book home, and would do the homework in class or at recess just before class. So I was hanging in there, right at the margin of a passing grade, and then came time for the final. Due to the fact that I was the only Senior in the class, and had to have a final before the others, he made up a special test for me, and he told me generally what problems would be on the test. So, despite my abhorrence to homework or studying, I took my Geometry book home the night before the test, and worked every problem related to what would be on the final. I was gonna be ready for this one!

So, the big day arrives; I go to the back of the room, and Coach Staples gives me a short list of problems… four, to be exact… and I begin using the hard-earned knowledge from my long night of study. After about 30 minutes of scribbling and scratching, and even going through my work a couple of times, I bring it up to him. He studies it for a minute or two, then goes down the list and puts a check mark next to each one! I’m amazed and blown away with relief and happiness as he says “Okay, Buzz; now go sit down and be quiet.”

But as I get to my desk, I can’t believe I did that good on it, and after a few minutes, I go back up and say: “C’mon coach, I really studied hard for this one, show me where I made mistakes.” And being the kind-hearted person he was, he says “Go sit down, Buzz, and be quiet.” And being the hard-headed, slow-witted person that I was, I replied: “C’mon, coach! I really wanna know how well I did on this.” So, he grabs the paper from my hand and, in red pencil, goes down the list: X,X,X,X…, then hands it back to me and says: “Okay, Buzz, now go sit down and be quiet!”. Well, like I always say, I may be slow but I ain’t stupid. I went back to my desk and shut up. And I graduated with my class, with a C+ average, which doesn’t matter now; I was on my way into the world…. Thank You, Coach!

To be continued; same life, different story…