Tag Archive | high school

“President Kennedy has been shot…”


Fifty years ago today, I came home from ninth grade, and my mother intoned her usual, “What did you learn In school today?” For once my answer came easily.  I had to come up with  an answer to that question every day. Sometimes I couldn’t think of anything special I’d learned, so I’d make something up. It didn’t seem to matter to them.

“I saw President Kennedy today. His motorcade went right by our school on Broadway, and they had us all stand on the curb and wave. He looked orange.”

“Was Jackie with him,” she asked, mildly interested for once.

“Yes. She didn’t look orange. She looked normal.”

I never found out why the President of the United States looked orange that day, or if he always looked orange. Maybe it was make-up, maybe it was a bad artificial tan—they tended to turn you orange back then—but I remember that very clearly, my main impression of the two-second look I got of John Kennedy on his way to the Alamo to make a speech.

When my father came home later, he asked me the same question, “What did you learn in school today?”

“She saw Kennedy today,” my mother interrupted before I could get it out.

My father made a sound somewhere between a growl and a spit. He hated John Kennedy for his liberalism, his privileged background, and apparently most of all for his accent. Daddy thought  Kennedy had to be talking like that on purpose, putting on airs or something, because nobody talked like that naturally.

During the campaign three years before, my father pointed out to me a poem that appeared in the local newspaper:

Since Kennedy says “hawf,” then Johnson must agree,

That a Texas calf is now a “cawf,” as any fool can see.

So when  you go to the butcher’s, do not snicker and “lawf,”

Just go up and say, to be quite genteel,

“Please give me hawf a cawf.”

We all got a good “lawf” about that. My father’s politics, which were slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, meant he hated Kennedy as he had hated Franklin Roosevelt before him. Only 2/3 into his first term, Kennedy had had less time to incur his wrath, but he couldn’t stand him, end of conversation. I was still quite young, fourteen in 1963, and generally parroted my parents’ political opinions. It would be several years before I began to think for myself. From that time on, our conversations were limited to old times, and, like a Jane Austen novel, the weather and the condition of the roads.

The next day started off like any other, but after lunch our principal came on over the public address system. He announced that apparently someone had shot the president in Dallas. Using the cutting edge of 1963 technology, he held his transistor radio up to the microphone on his desk to let us hear the radio broadcasts and updates. It was no time at all before we knew for sure he was dead.

Even today I can’t describe what I felt. I wasn’t devastated like the kids who had actually liked him. I didn’t cry. But I definitely felt weird. It was the first time in my life when someone I had seen one day was dead the next. Things like that didn’t happen in my little world. Maybe during war or if you saw someone off on the Titanic, but people in my world didn’t just up and die. Not yet, anyway.

That night, as we watched the aftermath playing out on all three channels, my father expressed his sympathy. “Well, I hated the sonofabitch, but I didn’t necessarily  want him to die.” All things considered, it was a real gush of emotion.

Like everyone else my age, I can’t believe it’s been fifty years since the assassination. That is the watershed event for my generation. Everyone remembers where they were when they found out about it, as my parents’ generation remembered hearing about Pearl Harbor, and my children will remember finding out about 911.The girl who was barely a teenager in 1963 has five grandchildren now. I wonder what their watershed event will be, whether there will be a place deep inside them that is permanently chilled by it, and whether they will write about it fifty years later.

The Loboto-mobile Rides Again – Dumbing Down Our Future


In 1936, Dr. Walter Freeman performed the first lobotomy in the United States. Over 3,000 procedures later, he performed his last lobotomy in 1967. For several years, he traveled from place to place in a van, which he called the “loboto-mobile,” bringing suborbital lobotomies to most of the U.S. He performed the procedure on such notables as actor Warner Baxter, Tennessee Williams’ sister, Rose, and John Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary. His stated goal was to relieve thousands from what he called “the burden of consciousness.”

The good doctor reached thousands; the lowering of the bar we have experienced in Texas over the past few years has effected millions. When school budgets are cut to the bone and beyond, when resident law enforcement officers are needed to provide a modicum of safety for students and teachers, and when the requirements to graduate from high school are gutted by the legislature, the future of all of us and our kids is moving from doubtful to hopeless.

Accountability testing requirements are reduced from fifteen to five: algebra, biology, U.S. history and tenth grade reading and writing. TENTH GRADE READING AND WRITING!! That means you only have to have the literacy level of a 15-year-old to get a high school diploma. They are increasing a de facto subclass, making even more employers demand a college degree for white collar jobs, because a high school diploma is meaningless. When an employer or employment agency has you take several tests–mostly in reading and writing–before letting you interview, will they really be impressed by your tenth grade level performance?

The effect of lowering the bar–yet again–for education in Texas is to lobotomize an entire generation. Students tend to live up or down to expectations of them. They will be vastly relieved to learn they can stop listening after tenth grade. If dumbing down our future isn’t enough of an incentive, how about the economic repercussions? Companies will stop moving to Texas, because their employees won’t want to move here because of the poor education offered. And forget hiring the locals. They won’t be able to fill out the application forms.

How can people vote into office candidates who are willing to relieve our children of the “burden of consciousness”? There is a reason every dictator’s first targets are the intelligentsia–the well-educated and potential leaders who don’t fall for their drivel. By allowing our legislature to dumb down the populace legally, we are saving them trouble of rounding us up and executing us. The people who want the right to bear automatic weapons are the same ones who want the right to dumb down our future. Think about it.

Blue and Gold and Shades of Gray

My 45th high school reunion is scheduled for the last weekend of October. Aside from the irony of holding it so close to the Day of the Dead, I find the thought of attending somewhat daunting. The last reunion I attended was the tenth.

I’m glad I went to that reunion. Most of the Ugly Ducklings had turned into lovely swans, whereas most of the Popular Kids looked like they’d been drinking heavily for the past ten years. Hmmm. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

I attended Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, the old Blue and Gold, home of the fighting Mules. Cheering for four years for that mascot was equaled only by my next four years when I tried to ignore the TCU Horned Frogs.

I don’t have the kind of high school memories that trigger wistful smiles. My life started at college, and high school was just a prerequisite purgatory. The people I’ve stayed in touch with from that time in my life can be counted on one hand, and still have enough fingers left over to crochet.

There are three factors pushing me to attend. Firstly, the pictures of alumni I’ve seen show benign-looking grandparent-types. How scary can a roomful of senior citizens be, assuming you don’t favor cutting Social Security and Medicare? Secondly, I’ve reached that precarious perch in life where the certainty of being around for the next one is a bit more uncertain. And finally, I won’t get any better-looking from here on out, so I need to let them see me while I’m riding this crest of disintegration.

Sure, I have a few good memories, such as: transforming Dairy Queen slushies into daiquiris by adding ill-gotten rum; getting an invitation to attend Georgetown University, even though I was too afraid to go that far from home; scraping together all the snow deposited in my front yard by a rare snowfall to make a two-foot-tall snow lady, and taking pictures of white-white snow on my very-red Malibu SS.

For the most part, however, I was nerdy and unpopular. I was in some sort of larval stage, waiting for the fun to start. Do I really want to revisit those days? On the other hand, I may go this year and never again. I definitely need to put those years into perspective, deposit those bones in an ossuary and inter them forever in the past.

Now all I have to do is decide whether to ask my long-suffering husband to attend, too. On the one hand, I’d be much less likely to find a comfy corner and stay there. On the other hand, going to someone else’s reunion is second only to watching whale poop settle to the bottom of the Marianas Trench on the Scale of Fascination.

I’ll have to let you know how this turns out.