The second, and I suppose last, offense which jeopardized my impending graduation from East High was less harmful in general than cutting into the lunch line. But it was in fact a bit more serious and could indeed have gotten me suspended, just weeks before graduation. In that final semester the last class of my day was Art Class — which you would think I looked forward to. Not so. For the senior art teacher, to whose class I was assigned, was the elderly Miss Pooley.
Close to retirement — my Uncle Ray had had her for a teacher some 20 years earlier — Miss Pooley’s technique for teaching art was sometimes to snatch the brush, or pencil, or charcoal, or whatever from your hand saying “No, like this”, thus forcing you to watch while she completed most of your project for you in a sort of show and tell. Any respect I might have had for her as an art teacher vanished the first time she pulled this on me. It may have been acceptable to some in the class; but art class was one of the few where I actually looked forward to learning something, and to me represented the very definition of a participatory activity, not a lecture.
My best friend Vern, on the other hand had signed up for “Cinema”, and spent the final period setting up and showing movies to those classes requiring an audio-visual experience. When no movies were scheduled, it was to be regarded as a study hall. In fact, if no movies were scheduled, Vern would wander down to my art class and signal to me from the hall.
Miss Pooley, it turned out, was largely unaware of what actually went on in her classroom; at least as far as attendance was concerned. After she took the roll, if Vern was waiting outside, I would simply slip out one of the two doors when her back was turned, and off we went. I don’t know how many times we did this, but only once did she question whether I had been in class the previous day. I, of course, professed that yes, I had been there, and others in the class — knowing full well what I had done — backed me up.
I wasn’t too surprised at her question. On the day prior, as Vern and I were making our way off school grounds, we were spotted by our old nemesis, Ewald. Off we went in a flash, diving into the residential neighborhood beyond the parking lot. I think we must’ve been far enough away that Ewald couldn’t make a positive identification, but he did hurry to his car and give chase.
It took us twice as long to get home that day as it would have had we stayed until the end of classes. We dashed across streets and hid between houses as Ewald cruised back and forth; hoping to catch us in the open. But we finally managed to break contact and get to Vern’s house.
The reason I believe he did not make a conclusive identification was that the next day we were called to his office, there to be subjected to another stern warning. I’m certain that had he been able to prove it was us, our school year would’ve ended then and there.
But the school year ran out before my luck did, and I have a clear memory of marching — after the football field graduation ceremony — into the locker room wherein, in a most un-Vern-like fashion, my friend launched himself at me, wrapped me in a major-league hug, and exclaimed “We made it, We made it”!