Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Attack of the Monsters of Eleventh. And Social Disease?

Eleventh Grade was to be my worse year academically in public school. I finished my Ninth Grade with a 1.77 average, which was my previous worst.  I managed a mere 1.57 average in eleventh, a very low C minus, very low. This may seem odd considering I made such an improvement in Tenth.
By Eleventh I had several friends and not many enemies. This factor did not improve my attention to school. I was far more interested in my outside activities. I also did not have a great slate of teachers and this really turned me off to school. As teachers went, so went my marks all through my school days; like my teachers my average rose, but dislike them, I caught the elevator to the bargain basement of cut rate marks.
My best subject was Driver’s Education, a required subject. I hadn't waited around to take this course  before getting my license. I had passed my driver’s test by early July and had two months of solo driving under my belt by the time my classes started in September after Labor Day.
Driver’s Ed was a full year subject, too. I was stuck with it for nine months. Considering myself already an experienced driver I probably should have been bored silly waiting for that baby to deliver, but I liked Mr. Alvin Alderfer, the instructor. Oddly enough I got an F in my midterm exam, but I finished the course with a B. It probably helped that I already had my license. It took the pressure off.

The course was kind of fun. We had these simulators in the classroom, which were like precursors to video games. You sat in this big box pretending to be a car with a steering wheel and foot pedals while a film ran before you. Kids chasing balls into the street, others on bicycles would pop out from between parked cars, an errant dog would dart across your path, and many more sudden appearances would challenge your reaction. Everything but the town drunk staggered into the car's path. The object was not to run over anyone. You got no points for kills.
As strange as it may seem, Plane Geometry proved to be my next best subject, it and health, but I’ll deal with health a little later. I got a C in geometry much to my surprise. That was a great morale booster. I had given up on math the year before. I had surrendered to my belief I could not do math after flopping Algebra.
Granted, Geometry sure wasn’t my favorite thing. I couldn’t seem to get any angle on how to do it.
I didn’t like Mrs. Shinehouse, the Geometry Teacher, nobody did, not while she had us in sight of her pointer. We kidded that when they build the school in 1912 she was already there and they put it up around her. She was an elder woman with gray hair pulled back in a bun, the very stereotype of the old-fashioned school marm. She was very tough. Nobody acted out in her classes. She forced us to do a lot of board work. You stood there with chalk in your fingers and sweat rolling down your face until you solved the problem or you couldn’t sit down. Often she kept pupils working after the bell, so there wasn't even rescue in that. She didn’t care if you were late for your next class or not. That was incentive to come to class prepared.

My assessment of Mrs. Shinehouse is she was a dedicated teacher who truly cared about her students. She wanted you to learn, dared you to learn and insisted you learn. It didn’t matter to her whether you liked her or hated her. Popularity was not her purpose for being there. Her purpose was to drum those degrees, angles and shapes into your brain. She even succeeded in making me an average math pupil, as uncomfortable as I was when called to the board. I say we need more Mrs. Shinehouses in this world.
The rest of my classes were Ds, evert last one of them, with a lot of Fs mixed in along the way. I had a lot of insane teachers giving me those marks.
In English I had Mr. Pidus. He looked like an old time movie version of the Latin Lover, sort of a Cesar Romero look.  I had him every day at 11:00 and I was always fighting sleep by that period. This was a class I often went into my out of body experiences, floating up above it all.

We had to give speeches in his class each and every marking period. In Junior High my one great strength was giving little classroom speeches, in Mr. Pidus’ English  the first speech I gave was one of the most boring speeches ever heard anywhere on God's green Earth and the planets that surround her on how television worked. It was technically correct, but dull as a test pattern. I did learn from the yawns and rolling eyes, and my speeches the rest of the year at least held the attention of my fellow classmates.


I would have done better in English if I had been a different sex. The girls made a beeline for the front row of his class. It was the best place for cute little lambs to entice the wolf. A little hitching up of the skirt worked wonders on hiking your grade level if you were female. A little lifting of my pant leg did nothing for me at all. Pidus lit up around any young lady passing through his sightline. His name was Pidus but it sure wasn’t pious.

I came into Chemistry with great expectations. I had been very interested in this subject, in sciences in general, back in grade school, even considering chemistry as a possible career path. I had anticipated having this class for years. It proved one of the biggest disappointments of my young life and by year-end I had crossed it off my list of interests. D. Marlin Horne was the teacher and I think we were his first class out of college. Look at his photo. Does that look like a happy man? He was very short, but with this incredible booming voice. You would have expected with such a deep voice he would easily command attention, yet he had no ability at controlling the class and he made Chemistry the dullest subject on earth, even duller than my lecture on television.

The school did little to help. We didn’t even have a lab. We met in a regular classroom. Every day we came to class and Horne stood (if he sat we wouldn’t have seen him) and bellowed out formulae. He would have an overhead projector and show sheet after sheet of these formulae. It might have helped if we could have seen the formulae applied to an experiment in a test tube or two, but we didn’t. Horne dissolved my interest in Chemistry faster than hydrofluoric acid dissolves silicon dioxide.
I did not have the good fortune to have Mr. Elliott for French II. I had Joan Grim, and she was all of that and my whole year proved grim. I took a dislike to her during the first class. I had trouble ever working for any teacher I disliked. Add to that my hearing problem with similar sounding words and this was not going to be one annee tres bonne. I had five Ds and five Fs and somehow finished with a D, allowing me to pass France. Merci pour afficher la pitie, Mme. Grim! 

There was something totally weird about our World History teacher. I swear he was crazy. His name was Sigmund Knies (pronounced: Kaa-neice) and he made up half the history he taught. He also brought in movies to show, but such might be a John Wayne epic with no relationship to World History. He took a dislike toward me, which usually teachers didn’t do. They might complain about my grades, but they normally were pleasant to me because I didn’t give them grief. Mr. Knies seemed to find nothing but fault with me. He is my only high school teacher to give me unsatisfactory marks in the deportment side of the card. He was very liberal with these, too. I got unsatisfactory in Cooperation, Responsibility, Seriousness of Purpose, Industry and Self-reliance. Think what he would have given me if I talked during his Wayne movies.

Mr. Buckwalter, the Marine DI, taught Eleventh Grade Health as well as Physical Education. I got a satisfactory in gym, by the way. Health I got a C. (Guess I was wrong about getting a D in everything; oh wait, I did say with the exception of Health, didn't I?)
Health was year long in Eleventh Grade. Boys and girls had separate Health classes with separate teachers, a lady for the girls and a gentleman for the boys. Well, Mr. Buckwalter, anyway. This was so the instructors could talk about S-E-X. Yes, by Eleventh Grade the powers that be decided maybe we should know about the birds and the bees.
They did not delve deeply into the subject however. I will summarize our sex education. A male has a penis. When a male marries and wants to have a baby, the male inserts his Penis (A) into the Female Socket (B). Sperm will magically swim from his penis and possibly penetrate the female egg. Yes, the female has an egg like a chicken. It must be why we call them “chicks”. If Mister Sperm gets lucky, the chick will have a baby. Apparently all it took was for me to place my Penis somewhere inside a woman for a baby to happen, where exactly was still kept some kind of secret. 


Although they described our penis to us in some graphic detail, as if we guys had never looked down and seen it, the Female Socket was not described. It remained just a socket and we were basically told not to plug our penises into it. The most important point stressed in our sex education was don’t do it until you are married.
Mr. Buckwalter explained how we boys should behave during our dates to prevent any premarital misappropriation of our penises and sockets.
“You might find yourself alone with some girl you like.” He began. "You may be in a car kissing. Remember your emotions are high at your age. You may experience some urges. You have to control them. If you ever feel such urges you need to go out behind the barn and take care of it yourself.”


In other words, if you are getting aroused, you need to go somewhere private and masturbate to dissipate the heat. He didn’t mean you took the girl out behind the barn. Actually it was surprising he recommended masturbation. Many people still considered this something of a sin and perversion. Remember Dr, Kellogg and his circumcision as a cure and punishment for masturbation? People said you would grow hair in your palms if you masturbated or worse go blind. (I use to check my palms a lot, but I couldn't see anything...ut oh!) Mr. Buckwalter’s more important advice was not to let things get to such a boiling point. Mr. Buckwalter recommended taking a lot of cold showers.


There was no mention of positions. There was no hint of oral or anal sex. No one uttered the word homosexuality in the room. Most of the discussion was not on the how and why of sex, but on all the bad things it could lead to. Pregnancy was a serious consequence of letting your hormones run away with you. No proper young man wanted to get a girl pregnant and ruin her life. (Shades of my father's advise.)

There were even worst things that might befall one called “Social Diseases”. We had a film showing the devastation of such things as syphilis, pictures of destroyed faces and warped brains. Health class was enough to give you nightmares and take a vow of celibacy.

Early in the summer after eleventh grade, Richard, Tommy and Suzy paid a visit. It was a languid day. We were lounging about behind my house. It was hot and we boys had our shirts off. My father had strung a hammock between two trees and Suzy and I were sitting on this hammock, gently swinging. We got slightly off balance and the hammock dumped us to the ground. I landed first and Suzy fell atop me. Her bottom came down on my face and my one lens shattered from the impact. She rolled off and I turned over carefully brushing away the broken glass before any got in my eye.
“What’s that rash under your arm?” Tommy asked.
I looked down and saw a red circle around my armpit. I didn’t know what it was. I pulled on my shirt to hide it. I was concerned about my broken glasses and what mom would say when I told her. I wasn’t going to worry about a rash.

Except I did worry about the rash, that was how na├»ve I was. I remembered all the stuff about “Social Diseases” we had been taught. Oh my gosh, I’ve gotten a venereal disease, I thought.  
I was now afraid to tell anyone I had this horrible, disgraceful thing. How this could have happened didn’t cross my mind. After all, I had not had sex with anyone. I had barely even kissed anyone at this point of my life. And if I did have a venereal disease, what kind of sex would I have been having that I caught it in my armpit?

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