Yea, it doesn’t matter how old you get, some of us will always be High School Harrys. Still living in those days when life was much simpler. I went to high school back in the 1950s. The good news is that as we get older, the stories get better and better.
I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. Right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Back then we were known as a tough industrial town. Just North of the town was the National Stock Yards (world’s largest hog market) and to the South were large industrial plants like Monsanto and Alcoa Aluminum Ore. One thing about growing up in East St. Louis, you always knew which way the wind was blowing.
East Side High was a very large, very old brick building. It wasn’t on the City Tour. In fact, there was no City Tour. The high school was located about five miles from my house. No, I’m not going to tell you that I walked it everyday. But there was no such thing as a school bus. We all got to school some how. My first year, I road with a friend across the alley. His name was Fred “Ace” Edmonds and his older brother, “Crazy Ace,” had a car. Each morning I would wait for Crazy Ace and Fred to come out of their house and I would get in the back seat of the car. That entire year, I never spoke to Crazy Ace. Fred said it was better that way. Come to think of it, school buses sounds like a pretty good idea.
East Side High was a three year school. Our ninth grade was spent as seniors in a junior high. We had three junior high schools, Rock, Clark and Lansdowne. East St. Louis was know as a football power house and the junior high system helped that program. Rather than having a freshman football team, we had three junior high teams battling against each other (I was also a junior high school Harry). I was the quarterback for the Lansdowne Tigers. That was so long ago that I could probably get away with telling you that we were undefeated, but we weren’t. We did play one night game under the lights against Clark. We were losing until the last play of the game. I hit Larry Heise with a 20 yard pass and he ran for 53 yards to score the winning touchdown. Life was good.
So, when we finally got to East Side, we were sophomores competing to make the sophomore team. That meant we only played varsity for two years. But then again, we never lost a game the whole time I was in high school. When I graduated, we were undefeated in 46 straight games.
I suspect the school had about 1800 students. In between classes, when the students were in the hall ways, you could feel the floor on the second level rising and falling. I asked a senior about that and he said, “Oh yea, it does that.” My homeroom was on the second floor, so I got used to it. When the Washington Redskins were playing at RFK Stadium, the fans used to get the stands rocking. It always got me thinking of my High School Harry days.
My homeroom teacher was Pick Dehner, the basketball and baseball coach. He stood about 6′ 6″ and received All American honors when he played basketball at the University of Illinois. That was about the time I was born. He must have hand picked who was in his homeroom because he had almost all of the jocks from our class. Room 201 was a large study room with over 100 desks. We met every morning for attendance and announcements (which usually there were none) and then we were off to class.
Pick selected me to do all of his gofer duties, so I designated myself as the Homeroom Class President for all three years. There was never an election. Outrageous? You bet. But it fell into the category of “Who cares?” But every time I see it in the Eastlian class year book, I have a chuckle. Wow, Homeroom Class President for all three years. I must add that after attending law school, I became quite serious about telling the truth.
My senior year, me and Larry Heise were standing outside our homeroom before school started. The lovely Alice Hoge walked by and we grabbed her and brought her into Room 201. There was a supply room right behind Pick’s desk and we put her in there and took our seats. Then Pick came in and sat down. The room was deathly silent. Then the supply room door opened and Alice walked right by Pick and left the room. Not a word was said. Then Pick looked at me and shook his head.
I can now safely report that Alice did not suffer any lasting trama from the incident. There was no need to bring counsellors into the school to advise troubled students who had observed the incident. It was just another day in the life of East Side High.
The reason I am reflecting on this stupid prank is that I wonder how it would have been handled today. I’m sure I would have been arrested for false imprisonment – maybe even kidnapping. Lawyers would have raced to see Alice’s parents explaining that she needed to sue not only me and Larry, but also the school for letting such an egregious thing happen. And, of course, Pick would have been in deep Kimchi for not reporting the incident. Then, the media would look into my past and concluded that everyone should have seen this coming. They would also find out that a few years earlier, I had asked Alice to go out with me and she had turned me down! Clearly, this was an act of retribution.
Oh well, fortunately it was the 1950s and people seemed to know the difference between a harmless prank and a willful assault. Life was good and we all survived East Side High.
Written by PJ Rice at www.ricequips.com