I’m thankful for the faithful little core group who has taken on the project and planned this reunion. I hope we get a good turnout. I hope I will recognize those whom I should know. I hope we laugh and share stories about that part of our lives then.
The school day seemed interminable sometimes. But at least we could daydream and see the outdoors. We went to school in a building where each classroom had a wall of windows where we could look out at the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges of the foliage on a warm autumn afternoon; the sports fields covered in several feet of snow, blinding in the thin sun of our winter; the dismal gray sky and the fields muddied from the melting of all that snow as spring showed some promise of arriving in March and April. In contrast, I taught high-school Language Arts in Gwinnett Co., GA schools with enrollments of 1700-2100 (the SMALLER high schools) for 17 years and never had a room with a window. I didn’t know if it was sunny, cloudy, raining, or windy. I felt so confined; heavens knows how my students felt. My only visual avenue of escape from the classroom was to look at my posters of London.
But, back to Montpelier High, circa 1963, and the moment of the 3:05 bell. The school busses pulled away, but I walked downtown after school, alone at first, and then made friends with other “walkers.” The girls hugged their books to their chests, turning three-ring binders crosswise and making two stacks of books on top; the guys carried their books at their side. Kids would commandeer a table at the Coffee Corner and nurse a Vanilla Coke as long as they could to delay the inevitable return to home, with homework, music practice, and chores. A loyal customer base (almost all girls) liked the Donut Shop, claiming the window seat facing State Street, and ate stick donuts and drank sodas with their backsides side by side against the window, to the amusement of passers-by.
We’d look at the store window displays, and sometimes venture in to one or another, but I couldn’t afford the $3.98 Villager blouses or the A-line skirts and cardigans dyed to match, and neither could my friends, so we’d leave the store quietly and apologetically.
After an hour or so of this dawdling in town, I would catch the public bus to go home on the Barre-Montpelier Road. Once home, I took care of my little nephew Danny, who lived with us and his mom, my sister. I would eat supper with him at our restaurant, take him back home, play with him, and get him ready for bed. My sister, mother, and father were all at the restaurant working. After reading with Danny (or listening to some records), I did some homework, but really didn’t know how to study, and after a humbling freshman year, didn’t care that much about trying harder.
For some of my classmates, that would sound like an easy evening. I’m talking about the kids who lived out in the country, had a long bus ride to and from school, and who were depended upon to do significant work on their families’ dairy farms. They were tired, and I doubt that their daddies paid them so they could buy a new set of wheels.
Classmates, what did you do after school? Did you have to go straight home? Did you stay at school a lot, with sports practice or other activities? How closely did your parents supervise your schedule after school? What were you expected to do at home?