Friday, October 06, 2006

Then and now...

This morning on our drive into school & work, respectively, Sam & I passed an old car... it was a black hearse. Very old, so-so condition. That old hearse triggered a high school memory for me, and we spent the rest of the drive talking about my high school years and how greatly it's changed compared to now.

I was in high school in the 1970's; graduated in 1978. Sammy goes to our district's middle school, of which we have only 1. Grades 6th through 8th attend our middle school now, and 9th-12th in the high school. When I was in 6th grade, I attended the same middle school building, and I was in the class that was the first attendees of the brand new building. It was smaller then, and only the 6th grade attended. From 7th grade on, I attended the high school. In 7th grade, I dated a senior. Think about it, all you moms... and dads, too... The 70's were so very different.

I took art classes in high school, and some of the kids that were art class regulars were really cool. They weren't the jocks, the cheerleaders, or the brains, but they were cool. One guy, who was a talented artist, was kinda tall and skinny with long, straight blonde hair. He drove an old black hearse, which was pretty unique. Very cool. I believe I rode in it once... so many years ago, it's hard to remember. And it was the 70's, you know...

I told Sam about a stand of trees close to the high school building, just off the parking lot. The trees are still there, larger & older, but there's a small set of bleachers there now for the girls softball field. I don't think that field was there in the 70's, but maybe it was. Anyway, the trees were commonly known as the smokers area. High school kids (from 7th grade on... so ages 12 or 13 through 17 or 18) would gather there and smoke their cigarettes, and everyone knew it. I suppose it was allowed because smoking was more accepted back then. It wasn't uncommon for kids to buy a pack of cigs at the store "for their parents" and no one questioned them. I asked Sammy if he could imagine our high school principal allowing kids to smoke cigarettes anywhere on school property. No way. I think probably back then, it may have been the lesser evil... at least you knew where they were and what they were doing. The smokers were generally the low end of the high school popularity scale, I suppose. Those kids now are likely the adults working minimum wage jobs, if you get my drift. I'm not trying to be mean about it, just explaining the type of kid that was in the smokers group. Bad grades and less than spectacular attendance. Higher likelihood of not graduating.

Cutting class was also pretty common. "Yes," I said in answer to Sam's question, "yes, I did cut classes sometimes. But don't bring that subject up to your gramma & grampa, ok?" I also got good grades, though I didn't take trigonometry or chemistry... I graduated with a 3.78 gpa. Not too shabby. And I didn't cut classes that often. Everyone did now & then though, most everyone... if you were cool. And everyone knew you'd go out under the football stadium bleachers or on the pole vault mats.

Drinking was very popular, too. Another friend of mine in the art crowd was a girl that had a very nice, relatively new fast car. I suppose, thinking back now, that her parents must have had money. But being part of the art crowd, she didn't flaunt that. Not that I recall. She was 2 or 3 years ahead of me, but we hung out sometimes. I remember one lunch hour in her car (when we were not supposed to be in cars or leaving the school grounds) drinking PBR, the cool beer of choice back then (Pabst Blue Ribbon, stellar in its cheapness). On the blacktop road right in front of the high school, we were seeing how long of a black mark her tires could screechingly leave on the pavement. Right in front of the high school. I asked Sammy what he thought would happen if some kids were doing that over and over nowadays... I told him I thought the school administration would probably call the cops & it'd become a police matter.

I don't think anyone ever wore seatbelts back then either. I'm sure some kids drove old cars that may not even have had seatbelts. But probably they did have an 8-track player.

And streaking! Remember streaking? I remember there was a guy that streaked through a boys basketball game. Far out, man.

I think he was on the varsity team and streaked the JV or something like that, and he got kicked off the team... or suspended from school... Anyway, pretty cool prank you'd think, but everyone knew him, so I seem to remember it ended badly for him. If my son ever thought of streaking in high school, I'd... I'd... I don't know, probably have a stroke. I never thought of that boy's parents until just this moment.

I remember finding empty vodka bottles in the girls' bathroom trash, and not hidden at all. Now, the kids can't even wear clothing that has anything about alcohol or tobacco on it, or drugs, of course. Sammy said even a NASCAR t-shirt with Budweiser car on it is forbidden. As a parent, I say, YES. Back in my day, however, in art class, I remember doing batik. I still have a tiger print I made that my mom and dad made a hexagon-shaped frame for it... it's downstairs on a basement wall right now. I also made a pillow shaped like a beer can... a PBR can in batik, about 18 inches high. Did a pretty good job on it, too. Could seriously not take it home, though, because my parents would not have been pleased at all. I gave it to my friend with the fast car.

Fighting and name-calling was also more prevalent. Our school district, like so many now, has a "zero tolerance" rule on such things now. Again, YES!

Sex, particularly unprotected sex, was also more common back then I'm sure... at least high school pregnancies were more common back then. When I attended 6th grade at that new middle school building, one of the girls in our class didn't finish her 6th grade year as she was busy giving birth. She kept the baby boy, too. Every year after, there was at least one girl from my class that got pregnant, I'm pretty sure. If not at our high school, then definitely at a nearby high school where I had a couple of good friends. At that high school, in my 9th grade year, I went to class there for a whole day with a friend... which was super fun. But I remember being amazed at the pregnant bellies I saw there... it happened to be like a school record or something that year, because of grades 9th through 12th, they had around 12 girls pregnant. This was a smaller school than the small high school I attended... the 4 grades there comprised a population of probably about 400 kids. Thinking back on that now, it makes me sick. Actually, I remember feeling something along the lines of "this is just wrong" even back then. Drinking PBR, cool... having a baby... NOT cool.

This post kinda makes it sound like I went to a crappy low-life high school, but that was not the case. In addition to the smokers, the fighters, the class-cutting, the drinking, etc., we had the usual great stuff. Good teachers, high achiever kids, great athletes, fun stuff... good, clean fun. Hot baked potatoes at football games. Dances in the gym. Oh, wait, I think it was the cafeteria, not the gym. Cramming for tests. AV cart. Posters on the walls. Really bad spaghetti for lunch. Researching for term papers. Cruising McDonalds on Friday nights. The usual stuff.

But many of the things that passed for acceptable back in the 1970's would not pass now. Because we have evolved, that is, we have advanced, we have grown. Thank goodness.

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