Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's Only Me- Chapter 4- Juinor High

In 1967 I started Juinor High, or Middle School, at W. Arthur Cunningham Juinor High. It was about this time that I discovered, or at least I thought I had discovered, girls. They were hard to figure out- with lots of mixed singals to wade through.

I was 12 going on 13 when I met a girl in school that I really liked and we would walk home together every day after school, passing my own house and going the extra blocks to sit outside her building and talk for awhile. This was strictly a platonic affair- I was terrified at the prospect of rejection- but those walks and talks have stayed with me forever and are amongst the most pleasant memories of my early teens.

Her name was Iona and we were friends. We went horseback riding down at the end of Avenue U and to the Frick Collection in Manhattan. We even saw Monty Python live at City Center. We both liked films and saw "The Garden of the Finzi Continas" together-one of my first Foreign films. We remained close friends through most of high school and then went out into the world in opposite directions. And wouldn't you know it- 30 years later our friendship was reignited thanks to e-mails and As a matter of fact- she was the one who finally got me to put this all down on paper.

This part of my life was great. Juinor High was my first experience with changing classrooms for each subject. Each period between classes was an exercise in doing something wrong. At one point I made it my personal goal to remove all the light bulbs from all the stairwells. And when I say all- I mean ALL. So what do you do with about 200 lightbulbs? Lightbulb fights after school, of course.

Classes were organized along the lines of academic abilities. We had 7-1, the smartest; 7-2, smart but troublesome; 7-3, average and so on. I was always in the second category, smart but not quite right. So by the end of 7th grade, in a move that defies explanation, someone thought it would be a great idea to take the worst halves of the 2 smartest classes and put them together. We were called 8-2 and our homeroom was in the rear of the girls gym. The boys would race up that back stairwell to the gym just hoping for a peek at the girls slipping back into their clothes. We didn't see much- Mrs. Naholm and her assistant were ever on guard.

It was also about this time that I became friends with Jeffrey Goldenkranz and John DiStefano. We would remain close friends for quite some time until we drifted apart for about 20 years or so. I am happy to report that we are all in contact with one another again and we still relive some of our finer moments with the glee that only age and distance can supply.

Some of the activities we engaged in ranged from pitching quarters at lunchtime in the schoolyard to climbing the subway trestle on Avenue S where we would place coins on the track to flatten them. Somewhere in that activity was the hope that a large coin would somehow derail the train. Of course we never thought of hurting anyone- just wanted to see the train come off the tracks.

One memorable occassion involved me selling the Centerfolds from my Dad's Playboys in the school yard. While there was no explicit restriction for this activity- I knew it was wrong- after all, they were my Dad's. But I had an auction going- "How much am I bid for Miss September?" "I'll take that!" was the reply from Mr. Tohn- Boys Dean. I thought he was joking- or in need of a centerfold- but he hauled me away and called my Dad. I think I was punished for ruining his Playboys rather than my auctioneering.

Music had always been a big part of our lives- AM radio ruled back then- the playlists were varied and you would listen to Motown sounds and Beatle records alongside of Classical Gas and Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra records. I miss that diversity in todays' radio world. And this music had an effect on us- or rather brought out what was already inside of us. So we began to experiment with our ways of thinking and acting. We had opinions on everything. We started dressing differently and some of the boys were growing their hair long.

1968 was a pivotal year for the whole world. I was going on 14 and in that year we had the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the assasinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy,and riots in France that virtually shut the country down. The times were indeed changing and we were pulled along in its' wake.

Politics and the War in Vietnam began to take up alot of our time and wreak havoc in our families. It had only been 5 years since President Kennedy had been killed in Dallas. And ony 4 years since the Beatles launched the "British Invasion." Up until then the world was black and white. They added the color. And now with the events of 1968 we were about to go stereo.

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