I was in high school a really long time ago…from 1956 to 1960.
It was before personal computers were developed, before cell phones and digital photography and high definition television.
My school was the lab for the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, so we students were subjected to experimental innovations such as Max Beberman’s New Math. I never did get it.
We were graded in numbers, the highest was 6. The school was populated by a large number of geniuses, quite a few kids who were smart but not geniuses, some regular old students like me who actually had to study to get good grades, and a few social mismatches (with the school, that is), including the ever attractive bad boys and wild girls.
Gargoyles decorated the roof of the old school building. The separate gymnasium sat next door to the school. The gym’s caulk-filled cracks and bright lighting, which worked fine for basketball games or gym class, made decorating for school dances a challenge. We dimmed the lights, added sparkly signs, and draped crepe paper streamers from wall to wall. Silk-screened themed dance programs, green slushy punch made with lime sherbert and Seven-Up, and stacks of 45 rpm records featuring artists like Nat King Cole, The McGuire Sisters, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley–party paradise.
Even though most of the classes I took were intended to prepare me for college, the one course that helped me the most throughout my whole life was typing. Who knew back then that touch typing would be useful to everyone, not just students and secretaries?
The things I remember most:
1. Trying out for and appearing on stage as Penny in the play You Can’t Take it With You. That was such a terrifying experience, I never tried acting again…ever.
2. Skipping a gym class one time, the only class I ever skipped in all four years. I got caught and was terribly humiliated.
3. Eating lunch out at a greasy diner a couple of blocks from the school. Best French Fries ever!
I’ve thought of writing a YA novel set in the 50s, but if I based it on my own high school life, today’s YA readers would fall asleep before the end of the first chapter. The times…they sure have changed.