Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The EHHS Social Order - 7 – 7th Grade & More (Gasp!) Puberty

After one final summer of Little League baseball, a final summer of collecting the baseball cards of Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, among many other greats of that day, no boy/girl stuff, bike explorations into the deep mysteries of the wilderness east of Richland Hills, tadpoles, crawdad fishing, and a bunch of similar pleasant distractions, 7th grade and their bouts with puberty awaited the boys at Junior High.

The girls had been dealing with their own pubescent bewilderment for about a year or so by now.  Elvis topped the pop charts and so did Pat Boone.  And the girls tended to flock together to learn and dance to the new Rock ‘n Roll music that was filling the radio waves.  Starting near the end of 6th grade, a number of parents hosted fairly large house parties, inviting both boys and girls, where most everyone started learning to dance.  If you didn’t dance….you were “square” and most likely not invited to the parties.

For a few of the elementary years, some of the kids had been gathering together for small birthday parties and swim parties at local pools.  Private pools may have existed this early (1956-57), but they were rare—most of us were just getting acquainted with real air conditioning about this time and a few of our families were just getting their second car.  Ft. Worth was blessed with a number of privately owned public pools such as Burger’s Lake, Barbrook, Lucas, and the Meadowbrook CC pool on Jenson.

Another active venue for boys and girls to gather were the neighborhood movie theaters and nearby eateries.  On the East Side, it was the Gateway theater; in Richland Hills it was the Haltom theater and occasionally, the Tower at 5-Points (or, is it 6-Points?).  A lot of us had been going to the Saturday matinees since the early grades.  During all those years we were content to goof around with friends, throw pop corn off the balcony, and eat plenty of junk food.  About the start of 7th grade, we started noticing our opposites…girls and boys.

Junior High.  I suspect that our first days at Junior High were about the same no matter which school we attended.  9th graders were a lot larger than we 7th graders and the 8th graders were also a little larger.  For a 7th grade boy, that meant that for the first time in his life, he had to face other boys that posed a threat….bullies.  

Since I attended 7th and 8th grades at different schools, I had the opportunity to observe and deal with bullies in both schools…they were about the same in each place.  They were generally a little larger, not too bright, some of them perpetually menacing, some happy-go-lucky, but all shared a common trait.  They were ready and able to fight at the drop of a hat whenever someone angered them…which wasn’t at all difficult to do.  Since I hadn’t been trained to fight, lacked size, and valued the integrity of my teeth, eyes and nose, I gave these guys a wide berth.  However, they were never far away, especially in the PE classes. 

Bullies were also prolific sources of new vocabulary words I was sure I couldn’t repeat in any company I was likely to keep.  One of Meadowbrook bullies told me that he had gotten, “a 25¢ piece” over the weekend.  Piece of what, I wondered.  When he or someone else explained, I still had little clue what he meant.  In retrospect, I suppose it was one of those many subtle eureka moments during the march through puberty.  By 9th grade, most of our adolescent thugs were gone…somewhere and we didn’t see them at EHHS.

Lots of new kids.  At Junior High, our 2 or 3 sixth grade classes from our 3 or 4 former elementary schools were joined with one another forming a much larger student population about 3-4 times larger than we had been in school with all those elementary years.  That meant more pretty girls, more sports competition, more academic competition, and losing the strong ties with our earlier friends as new ones came forward.

My girlfriend situation that year was a mixed bag.  Gone after just that one 6th grade year, was the beautiful Kay Sturkie who had broken my heart over that 6 grade picnic deal; but, rejoining me after our having been separated since 3rd grade was the beautiful Donna who had been my love interest in the “old days.”  Now 12, she hadn’t aged too well but, she was as affectionate as ever (back in 3rd grade !) and pasted herself to me all that year.  However, a young man’s eye does tend to wander, even at that tender age and mine certainly did. 

Cheerleaders.  Besides all the various coveys of girls intently focused on girl stuff, Rock ‘n Roll, and dancing, there was the new and exciting prospect of a new group of very visible young gals…the Cheerleaders !  We had had them in elementary school but, those were different since we had known them since the early grades.  From a 7th grader’s perspective, these new Junior High cheerleaders were older women…all 5 of them either 8th or 9th graders.  Added to that wonderful new environment was the traditional all-school pep rally in the auditorium which would be a fall staple all the way through the rest of our schooling at EHHS. 

It was immediately clear to any observant 7th grade boy that being close to one or more of those cheerleaders would put you in the most visible of all the school groups.  But, in 7th grade, it was also clear to that same boy…he had no standing as a significant figure yet.  So, I suppose the pages in my 7th grade yearbook was this adolescent’s closest pass at the cheerleader spotlight…they all signed my book…at my request.  Guess I had one of those innocent, wishful looks about me then.  But, as an experienced autograph collector by then, having already scored autographs from Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Rogers Hornsby, maybe there was a little more juice to the kid than I recall.

House Parties.  A fairly significant component of our early social sorting were the house parties given at various homes around the area.  This was a somewhat common event in both the Richland Hills and Meadowbrook neighborhoods where I attended both schools.  I believe these parties to have been more our parents’ creation than ours.  Of course, as kids we were more than happy to go along with the party idea since it provided additional venues for socializing between the boys and girls….and it was fun…well, it was for those who were invited.  And therein lay some problems.  Not all of us could participate because we weren’t invited.

Of course to throw a party, a family had to have a large enough house and yard.  Most of us didn’t.