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.