I thought Xenia High School was the coolest school building in the world. Being young and fairly ignorant about appreciating architecture, etc., I found the more modern facilities far superior to the old buildings of East, Lincoln and Central. As I have gotten older myself I realize that I may have subconsciously noticed the marble in the entrance to Central or the gorgeous wooden banister on the stairs at Lincoln, but I was a happening 60’s chick and I did not like any of that old stuff.
The fairly unimaginative boxes that made up the high school with their utilitarian windows and floors planned for easy maintenance seemed modern and hip to me. And, we had two wings, which were even newer than the “new” high school main part. Although we all complained about having to walk so far if you had French in the B wing and some other class in the A wing I think we secretly reveled in the fact the building was so large.
Xenia in those days was probably right around 26,000 souls, and having only one high school full of baby boomers it was a big school. My graduating class was in the neighborhood of 460 people. Presuming that the senior class is smaller than lower grades–since you could drop out at 16 with no penalty, there were probably 1400 to 1800 students in the three grades, 10, 11 and 12 in 1966. It seems to me I remember us being more than 2,000 students, but that may have been my impression rather than accurate.
My favorite teachers at XHS were my French teacher, and I have already chronicled our relationship, my 10th grade Geometry teacher who had, and has a dry sense of humor, and my senior English teacher, Ms. B. Ms. B was cool, she was also inappropriate. She was a young teacher, probably in her early twenties. Evidently she had once been quite fat but had lost a lot of weight. Given the horror of being fat that was and still is to an extent, present among white women, it was no surprise that her parents had bribed her into losing weight by promising to buy her a new wardrobe. In my senior year sweater sets, a fine gauge sweater and a cardigan in the same color, were all the rage. They were not cheap, I think I had two sets. Ms. B had about twenty sets, one in each color made.
She had shoes that matched as well. This is before we had DSW or any other shoe outlet. Orange shoes, turquoise shoes, etc, were only made by manufacturers like Capezio and they were quite expensive. The fact that she had purple shoes to match her purple sweater set sent a very strong message that someone in her sphere had some serious money.
Unfortunately, perhaps because she had been a chubby chick when she was in high school and had missed out on a social life, decided that she wanted to be not just our teacher, but our friend. She particularly wanted to be the friend of the handsome boys in our class. I do not know for a fact that Ms. B had an inappropriate relationship with any of her male students, but I did hear her asking them on more than one Friday what they were planning on doing for the weekend. Oddly enough I never heard her ask any of the females in the class.
Students and teacher relationships were not that uncommon at XHS. I know at least two male educators who married female students shortly after graduation. Ms. B did not end up married to a student, at least I do not think so. The year after I graduated she was caught with the football coach in the teacher’s lounge doing the horizontal hula and she was fired. He was not, of course, the prevailing wisdom of the time being that he was just being a man while she was the one doing something immoral. I have often wondered what became of her.
My least favorite teacher was my world history teacher, and the basketball coach, Mr.K. He was not a very smart man which was patently obvious in a lot of ways. For example, I worked for him as an office aide before I realized what a moron he was. He would have me type up the tests for our class. He was a serious racist and I presume he thought that since I was black I would not remember the questions I had typed. I remember when we studied Egypt and it intruded on my consciousness for the first time that Egyptians were Africans. I raised my hand and asked Mr. K. “What race were the Egyptians?” he smiled indulgently at me and said, “Caucasians.”
My next least favorite person was my sophomore Biology teacher, not that he was a bad teacher, but he regaled us frequently with the woes of his life and confessed he actually wanted to be a farrier, not a teacher. There were a couple of advantages to his self-absorption. First, he was terribly afraid of bugs, so we never did anything with insects. Second, he was always seemingly in the brink of a breakdown himself so he was very sympathetic to any real or feigned illness. I had a classmate, Peggy, who could faint on demand. I mean really faint. She would turn bright pink, her eyes would roll back in her head and she would slither out of her molded plastic chair gracefully onto the floor. Our teacher would immediately stop class, pick her up and run for the office. We got out of a lot of quizzes that year thanks to Peggy.
I had a love/hate relationship with one of the teachers who was also the mayor of Xenia at one point. Ms. H was a dreadfully homely, but very fashionable woman. She spent most of her time telling people in the hall not to touch each other and giving lectures on what “proper young ladies do” or in some cases don’t do. I admired the fact that she was a woman politician, something of an anomaly in the mid 1960’s, but I disliked her smug chastisements about proper behavior, especially between girls and boys. My own theory was that she did not want us holding hands because she had never been able to convince any man to touch her.
Our teachers were not perfect, but they were real people, not what they seemingly want teachers to be now, non-entities with no personal lives and no opinions, at least none that they share with their students. That is a shame. I doubt students will have memories, fond or otherwise of teachers they truly do not know anything about. I will take my flawed but genuine teachers, warts and all. They made a lasting impression.