How did I survive high school?
That’s not a rhetorical question. I mean really?
Exhibit “A” from “My Senior Drear,” a daily journal of my high school career at Belle (Maries County R-2) High School. To wit: “Jan. 16, 1980. A day of monumental significance in the history of Belle High. Dewayne and I officially formed the Independent Student Council.” I was a junior; Dewayne Butler was a sophomore. We delivered a draft of our “charter” to our principal, Mr. Evans.
One of our first initiatives, outlined in rather mind-numbing detail, was that the school cafeteria “cease and desist preparing, cooking, heating, re-heating, re-heating more, sneezing into and dropping onto the floor, then re-heating thrice more and serving swill.” We also insisted that the school administration lighten up on a recent crackdown on public displays of affection, as one of the main tenets of the I.S.C. was, “Make love, not war (against students).”
I developed an incredible knack for annoying people at a very early age. I have documentation (penned by me, of course) to prove it. But annoying Mr. Evans was sport if only because he engaged us in silly quests for things like the I.S.C., “parking lot barbecue day” (another great idea that never happened) and “Random Student/Staff Execution Day.” Thirty-plus years ago you could get away with such things.
Our senior year, classmate Sam Thomas and I managed to slip announcements into the morning communication that teachers read to students. The announcements were generated and sent from the principal’s office, by use of electric typewriter and Xerox machine. I honestly — honest — don’t remember how we “hacked” the announcements. The Internet was nothing but a laughable science fiction concept at the time.
I have this record of “shadow announcements” that found their way onto the list of official communication for Jan. 19, 1981:
– The following students are excused to attend an FFA meeting this afternoon. (Followed by a list of about half the student body).
– Please send students to meet with Mr. Evans to receive their shock treatment at regular shifts from today through Thursday. We anticipate running short on voltage by Friday.
– The booster club is sponsoring two buses for Tuesday’s boys basketball game at Newburg.
– Until further notice, student executions will take place in the gymnasium at noon each day this week. Do not come to the office. Mr. Evans says the bodies are piling up.
And there were a few more real announcements and one more that reminded students they were prohibited from petting or feeding the spike-collared guard dogs at all school entrances, but I later learned that no teacher read beyond “the bodies are piling up.”
Go figure. There were 50 students in my senior class and probably 150 or more other students in our freshman-through-senior school building. Lots of suspects. So there I was in first hour band, alto saxophone reed stuck between my lips, when Mr. Evans stormed into the band room. It was convenient, of course. His office was directly across from the band room.
I was eventually cleared on account of testimony from expert witnesses, including fellow saxophonist John Glandon, who insisted to Mr. Evans that I couldn’t have possibly been the culprit.
“Jodie can’t spell,” John told our principal. “He’s really pretty stupid.”
Sometimes it just pays to have friends who’ll have your back.
So back to a year before The Great Morning Announcement Caper, when Dewayne Butler and I presented our Independent Student Council charter to Mr. Evans. Rather than ignoring the impressive tome, he trembled (he did that a lot when he spoke to me), pointed a finger at me, and demanded that by the end of the day, I report directly to him to let him know our renegade organization had been disbanded.
At the end of the day, Dewayne and I convinced Terri Neu (Dewayne’s crush, my girlfriend-now-wife’s best friend) to go with us to the high school office. We strolled into the front part of the office, offered our polite regards to the secretary, Mrs. Abel, then breached The Inner Sanctum, a place so familiar to me: the principal’s office.
“I hope you’ve thought this over, boys,” Mr. Evans said in his most stern, authoritative voice.
Terri was asking me and Dewayne, “Why are we here?”, as Dewayne shook his head. I didn’t need to speak and it wasn’t scripted. It was “Improv at The Inner Sanctum.”
“We tried to disband,” said Dewayne, a tall, lanky guy with a goofy grin that belied his academic prowess. “But we’re up to 32 members.”
Still, Terri asked, “What are we talking about?”, and Mr. Evans told me I’d disobeyed his orders.
“What do you have to say for yourselves?” he asked. “Jodie?”
“I guess I could answer,” I told him, “but I’d rather let our president do the talking.”
Terri looked at me, then at Dewayne, who told her, “Hi, Madam President.”
Then Dewayne and I left the Inner Sanctum. I have no record of the ensuing conversation, if any, between Terri and Mr. Evans.