Getting integrated in the 9th grade made my high school years ( even though technically the 9th grade in Xenia then was Jr. Hi) very interesting. After I figured out that white kids were very little different from black kids, except there were so many darn more of them, I could relax and begin to look at them not as alien creatures, but as contemporaries with melanin deficiencies. There were lots of things we had in common, quite a few things we had different—it was hilarious to me to hear them call the downtown area “uptown” even when they did not live in an area when it would have been up-anything to them. They were more divided along economic lines than we were. Our sorting took other avenues, particularly whether or not you were “cool.” Cool was not something we could define, we just knew it if we saw it. I was not cool. I wore glasses, I was studious, and believe it or not, relatively quiet, I was also not allowed to do a lot of things the cool kids do, like stay out late, go to the skating rink frequently ( my first trip to the skating rink resulted in a doctor’s visit to remove a four inch splinter from my hand—the floor was wood) and I absolutely could not “hang out.” I also was not the best dancer in the world shall we say. The slow dance was no problem, hanging on and swaying after all is not difficult, and I could do a mean cha-cha and Spider and even the Social, but fast dancing as we would call it, some called it hand dancing, was not my specialty.
I was saved from social ignominy by a couple of things. My boyfriend was cool, and he had a lot of parties and he had access to a car. As difficult as it is for youngsters now to understand most teenagers in my era did not own a car. Some of them had cars that belonged to the family that they could use often though and that was almost as good. Most teenagers in my era also did not have jobs by the way, not unless your parents owned a business. My friends Sally A., whose father owned the A &W drive in and Susan C whose father owned the dry cleaners pulled some shifts , but working to support a car was an anomaly in my time.
Not to mention that one of the sorters for what group you fit into, preppy, jock, hood or other was whether or not you participated in extra curricular activities. The hoods did not, period. Hoods did not even play sports although some of them were no doubt talented, they simply did not view school as a community, more like a detention center, but then that is basically how they were treated, like inmates. In those days the idea of equal treatment for all was an alien one at XHS. If you were one of the “good kids” and this was not based on the criterion of race or necessarily income, although poor kids somehow seemed to end up overrepresented in the “bad kid” category, there were different rules for you. For example, us good kids had, if you kept a certain grade point average, unsupervised “honor” study halls. That mean the most precious commodity that could be offered during the school day, fifty minutes with no adult supervision.
Needless to say the honors study hall was a breeding ground for mischief. Several notable examples come to mind. The first is when my classmates took one of my teachers’ VW bug apart and put it back together in the lobby of the school, they did not do that in one period, of course, but the idea was hatched during the honor’s study hall. The other, meaner, incident was when several of us ( yes us) convinced one of our male classmates to take one of our female classmates who was something that rhymed with witch, to the drive-in and neck with her and then get up in honor’s study hall and give a graphic description of how far he got with her. Do not shake your head about bullying, she was a nasty individual who reveled in saying unpleasant things about other classmates, especially girls and especially disliked people from the wrong side of the tracks. She was not a nice person. Even so, I did feel a slight pang when she ran from the study hall in tears. Remembering some of the things I had heard her say with others as the object of her scorn, however, I did not let it bother me too long.This young lady was a cheerleader and fairly attractive and was pretty sure she owned the school. I suppose youthful lack of empathy and understanding led us to arranging the dastardly deed. We believed unequivocally in an eye for an eye.
Most of our attempts at our version of justice, however, were directed towards the principal and teachers, not each other. We kind of considered ourselves to be united as victims of their oppression. Another one of the honor’s study hall plots that was hatched revolved around my classmate Peggy‘s ability to faint on demand. Peggy, who was a very pale, slender girl with reddish hair often looked rather like she was not quite there anyway. She was quiet and kind of tended to fade into the background. Peggy was not of good family as we said in those days and ergo was not actually in honors study hall, but we decided that we should recruit her in difficult situations like pop quizzes and therefore overtures of friendship were made that might not have otherwise been made. Eager to fit in and be popular, as we all were, she bought into the plot. Our biology teacher Mr. R. was an effeminate little man, very pale, rather chubby, already balding in his early thirties, who shared with us ad nauseum that he really wanted to be a farrier, not a teacher. he had moved to Xenia because we had a farrier school in town and he took the teaching job so he could get money to pay for his tuition at the school and to live on. He was afraid of bugs and snakes and frogs so we did not do much dissection, mainly we studied things in books. He was, however, fond of giving pop quizzes, a practice we absolutely hated.
So Peggy was put on notice. The next time Mr. R announced a pop quiz she was to faint. One Wednesday he announced we should get ready to take a pop quiz and on cue Peggy went limp, and in slow motion slithered out of our modern plastic molded chairs with attached writing surfaces. Mr. R looked stricken and amazed. I thought he might faint too. We all made much of the incident with exclamations of “Oooh she fainted!” just in case he was too thick to get why she was lying on the floor.
After a brief period of inertia he sprang into action and after several foiled attempts at scooping her up ( she really was out and limp) he finally managed to get her into a kind of fireman’s carry situation and dash out towards the school nurse‘s office. At least that is where we presumed he went. We frankly did not care. We had accomplished our goal. We were not going to have a quiz and we had obtained our version of Nirvana, a class with no teacher for more than ten minutes or so. We made use of Peggy’s unique talent on several occasions, she never seemed to be the worse for wear and we always enjoyed it enormously. It was win/win. She got to be lauded for her contribution to our need for control and we got to disrupt the day without personal risk, because good kids did not get into trouble!
The same cannot be said for our teachers. One of my English teachers, when I was a senior actually, had been a fat girl in college. After she graduated her wealthy parents sent her to a fat farm and she slimmed down nicely. Except for still having legs that did not really have ankles she was fairly slender. Her pleased parents had sprung for an impressive wardrobe as a result. Twin sets, short sleeved or sleeveless sweaters with a cardigan of the same color over them were all the rage that year and costly. Miss B had them in all the colors of the rainbow. She also had a yen for cute high school boys and could be seen flirting with some of our hunks openly in class, even going so far as to ask the young men openly what was going on and what they were going to do over the weekend. She would evidently show up sometimes to enjoy herself with the young men, although to what extent I never was privy to. All of us females were, of course, outraged at her obvious penchant for young flesh. She would, however, get her comeuppance shortly after we graduated. She and the football coach, Coach H were caught doing the horizontal hula in the teacher’s lounge after school by my French Teacher, Mrs. L! Miss B was fired, Coach H was not and I was the beneficiary of a delightful description of the event my Mrs. L years later when I went back to do my student teaching under her direction. ” Melva”, she breathed in dramatic fashion( she always called me Melva) I opened the door and there there were, mostly naked, flagrante delicto right on the teacher’s lounge couch. I was appalled, I backed out, but I simply could not forget what I had seen. I had to report it! ” Mrs. L was a very proper lady and she was truly horrified at this crude lapse of couth. I can still hear her tone of outrage and disbelief.
Ah well enough tales of XHS back when the earth was cooling.
Those were different days! 🙂