My High School Years: Facing Temptation

My School, West High School

One thing that was sadly lacking in my life was someone to come along side me and counsel me in the area of sexual temptation and dating and marriage. I think young people really need that guidance, especially in those high school years, when their bodies and thoughts are swiftly moving in that area.  All through high school I wasn’t at all seriously thinking of marriage or even dating. In fact, I purposely set my mind toward God and bringing people to Christ any way possible, especially through Hi-C club, the Christian group I was involved in.

Then again, when my guard was down, which was too often, I couldn’t keep my eyes and my mind off of girls. And I didn’t exactly know how to handle it. I didn’t feel ready or bold enough to ask girls on dates, but still I had eyes and an imagination. Sometimes, at a weak moment, I longed to see as much as I could. I remember going to the beach just to see as much skin as I could. And I was a Christian! What was I doing? Well, in those days, much of the time I was just very rebellious.

And then along came Joy.  A girl named Joy. The first time I remember seeing her was while I was in band practice playing my trombone. She would be looking at me through the glass classroom door and smiling and waving at me. And it was a little embarrassing, because I really didn’t know her, and some of the kids noticed that she was trying to get my attention.

I really wasn’t attracted to her and she wasn’t that attractive. But she seemed to really like me. So, I invited her to our Hi-C group. I figured that as long as I had her attention, maybe I could get her saved. She started to come to our group, but I kind of knew that she was just interested in me.

One evening after group I walked her home; and when we got to her house, she really laid one on me—she kissed me. My first reaction was repulsion; her breath stunk of stale tobacco. But then, without warning, the feeling hit me. I felt something deep down in my soul. Instantly, I was in seventh heaven, and I wanted more. We kissed again, and I felt even better. But when I went in for a third time, she said she had to go. That was okay; I knew I would be back and I was still flying high. I ran all the way home. I was in love. For the first time in my life I was really in love. 

I can’t remember exactly what I did next. All I remember is that I wanted more kisses from her.  So, I tried to see her more. Even though I was always busy after school with sports and Hi-C clubs, I always had her in the back of my mind—especially her kisses. I longed for her, but it seemed that things were reversed. I was wanting her more than she was wanting me. I was going full steam ahead and she was putting on the breaks. I remember sitting in her house one time. Her mom was home, busy with house work, and me and Joy were sitting—in separate places. I was sitting on her couch watching TV—I think. And she was sitting in another chair reading a book. She was like my sister, always reading. I would be just sitting and she would be sitting and reading. All I could think of was when I was going to get another kiss. I have no idea what she was thinking. It was a strange relationship.

One day she opened up to me about her life. It wasn’t good. She had been—and maybe still was—on drugs; and she also had sexual relationships. I started to think that maybe pursuing her wasn’t the best idea. Yet I wasn’t ready to give up on her. I felt that I really loved her, and so, I doubled down on praying for her. Sometimes I prayed for a long time with tears, begging God to save her. I remember those prayer times. In fact, even now, fifty years later, every time I think of her, I pray for her salvation. Yet I have no idea where she is or if she is even alive.

Toward the end of my senior year, I got the itch to work. It didn’t take me long to find my first job at Minneapolis Floral, just a couple blocks from the school. It was a fairly easy job. I mainly just swept the floors, especially around the people who were trimming and arranging flowers to be sent out to weddings and funeral and such. I think I had that job for only a couple of months.

The next job I had was in a foundry, which was located in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. It was a lot harder, but it paid more. I think I made $2.50 an hour. I stood all day long in front of a grinding wheel, grinding and smoothing off little medal parts. What those parts were used for I had no idea and I didn’t care. Oh, my back and shoulders would just ache after a few hours of work. But it was work. Soon I got use to it. I think I only had the job for about a month. They were sorry to see me go, but I had to leave to serve my country.

A few months before I went to work, it must have been just at the end of my senior year, I remember walking down the sidewalk with a friend of mine, a wrestling buddy, on my way home from school one day. We were talking about what we were going to do next. He suggested going into the service, maybe the Marines. That was the first time I had thought about the service, but that thought kind of intrigued me. I wasn’t thinking at all about war; I was thinking more about really getting into shape and “becoming all I could be.” Something like that. Well it didn’t take me long to decides on the Marines.

Looking back on it, I think it was how God provided a way for me to escape from the temptations I had for Joy, and what would have been a very wrong path.

My High School Years: Hi-C Club

When the bus could’t go any further, this is how we got to our destination at Arrowhead Springs
I am in the upper right corner.

Hi-C actually started in Junior High, as I have already written about. But it continued into high school. I am so thankful to God for this group, because it kept me excited about my Christian life. And one of the verses that I remember using during that time was John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Yes, I think Hi-C for a me was all about living the abundant life in the midst of so much pain and turmoil at home, and also in the classroom—I just wasn’t a very good student.

I think God was using Hi-C, along with sports, to get me through life at that time; otherwise I think I would have been very depressed. The first thing I remember about the club was our trip to Arrowhead Springs, Colorado (pictured). I don’t remember a lot, just that it was a great motivator and I felt so much joy being around other believers. It was like experiencing a small bit of heaven.

Similarly, I remember our city-wide rallies. Hi-C wasn’t just in my high school. It was in several high schools in Minneapolis. Jerry Kaufman was a God-send for the rallies—a great motivator. Anyway, we would have city-wide rallies about once a month, and Jerry Kaufman, with his accordion, would lead them. It was mainly a time of singing Christian songs; and we also usually had a special speaker that would give a gospel presentation. Oh, we also had plenty of time to play games and be rowdy. And now that I think of it, there were also city-wide hay rides and other events.

This is Gary.

I think I actually made more friends from other schools, through the city-wide events, then from my school at West High. And I went to great lengths to keep those relationships going. I remember having to ride the bus for very long distances, using two or three transfers to get to places. And it was worth it. I often visited my friend Gary Westlund. He became sort of a mentor to me. I remember when we would team up and go witnessing at Lake Calhoun beach. It was always me and Gary.

The Hi-C Club at West was a much smaller group. I was elected President, and we also had two secretaries and a treasurer—so I guess we were fairly organized. Anyway, we had weekly meetings where we would usually invite a speaker. I remember that one of our regular speakers was Mr. Baxter, who was a teacher and a coach at West. Everyone liked him.

Our intention in the group was not just to have fun. We set out to invite as many as we could from school to group meeting so that they would eventually find Christ.  I’m not sure how many that was, but there were a few. I sometimes wonder where they all are right now. I know that many have been greatly influenced by Hi-C just as I have been. I don’t have many pictures, but I do have several writings in my year books that have mentioned Hi-C, and they usually signed off with “In Christ,” or even “Love in Christ.” Those were the days. I pray that they are still going on for the Lord as I am.  

My High School Years: Sports

This was taken from my year book. That’s me on the left being congratulated after a grappling victory.

I have far more memories of sports than any of my classes, or anything else in school. I excelled probably the most in wrestling, but I also went out for track, cross country, and football.

I’ll start with wrestling. I already had a taste for wrestling since I wrestled with my brother Mark very early in life; and I also wrestled some in seventh grade, but I didn’t do too well so I think I was eager to improve. In my sophomore year at West, right away I was pretty good—better than any other sophomore in my weight class. But I was not better than anyone on the varsity squad, so all year I was stuck on the B-squad. I ended up winning all my B-squad matches either by a wide margin or by a pin.  It felt good.

In the next couple of years, I also was pretty good, but I did lose a few matches. And in my senior year at finals I didn’t go far at all. Those guys seemed to be so much stronger than any of the guys I wrestled in our conference. Here I thought I was so good, but all along I was deceived. I wished then, after my humiliating loss, that I had better competition and better training. But I couldn’t do anything about it; the season was over.

Aside from the memories I have of wins and losses at the meets, there were also many other things I remember about my time in wrestling at West. Wrestling practice took up a lot of time, three hours every day after school. Too long! It was brutal. Everyone always lost about 5 pounds of sweat in just one practice—and then gained it all back for the next day. I always wore two or three layers of sweat clothes and sometimes a plastic suit just to lose more weight. Some guys hated practice, others seemed to excel in it and even smiled while they worked out—like out team captain Halonen. He was good. A great wrestler. And he really took us to the limit in practice; I mean to the point where we thought we were gonna die. We did our regular calisthenics; we ran around the school hallways; and then we wrestled each other. We also had a slower time when the coach would talk to us and show us wrestling moves and techniques. That was our learning time and also the time when we could sort of rest and catch our breath.

But I the most beneficial and lasting thing about wrestling was the friendships I made, and also the whole concept of the benefit of work and practice—that the more you really work at something, the more you will achieve the goal you set for yourself.  I think that had a lot to do with our coach, coach Skavnak. He knew that in order to win we had to really work at it and to build our strength and endurance in practice. I learned that lesson well in wrestling.

I also went out for track. And I think it was coach Skavnak that encouraged me, because he was also one of the track coaches. The thing I liked best about track was the whole environment. I just loved watching all the different events going on at the same time: the high jump, the long jump, the pole vault, the discuss and the shotput throw; and then all the running events: the 100 yard dash, the 220, the 440, the 880, and the mile run, and the low hurdles and the high hurdles. It was all so grand. And I wanted to do everything! As much as I could.

But I remember clearly when coach Skavnak took me aside and said to me that I should concentrate on just one or a couple events and be good at those. He said that I was like the guy who was a jack of all trades but a master of none. So, I got his point. The coach wanted me to run the 880 (yards, or one-half mile) and also to try the discus throw. Well, I had some trouble with my shoulder, so I knew I wouldn’t be good at the discus—and I wasn’t. But I think I did fairly well at the 880, though it was hard. I mean it was grueling, but I was up for the task. Wrestling practice I think had built into me a strong work ethic and so I was prepared to put the work into it.

Looking back at it, I think I did have a good work ethic and good practices. But I’m not sure I had the best body type for being a runner. It takes both. If you look at the best runners, they all have the same body types. They are all strong but also slender. A guy who has a wrestler’s body (more like mine), wouldn’t be that good as a runner.

 But I tried my best and I think I did pretty good. At the meets I always placed near the top. As I remember, most of the time I took second place. It was so frustrating not to be able to win the race. But like I said, I just didn’t have the body type. That’s my excuse anyway.

I also went out for cross country and football. I really liked football and was looking forward to it, but because of all the contact and shoulder injuries (bursitis and pinched nerves) I was forced to quit early. That was disappointing.

Cross country also went bad. I just wasn’t built for those very long runs. I could run around Lake of the Isles, which was about 2 ½ miles, but they wanted you to run twice that far. That wasn’t for me. I just didn’t have the body for it. Some guys have no trouble at all running long distances. God has given them that gift.

My High School Years: The School and Classes

This is West High school. I took this picture from my year book.

West High school was torn down not long after I graduated, in 1969, to make room for condominiums. I always thought that it was a great looking school and I was sad to hear that it was demolished. I couldn’t understand why. It seemed to be just as sturdy as any of the other schools in the city that were of the same age, many that are still standing to this day.

This is Lake of the Isles, a great place to walk or run.

West had a great location. Hennepin Avenue, the standard bus route, that I took to school, goes right by the front of the school. Right across Hennepin Avenue, from the school, was the famous Thirty-One Flavors ice cream parlor. Then, if you were to walk only two blocks from the back of the school, you would run into Lake of the Isles, where you can always see people walking and running around it on the lake’s winding paved path. I often would come there to run. It’s about a 2 ½ mile jog all the way around, and its great scenery made it a great place to get a workout.

I loved the inside of the school; it was so majestic looking. The grey marble floors and the wide marble stairway made you proud to attend. The only negative memory I have of the school was trying to remember where all my classes were. And sometimes, because the school was to big, I had to run between classes to make it on time. I still have bad dreams of that—and also of not remembering where my locker was or remembering the combination.

As far my classes and the teachers, I’m sad to say that I don’t have too much of a memory of any of it. The classes that I liked best were art class and woodworking class, I suppose because you didn’t have to read anything. It was mainly just working with your hands. I think that I have always been naturally skilled in those areas. I do have some memory of other classes and the teachers, not so much because of their teaching, but for other reasons. I remember my history teacher because of the way he scribbled wildly on the black board; he was so funny. I also remember the time when he stopped and gave me a ride to school. I think I had missed the bus. Anyway, be stopped and gave me a lift. His driving was as wild as his teaching. I will never forget it.

I remember my English teacher only because she looked attractive to me. I think I tried really hard in her class, but because my reading comprehension was terrible, I did very poorly. I don’t think I ever got above a D grade.

I remember my math and biology classes because the teachers were both football coaches. Coaches were much more memorable to me, maybe because they seemed to talk straight at you, and they seemed to care more.

I remember band the most. I played the trombone, and for part of the time I was the only trombone in the band. My fond memories of band practice I’m sure was just because I loved music and love making music. Sometimes it was hard playing all the notes as written, but when it finally came together, it was so rewarding and made me feel good. And when any of the music pieces had a special trombone part, I knew it was my time to shine—and sometimes I tended to ham it up a bit!

Well, that’s all for this part. Next time I will write about my favorite thing—sports.

My High School Years: House and Family

This is the house I lived in during my high school years. This picture was taken in 2018, 50 years after I lived there, but it looks exactly the same.

During my high school years, we lived in a two-story house in south Minneapolis. Both of my parents were working. My dad was working as a door to door salesman in Fuller Brush and also in Watkins products, and my mom worked as a secretary. I don’t think either of them made too much money, but it was enough to get by. In those days it seemed like we all had our own lives; we looked out just for ourselves—all seven of us: two parents and five of us kids. It was a big family but none of us really saw each other much. Like I said, my parents worked a lot. And me, during the school months I was always involved in sports, and in the summer time you could usually find me at the beach on Lake Calhoun.

My older sister, Diane, like me, had her own life. I really couldn’t tell you what she was involved in, except that she was kind of a book worm. Mark, just a year younger than me, seemed to get in trouble a lot. Instead of being involved with sports, he would hang out with friends, that, well, I really don’t know what they did; it seemed that they would just walk around and act cool, and smoke. Mom was always worried about him.

I had another brother and sister, Jimmy and Donna, that came along later. When I was 17 and busy with high school, they were about 6 and 7. I really didn’t get to know them much at all. They were around, but I was so busy with my life that I didn’t hardly notice them. After high school I enlisted in the Marines, went off to Vietnam, and then stayed in North Carolina with the Navigators for the next four years. When I came back home, both Jim and Donna were almost like strangers.

I don’t know why, but I rally didn’t think about any of my siblings much, and I can’t remember that as a family we did anything together. When we lived on the farm (3 and 4 years earlier) it was a little different. I mean, we didn’t do any fun things together, but at least we worked together—in the fields and doing the chores.

I did see my mom the most. I saw her every morning when she got me up for my paper route and for school. I also saw her in the evening when she would be busy working around the house. I guess I did see my siblings from time to time, but, like ai said, we all had our own lives, and sadly, we didn’t much care what the other was doing. I guess mom cared most about the family and everyone came to her with their problems. Dad, on the other hand, seemed to be quite self-absorbed and was angry most of the time—so it was best to stay away from him. I think he was happiest when he was at work with his clients.

Well, that was my life at home. It was mainly just a place to eat and sleep. It was just a place to recharge my batteries for the main part of my life, which was school, sports, and being with my friends. I wish it could have been different, but it wasn’t. I wish home could have been more of a fun and friendly place, but it wasn’t. It was just a place to eat and sleep and to try to stay out of trouble—and away from my angry dad. I like being around mom, but it seemed like much of the time she was sad and crying—over a bad marriage. But I knew she loved and cared about me. And that was good. Fast forward to four years ago (2016), just before she died; she kept saying to me over and over again, “I love you so much Stephen. I’ve always loved you so much.”

Next blog post: I will talk about my high school, some of my classes, and my involvement in the band.