I bet I am not the only one who had a terrible year at school. Here is one I remember.
I spent eight happy years at Stellwagen elementary school. Then it was time to say goodbye to long time classmates and bend to the will of school districting and educational alignment. While most of my classmates went to the same four year high school, a few of us on the edge of the district were assigned to ninth grade in an intermediate school before attending another three year “senior high” even farther from my home.
Jackson Intermediate was fed by a dozen or more elementary schools each sending a large contingent to the enrollment of 2,200. There were only a handful of us from my school. There were no Stellwagen pals in any of my classes. It was especially bad the first hour of each school day. Our home room teacher was Miss Axelrod who was strict and the other kids I was with had been together at least two years in the seventh and eighth grades and many had been together since the beginning of elementary school. I was clearly the outsider.
This year went in a blur. The only class I liked and can even remember is band. I played saxophone well enough to manage straightforward music. We played marches and arrangements of popular pieces prepared for bands like ours. I played first chair but Tony Aiuto, a seventh grader who played second chair, was better. I also played in the studio orchestra and the dance band.
Across from me in the big band Sally and Daisey Sparkman, fraternal twins and both pretty, played flute. I don’t remember saying a word to either that year. Later in high school we became good friends. I also played on Friday nights at Catholic School dances with the Jimmy Hendrix orchestra. Jimmy was a 10th grader at a different school. He was also a Detroit Tiger bat boy. Cool. Music for a mediocre saxophone player was the only thing I had going. Even that took a dive when Mr. Van Orden bawled me out in front of the band when I couldn’t get the syncopation in “Rock-a-bye Baby”. Nothing worked that year.
I walked to grade school for eight years, by myself or herding two younger brothers. I rode a city bus to Jackson. No school buses for us then. When school got to be too much, I didn’t get off the Warren Avenue bus at the usual stop and went all the way downtown. It took about 30 minutes more. When I got off the bus, I would head to the J.L. Hudson Company Department Store.
I started on the first floor and walked every aisle on every floor until I had seen it all. At the time Hudson’s was the second largest department store in the country second only to Macy’s Herald Square. Hudson’s was the tallest retail building in the world at 29 stories. There was lots for me to see.
When I had had enough of Hudson’s I went to the Telenews Newsreel theater and watched the continuous reels until it was time to go home.
My parents never knew about this. My teachers never asked for a note. My dozen or so absences went unnoticed. The year ended. I had survived – alone.
Everything that went wrong at Jackson was righted at Southeastern High School where I spent three happy years. After that my time in school was positive and rewarding. Everything was easy after Jackson!
By Savvy Senior
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