Deni by any other name...

PART Deux
The High School Years

When I left you last time, I believe I was on my way into high school, and, I must admit, it was something of a traumatic experience for me. If you remember from Part 1, the world had just gone through the Cuban Missile Crisis, and one of the most influential men in history had been assassinated. For me, at that time of my life, I did not think of High School as an adventure. Not at all!

Atten... SHUN! (Whew! At Ease!)

It was mandatory at that time (in the early 60's) for all male students to join the Army Cadets. I had often seen them, parading around the school yard and was impressed with the unity with which they marched, but, considering the state of the world, it scared the hell out of me. High School meant Cadets... Cadets meant the Army... the Army meant War... War meant Death...

Not a particularly appealing prospect for a 12-year-old. And all for naught.

In my final year of what we called 'Public' School, mandatory entrance into Cadets ended and became purely voluntary. (Within a few years, it was abandoned entirely.) Needless to say, my mind was greatly relieved in that I would still be alive to graduate in a few years.

Still, as countless others before me and countless others after me, I had to deal with the idea that I was no longer 'top man' on the totem pole, so to speak. In grade 8, the younger kids looked up to me (literally and figuratively), and it felt pretty good to be placed on such a high pedestal. Entering High School dropped me right back down to the bottom of the ladder, and suddenly I was a 'nothing' again. (How strange when you realize how many times that event repeats itself throughout your life!)

Gym Dandy

I think the thing I hated most about High School was 'gym'. I hated it! I was never very sports-minded, nor athletic, and every gym day sent me into a panic that should have landed me into therapy for a good number of years. However, I did okay in Track and Field... well, at least I held my own. Running was something I could do... and I was pretty good at it.

Gym had a few memorable moments, though. There were plenty 'memorable' moments for me, but I have spent the better part of my life trying to forget them, so I won't mention them here. There was this fellow who had rather large ears and, one day, was attempting to mount the trampoline. Now, the proper way to mount is to grasp two of the elastics and to do a forward summersault onto the canvas. So, there was Lawrence... elastics in hand... ready to impress the class with his expertise. He crouched... he leapt... he stuck his head through the hole and got his ears caught in the elastics!

Then there was the fellow who was trying to straddle-vault the box horse, caught his toes, and did a face dive that would have got him respectable scores in a diving competition. (Fortunately, he didn't hurt himself. I would mention his name but I promised my cousin Randy that I wouldn't.)

Of course, there were the typical 'wedgies' and 'short shorts', but that happens in every school, so just think of your own memories and that will save me having to type them all out.

Music! Music! Music!

Instead of sports, I immersed myself into music, joining every band I could and learning to play every instrument I could. Before long, I could play the trombone, baritone, and tuba whenever needed, but the tuba and Sousaphone soon became my favourites. The only time I didn't really like the Sousaphone was during half-time at high school football games when nimnoes from the sidelines tried to score 2 points by sinking a crumpled up candy bar wrapper in the bell.

Which reminds me of a little story about the trombone (the first instrument I learned to play). When not being played, the trombone is commonly held in the left hand with the thumb and first three fingers wrapped around holding bars and the 'baby' finger hooked around the bar that holds the slide in place. When properly oiled, the slide is silent and extremely loose. We had been invited to play in a Santa Claus parade one year in Picton, and we almost didn't play because it was so cold that we could barely keep the instruments in tune with each other. It was a bitter, finger-numbing cold that easily went right through the gloves we wore. At one point, as we were marching along the streets of Picton, the slide came loose from my little finger and clattered to the pavement behind me. My fingers were so numb, I couldn't even feel it go. It was just a wee bit embarrassing having to run back and get it!

We played a lot of concerts, a lot of parades, and a lot of competitions, and they were the best years of my life. I still have a few audio cassettes I made of our band and, every now and then, I'll dig out the cassettes, have a listen, and feel very happy for a little while.

Comedy Club

Each year, the high school Drama Club put on a play. Usually, it was a musical comedy. The first one we did was a small, rather forgettable musical called "Where is the Mayor?". We struck gold the next year with "Bye Bye Birdie". (I played Harvey Johnson. He was the crackly, pubescent-voiced kid trying desperately to get a date.)

One year, we did a play called "Johnny Canuck". It was written by two Brighton residents and got its world debut (and finale) at East Northumberland Secondary School. The play was about early Canadian pioneers. Originally, I rehearsed to play a Mountie. A classmate named Wayne was to play the third lead... a British aristocrat and father of the female lead. Sadly, the weekend before the opening night on Wednesday, Wayne's father passed away and he had to pull out of the play. I was asked if I could take over the part... a healthy challenge to say the least! Sunday and Monday were spent learning lines. Tuesday was a final cram. Tuesday evening, I had my first and only rehearsal.

The play went over far better than could have been expected, and my teammates were wonderful, helping me at every opportunity. I seriously flubbed my lines only once, thank goodness, skipping ahead and effectively eliminating about 3 minutes of dialogue, but my 'daughter', bless her, took over and ad libed a small story which not only filled the audience in on all the missed dialogue, but got us back on track as well. It saddens me that I can't remember the girl's name. She was a real trooper.

The 'Invisible' Club

Dale and I made quite a team. We were really good friends and spent much of our free time in (and out of) school honing our personal 'Invisible' club. We perfected the art of playing 'invisible games'. We could play pool, go bowling, or play cards with absolutely nothing... just pretending that we had what we needed. We often gathered crowds to watch us, and some even joined us, but we were never teased. Most times, they became so involved in our games that they actually began to shout out shots made, points scored and cards dealt. And, believe it or not, no-one ever cheated!



To Be Continued... eventually...



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