Starting High School
This is a post I’ve written for the Dad’s Legacy Blog I’m writing for my children and grandchildren, but I think it gives an insight into how education has changed in the almost seventy years I’ve been on this planet, so it fits here on Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog in that it provides Reflections from an Older Perspective.
I started high school in 1957. Elvis Presley’s (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear was number one on the pop charts and Around the World in Eighty Days would win 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Gas was 31 cents a gallon, not that I cared yet. East Haven High School was an old brick school established in 1936 and it looked pretty dated to a young man coming right from the brand new junior high. But that didn’t matter … we were hitting the Big Time – high school. We collected at the corner of Bradley Street and Laurel Street to wait for the bus, as I recall, about a dozen of us. I was a four foot ten skinny kid with a pompadour, car door ears and and a brain that made school … at least the academic part of it … easy. The social part would take time.
The high school offered three courses: College, Commercial and General. Commercial was oriented toward the kind of skills someone expecting to do office work when they graduated, while the General Course focused on basics and trades, like machine shop. It was no secret that the smart kids took the College Course and the not so smart kids took the General course, although we never put it quite that way. After all, some of the General course kids were also the tough kids. Besides, between my neighborhood friends and the friends from the honors program in junior high, I had friends at all academic levels. It was an age at which boys and girls were beginning to couple off, though most of the couplings were short-lived. While I had many girl friends, I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school. I attributed that to my height and my looks at the time, but looking back with these Older Eyes I realize that I was painfully shy when it came to matters of the heart and clueless when it came to what rocker Bob Seger called Night Moves. There were in fact girls who wanted to be my girlfriend but I didn’t know how to navigate the road from boy friend to boyfriend so it was easier to pine for those already taken.
My home room teacher was Mr. Callistro. It’s a bit amazing that I didn’t have to look that up because Mr. Callistro taught classes in the Commercial Course, so the only time I saw him was during the short homeroom period before classes started. No name from high school had less influence on my than Mr. Callistro yet there he is. I can even picture him in my mind’s eye. East Haven was a largely Italian town and of the twenty-five or so students in my homeroom, only two or three weren’t Italian. My love of Italian food ever since high school would suggest that those years made me an unofficial Italian. Mr. Garvin, our principal, would come on the PA system to make the announcements for the day in a New England accent that added the letter a the end of virtually any word ending in a consonant. Then, the bell would ring and we’d head off to our classes. My Freshman year, if memory serves me (it sometimes still does) my classes were General Science, Algebra, Ancient History, English, Latin I, and, of course, Phys Ed. I think classes were easy and my Freshman year uneventful because I don’t have many specific memories. Favorite? Miss Miller’s English. Least? History. Easiest? Science.
Perhaps the best way to capture the spirit of my Freshman year are my best and worst memories. Worst first, OK … so I can close on a positive note. On the bus one day, one of the better looking girls spent most of the ride telling me how much she liked me. I spent the whole day love sick, just waiting to see her on the bus on the way home. On the way home, she and one of the older neighborhood kids told me it had been a joke, that they just wanted to see if I’d believe it. Kids can be so cruel. My best memories, though, were the school dances. It was a time when slow dancing was in, even among the popular kids, so for every fast song like At the Hop, there was a Put Your head on My Shoulder.
I might have been too shy to have a girlfriend but my girl friends were happy to dance with me, some close enough to be girlfriends for a few fine moments. And afterwards, we’d all walk to Tolli’s for pizza and listen to the same sweet music on the jukebox. Happy Days. My heart still smiles when I hear those old songs.