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 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…