I Go To High School In The Big Town
My easy, carefree years were about to end. I had successfully passed eighth grade with a good average, and was ready for high school. My dad gave up the farm where I had spent so many happy days so that I would be near a high school.
Going to Hollidaysburg in 1932 was quite different than today. I had to find a way to get to school each day. Sometimes I walked most of the way; at other times I would get a ride. One teacher from Claysburg drove every day to Hollidaysburg, but he did not always stop and pick me up. Sometimes I and a friend, Floyd Baker, would get a ride with his father from their farm to Hollidaysburg. In the bad part of the season, my dad would buy me tickets to ride Long's bus. Dad was rather close with his money. My mother sometimes gave me some change, and I would go down to a restaurant, the Sugar Bowl to get soup for lunch. Sometimes I would spend my lunch money on candy at the five and dime store. Most of the time I would carry a lunch and eat out on the lawn somewhere.
In speaking about lunches, mine was not often a sandwich made of lunchmeat, but usually something from the garden. One of my favorites was butter bread and a tomato, or in the winter it would bread spread with apple butter and cold sausage. You can see why I usually went out by myself to a local diner for lunch. There was no cafeteria in the school at that time. Most of the students were from town, so they went home for lunch. A few others, like me, were from the outlying districts, and we ate wherever we could. It was not until I was in my senior year that there was a room designated for us to eat lunch.
During my senior year, I worked by cleaning up the new lunch room. I got paid by the NYA (National Youth Administration), which was set up by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help needy students. My senior year was the year that Dave Dodson had me drive his car to take his two children to school.
I lived too far from the school to take part in anything like sports. I did participate in the coin and stamp club and in the Junior Orchestra.
Getting to school and then back home again in the evening was problem enough, but the biggest problem I had with school was the education itself. Subjects were much harder than I expected and classes were not in the least as simple as before. First of all the classes were as large as the entire Smith School, all grades combined, and you were not on intimate terms with all of the other students. At Smith School I knew everyone; at Hollidaysburg I was very much alone. I had the same feeling of loneliness when I was serving in the army.
Classes were difficult for me, because I had been advanced those several times at Smith school. My mother was no longer able to help me in my homework. I would usually do some of my homework during study periods, but there was always a lot to bring home. I took the commercial course because I wanted to be able to get a good job as an accountant. This led to me taking a correspondence course from LaSalle University that ended two years later.
My high school years are something that I would like to forget now, because of some of the things that happened.
In English class we were to prepare a paper and give a talk. Well, I cut English class for three days, but the following Monday I was called upon to give it. There is much to say about embarrassment, and I experienced it all that Monday morning. I had to confess that I did not have a talk prepared. It would have better to confess it at the beginning, than to go through the humiliation later. Another situation in which I experienced embarrassment was when I was cleaning the lunchroom. As I mentioned earlier, I was paid to clean the desks and sweep the floor after lunch. I was engaged in another class when the Principal called me in and ordered me to clean the room while that class was in session. You can imagine how I felt as students applauded me for a job well done, and all the fun making that lasted for several days thereafter. Those were only two of the lessons that I learned. They were not in any textbooks.
George Stroup was a two hundred and twenty-pound football player who decided that he would be my protector. I donít know why, except he was from East Freedom and did not like to see a neighbor being picked on. I was not one of the popular students in the school, I guess because I did not have the time to stop and visit. I was dismissed and would start out over "the ridge" toward Catfish and Leamersville. Some days I spent a couple of hours getting home. I had only a few friends, and they were only until after graduation. I donít remember any of them ever stopping by to visit. Neither did I ever go to see any of them.
There was one exception to the last statement. When my class was planning the fifty-year reunion, the only class reunion they ever had, Chet McCloskey called and asked me to be on the committee. I was washing windows when Dollie called me to tell me he was on the phone. I began laughing because he was the only person that I had ever hit with my fist in anger. In regard to that incident, I need to go back a lot of years to when we were in school. I had surgery on my chest over the ribs. We were changing classes and I was starting up the steps to the second floor. I was about four steps up when he jabbed me in the ribs. Out of pure reflex, I turned around and clipped him on the jaw with a good right. He went backwards down the steps, taking a couple of students with him. Needless to say I was called to the principalís office and was close to being expelled for several days. I had my pocket knife in my pocket, and the principal took it from me - as evidence that I was a "trouble-maker". After I took off my shirt and showed the principal the bandages on my chest, he did not do anything about it. (And the principal then gave back my knife.)
Needless to say, I neither had the time, nor did I want to be on any committee. I was ignored in school, so why did I want to see any of the people I went to school with? Chet turned out to be a minister and served a church in Maryland. He and his wife stopped by later after the reunion. He did not say how things turned out. What he wanted me on the committee for, was to boycott the Friday night session where they were going to serve alcohol.
There were other times that I was teased and tormented by the other kids. I had a classmate who somehow found out my dad made liquor and he started to call me "bootlegger". Considering that up until that point we were friends, it made the insult worse. Soon several others started doing the same. School was not a delightful place for me then. After about a month this all stopped. I think that George Stroup had a lot to do with getting the teasers to stop teasing me. But I still did not fit in, I guess. Of course I did graduate, not with great honors, but still in the upper half of the class.
As I mentioned before, I wished I could have skipped the high school years because I was not happy going to School, but to please my parents, I kept at it. That is, I worked hard to keep my average up. I never succeeded in getting on the honor roll, although I tried. My hobbies in high school were collecting coins and stamps and playing in the junior orchestra.