Friday, July 6, 2012

Post 2043 - 1979 In Review

I turned 15 in 1979.

I had found out in '78 that it might be possible for me to switch schools.  Gym classes were offered through Grade 9, and I still had acne, so I didn't want to go to a different school until I did not have to worry about taking any gym classes, which meant remaining at that school through Grade 9.

What happened during the first 6 months of '79?  Well, when I learned that I could change schools, my parents investigated it and found it to be true.  There was a bus that ran past the corner of the street where I lived, perhaps a 45 second walk from the house. 

In March, I purchase a 45 rpm record.  I don't know why I remember buying Cliff Richard's "We Don't Talk Anymore", but I do.  It was a Friday night.  Dark.   Cold.  I walked into the record store in Kentville, which now houses  Rosie's restaurant.  Back then, it was an alternative, independent record store.  My Dad told me that, many years before that, it was some kind of a general store. 

Also in March, maybe even the same day, I took my one puff off one cigarette.  I coughed, gagged, and spewed and swore I would never smoke again.  And, I haven't!

At any rate, I listened to that 45 over and over again.  Here:  It's your turn:

Get that song  out of your head.

That Cliff Richard video is only from 2011.  Sir Richard is 70 years old and has no gray hair and can still move around the stage with a spritely gait. 

What else?  I had another bully in Grade 8 and into Grade 9.  His name was Wayne H.  He delighted in picking on me; he was hard to avoid all the time as he was stealthy and animal quiet. 

You know, you may be wondering why I never fought back during those dark years.  That is a good question.  I will attempt to answer it now. 

I saw some other kids get bullied in the worst way, maybe even worse than I was.  Once or twice, I would see them fight back.  There were 2 consequences to this behaviour.  The kid would get beaten up even worse.  And he along with the bully would both get in trouble if caught by a teacher a principal.  Remember that girl I mentioned a couple of posts ago?  The one who was pushed down a hill and ran into the side of the school and split her head open?  She was a clear victim and didn't get into trouble for being injured.  If she had fought back in some way, she would have been in as much shit as the bullies would have been had they been caught for pushing her down the hill in the first place.  By the way, I am pretty sure that the bullies who pushed her down the hill were never sanctioned for their behaviour.  Cheryl was out for a week or so and didn't report who had injured her. 

Another kid had cystic fybrosis.  He died several years ago, but even back then, he was clearly not a healthy guy.  He was pushed around and beaten up and teased mercilessly because he had to sleep in an oxygen tent every night and as a result, his hair would be slicked back and have a wet sheen to it all day.  Teachers were on his case because he could not always do all of his home work.  I lost track of him after Grade 9, but heard from him the odd time over the years. 

In 2004, we ran into each other at a local mall and chatted for 20 minutes or so, comparing our "war wounds".  He had had a rough life, made worse by his CF.  He had eked out a living driving auto parts around to garages and by palm reading (we can talk about the lack of science about that, but he needed to make a few bucks somehow and nobody got hurt).   He was awaiting a set of new lungs and was on the donor registry.  He died, waiting for those lungs.

I have often wondered how many talented, smart people end up achieving nothing with their lives because they were bullied as children and did not have the necessary coping mechanisms to see their way through to the other side.  How many folks end up with such low self esteem and self-doubt and a sense of worthlessness such that they never seek or attain a job worthy of their talents?   How many bullied people either never seek or attain a relationship worthy of them, or remain in loveless, hateful relationships because it's "better" to be in one of those than it is to be alone? 

The final day of Grade 9, late June of '79, I went in to get my report card.  I was killing some time by reading a comic book.  In one last mind screw, Wayne H. came up to me and ripped the comic as I was reading it, mocking me one last time.  I had kept my plans for the next academic year to myself.  The little worm did not know this. 

The summer had arrived.  I walked away from that school   And I have literally never set foot on that property for the last 33 years. 

What happened that summer?  I probably worked in the fields for a while picking strawberries to make a few extra bucks.  In August, a friend from that high school contacted me to request my assistance in helping friends of his move from their trailer home.  He would buy me lunch in return.  I drove over on my bike and did what was requested of me.  I visited Simon's place, which he shared with his brother.

The brother came home, saw me, and called Simon aside.  There were some words and Simon came back to me, flustered.  We left the place soon after.   Obviously, the brother didn't like me very much, and I still don't know why.

At the end of the day's labours, I got my lunch and returned home.  I have not seen Simon or his brother ever since.

Oh, and their sister?  It was the same girl who got the paint all over her smock back in Grade Primary in 1969!

September came.  A friend, Reg, had agreed to meet me at my new school on my first day and intoduce me around.

I went through my registration and was assigned a home room.  But, there was a mistake made.  There were  2 home rooms.  For whatever reason, they thought I was in the other home room.  I was being marked absent every day.  Meanwhile, in the home room I was reporting to each morning, the teacher was not calling out my name.  When they discovered the error, they asked me why I hadn't said anything.  I mumbled something, but the reason was that I was simply too shy to put my hand up, in front of a classroom of mostly strangers, and report the error. 

I went through the registration, as I just mentioned, but what I didn't mention was that I nearly quit after that first day.  The structure of that school was unlike anything I had ever encountered before.  I soon got used to it, though.

People who say that high school was fun and claim to look back on it with a great deal of fondness, are delusional or suffer from a severe case of selective memory disorder.  My junior high years were hellish for me, but there were a few green chutes poking out from the dirt and shit.  And, too, even though at my new high school, I was treated much better, there was a definite heirarchy that I could not help but notice.

The jocks were at the top.  After that, the richer kids and the kids of politicians and other upper crust-type people.  I was toward the bottom, coming from a lower middle-class family.  I didn't care that much, because at least I wasn't getting beaten up any more.

Most of the teachers were there for the right reasons.  But there were a couple, and one in particular, who espoused their religious beliefs in a way that should not have been allowed.  The teaching profession is the last one in which a teacher can get away with proselytizing and bullying their beliefs around, and the students have little recourse but to accept it.  I mean, consider where you work right now.  If someone were going around at your work trying to get you to accept his political or religious belief, would that be tolerated, for even 5 minutes?  I rest my case.

One teacher was very religious indeed, a Bible-thumping Baptist, and those people scare me the most because some of the most intolerant people I know are Baptists.  (Yeah.  Boo me.)  He would show us a film in history class that had been shown at his church the night before, but he would claim that he had not seen it and therefore could not vouch for its contents.  This was a way for him to cover his ass in case anybody objected to the overweening religious content in these films that he foisted on us.  I soon grew to dislike this man.  I had to acknowledge his authority over me, but I didn't like him.

Our biology teacher was quite a character.  I remember a note he had above the door heading into his office.  It went along the lines of, "If you don't want to be controversial, do nothing, say nothing, BE nothing."  I'd add that those comments don't apply to students or people in subservient positions of any kind.  We're all supposed to shut up or say that everything is just great. 

Another thing about the Biology teacher, Mr. McGrath?  I will never forget the time we were dissecting pigs in his class, while he was walking around the classroom eating a ham and cheese sandwich.  I asked him if it bothered him to be doing that while we were doing what we were doing.  He gave me a look and simply said, "No." 

I got Math and German from Mr. Sinnott, who had been with the school since it opened in 1958, and would remain with the school unti his retirement in 1993 (he died at a far too young age 3 years later.)  Physics was courtesy of a teacher who would, a few years hence, be in jail for child abuse and have to seek other employment outside the profession.  Geography, my least fave subject in the world, was taught by a man who attended my church.  English was taught by a man who had fought in World War II and had come to teaching late in life.  He would tell us kids off colour jokes that would not fly today, but which I greatly appreciated at the time. 

I had met a guy that Fall who was probably the smartest person I had ever met in my life, before or since.  Without breathing hard, he achieved a 95% average.  That enabled him to participate in sports as well.  He was friends with another guy named Mike, whom I knew from church.  Mike was from a well-to-do family.  One day, they invited me to go to the Bill Lynch shows one Friday night.  Mike showed me a whole roll of free tickets to rides, enough rides to make us all sick 10 times over.  I didn't go because... well, I am not sure.  I was so used to being on my own that being with others didn't make me feel very comfortable, I guess.

Over all, I was happy at my new school.  The workload was heavy, and my marks still sucked, but I was happier. 

Christmas came.  I don't remember what I got that year.  Probably some records and a few books and foundation garments.  Sorry.  If women get underwear, it's "foundation garments".  If men get underwear, it's just "underwear", even if they're clean. 

1979 was over.  1980 was waving its arms around like one of those things that get blown around by a fan at a car dealership.  It would be a year of change, and hope, and attempts at academic improvement.  And, oh, yeah: The Beachcombers was really hitting its stride.  Let's read about all that.. in a couple of days.  Taking the weekend off from this series.  I need a break, but there will be other content over the weekend.



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