Monday, February 19, 2007

School Daze

(I had written this post THE FIRST TIME and blogger ate it. AARRGH)

I’ve read several posts recently that, directly or indirectly, referred to school. I’ve always thought my experiences to be unusual until lately. You can be the judge.

Kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grades – Kaiserslautern, Germany:

- I went a DoD school (department of defense) at Vogelweh Army base. (We lived on the economy.) We had a weekly class to learn german and the teacher used a felt board to put various characters and items on telling fairy tales (Cinderella, little red riding hood) in german. I was totally bored as I had learned german idiomatically playing with the kids in the neighborhood. I was our family’s translator. (just imagine being in a foreign country and having to rely on a 5 - 6 year old to translate everything for you.)

- I had to catch the school bus at the bottom of the hill, in front of a grocery store and across the street from a fruit stand. My bus driver was friends with the people who ran the grocery store. One day I was playing with the kids in the neighborhood, we were in the store’s basement. They went outside and I was sitting on a barstool reading a german comic book. I didn’t want to go out, so one of the kids spun the chair – and I fell out of it, landing on an empty bottle breaking it. I ran crying around to the front of the store, dripping blood. The lady running the store wrapped my hand and my bus driver took me home. I had to translate for the bus driver as he told my parents about my having a blood-soaked rag around my hand. I still have the scar on my palm.

- I once decided to go home from school with a friend because it was his birthday and he was having a party. My parents didn’t know where I was so my friend’s mother had to call them to come get me.

3rd & 4th grades – Biloxi, Mississippi:

- In 4th grade I decided to use my middle name as there were two other kids in my class with my first name.

- one day I dropped my thermos running for the bus (breaking the glass liner). I asked the driver to wait a minute and I ran back (only 4 houses) where my mom met me at the front door with milk money. I was running back to the bus when he pulled away - just before I got to it. I ran down the street yelling for him to stop. (the bastard had to know I was running behind him, I could hear the kids on the bus yelling for him to stop). My mom was livid. She spent the morning giving the school all kinds of hell about it.

- My brother jumped off of some steps at school and broke something or another – all I remember is a cast on his lower leg and crutches.

- There were several bomb scares. (never any bombs). I remember being bored having to stand around outside, NOT being able to play, while the building was searched.

5th grade – Blakely, Georgia:

- One of my teachers would tell us Jack tales – this boy named Jack who lived in the Appalachian mountains in NC and was always defeating giants by being smarter than they were.

- I remember a microwave oven being demonstrated – scrambled egg IN the shell. Another food related item – earthworm brownies.

- One of my teachers – Ms. Golden – was a distant cousin of some-sort. For years since, I was embarrassed at family reunions by her telling my mother and me how sweet and smart I was.

- We used to play kick-ball and dodge ball in P.E. – you could get back into the game if you would take a lick (a swat of the paddle) from the coach. You were jeered at if you didn’t have the courage to take the lick.

6th grade – Biloxi, Mississippi:

- I had a friend named Francis, who had black curly hair. I remember thinking it was a bit weird that a boy had a girl’s name. Another friend was a girl nicknamed JackRabbit because she could outrun everyone in class. There was another kid, a bit of a jerk, who had a pet gerbil that he brought to class one day and it bit him. (his name might have been Larry……)

- My parents sent me to a child psychologist during this time. They had a hell of a time with me, they think it was because the previous year Dad had been gone overseas and I didn’t like his authority being reestablished over me when he came back. (I don’t remember why I was so unhappy – just me being me I guess.) I begged and begged to be allowed to go back to Georgia and live with my grandparents. They acquiesced and let me move back the following year. That had to have broken my mother’s heart. I still look back on that and wonder what the hell was going on in my 11-12 year old mind.

- I started playing trumpet – which I picked because I LOVED Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Band. Still do.

7th, 8th & 9th grades: Blakely, Georgia:

- I was put into the high school band because the middle school didn’t have a band program. The two schools were on opposite sides of the main street into town and there was a creepy tunnel under the street I had to use to get to band class. Seems like it was always wet down there.

- At that time, there was generally one high school per county, so football games were a few hours trip away. There was a mad scramble to sign up for bus seats in the back of the bus. The cool kids sat back there, as did the couples – so they could make-out during the long ride home.

- My band director at the time nicknamed me Porky. NOT because I did cartoon impressions. (You figure it out). I didn’t mind too much, I was 12 years old in a crowd of high school kids and I was happy to belong. But - it didn’t stop me from being in a kissing contest once out back of the band room one night after we got back from a game.

- In the 9th grade I was nominated to join the Beta Club (kinda like the National Honor Society). We put on an air-band concert (with unplayed instruments, though) and I was a lead guitarist for Boston.

10th grade – Austin, Texas:

- This was a huge change for me. The high school I attended had 3000 kids and was one of eight in the city. You signed up for classes just like it was college. You had a catalog of classes and a form to fill out with which to build your schedule. This happened 3 times a year.

- The band was equally huge – around 200 kids in the varsity band and over 100 in the junior varsity band. The varsity band played for varsity sports and competed with other bands/other schools. The JV band played for the JV teams – no competitions. There were regular tryouts for chair that required you to make a tape of some selected piece and the results were printed and put up on a bulletin board. I just wasn’t used to this kind of organization. I was used to small bands where you knew everyone. I don’t think I met most of the band. We practiced in small groups, the band director in a 3-story tower with a bullhorn to watch over a football field full of practicing kids.

- I couldn’t get into the school’s drivers ed course. Texas required the class to get your driver’s license at 16, so I took a commercial course in downtown Austin. I would take a city bus after school and return back to the school campus afterward where my folks would pick me up. One day I had a school band concert the same day as my drivers ed class, so when I got back I changed into my uniform and played in the concert. When I called my parents for a ride home, I found out they didn’t know where I was and had called the cops. I thought that they knew about it especially as my mom had specially taken me to school that morning WITH my band uniform.

11th & 12th grades – Columbus, Georgia:

- I was in all of the band classes offered – symphonic band, marching band, & jazz band. Our band director hated marching band, but since he had to do it, we were damned well going to do it right. We marched our asses off. Band camp start 2 weeks before school and was 10 hours a day. We always made 1’s in the contests we were in. We worked equally hard in the other band classes. I played trumpet, French horn and flugelhorn my senior year.

- It was an open-plan school. There were teaching teams for the major courses. There were 3 – 4 classes in one big room (in their own corners) and the teachers would rotate among them teaching the same lesson to each class. It could be distracting when the other class(es) were watching a film or had discussion and we were trying to listen to a lecture. Friday’s were test day. The room could be sectioned off using sliding dividers if needs be.

- At the end of my junior year I was selected (one of 4 from Georgia) to attend the Summer Scientific Seminar at the Air Force Academy. I had to get permission to miss all of my finals that year. The academy campus is gorgeous – on top of a mountain in Colorado. (I tried to run track while I was there and couldn’t breathe – lower oxygen concentration). It was a week of barely veiled recruiting for the academy, which I had no intention of attending. I enjoyed it though, and confirmed academy life was not for me. Despite getting to start and run a jet engine.

- When I was a senior I went to my first frat party and stayed out all night, getting in at 6 AM. My parents had called the cops and my dad was out looking for me. I was grounded for over a month. No dates, no nothing except school and work. (as you can see, me going my own way was a theme that goes back to my earliest days).

This has gotten long enough, so I’ll wrap it up now. My experience of going to many different schools was unusual – to the kids I went to school with. Maybe today it is different.

8 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

Lee said...

I went to Catholic school. I don't know if anything was weirder. Here's an essay.

On another note, I lived in a trailer in Biloxi, Mississippi for about 6 months while my dad went to some kinda military training. It truly was the armpit of America.

Mother of Invention said...

You seemed to have had a really interesting school era where you earned all kinds of neat opportunities to develop yourself and your skills/talents. That's pretty cool of your folks letting you go back to the school of your choice at 11/12 years old!

Sounds like you were an extremely bright kid so it was probably good you kept so busy or you might have got into some trouble like so many did.

Kids do move around a little more now since everyone's more mobile. In farm areas though, people don't move.

My early life was pretty boring compared to yours!
I hope you get involved in music again!

Bob said...

Lee - Wow. There's got to be a special hell reserved for people who sin in the name of god. There's a long list.

As for Biloxi, I can remember when the beaches were closed due to the polution from the canning plants. Try living near the beach and being repulsed by it.

MoI - letting me move in with my grandparents at that age had to be one of the hardest decisions my parents had to make. I do look at my life more as a series of new experiences instead of a series of lost friends. Yes, I was pretty bright but I don't think I've lived up to expectations. My mother made an oblique reference to this a few months ago when she apologized for their not having done more to help me go to college (I dropped out of college and only have an associates degree earned while in the Air Force. )

Thailand Gal said...

It's interesting to see how well you remember all of this. I admit to a degree of long-term memory trouble. The stuff I do remember from those days isn't anything I want to revisit. It's always surprising to see what good personal historians most people are. :)



urban-urchin said...

Wow Bob. It is amazing how much you remember, and yes it had to be the hardest thing your parents did at that time to let you live with your grandparents. You must have been terribly unhappy at that time. Music is a big theme for you. Did you continue with your music? Are your kids musically inclined as well?

Bob said...

Chani - As I was typing this entry, things started coming back to me that I hadn't thought of in years. Maybe my memory is better than I thought it was!

Urban Urchin - Memories seem to trigger one another, one led to another.

I have been thinking of sitting down with Mom and talking to her about that time.

I have not kept up with playing, and I find that I miss it more and more. I've been thinking about getting back into it. I've always wanted to learn how to play a piano.

Sober Briquette said...

You had to re-type all this? Groan.

I enjoyed reading it. It's probably a good thing you moved around or the cops would've had you pegged.

My friend Susanne of Creative.Mother.Thinking is a voice and piano teacher. She often finds she doesn't have enough time for making music or practicing; it's one of the things she puts on the back burner. To a non-musical person like myself, the ability to sing and play an instrument seems like SUCH a gift that I can't imagine not using it. But I'm sure I have some gifts I'm overlooking... right?

Bob said...

De - To a non-musical person like myself, the ability to sing and play an instrument seems like SUCH a gift that I can't imagine not using it. - When you put it like that, I feel really bad about not playing.... Yes, I know you have gifts you're overlooking - your ability to express yourself for one thing. And I bet if you picked an instrument and tried it, you'd discover another hidden talent.