Monday, August 25, 2008

The New Class Struggle

Before I continue my story I should correct a few minor issues that my beloved readers noted.  First, that first year GRHS was only a Junior HS and the sending districts sent 7, 8, & 9 graders.  After their 9th grade year was up they moved onto Woodbury HS.  Second, apparently, in Wenonah at least, you could choose either Woodbury or Pitman HS.  Bob Thomas reports that in the case of one of his neighbors two siblings elected to go to different high schools.

But to get back to the matter at hand.  We were to be divided in classes in our new found school  As I mentioned I was in 7C.  Naturally that means there was a 7A, 7B, 7D…and on to 7F.  Similarly in 8th grade.  We were also nominally assigned to homerooms based on our last names.  The classes were divided based on tests we’d been given over the years, teacher evaluations, etc.  7C and 7E were college prep.  The others…maybe not.  Initially we were only vaguely aware of this structure but over the years it would become more and more apparent.  This would have positive and negative consequences but mostly it meant smart kids and geeks hung with smart kids and geeks and greasers hung with greasers and jocks with jocks.  The only time we all got mixed together was in the halls, the cafeteria, the auditorium, and gym class.  This would have dire consequences for me in particular.  

But more than my personal difficulties with the various groups of young men and women who had suddenly become my classmates there was the fracturing of long standing friendships from our old schools.  Kids who once were my dearest friends found other, cooler, friends.  Kids I barely paid attention to became my new friends.  The small, close knit world of Wenonah Elementary was shattered.  If I was smarter or more worldly or braver this would have been a time to reinvent myself.  Instead, inside I was still Wacky Jiler, the Rough Tough Creampuff, and I was certain everyone in this new school knew it as well as my friends knew it.  I was scrawny with a stupid haircut and clothes from G. Wayne Post's or Sears.  I was fucked.  And like every other knuckleheaded teenager I had no idea everyone else felt the same way.  Of course, even if I did I wouldn't have the balls to use it in any intelligent, thoughtful way.  Self knowledge for teenagers is not always a good thing.  That's why football heroes act like arrogant assholes.  Or why geeky nerds trudge the halls with their heads down hoping no one notices.  It's dangerous to be noticed sometimes.


Jim Maddox said...

It seemed to me that all my friends from Woodbury Heights save one, had forgotten me. Steve Kay and I remained close, safe in our world of toy soldiers and Avalon Hill war games. We kept our heads down as much as possible, and I was double cursed, being both naive geek and perpetually crew cut. It was up to me to find new friends from the other towns.

Bob said...

Gateway was certainly a world apart from Wenonah Elementary. One other place you got to mix with the rest of Wenonah was on the bus to and from Gateway. If you somehow took a late bus you might even ride with some kids who had gotten detention, plus the bus would take you all around to all the stops in town.

Cheryl (Maddox) Smith GRHS Class of '80 said...

That's pretty cool to find out about the meanings of the classes. I was in 7C also and thought it was just how smart you were. I was in the business courses and no where near college prep. Maybe it changed after the years.

Still the same classifications though within the groups.....

Paul Birkby said...

For the class of 1972, our experience also began in the alphabet 7th grade, but the powers that be were less subtle with our class - 7A, my section, were the really smart kids (which only added to my sense of imposterhood) like Dale Lundquist, Mark Karsner, Harry Shoemaker. 7B were the next smartest kids, etc.

aa said...