Face it. We all were a long way from kindergarten. We were slowly learning that growing up isn’t always easy.
It was 1973 and I was twelve years old. I was a seventh grader at Rocky Ridge Jr. High and this school year was going to be significant for me. This school year I wanted to change. I wanted to impress everyone. I was no longer an elementary student. I had arrived… I was a seventh grader… bulletproof and 10 ft tall. Well… actually 5’1″ and 85 lbs. but still ready to take on the dangerous world that is known as Junior High.
I spent the entire night before trying to pick out which clothes I was going to wear on that first day of school. Like many events in my life, I tried to imagine what it was going to be like. I was armed with my witty comebacks and cut downs that are typical of the Junior High language. There was going to be a “new” me and I was sure I could pull it off. I wanted to be part of the “In Crowd”…the “Cool Kids”. All I had to do is get off to the right start and impress them.
There are a lot of things about junior high life that might seem simple to an outsider, but they’re not. Take the 15 minutes before homeroom every morning. What you do with those fifteen minutes says pretty much everything there is to say about you as a human being.
If you were cool, you had places to go, people to see and if you weren’t, you’d start to wonder who you’ll sit by at lunch.
Regardless of where you went to school, a junior high school cafeteria is like a microcosm of the world. The goal is to protect yourself, and safety comes in numbers. More specifically “groups”.
You would have your group of “cool kids”, a group of “smart kids”, you have your “athletes group”, and in those days, of course, you had your “hoods” and your “nerds” groups. Then you had a very small percentage of kids that did not fit anywhere in these groups. That is where you would find me… ostersized by all groups… even the hoods and the nerds. I just didn’t belong.
In our little school in Ohio, these groups were even more splintered by the fact of where you lived. I was a “town” kid and there were rules that you had to follow. For example, there were no less than five different subgroups to each these larger groups.
Let me explain… you had:
- Kids that lived in town. (Oak Harbor)
- Kids that lived in Graytown.
- Kids that lived in Rocky Ridge. (Ridge Runners)
- Kids that lived along the Toussaint River. (Toussangers)
- Kids that lived South of the Portage River.
Note to the reader: It is not my intention to cause any strife among those that belong to any one of these subgroups, both past and present… but this is how I remember it.
Kids from Graytown, generally accepted the Toussangers and the Ridge Runners, but did not get along with the in town kids. Toussangers did not get along with the Ridge Runners, but accepted the in towners. Ridge Runners did not get along with the in town kids. As for the kids from south of town and the Portage River…they were not accepted by any these groups.
Now that is how it was in the lunchroom…but make no mistake, only people from Oak Harbor can say bad things about fellow Oak Harborites. Like your family, you can say what you will about your brother but have some one else say something and there is a price to be paid.
So, as a fact of my junior high school, who you are is defined more or less, by who you were sitting next to during lunch.
In short, my initial 15 minutes in my home room that first morning did not go well and I found myself trying to find a place to sit in the lunchroom. After what seemed as an eternity, I saw an empty seat. It was a seat next to the same kids I hung out with from my neighborhood. I had not made the earth shattering change that I thought I would pull off.
In 7th grade, who you are… is what other 7th graders say you are.
As I reflect on my life in Junior High in 1973, I am reminded that hometowns are like family – the shortcomings, the flaws, the arguments, the disappointments are all there but it is the love and the loyalty that what make us who we are. In this world of inconsistency and doubt, I have learned that home is what you make it. Most small towns in the late ’60’s and early 70’s were all about the same. They were stuck somewhere between a fast changing world outside it’s boundaries and the need to hold on to the values that made that small town special. Sure, some towns may have been a little bigger, and some may be have been a little greener… there was only one real difference. Only one of them… was yours and Oak Harbor, Ohio was mine.
The funny thing, forty years later, I still have fond memories of a little town in Northwest Ohio but it’s hard to remember the names of kids I spent so much time trying to impress.
A lot happened that year.
The New York Yankees were purchased by a Cleveland businessman, George Steinbrenner for 10 Million (Really!).
A president started the year with the fanfare of the inauguration only to end the year stating, “I am not a crook!” …it was the beginning of the end for his presidency.
Roe vs. Wade overturns a States right to ban abortion.
The world’s first cell phone is used for first time.
Pink Floyd’s DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, one of rock’s landmark albums is released.
The World Trade Center (Twin Towers) opens in New York City.
George Foreman defeats Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight World Boxing Championship, and the Miami Dolphins win the Super Bowl after completing the NFL’s only perfect season.
The Partridge Family introduced us to David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce and Flip Wilson entertained America with the last of a dying breed … the variety show.
Archie Bunker introduced controversial topics and social issues each week on the show, All In the Family. These episodes usually ended up being a backhanded way of soapbox preaching of a liberal agenda. Shocking in its day, but by today’s standard it was mild.
And finally… we were shown the end of innocence on television, as the networks bombarded us with violent images of the Vietnam War as we sat at our dinner tables each night.
That my friends… was 1973.