Posts Tagged ‘high school’

Determined to begin making more frequent posts here, I was trying to figure out what I could write and my mind turned to alliteration.  Monday.  Memories.  Memoir.  Monday.  Okay.  A post about some memory for Monday!  Easy.  I have lots of memories.  Okay, pick one.  Hhmmmm.  Okay there’s the one about…hmmmm.  Or how about when…hmmmm.

Finally, my mind thought about Monday.  Or should I say Mundy.  Larry Mundy.  Who is that you ask?  Larry Mundy was an English teacher at my high school.  He wasn’t ever my teacher except for a few days in freshman year when we had to undergo some kind of testing and I had to go to his class.  He also did a week long lesson on speed reading techniques for all the freshmen and we all rotated into his class for a week.  But he wasn’t really my teacher.

Mr. Mundy was tall. (But coming from someone that is only 5 feet, that’s not really a good description.)  He had dark brown hair with bangs that always hung over his eyes and he spent a lot of time kind of flicking his neck to get the hair out of his face or brushing it aside with his hand so he could see through his glasses.  He always wore a suit but that’s not saying a lot because in those days, every mail teacher at my high school wore a suit, with the exception of the P.E. teachers.  Mr. Mundy had a mustache and I remember he smiled a lot and if memory serves, he was an all around easy going guy.  I don’t remember anyone having negative things to say about him.

One of the things that stands out in my mind when I think of Larry Mundy is that while I was in high school, he was picked as a member of the federal Grand Jury.  At first glance, this wasn’t a big deal to me or to most of the students at the school.  However, Mr. Del Rio, my journalism teacher and advisor for the school newspaper, The Tribune, made us realize it was a big deal.  He wanted us, the newspaper staff, to write about Mr. Mundy’s appointment and about the role and importance of the Grand Jury.  Mr. Del Rio was a history/civics teacher when he wasn’t advising/teaching journalism, so the Grand Jury thing was a big deal to him.  We ended up doing research on the Grand Jury and interviewing Mr. Mundy and several other teachers in the English and Social Studies Departments as well as the Principal about what it would mean to the school to have a teacher on call or the Grand Jury.  In the end, we had a series of front page stories related to Mr. Mundy’s appointment.

I don’t remember that his status as a grand juror ever interfered with his teaching job, or at least in a way that was obvious to the student body.  Mr. Mundy remained the same easy going guy with the long hair that he had to keep wrestling away from his eyes.  It occurs to me that Mr. Mundy would be a really interesting person to interview now, decades later, about his duty and service as a grand juror.  Rudy Del Rio was right.  It was a big deal.  I’m glad it happened because it taught me about the grand jury and the legal system and civic responsibility.

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In the previous post I wrote about a high school teacher who taught his class a wonderful lesson by accident.

When I wrote about this for a class in the summer of 2000,  I thought how wonderful it would be to contact Mr. K and let him know what an impact his accidental lesson had made on me and on other students who were in that classroom all those years ago.  I contacted my high school academic counselor, Bill Flanagan, with whom I am still in touch even though I graduated in 1974.  Mr. Flanagan gave me Mr. Keneally’s email address.  I wrote him an email, reminding him of who I was and then relayed the story of that morning’s lesson.  I told him how I have run into other students who were in that class that early Monday morning and let him know that we all remember that day.  Then I followed up by letting him know what I was up to and a little bit about my kids.

Within a couple of days, I received a reply from Mr. K.  His email made me cry.  In it he said, “Wow, thank you so much for writing!  Twenty nine years go by quickly.  Your email brought back fond memories and a little tear to my eye.  I do remember you and that freshman class of Emerging Nations.  I was so proud of what you wrote and the fact that you did write, that I shared it with my family and friends.”  He went on to fill me in on his career changes and on his family.  I was struck by his occupational choices.  It appears that after leaving teaching, he owned a restaurant then a chain of restaurants.  Later, he started a chocolate company then he went to work for a Fortune 500 company that supplied food products to restaurants and grocery outlets.  Then he did something you might not expect.  He left that company to head up a non profit organization that manufactures cakes and tarts while training and developing skills in people with mental and/or physical disabilities.  The company also trains and employs homeless and welfare recipients.  He said it was challenging but very rewarding.

I found myself, once again, in awe of that rebellious philosopher.  I am so glad that I reached out to him to let him know what he did for many of us ninth graders back in 1971.  With his email reply, I found myself again considering myself very fortunate to have had this man as a teacher.  His lessons keep on teaching.

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The Hug

[This may have appeared here before but it has been re-worked.  I hope you enjoy it.]

I remember a lot from when I was growing up but usually it is the negative things that haunt my mind.  It is a rare treat to think of …to remember… the happy times…the happy thoughts.

High school was probably the happiest time of my life. I was someone.  I mattered.  People looked up to me.   I had no obligations.  My only duties at school were to keep my grades up and follow through on my extra curricular activities.  I loved school and I loved writing for the school newspaper.  At school I could be me.  At school I could be happy and honest.

I had a crush on Mr. M.  None one of my friends understood it. He had a crew cut.  He was regimental, but he liked me and he was nice to me. He also had a dry sense of humor.  When he was near me, there was an energy, an excitement that I didn’t understand at that point in my life.  He acted detached yet I got the feeling that he cared deeply about his students.  Mr. M was my Drivers’ Training teacher.  I remember driving out of the parking lot at school and having Mr. M ask what I’d watched on TV the night before. He was trying to demonstrate that while driving, we could concentrate on safety but we could also do other things, like carry on a conversation.  I remember talking about commercials with him…like Excedrin headache #1093 and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’ (an ad campaign for Alka Seltzer in case you’re a lot younger than I am and don’t know that!).   I remember the first day of class.  I was at the wheel and had just stopped at a traffic light.  Mr. M asked me if I knew the meaning of the word “limit”.  I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly so I asked, “the meaning of what?”  He answered, “Limit.  As in limit line, the line you just went over.”  Point taken.  On another day, the first day I drove on the freeway, he said I should “watch for the idiot bumps” and I asked what they were.  He said idiot bumps were the bumps dividing the lanes, like the ones I had just gone over.  Again, point taken.  He said it all in a very non-threatening, sarcastic, yet friendly way.  He made us laugh.  It made it okay to make those little mistakes because we were just learning and that’s how we learned.

I maintained the ties with. Mr. M for many years.  In 2000 I made the drive from Los Angeles to San Jose to attend his retirement luncheon.  It was bittersweet in many ways.  I had decided four months before, when I had seen him last, that when I saw him next I would tell him about that crush I had on him.  I knew there was chemistry between us.  I knew he had felt it too.  I wanted him to know that he had made a difference in my life and that I thought about him in a very special way.  I wanted him to know that my kids had been taught how to drive by me pointing out the idiot bumps they had gone over and the limit lines they had just crossed.  I wanted to make some kind of difference in his life.

It was not to be.  One month before his retirement, his son died after a short illness.  His family was devastated.  He and his wife were left to raise their three grandchildren.  I knew it was no longer the right thing to do.  I said nothing about that crush when I saw him but he said a lot to me when he hugged me.  It was an intensely meaningful hug.  We were in a room filled with about three hundred people and he just hung on to me.  For a long time.  He would not let go and I felt that he just needed to hug me and so I accepted that hug and hugged him back.  And again I felt that chemistry.  Maybe his hug was acknowledging that he felt that chemistry too.  Maybe it was him letting me know that we would probably never see each other again.  A hug like that would normally raise eyebrows but I think that most people there understood it.  the majority of those in the room had known me since I was a teenager and they all knew him well, too.  They knew I had known Mr. M for 30 years.   They understood that long, tight hug.

Or at least a part of it.

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I ran out to run an errand this afternoon and on the way back, I drove by the local high school.  Out on their electronic marquee, was a note of condolence and support for the loved ones of 16 year old Ashley Wilks, who was killed by sniper fire at a local underage club last weekend.

I’ve been thinking about her and her school mates.  The high school years are such a difficult time.  Kids walk through their daily lives in pain and some in numbness.  To have something like this happen can send many of them over the edge.  I hope this incident doesn’t destroy any more lives than it already has.

It also made me remember the school mates that I lost while I was in high school.  There were several that didn’t make it through the four years of high school.  My younger sister’s best friend and “honorary brother” was killed one early summer evening a week before school let out for summer.  His name was Greg and he was a freshman.  Greg was the baby of his family and only son.  He had five older sisters.  On that evening, he was on a motor scooter in front of the house.  He hit a pot hole and was thrown into the air, breaking his neck.  The whole neighborhood was watching, including his mother.  He was killed instantly.  When I was a junior, my class lost two on the same day.  Brad and Greg cut school one day and went to Greg’s house to hang out.  Somehow they both ended up being shot when they were playing with Greg’s mom’s gun which she kept to feel safer in a house alone with her children.

One that I won’t forget is Rudy.  Rudy and I shared a last name but were not related.  He hung with the wrong crowd.  I had stayed away from him but one summer we both worked at the high school under the Neighborhood Youth Corps, a program to help low income youth gain job skills.  I worked in the office, doing secretarial work and Rudy worked with the custodian, Howard.  We got to know each other that summer and it turned out that Rudy was a really neat kid.  He was quiet and shy; a follower, not a leader.  Up until that point, he had chosen to follow the wrong crowd.  At the end of summer, I gave him a ring I had been wearing all summer that he had admired often.  It was a little cluster of tiny cow bells.  It kind of jingled as I moved my hand and Rudy liked it.  I took it off the last day of work and gave it to him and made him promise he would be more careful who he hung out with and that he’d come and ask me when he needed help with his school work.  During the school year, we’d run into each other and stop and talk a bit or wave from across the courtyard.  Neither of us cared that we didn’t “belong” to the same group of friends.  We were friends and we kinda looked out for one another.  When I graduated, Rudy was still in school.  He was a year behind me.  Over Labor Day weekend Rudy drowned at one of the local lakes.  He was there with his family on the crowded lake.  It took several days to find his body.

These classmates and others have not been forgotten.  It has been many years; several decades, but they’ve not been forgotten.  They’ve been remembered and missed and thought of often.

I know Ashley Wilks will be missed and thought of and remembered many years from now.

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When I was in high school, I went to every single football game from my freshman year through my senior year.I loved going.At first, I would ride the “rooter bus” because our school did not have a football field with lighting for night games and all varsity games were night games.Our school played at the PAL (Police Athletic League) stadium.So I would get on the rooter bus for the game.The rooter bus left right after the team bus and the marching band bus so we got to the stadium long before the game began.If we got to the rooter bus before the team left, we could line up outside the bus and the team would come running through the path we had made as they got on the bus.Once at the game, the energy was electric.We cheered and screamed and yelled and clapped and stomped.I remember bending my class ring at one game.I was standing next to the rail and got excited when our team had possession of the ball so I started banging my hand on the metal rail.Before I knew it, I had bent my ring.

Later, my sister would drive us to the games.We would fill the car with people to drive to the games at the PAL stadium or at other schools if they were home games for the other team.I also remember my uncle taking me, and sometimes my sister, to the homecoming game which was held at San Jose’s City College stadium.The crowd at the homecoming game was about triple the size of the crowd for a regular game.We always had the crowning of the Homecoming Queen and her Court during halftime and I remember one of my friends was a majorette (do they still call them that?) and was the only one on the baton team that could twirl fire batons.The lights would be turned off just before she began her twirling and the whole stadium was lit by fire batons held by the other girls and then the twirling of her batons lit up the sky as she tossed them way up high and caught them as they came back down.It was an “ooooh and ahhhhh” show, every time.

When my sister graduated and I got my license, I would take a car load of friends to the game.By the time I drove, my parents had kind of slacked off a bit and they would let me go to one of the hangouts with a bunch of kids after the game.I remember going to Round Table Pizza with a bunch of the kids, including the football players.We would pool our money and buy pizza and pitchers of soda and play songs on the juke box.

When I went to college, I went to most of the games my freshman year but sort of stopped after that.My school didn’t usually (and still doesn’t) have a winning team.The team was full of scholars, not athletes (although Plunkett and Elway came from my school and we did make it to a bowl game while I was a student there), so it wasn’t as much fun to go to those games.Besides, it became uncool to go to the games after freshman year.I had changed dorms.My dorm mates weren’t into the school spirit thing so it was very uncool to go to games.

Once I became a mom with kids in high school, I went to the football games to watch my daughter in the Booster Team (they stayed in the stands and did cheers and synchronized routines in their uniforms) and the next year, when she was no longer on that team, we still went to the games.I would be the responsible mom that would take my Explorer full of giddy girls to the games then take them out for a snack afterwards.

I miss that.I miss the excitement of the crowd and the energy.I miss the collective rooting of a large group, cheering for a common end.

Sometimes I leave the TV on when there’s a college game being telecast.It’s not the same but it lets me remember the times I miss and why I miss them.

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