Parrish Jr. High School
1960 - 1963
Grades 7 through 9
John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President of the United States while I was
in the 7th Grade. Junior High was different than Elementary school in that
we had different teachers for each subject. We were given a lot more
responsibility for getting from class to class. We had lockers with combination
locks. We had lunchtime movies in the auditorium. When it came time to learn
simple dances in P.E., my parents sent a note saying it was against our religion
to dance, so I was given the job of folding towels in the locker room during
that time. Had they been aware, I'm guessing that they would have had something
to say about the movies we saw, too, although maybe that had something to do
with their sending me and my siblings to a Christian high school.
One time, I had found a very old dime and was showing it off in the auditorium.
I dropped it, and it rolled away on the sloping floor. I never did find it. No
doubt someone did and, although it was doubtless worth more than ten cents,
probably dropped it into a vending machine.
I would ride a bus to North Salem High School and would walk from that campus
through a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks to the Parrish Campus.
Even back then, it was a good idea to be walking in a group when in the vicinity
of the tunnel. Kids would smoke in there and probably other things.
In the Eighth Grade, I began working a paper route for the Capitol
Journal, Salem's evening newspaper. The route included the area of Four
Corners south of State Street for several blocks.
I never did have more than a couple close friends at a time. One of them,
Bobby Zane, and I were especially interested in dinosaurs and space
travel. We even made detailed plans for sending a small animal up in a
home-made capsule by balloon and having it released at a certain altitude
and parachute back to earth. We never actually carried it out; the fun
was in the planning for every contingency. He eventually moved with his
family to California, and I haven't heard from him since.
On Columbus Day, 1962. I was in the ninth grade. Mom picked me up after
school and drove me to a thrift store
where we bought a full-length tan overcoat for me.
When we got home, my newspapers were waiting in a bundle. Being a Friday,
the papers were fairly thin, Thursdays and Sundays being the days when the
papers were really thick. I clipped the wires that bound them, arranged
them in my weathered red canvas bag with “Capitol Journal” printed on it.
I fastened the loaded bag on my bicycle’s handlebars and started out on
my paper route. I rode north on my street, then west one block, then
north for several more blocks. The wind had been strong since I got out
of school and was growing stronger as I started the route on Elma Street.
With the wind blowing from the south, I lifted the top of my newspaper bag
and used my paperbag as a sail to propel my bike along. At the corner of
Elma and State, where I turned west again, the trunk of a tree in a little
orchard suddenly cracked a foot above the roots and went down. I had
studied weather and knew the wind speed was at least seventy-five miles
per hour, hurricane strength. I continued on my route. The weather was new
and wonderful. I felt no sense of danger in spite of knowing such a wind
is dangerous. At one house, the Venetian blinds had been sucked out through
a broken living room window onto the lawn. Later, on the same street, I saw
a large maple tree, already down and lying across the street. The roots had
pulled up most of the lawn in front of the house. Some of my customers told
me to go home, that no one expected me to deliver in weather like that, but
I knew I would have to fight the wind all the way home, and I was mostly
going cross-wind delivering my papers, so I determined to finish the route.
I kept my eyes open for flying objects, since small things could be very
dangerous in that wind, but I had a sense that God was with me, too. At one
customer’s house, I nearly didn’t stop in time for a fallen tree trunk as I
was using my “sail”. The paper route took three hours, instead of the usual
one hour. When I finished and headed for home, the wind lessened, and it
started to rain, hard.
When I got home, I found a post of our grape fence snapped off by a sheet
of corrugated metal, and some of the roofing shingles missing, but everyone
was safe and had been worried about me. I think I would have been more
afraid inside the house during the storm, wondering what might be coming
through a window, than I had been while out in the storm.
I had a girlfriend (purely platonic, it just seemed to be the thing to have
a girlfriend at the time) who lived in Four Corners. Her name was Judy
Snelson. I remember drawing her portrait in pencil in her living room.