[After writing this, I wondered about posting it. You see, this was the late 50s and in a small city. We weren't poor, didn't live in a depressed neighborhood, or in tenements. We had plenty in our favor, a few of us chose to play "disaffected youth" and pretend to be "bad kids" when we had no reason to. What we did was minor, looking back, but it created an impact on our lives that some of us didn't overcome easily]
Junior high is something we don't see anymore. It disappeared in favor of something called "Middle School". The concept is similar. A transition between elementary school and high school. Junior High was grades 7, 8, and 9. Like high school, you went to different classes each hour. Unlike high school, you went as a class. That is, your entire class moved from home room through each class period. It was kind of silly. Might have been simpler to move the teachers around. Well, there were a few elective classes where you would have different classmates so that might have caused some problems, I suppose.
Junior high was supposed to prepare you for high school. How, I never quite understood. Nor did I understand why you needed to be prepared.
My brother, being two years older than me, had already paved the way at the junior high I went to. After being sent to the dean's office the first week of school, for gambling, I was asked a simple question by Dean Rubenstein. "Are you going to be a problem too?"
I answered in the negative but that turned out to be untrue. I wasn't as much of a problem as my brother but I definitely became well acquainted with the dean, the principal, and the office staff. My friends and I were basically hoodlums in training. We smoked, skipped school, and caused trouble in class and before and after. We "bummed" (extorted) money from smaller and/or younger students. We also took their desserts. Well, they "volunteered" them.
After school, we hung out at the local shopping mall. We shoplifted, we loitered, we talked girls out of soda money (that wasn't too hard), and made general nuisances of ourselves.
We hung out weeknights at the local bowling alley where we'd play the pinball machines all night on a dime. This wasn't hard to do. First, you would jack up the low end of the machine until it was just a tiny bit short of tilting. Then you'd put in a dime and catch a ball in a rollover and rack up points until you won the maximum number of games (usually 5) by gently shaking the machine to cause the rollover to repeatedly trigger. Once you have all the games it'll save, you play out the rest of the balls to end the game. Then you lower the low end enough to avoid easy tilts and make play a little challenging. You repeat this when you get down to one game in reserve. Which was rare because we were fairly good pinball players.
On occasion, we wouldn't cheat the machine but each play a game in turn. Anyone losing the last game had to pay to restart. We spent hours entertaining ourselves for a dime or two. Or until the manager tossed us out. Then we'd hang out in the parking lot.
By the time we were in 9th grade, we were drinking at unsupervised beach parties and sometimes at parties where there were no adults. If no one brought any beer, we'd raid the liquor cabinets at the house. We were never invited to these parties but word would get around at school and we'd find them. Beer and liquor was easy to get. No drugs then, just not available at the time (late 50s).
We were also taking cars for joyrides. But that was fairly rare. A little vandalism here and there. We hitchhiked most places. We'd head out to the beach on weekend evenings to pick up tourist girls. They always had extra cash and didn't seem to mind sharing. We'd gamble on pinball games or those quarter pool tables with the tourist boys. If we lost, we never paid off. We'd bluff them or fight them, but we never paid them. We knew how to break into pinball machines and most soda machines to get at the coins.
We thought we were "cool." During the summer, I would be out all night. I rarely got home before 4 AM from the time I was 13 on. I slept most of the day, getting up around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I'd be gone before supper. When school started up again, that would only happen on weekends. Weekdays, I'd get home by 11 PM.
Occasionally, a friend would get arrested and end up in juvenile court. A few spent time in juvenile hall. One or two spent a few months at the places for the more incorrigible. I managed to avoid these things. Mostly luck, I think, but I also was more careful than most of my friends. That didn't mean I wasn't picked up from time to time for curfew violations. We didn't actually have a curfew in our town but a 14 year old out at 3 in the morning was definitely suspect.
I did get in trouble for bringing a BB gun to a dance once and another time when I was caught with a starter pistol (do not ask what that was about). Confiscation of said items and turned over to my parents was all that happened. Nothing serious. I always carried a switchblade but never used it. Switchblades were common but no one wanted to actually use one. I lost a lot of them when I'd get picked up for those curfew violations.
In school, I never did any homework. I did the classwork and I always did well on tests. Sometimes I would get a girl to do some of my English homework in exchange for my checking their math homework. Still, my indifference to school showed in my grades and eventually caused me to fail the 9th grade. I wasn't alone, so did most of my friends. We were now even more in charge since we were older than everyone. And we took advantage of that. We also took advantage of the cumulative effects of school credits. In other words, we only had to pass two or three classes in order to go to tenth grade since we managed to pick up 3 or 4 in the failing year. Not a lot of incentive to turn ourselves around.
By the time, I went to high school, I wasn't about to succeed. I had already stacked the deck against myself.
A Night Unremembered
7 years ago