Monday, January 03, 2011
Third Shift Scholars
Anonymous posted this story in one of the comments sections and swore it was true. I don’t know, but thought I would share it in case someone else had heard of it.
“Almost 50-years ago, sometime during our senior year a master key to the school mysteriously showed up in the hands of one of our close circle of friends. I don’t recall exactly who had it when I first saw it, nor do I recall the story of how it came into our possession. However, I clearly recall some of the things we did and I am still somewhat troubled to have been a part of it.
“Apparently some prominent members of the Class of 1962, and maybe even of the classes before them, had established the practice of purloining 6-weeks exams and semester final exams. This was done during the second or third 6-wk period of each senior year and involved what was, simply stated…breaking and entering.
“About mid-way through the first senior semester the basic information of how to do it was passed from a ’62 to a ’63 Highlander. The means of entry was by breaking a window in the shop garage door near the latch handle, raising the door and walking in. I think the 1963 Third Shift Scholars used the broken glass method only once, then someone came up with a master key to all locks in the entire school.
“Of course, this was done in the dead of night and there were no burglar alarms, night watchmen, or video surveillance to worry about. The point of entry was in an area that was well below ground level and hidden from any passing traffic. Once in the school, there was still the problem of locked classroom doors, but seldom were the transoms locked. For a small group of lithe seventeen-year olds, boosting one of them up and through the transom was no problem and once in, the door was simply unlocked. After the master key appeared, even this bit of gymnastics was unnecessary.
“Teachers were creatures of habit, so the tests tended to be in the same place each time—Coach Willingham kept his American History exams under his small desk top lectern, other teachers used a certain desk drawer, and still others used a shelf in their cloak closet. We took only one copy of each test and checked to determine if more than one test version was being used. Although it is of little solace, we never caused damage or took anything but the tests.
“With the test in hand we retired to one of the guy’s houses to conduct a ‘study session’ where we would work out the answers and determine who would miss what questions and how many of them. We thought it important that we not all score 100 on the exams when a 96 or 98 would do and we also thought it important that we not all miss the same questions or finish too quickly.
“Once the answers were worked out, which often took more time than was allowed for the test itself, we had to commit everything to memory. Frequently the test questions were nebulous which triggered a spirited debate about their true meanings.
“I recall only one occasion that a teacher became suspicious and that was Mrs. Priddy in her English class. One of her tests was very, very difficult, probably designed to drive class grades down to enable her to implement a curve for reasons I never knew. We spent an inordinate amount of time working that test out and arranging the execution plan—who would miss what. When she returned the graded tests, I recall her having an exasperated expression on her face each time she reached one of our desks.
“Since our Third Shift Scholar program started so late in our matriculation, there could have been very little effect on the final standings which had been accumulating for almost 3-1/2 years at that point. Our goal was not to improve our class standing, it was to improve life our final few weeks in school before we would move on to the next 50-years or so.
“We caused some mischief on only a couple of occasions. Otherwise, nothing was ever stolen or vandalized. One of those occasions was very late in our last semester when we raised Mr. Johnson’s glass desktop with everything on it undisturbed and inverted his desk beneath it, then replaced the glass top with everything on it on the upturned legs, phone and all. I would love to have seen his reaction the next morning as he then knew for sure that he had a problem.
“For the next few weeks we knew that Tommy Castillion had been tasked to help find the culprits. His questions and conversation tone gave him away, so all we needed to do was not talk to him and we didn’t.
“The last time I went in was late in the summer after we had graduated. I suppose this was a kind of last hurrah before we struck out for colleges scattered around the country. Once inside the school, with no particular purpose in mind we noticed that all the card files for the fall 1963 registration were set up on tables in the hallways. Someone thought it might be amusing if those cards were missing when folks came in the next morning. So we relocated all the card boxes in some upstairs lockers leaving the tables bare. I never heard how that came out and never went inside the school again.
“Not knowing how your clever jokes played out was one of the downsides to the mischief. But talking about that stuff at all was simply not something any of us wanted to do. That is my story"
Gus says, "I'm speechless"