In crowd

September 14, 1965

September 14, 1965

The summer before I started high school
The summer before I started high school

This entry fails to convey the overwhelming confusion and excitement of my first day in high school. If my memory serves me well, Cabrillo Jr. High and the now defunct Jefferson Jr. High fed into Wilcox High, effectively doubling the student body and ensuring that at best any student might recognize half of the student body.  Naturally, the structure itself needed to be twice as large to accommodate approximately 2000 pupils. To me, it seemed huge. I’d never gone to school in a two-story building before.

Two Story School

I harbored many illusions about high school, gleaned from movies, TV and the Scholastic Book Club. Classes didn’t loom large in any of these narratives. Instead they focused on sock hops, meet-cute flirtations, proms, football games, gang warfare (West Side Story) and popularity.

I longed to be popular and, in my own misguided way, I tried. I didn’t succeed. I’m not sure how the chosen kids in the In Crowd reached their exalted status. Was their success due to their self-confidence or was their confidence due to their success? There seemed to be no objective criteria although good looks, athletic ability and the means to buy bitchen’ clothes and hot wheels didn’t hurt.

There was no category for Most Popular, but these categories were owned by the popular kids so I've selected a sampling.
There was no category for Most Popular, but these categories were owned by the popular kids so I’ve selected a sampling.

Laughing Way Through Life

I’m not saying Soc’s were stupid but being known as brainy was not a plus. Neither was  being a P.K.(preacher’s kid), not to mention an introvert. Aside from Carrie, no introverts ever got elected King or Queen of the Prom. My parents, however, were elected King and Queen of their high school prom. Unfortunately, they failed to pass their popularity gene down to me.

My parents as King and Queen in 1943
My parents as King and Queen in 1943

According to Ralph Keyes (Is There Life After High School), popularity comes with its own set of problems.  It’s hard to hold on to, for one thing – not only in high school but afterward. The adulation accorded a high school football star fades after graduation. It’s not that easy to duplicate – let alone surpass – high school glory days when the bar has been set unrealistically high. If you’re addicted to  applause, withdrawal is painful and it’s hard to hook up with a new supply in the real world.

In 1965, I would’ve gladly shouldered these burdens for a seat at the In Crowd’s table, proving how easily I forget who I am. I don’t like groups, for one thing. I’d rather watch from the sidelines than be the center of attention.  And I’d hate to lose the perks of membership in the Out Crowd – the freedom to be silly and screw up (when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose). The fierce drive to prove myself to people who rejected me.

I’ve heard it said that for a writer, a lousy childhood is the gift that keeps on giving. So is being on the outside looking in during high school.

On the outside looking in
“On the outside looking in.”

 

September 8, 1979

September 8, 1979

With John at 10 year high school reunion
With John at 10 year high school reunion

Maybe some people go to their high school reunion with no motive other than to share a good time with old friends. Not me. I RSVP’d to show my former classmates I wasn’t the loser they remembered.  Just to be on the safe side, I brought an entourage – my sister Joyce, husband John, and two friends. Sure, it practically screamed insecure, but at least I wouldn’t wind up sitting at a table by myself. I wore my favorite outfit – an ill-advised Evan Picon vested skirt suit that failed to stand the test of time.

I wanted people to think I transcended high school but in truth I was obsessed with it – so much so that at age 29 I posed as a high school student and returned to Wilcox as a student for a brief spell – but that’s another story.

 

Disguised as high school student for my return enrollment at Wilcox in 1981. I hoped the huge hair would draw attention away from my face.
Disguised as high school student for my return enrollment at Wilcox in 1981. I hoped the huge hair would draw attention away from my face.

Suffice to say, it’s no coincidence that well over half of my scripts and teleplays concern high school kids. It became my specialty. It was easy to channel adolescent minds, because my own mind was mired in adolescence.  While I might be excessive, I’m not unique.

In Ralph Keyes’ excellent book Is There Life After High School, he distills his experience, research and interviews to three major points.

  • These memories focus on comparison of status and
  • High school is the source of indelible memories
  • Status comparisons continue long after graduation, in a society shaped fundamentally by high school
Big hair to compliment my chic ensemble

On the outside, I’d travelled far since high school but on the inside the neurotic outsider I used to be ran the show. I drank too much, talked too much, got too giddy and too grandiose.  The harder I tried to be one of the cool kids, the more I proved I was not.

These photos are, I think, cheats from later reunions.
These photos are, I think, cheats from later reunions.
Carolyn Sakuaye, Ruth Anderson and.....
Carolyn Sakuaye, Ruth Anderson and…..
Sandra Hegwood, Ray Prevost, Fred Hegwood
Sandra Hegwood, Ray Prevost, Steve Hoffman

 

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