As the final football season of my high school years came to a close, my interest in East High athletics waned. At least for a while – I would be back before the decade was over; an East High Alum and a rabid fan of both the football and basketball teams. But for now my attention shifted to getting through the school year, and to the Navy, which lay just beyond. As I settled into my last year at East, it was evident, as it had been so all along, that while I got by, I would not excel in the high school environment. Not athletically, not scholastically, and not socially.
The Freshman Clique were now of course all seniors, and had complete control of the East High student society; their portion of it at least. The rest of us just sort of did our own thing, and rode the continuum, waiting – for my part at least – for it finally to be over, and for life’s next phase to begin.
The school year progressed as expected. The academic portion was, for me, actually no struggle at all; I just didn’t work very hard at anything. Consequently I concluded with a solid, well-deserved low “C” average. I was a bit wiser now, however. I knew what to do to not fail, and that was good enough. And in art class, the one thing I would normally look forward to, I was saddled with a teacher with whom I had no rapport, and for whom I had no respect.
There were exceptions, however, such as American history, in which I got an easy “B”. As usual, I expended no real effort, but the march of time, as presented by Mr. Davis, was both interesting and compelling – kind of like an adventure/drama story, but one whose conclusion remains, tantalizingly, just beyond the last page. In later years I would wistfully regret, more than a few times, not pursuing a degree in, and a career teaching — and perhaps even writing — history. But at the time, such a notion would’ve seemed laughably far-fetched.
Given my previous experiences, both bad and good, with books, it was with extreme irony that I got through senior English to a large degree, it seemed, by reading novels. As I have previously noted, I had just recently discovered the pleasures of reading. My teacher was English Dept Head Mr. Blackwell, whom I recall as being an OK guy — despite being old. But I didn’t really get to know him very well for he had, that year, a student teacher who “assisted” in class. Actually, from my perspective, theirs was more like the relationship between a Professor and a T. A. In this case, the teacher hovered, and observed, and I’m sure advised, but Professor-like, left most of the actual student contact to his protégé.
This earnest young fellow noted my interest in reading, and encouraged me; recommending and later discussing books which were, I now think, just a bit above my level, causing me to stretch a little without even knowing it. Thus I slid through senior English doing mostly what I enjoyed, and only occasionally having to burden myself with such tedium as conjugating a verb, or diagraming a sentence.
I don’t recall this young student teachers name, but I’m quite sure that, if he didn’t burn out somewhere along the line, he went on to a career as a great teacher. At least I hope so, for in a small, but significant way, he helped me as much as anyone to advance along the academic pathway.
But the real bright spot of each school day was Mr. Amyx’s Auto Mechanics/Metal Working shop class, in a far corner of the lower floor; between the machinist’s “classroom”, and the print shop. It was to there that I migrated after my sudden and complete loss of interest in electronics — for I had heard the siren song of the internal combustion engine, and it was this classroom in which its secrets could be discovered.
It was there that I became part of a small group of “teacher’s pets” who formed the team that participated in the annual Chrysler Corporation sponsored, interschool competition in automotive troubleshooting. We didn’t win, but no matter, it was great fun and a very intense learning experience.
Those who continue to read this narrative will learn that, to no one’s surprise, the school year ended (not without some drama) and I graduated, depositing me in an eventful, if somewhat surreal period of my life, as everything in the following months was influenced to some degree by my impending departure for the U.S. Navy.