Sometimes I wish I could remember my life more accurately. I have been encountering blank spots, whole years or clusters of years in my growing up. It just occurred to me as I was writing my new blog posts that the years from 9th grade through my junior year in high school are almost non-existent in memory. Almost, but not quite. I have a few quick remembrances of incidents in 9th grade, such as the 9th grade English class and Miss Johnson and Charles Smith in the “slapping,” which I have written about, Charles Few holding a knife at my throat, which I have not written about, the fight in art class which I also wrote about. But my friend Sheldon spoke of the “9th grade talent show” which I had lodged in 7th grade, but now I think he may be right.
I have a photocopy of the North High Annual of my sophomore year and there I am in the football team photo, in uniform, and my only memory of that fall is in August before starting high school practicing 40 yard dashes with a bunch of guys.
For some reason I did not go out for the team in my junior year, but vaguely recall being on the audio-visual crew, in which we made a movie of life at North High. My junior year was an especially difficult one because of what was going on at home, mainly with my dad’s drinking. I got several jobs during that period and ran around with some Plymouth Avenue “hoods,” had a ducktail and denim jacket with studs, and black “engineer boots.” The summer and fall of that year culminated in my “borrowing” the pickup truck from the back of the catering service where I was working, in order to impress my friends and a couple of girls with joy-riding.
This resulted in my dad, in one of his sober moments, giving me the option of “going to jail or going to church.” I was not stupid so I chose church. This was my second major awakening and it literally changed the direction of my life. I became active in the church youth group and met some really caring adults who became my second family. It probably helped me feel at home that a number of boys in the group were sons of alcoholics.
At the same time I did make some good friends through the high school clubs I belonged to, especially Hi-Y. Doug Ewald, son of a prominent dairy owner, Dave Johnson, Chuck Haight, now deceased, and Tom Moen, who went on to be a Lutheran pastor, were great friends of that year. Joel Miller, now a physician in Denver, lived just a couple of doors down and had a basketball “court” attached to his garage, where I learned all my skills playing after school. And Irv Rein on the next corner was part of the neighborhood group.
All of these connections kept me feeling that I belonged to something or someone, although I could not have articulated it at the time.