Friday, August 16, 2013

The EHHS Social Order - 6 – 6th Grade & (Gasp!) Puberty

Well, the training wheels were just about to come off now.  A sixth grade teacher told us that the child we left with her in the fall will be a much different young person in the spring.  And she was so right.  We had had our little pal with us for 11-years at that point and for the most part she had changed little during those years.  At the end of the 6th grade year, we had a much more mature young lady just ready to embark on adolescence.  That trek wasn’t much different than what wife and I recalled from our own treks.

To my knowledge, we did not stand for class pictures beyond the 6th grade, so the pictures used above for illustration are typical classes from different sources...there are no familiar faces in them.  They are here just to illustrate the fine changes that occurred during those critical 6th - 8th grade years; changes about which we may have little memory and no photographic record.  Pictures like these were always arranged by the photographer and teacher to place the tall kids in the back, shorter ones in front.  Note the annual change in positions until the 8th grade when most of the girls were in front....the boys had caught up!

Biology dictates the adolescent years more than any form of reason ever could.  Girls got their admission tickets about 18-months before boys got theirs.  So, the 6th grade was much more trauma for the girls than it was for the boys.  For the most part, a boy’s 6th grade was just another 5th…a continuation of play, baseball cards, bikes, and such.    But something was going on with the girls that we hadn’t seen before.  They tended to turn more serious and some of them shot up in height, where all the years before, they had been about the same size as the boys.

Almost overnight, at least two of the girls that I had known for nearly 4-years towered over me.  One of them had always had a bit of an edge to her, where the other was and remained very quiet.  I teased them both, as did the other boys and Rita always had an angry retort but Janet seemed kind of embarrassed and remained silent….probably hurt.

One of my EH correspondents told a similar story of her having been ostracized from the group of “popular” girls during that memorable 6th grade year.  And it’s a hurt that still resides with her to this day, albeit securely tucked away from today’s curiosities.  Another EH correspondent told of her having been suddenly shunned in her 6th grade year by a close friend of several early elementary years.  Reasons unknown, but both EH ladies got their growth spurts early and towered over their classmates for a year or so.

By some means I never knew, near the end of the year news was in the air that we were to have an end of the year party….and, we could take our dates.  Dates?  Well, that was a subject 6th grade boys hadn’t given much thought.  We knew what a date was but, we hadn’t ever before, been confronted with having to “get” one !

Now, there was a nifty little girl, new to our 6th grade Richland class named Kay Sturkie.  Kay was one of those front row pixies in the group pictures….petite, beautiful, and lively.  She was on the pep squad, cheering for us gridiron heroes that fall.  I was the star QB--this should be a snap. 

O.K., it’s spring and I need a date…Kay, of course !  Nope.  My best friend Stanley beat me to her…he asked Kay first and I was crushed.  Shot down first time out of the gate.  So, I didn’t go to that damned party (a picnic somewhere, IIRC), thus apparently starting a practice of not going anywhere without a date.  Hmm, wonder if that may explain why by the end of EH days, I had dated 9 or 10 different lovely Highlanders.

Meanwhile at Poly Elementary, McCoy was stuck with Guthrie as his 6th grade party date and at Meadowbrook Elementary, there was a full-blown formal production called the May Fete at the end of 6th grade.  Recent feedback has informed me that others of our early EHHS classes from other elementary schools just now getting their first look at the Meadowbrook shindig are blown away after seeing the images from this affair.  It made Life Magazine in 1958!

No clue what might have gone on at the Handley, Tandy, and Sagamore Hill elementary schools.  If anyone wants to fill in this unknown, be my guest.

Now, the stage was set for our developing Social Order.  It clearly involved boys and girls doing things together and for some odd reason, perhaps just contemporary fashion, for a few years it involved White or Ecru sports jackets and dance lessons.

In short, the 6th grade was defined thusly....


Thursday, August 15, 2013

The EHHS Social Order – 5 – Foundations.2

A few more comments on the years leading up to our pivotal 6th grade year come to mind.  If you grew up in a home consisting of a “standard” family….2 parents and maybe some siblings, count yourself lucky.  Not all of us did.  I’ve had a number of correspondences from those not so blessed and the stories they tell illuminate an otherwise overlooked truth; that being, a not inconsequential number of our classmates had to deal with personal struggles that most of us did not.  More to the point, we probably never gave such things a thought.

Some of us came from single parent homes where the father had passed away young, maybe killed in WWII, there were divorces, and some came from the Tarrant County Children’s Home located on Lancaster, just south of Tandy Elementary.  It was called the “Orphans’ Home” on the maps but not all the youngsters there were orphans.  Some of them were abandoned as a result of domestic disruptions between their parents—leaving neither wanting their children.  The TCCH kids were mostly sent to Tandy Elementary, then to William James Junior High, then Poly High School.  One former TCCH resident said you could always tell the TCCH boys…we always wore striped T-Shirts and long-leg jeans with the cuffs rolled way up.  (yes, that's Kay Humphrey standing just behind him to the left in a Tandy class picture).

Since our particular birth years, 1944-45, occurred during WWII, our inceptions could have easily been attributed to immature choices made by our parents in the emotion of their time.  Most of them weren’t so fortunate as our generation to experience the luxury of time and peace that provided us a smorgasbord of choices as we started our adult lives.  And it’s reasonable to assume that there was some measure of family stress within a number of our homes in those days.

Scouting and church youth activities continued to bring us together socially as we matured through the later elementary years and approached Junior High.  There were 2 Boy Scout troops and at least one Girl Scout troop.  All were quite active for a number of years.  A number of boys I knew well joined Mr. Hunsaker’s Troop 25 which met at his house on Oakland while boys I didn't know so well joined Troop 12 that met at Meadowbrook Methodist Church.  Troop 25 produced two Eagle Scouts, Bill Hunsaker & Jeff Nusbaum; Troop 12 produced several, Warren Koch, Bruce Butler's brother, & others.  Ultimately, the Girl Scout Troop that met at Mrs. Hofmann’s house produced 10 Curved Bar scouts.

Gus didn't participate in these scout activities but, did join a troop on the Northeast side for a short time.  That was about 6th or 7th grade and I found the troop too large and populated with some older boys who tended to be bullies.  A single venture into the Outback where the task was to read a magnetic compass and pace off so many steps in an assigned direction that was utterly ignored by the attending adults thoroughly flummoxed Gus, who then said, "to heck with this."  Never had much patience for busy work, a notion that clearly developed at an early age. 

There were other influences that shaped our early outlooks.  Most of us on the East Side attended older elementary schools dating to the 1922-1938 period where wood floors and old cabinetry was installed.  Not until arriving at Meadowbrook did we encounter a newer school built in the early to mid-fifties which tended to be brighter with lots of windows, green chalk boards, and linoleum flooring.  How that might have affected outlooks, I don’t know; it’s mentioned just as an observation.  Some of us who transferred in from newer neighborhoods attended new schools from the start of our trek through public schooling.

Gus note:  been distracted by beautiful weather and other activities so, there may be a few more words added here when focus returns.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The EHHS Social Order – 4 – Foundations

The next logical part of this series of reflections is the 6th grade, the onset of puberty, and it’s profound impact on our developing social order.  However, first it’s probably worth a few preliminary comments about our dissimilar childhood experiences.

One of the interesting discoveries in doing this blog has been the inputs of others regarding their memories.  That’s what I had hoped might develop as time went by.  We were a lively bunch of kids that I knew could probably share some interesting perspectives on our shared past.  But, it hasn’t been so easy to draw people out.  It seems that life has transformed most of us into wily old farts….me, too.  Why else would I be Gus?

It’s clear that all of us had a different set of experiences with the same years and within the same hallways.  As a brief preamble to the next part of this series, I’ll relate the sequence of my family’s development through the 6th grade.  Compare it to your own, if you wish.  It’s from my personal perspective.

Meadowbrook Junior High was my 6th school.  After WWII, Dad attended college at Berkeley, worked his first job at Alice, TX with a power company, was recalled to the Air Force during the Korean War, returned to Dallas, then to Riverside, then to Richland Hills, and finally to Meadowbrook.  First grade was in Ohio, second was Dallas & Riverside, grades 3-7 in Richland Hills, and 8-12 on the East Side.

Dad purchased his first car when he was 27; a 1950 Oldsmobile 76.  It had neither a heater nor air conditioning.  Next was a ’53 Olds—no air conditioning, then a ’56 Olds with air, followed by 3 more Oldsmobiles in roughly 3-year increments.  They were all new cars that cost between $3000-$5000.

We rented 2 apartments and 3 houses before Dad bought his first house in 1953 when he was 30, 8-years after he was released from WWII service.  He used the GI Bill to finance it…no money down.  It was a 1560’ house on a 75 X 140 lot; three bedrooms, one bathroom, one garage, no air conditioning, an eat-in kitchen with no built-ins, and about 8,000’ of grass for me to mow all summer long.  Dad liked grass lawns and in retrospect, liked having a son available for the mowing.  The house cost $13,000.

Texas summers are hot as heck, as any Texan would attest.  And summer nights without air conditioning are tough.  We had fans, but all they did was move hot air…you still had to try and sleep in a bed wet with your sweat.  Dad’s first upgrade was a swamp cooler hung in a rear bedroom window which worked pretty well and provided a damp breeze that kept the mosquitoes from landing for their meals.  Unfortunately for me, Dad and Mom took over that room for themselves and I made do with the fan.

Our first “real” air conditioner was a window unit in the living room, followed pretty soon by another in Mom and Dad’s bedroom.  I moved up too, inheriting the swamp cooler…that was about 1956, or 5th grade, age 11.  Parents were about 33 then.

Dad was doing well, working as a sales engineer for a Los Angeles aerospace contractor focused mostly on GD and LTV.  He had met those people while he was in the Air Force at Wright-Patterson during the Korean War otherwise, I'm sure he would have returned to an electric utility with his new BSEE.
Although he spent most of his time in the DFW area, he also traveled to the west coast now and then, as well as a few other places.  So, that gave me an early view of the travel atmosphere to far away places via his stories and from taking him to the airport and picking him up.  But we seldom traveled as a family other than 2 or 3 gargantuan driving vacations that I’ve described elsewhere in the blog. 

By 1957, with 2-cars (& one garage), my 35-year old parents decided they could afford a “move-up” home.  A false start on Fossil Creek where his chosen building lot went under water in the 1957 flood, led us to the East Side, the newly building Eastern Hills neighborhood, and 8th grade with the future Highlander Class of 1963 at Meadowbrook Junior High, my 6th school by that time.

So, it was at that point that I entered the EHHS social order a couple of years before enrolling at EH.  I knew nothing of any preceding social formations, of anything having to do with a “social order” and contending with my own version of fussing with developing puberty.  What a challenge!

I’ll deal with the influence our childhood housing had on our development and social structuring a couple of articles hence.  Where the Richland Hills housing stock was generally homogeneous, the East Side housing ran a wider range.  Our first and only East Side house was one of the “big” ones in the neighborhood north of EH which I’ve learned only recently was seen by a lot of others as being the homes of the local “rich.”  More on that later.

Suffice it to say that by 1958, through his hard work and accomplishments, over a 5-year period Dad had managed to take us from a smallish, no air conditioning,  frame rental house to a 2500’ used brick, 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, central air, 2-car garage, mansion…mortgaged to the hilt.  He was 36.  I’m sure that most of the others in that neighborhood had similar stories.  That house cost $25,000; some fancier ones cost up to $35,000 in that neighborhood.

How this figures into the “EHHS Social Order” is up to others to determine for themselves, based on their own experience.  These articles are just my view.  And this article is intended to illustrate the basis for the views that follow.