I was a teenage Stowbilly

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic



Woodland Elementary School came with its own proving ground, although outsiders often wrote it off as nothing more than a simple PLAYground.  Those of us who ran through that unforgiving and cruel jungle know better.  The playground at Woodland was actually a bit schizophrenic.  There were sections designated as safe for grades K-3, then other areas deemed suitable. for the more discerning 4th to 6th grade crowd.  This 38th parallel was never actually marked with a physical line on the asphalt or anything, but the younger kids instinctively knew when they were getting perilously close to crossing over it.  It was Stow's version of a prison shock collar, only without the explosive charges.  The K-3 crowd had to content themselves with games like hopscotch, which was barely a game in the first place, and the dreaded small swings.  The teeter-totters were also divided between amateur and professional grade, although the one “game” that became universal was the sudden jump from the lower position, allowing gravity to take care of the victim in the higher position.


One popular playground game evolved from the innocent version we all played in the school's so-called multipurpose room.  For a while, it was the gym for indoor PE classes, then it morphed into the lunchroom for meals, then became a gym again until the artistic urge took over and it became the auditorium for school talent shows or outside performances or whatever.  While it was still a gym, however, we played the game known as dodge ball.  Dodge ball was the straightforward version-- there's a ball, dodge it.  There was a natural upper limit to how much pepper could be put on those odd rubber balls only sold to schools, apparently.  Throw, dodge, retrieve, throw again, hit, leave.  These were all graspable concepts to a 4th grader.


Somewhere along the way, dodge ball became fire ball.  Fire ball was similar to dodge ball only in the sense that fast pitch baseball was similar to slow pitch softball.  Fire ball was serious business, played by serious people.  I remember one guy at Kimpton Middle School who could pick off any target of his choosing from across the entire gym floor.  You could try to catch the ball, you could try to get out of the way, you could try to feign injury and leave, but Mark was eventually going to nail you with that fire ball.  Death by round rubber was in the cards.  Once Mark got through picking off most of the opposing team, one unfortunate survivor who spent the entire game hiding behind others would be the last one standing.  The PE teacher would declare a free fire zone, meaning there were no more lines standing between competitors.  Mark would stalk his prey for a few minutes, then deliver a crushing blow from three feet away.  I think we ended up giving Mark both ears and the tail one time.


There was another game which was actually banned by the principal during my time at Woodland.  Many of us can still remember the last words we heard before our collective lights went out: “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Mikey come over!”.  Red Rover was definitely a team sport, with two lines of players facing each other from a distance.  The idea was to link arms and form an impenetrable human chain.  A captain would select a challenger from the other side and lead his or her team in the taunting chant “Red Rover, Red Rover, let (insert name here) come over!”.  With that simple request, Inserted Name would try to break through the chain by any means necessary.  If he or she was successful, a player would be sent back to the other side.  If he or she could not break through, they became the newest link in that chain.  This process of brute force elimination could stretch on for a while, I remember.


The Red Rover rot set in after more than a few Insert Names Here came on over as requested and failed miserably.  Either they got clotheslined by the strongest links, or they inadvertently took out a few links of their own during an open field tackle situation. The Red Rover victim-to-champion ratio became far too lopsided for the prinicipal's liking, so he sent out a general bulletin that our Red Rover playing days were over.  I remember a few people were sorely disappointed that their best head-butting days were now behind them, but it was a banner day for Insert Names Here everywhere.


One afternoon at Woodland, I watched two of our janitors drill a hole in the playground blacktop.  They installed a tall aluminum pole and anchored it into the ground with cement.  One of the janitors attached a long string to a hook at the very top of the pole, then attached what appeared to be a volleyball to the other end of the string.  Without much fanfare, the internationally ignored sport of tetherball had come to Stow.  None of us knew exactly how the game was supposed to be played, but eventually the PE teacher did take us outside and explained the basic rules of tetherball.  At long last, here was a game that made as little sense as possible and we actually stood in line waiting to play it.  The best part was that helpless feeling at the very end as you watched your opponent wrap that ball around the pole at lightning speed.


One version of tetherball started out as a straight punch service, with the goal being to get past the other player and wrap the entire cord around the pole in a certain direction.  This could be done through brute force or finesse, depending on the player's anger management skills.  The other version called for the ball to swing slowly around the pole a few times in one player's direction, and then players could pounce on the ball at will.  This was the version of tetherball that confused me the most.  What other game on Earth started with one team watching helplessly as the other team loaded most of the bases? That three-turn advantage was devilishly hard to overcome, yet we would dutifully watch the ball wind around the pole like lemmings until that third spin.  Tetherball was clearly a game sold to school administrators, not to the kids.


One “game” unique to Woodland was not really a game at all, but more of a dare.  The back of the school's designated playground extended into a small woods.  In order to keep students from wandering  too far into those woods, rings were painted on several trees to serve as borders.  The woods on one side of those border trees looked pretty much like the woods on the other side, but rules were rules.  We were NOT to travel beyond those ringed trees, ever ever ever.  Of course, there was no faster way to get some of us to disobey a school rule than by telling us not to do it. 


By the time I was in 5th grade, the mythology of the Land Beyond The Painted Trees had become huge. There were stories of evil men who kidnapped trespassing children, who were of course never seen again.  That was a good one for me-- I would sometimes even stand guard near the ringed trees and look for anyone even a little suspicious.  There were also tales of bears or coyote packs hiding in those woods,  just waiting for free kids meals.  Perhaps the best deterrents were all of those apocryphal stories about the punishment that awaited anyone who was caught behind those trees.  In the unspoken Woodland criminal codes, crossing over into the Forbidden Zone during school hours was at the top of the list.  I knew a few people who paid dearly for that brief taste of life outside the compound.  I found out later, however, that there was a nice little trail that ran through those woods, and it ended at one of the least scariest places in Stow-- the Stow-Kent Shopping Center.  The school system spent years scaring us away from Kresge's department store and the A&P.


KIMPTON MIDDLE SCHOOL:  Shh, I'm in the IRC becoming self-actualized.


From kindergarten until 6th grade, most of us Stowites attended the same elementary schools.  We knew those places like the backs of our hands, and life during school time was mostly a matter of jumping through the hoops until the buses arrived.  However, 7th grade was a completely different matter, and one that introduced apprehension to the curriculum.  All of us who had previously identified as Woodlanders or Fishcreekers or Indian Trailers or whatever were now headed towards the One Middle School To Rule Over All, otherwise known as Kimpton.  Preparing to go to Kimpton Middle School was the first inkling that recess as we knew it was indeed over.


Like a lot of other middle schools of its time, Kimpton subdivided its 7th and 8th grade students into instructional “teams”.  For students, this meant that we would be taught most of our subjects by the same four or five teachers assigned to our team.  The team streams would rarely be crossed. I may have spent seven long years at Woodland with a guy on team 7-1, but from this point on I was a member of team 7-2, and who knows what sort of shocking Pagan rituals those 7-1 types performed on warm weekend nights? I had my own suspicions on how these teams were selected, but nothing I could actually prove at the time.


Kimpton was much larger than the narrow halls of Woodland, and its immenseness was not lost on a small potato like me.  We would all congregate in the cafeteria area just before classes began, and the first few weeks were usually spent looking for anyone anywhere who used to attend the same elementary school we did.  But that summer between 6th and 7th grade seemed to have an effect on many of us.  Yes, I did go to that much smaller elementary school in an entirely different city with that guy over there, but that's where the similarities now ended.  We were all Kimptonites now, a young adolescent example of e pluribus, unum.  It was now all about the team.  What team are you on? Who's on OUR team?  I hope that kid isn't on MY team.  Kimpton was the opening two years of the 2-2-2 educational top or bottom, bottom or top schizophrenia that defined Stow's philosophy on higher learning for  decades.


Speaking of educational philosophy, one of my teachers at Kimpton explained the underlying concept behind the apparent madness of the team teaching system.  Kimpton was built at a time when a behavioral psychologist named Maslow was the man of the hour.  Maslow, unlike his draconian predecessor Benjamin Skinner,  believed that students (like all of God's children) learned best when their basic human needs were met. Maslow developed a triangular chart that listed the “Hierarchy of Needs”, from the concrete items such as food, water and shelter to those more esoteric needs such as peace, love and understanding.  Maslow was obviously a pinko and a hippie, but I digress. Once a person had all of these needs met, which could take an hour or a lifetime, then he or she would enter a Nirvana-like state called “self-actualization”.  A self-actualized middle school student was a happy middle school student, and much less likely to become a burden on local taxpayers years later.


In order to follow the path, excuse me, Path of self-actualization, a student at Kimpton should have felt free to explore his or her outside environment without getting so hung up on society's rules, man. In reality, we still needed hall passes to meet a few basic human needs Maslow conveniently left off the chart.  We didn't go to the Establishment's “library”, with its buzz-killing due dates and repressive Dewey Decimal system. Instead, we went to the IRC, the Instructional Resource Center.  The IRC may have had the trappings of the Man's library, but we were free to explore our literary space at our own pace, and we liked it that way.


The cafeteria at Kimpton almost toppled this apple cart of harmonic self-actualization, however.  French fries had long been a love/hate thing among students, since the elementary school offerings were usually thick frozen crinkle cut fries barely put through the deep frying process.  At Kimpton, however, the cafeteria began to serve thinner shoestring french fries which came ever so close to duplicating the mythical McDonald's fries.  The lunch ladies originally served these fries in huge cups, easily double the size of anything served elsewhere.  A ritual for eating these fries soon formed. First, the cup would be overturned onto the serving tray. Salt would be added, accompanied by several small paper cups filled with ketchup.  This mountain of potatoey goodness would be consumed quickly, lest the small problem of congealing oil spoil the process.  That's how it worked for a few weeks, anyway.


As if straight out of a low-budget prison film, however, the polar opposite of self-actualization crept in.  The fries became so popular so fast that others who missed out on them the first time would resort to stealing. Swiping someone else's fries became so commonplace that a lot of us would hold a metal fork in one hand while eating our fries with the other.  Any inmate who tried to steal our fries ran a serious risk of getting the back of his hand aerated for free.  Several students did in fact get stabbed, so the school took measures to curb their criminal impulses.  Without admitting any tactical error on its part, the school switched out the metal forks for plastic ones.  The stabbings could still take place, but the victory was largely academic.  The cafeteria also switched to smaller cups, so the former excesses were no longer a factor.


Another idea borrowed from the Swinging Sixties was the belief that today's dabbler will become tomorrow's customer.  Seventh graders were allowed to explore each and every creative or industrial art program for precisely six weeks at a time.  This was usually enough time to decide if third degree burns from a spot welder were more to your liking than making (and compelled to eat) cookies made with four TABLESPOONS of baking soda.  Students could also decide between a lack of native ability in visual art and a lack of native ability in music.  During the eighth grade, enlightened students could choose two of these disciplines for a semester each.  After learning how to sew an apron, make a wooden toaster tong, weld coiled wire into a trivet and make a sauce from orange juice and sugar, I opted for the music classes.


One of my music instructors was also a very talented folksinger and guitarist, although local venues were few and far between.  We learned the basics of music composition, from scales to notation to rhythm, but I could tell his sweater vest-laden spirit was elsewhere.  Every so often, he would break out his acoustic guitar and entertain the class with a passionate rendition of Harry Chapin's ode to absent parenting, “Cat's in the Cradle.”  He seemed especially wistful during the final verse, in which the son exacts karmic revenge on the inadvertently neglectful narrator/father.  I can very easily imagine a major motion picture about his life: “Mr. R's Meaningful Folk Guitar with Hushed, Intimate Vocals Opus.”


The other music instructor had a habit of standing in the hallway between classes holding a ukelele and a kazoo.  As the young Van Halen and Led Zeppelin fans filed past his classroom door, he would blissfully saw away at a vintage Rudy Vallee or Al Jolson snippet for his own entertainment.  Heaven knows WE weren't getting the job done.  During class he would throw out challenges to the more musically inclined.  One time he asked us all to sing a note as long as we could in a single breath. I remember it came down to me and my church friend and fellow musician Steve S.  Steve and I looked at each other as the other competitors dropped out one by one.  By the time it was over, Steve and I both looked like the poor opera singer tormented by Bugs Bunny inside the Hollywood Bowl.


Kimpton also provided an intramural sports program for any team members willing to sacrifice a lunch period for the sake of competition.  Volleyball was a popular option, followed closely by basketball or dodgeball.  The crowd pleasing event, however, was tug-of-war.  Almost all of us signed up for at least one session of tug-of-war, especially if it pitted class teams against each other.  The rules were fairly straightforward: pull the rope until a centered flag crossed over a designated line.  How any team accomplished that goal was strictly up to them.  One popular but quasi-legal tactic was to creep forward on the rope whenever any gains were made.  This would inevitably lead to one team controlling 99.5 percent of the total rope surface, while 20 other kids desperately held onto the remaining six inches. The other winning strategy was better known as Dean.  Dean was one of the biggest guys in our class, and more than willing to share his talent with the rest of the players on his team.  The new strategy involve tying one end of the rope around Dean's waist and keeping one hand on the rope for appearance's sake.  The tug-of-war intramural battle was clearly for second place during the Dean years.


The two years spent in the welcoming and nuturing arms of educational visionaries like Maslow didn't exactly prepare 8th graders for the next step of the journey.  All of us self-actualized little people were about to meet the AntiMaslow, a man named Skinner, in the rat maze and cheese collection known as Workman High School.  But that's a story for another day.


WORKMAN HIGH SCHOOL: Nothing a Ramp and Skinner Can't Handle


Practically every major building within the city limits of Stow served some other purpose at some other time in history.  The building I knew as Workman High School, the one that serviced primarily 9th and 10th grade students, was at one time Stow High School, the only 9th-12th grade game in town.  As Stow's population grew, the original building became hopelessly outgunned by the incoming student bodies.  As many of us Stowbillies fondly remember, the city's solution to the problem was to find the best and the brightest architects it could afford, and these skilled men would come up with a solid plan to double the capacity of Stow High School.  This scheme would have worked, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling measurements.  The new addition was precisely one half-floor higher than the original building.  Sorry about that, chief.  Missed it by that much.


The marriage between old and new sections of Workman was finally achieved with a long, sloping ramp down the middle of a connecting hallway.  Few of us missed any opportunity to slide or roll something down that ramp back in the day.  The new section also had an elevator, although permission to use said elevator was limited to handicapped students or those who were temporarily out of commission.  The rest of us had to choreograph an intricate ballet involving ramps, stairwells, hallways and more hallways.  Workman's floor plan was dictated by the educational philosophy championed by Dr. Benjamin Skinner, a leading specialist in draconian teaching methods at the time.  Dr. Skinner believed all a student really needed to learn was a desk and a teacher.  Like rats in a maze, each student would eventually figure out the optimum way to travel from classroom to classroom.  The reward for all of this behavioral conditioning was a quality education with minimal distractions.  I would have preferred a lump of cheese myself.


The original part of Workman still featured steam-fed radiators for heat and open windows for non-heat.  There was no air conditioning for the comfort of the rat students or their rat instructors.  Dr. Skinner would have loved what they did with the place.  During the colder months, the steam heat would flow through the cold metal pipes, causing them to expand and contract.  This expansion and contraction triggered a series of loud bangs that could be heard throughout the building.  It became our two minute warning that heat was finally on the way, one hallway at a time.  The new part of Workman also had steam heat, but the architects were clever enough to hide the pipes under more modern covers. We could actually twist knobs that looked like they would have some effect on something.  They didn't. Welcome to Ramp World.


One hallway in the original section led to the typing room, where many of us learned how to type on manual typewriters.  The instructor would put on a record, and a man who sounded suspiciously like the narrator of every school filmstrip ever would call out letters to type.  As we tapped our way through the “A...S...D...F...J...K...L...Sem” assignment over and over again, we had plenty of time to think of the things we'd rather be doing, like not typing endless lines of asdfjkl;.  I always thought a sentence like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” would be more interesting, just to see the look on the janitor's face when he emptied out trashcans from The Shining.


Our typing teacher at Workman did find ways to break up the homerow monotony, especially on Friday mornings.  She allowed students to bring in their own albums while the rest of us sawed away at assignments printed in a workbook.  I'm not sure if she was aware of the artistic leanings of the modern music scene at the time, but she wanted to be hip to the jive and we weren't about to stop her.  Because we were so isolated from the rest of the building, volume was not an issue.  So those of us who took certain typing courses under a certain typing/English teacher during the early 80s all learned to type while listening to AC/DC's heavy metal album “Back in Black”.  To this day, I can still hear the clacking of typewriter keys timed to the beat of the title song or “You Shook Me All Night Long”.


The library at Workman was not especially spacious, but it was clearly a library, not a Kimptonian instructional resource center.  The head librarian was one of those school employees you just knew had been there since brick one of construction.  We called her the Mole Lady behind her back, but as deaf as she was, I'm sure we could have bypassed the pretense altogether.  The standard procedure for checking out a book from the Workman library was to fill out a card with the student's name and hand it over to the librarian or her assistant for date stamping.  This system should have worked well, except for the inevitable Stowbilly factor.  A number of students would put a much different name on the card, from Haywood Jablome to Ben Dover.  This would usually amount to a whole lot of nothing, since the books would be returned on time anyway and the name used on the card didn't really matter to the circulation assistant.


However, this flaw in the system did backfire spectacularly one day during study hall in the cafeteria. The Mole Lady herself came down from the library, which by Workman hallway standards probably took most of the morning, then approached one of the study hall monitors.  She held a book card in one trembling hand, and in her inimitable craggy voice said “Attention, students, attention. We have an overdue book situation.  Would Mr. JOHN please report to the library?  Mr...ELTON... John?”. We were all stunned.  We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  She was completely sincere, and completely unaware that Elton John was a British singer-songwriter who had graduated years ago.  Finally, someone shouted from the back of the room: “Elton's not here today, ma'am. He's on tour with Peter Frampton.”  Without missing a beat, the Mole Lady said “Well, would you please tell Mr. John to see me in the library when he gets back?  It's very important that I speak with him.”  And then she was gone.


The original section of Workman was clearly built during a different time than my own.  There were secrets around every corner, and most of them were inspired by the Red Menace scare of the 1950s. The small gym in the basement, which my predecessors often used as a makeshift dance hall during lunch, also served as an official atomic bomb shelter.  A storage room connected to the gym still contained the remnants of emergency food supplies from the 1950s.  There was also a tunnel which led from that storage room to the basement of the City Hall building.  The City Hall building also had the iconic Civil Defense Shelter signs from the blissful “Duck and Cover” days.  Considering the size of the student population at Workman and the capacity of the underground gym and bunker, there may have been a discussion or two in the day about who would get to enjoy the emergency rations and who would be toast during an actual atomic event.


The newer section of Workman housed many of the science classrooms, which meant access to Bunsen burners and a few serious chemicals.  One of my favorite biology teachers was also an amateur bodybuilder, so his class lectures would often include the phrase “getting huge”, followed by a Schwarzenegger-inspired pose or two.  He would also perform experiments which were clearly not sanctioned by the school, but were usually fun to watch.  One experiment involved pouring two liquid compounds together in a very tall glass cylinder.  Nothing happened for a few minutes, but he explained that some chemicals generate significant heat when combined and we should just keep watching.  A minute later, a steaming hot foam rose from the top of the cylinder, spilled over the side and flowed over the desk.  The foam continued to slide along the floor and then out the classroom door.

What we may have called an exothermic reaction on the test soon became a smoldering pile of goo in the hallway.


The restrooms at Workman varied in overall quality and usability. The showers in the locker rooms were legendarily bad, followed closely by the student restrooms by the north entrance.  In an effort to thwart smokers, the doors to each stall had been removed, which was not as much of a deal breaker on the boys' side as it was for the girls' side.  Our assistant principal would periodically receive reports of illicit smoking in the girls room and throw a bucket of water through the front entrance.  His actual smoker to poor girl just trying to brush her hair before class ratio was pretty abysmal, however.  Other restrooms were much better, and the ones in the teachers' lounges were the best of all.  This may explain why so many teachers went into apoplectic fits whenever a student wandered into the lounge by mistake.  They were zealously protecting their pristine bathroom stalls, replete with working doors and abundant ashtrays.


They say all barely adequate but legally sufficient things must pass, and the Workman building was no exception.  After the new 9th through 12th grade Stow-Munroe Falls High School became operational during the late 80s, the Workman building was generally abandoned.  It would eventually be torn down, and the land would be converted for retail use.  Many young Stowites would never guess an entire high school once stood on the property where Marc's is today.  Many older Stowbillies, however, still remember running laps around the field behind the building, walking down to the public library after school, or hanging out at Eddie's bike shop or the Lawson's parking lot.  The Workman building (and its surprisingly good cafeteria) may be gone, but many of us will miss that old Skinner box and its promise of better cheese to come.


LAKEVIEW HIGH SCHOOL: Incidentally, No Lake and No View.


Somewhere between Kimpton's wild 60s architectural excesses and Workman's staple-as-you-go utilitarianism was Lakeview High School, the final 2 in Stow's clearly improvised 2-2-2 higher education plan.  When Workman ceased to be workable as Stow's sole 9-12th grade high school, Lakeview became the “new” high school, thoughtfully located a quarter of a mile away from the existing one. There are those who still recall the day when the first class scheduled to graduate from Lakeview made its historic trek from Workman to the Lakeview campus.  As the school yearbook would document, these pioneers weren't about to let a construction fence get in the way of educational progress, no sir.


Some of us Workmanites first experienced Lakeview  as members of the marching band.  Those freshmen and sophomore students would get off the buses at Lakeview and assemble on the practice field while the rest of us rode an additional quarter of a mile to Workman.  Following band practice, there would be a parade of young band members walking to the Workman campus, while others made their way up to Lakeview for drivers' education classes.  That walk between Lakeview and Workman could either be a welcome break from the Skinner box or an object lesson on why others leave NE Ohio in droves during winter months.  Since the class times did not always take into account the commute between campuses, most of us developed a walking pace somewhere between deliberate and alarmingly laser-focused.


Lakeview also featured a parking lot for both students and faculty, a situation which naturally cried out for a sense of law and order.  The responsibilities of this position fell on one man and one man only, and that man had a name: One Bullet Barney, aka Rent-a-Cop.  Barney indeed took his job very seriously, even if the driving student population did not.  Getting past the Rent-a-Cop was the first step in a multi-step plan to get to McDonald's and back during the lunch period. The final step was getting back on campus while Barney was distracted by other student drivers working on step one.  Getting a citation from Barney usually carried about as much weight as getting an overdue book notice from the Mole Lady at Workman, but few Stowbillies wanted to stay on his bad side for very long.  He had a long memory, and a few friends still on the force.


Although the parking lot situation could be troubling at times, it paled in comparison to the vandalism magnet we euphemistically called the courtyard.  The courtyard's centralized location and restricted access seriously harshed its buzz as a functional space, but it still served a purpose for senior classes during the last weeks of school.  The aforementioned McDonald's restaurant had one thing every senior class hoped to capture, but only a handful ever did.  Once every few years, a clearly disgruntled maintenance staff would have to fish a large fiberglass horse out of the courtyard, the same statue usually found in front of the Golden Arches of Stow.  Sometimes a few crudities would be “painted” with bleach on the vulnerable courtyard grass, while at other times very large items would be dismantled and reassembled in the courtyard's confined space.  If it was large and missing within five miles of Stow (especially during late May), searching in Lakeview's courtyard would not have been a bad idea.


Much like Kimpton's bucket of french fries or Workman's revered peanut butter bars, Lakeview's cafeteria had one feature that kept the faithful coming back for more.  The standard lunch was generally satisfying, but for only an additional quarter students could stand in line for what was promoted as a chocolate milkshake.  In retrospect, the fact that the milkshake mix was provided by the spoilsports at the USDA should have been a clue.  It may not have been on a par with Friendly's or Stoddard's, but at least it was cold and creamy. Chocolaty, however, it was not.  Nevertheless, many of us with two bits burning a hole in our pockets would dutifully stand in line all lunch period for a shot at natural dairy product goodness.  The milkshake line also featured a few other snack items generally not found on the standard lunch menu, such as potato chips and candy bars.  It was an alternative nation, a wink and a nod to nutritional mutiny in a lunchroom dedicated to the vagaries of the subsidized lunch program.


Lakeview during the early 80s was the site of a few other social experiments, like the ill-fated attempt to change the school's colors to pink and black and adopt a new mascot: The Stow High Good and Plentys.  There were plenty of valid signatures on that petition, but unfortunately decades of maroon and gold tradition did not play in our favor.  Another science project could be described as “one milk carton, one unused locker”.  After several months, the consensus among us scientists was that milk cartons were incredibly resilient, but things could only continue in one unfortunate direction.  An unwashed gym shirt we named Fred Bread was also left in an unused locker for several months, but that experiment ended during a surprise locker inspection, which yielded a few illegal substances, some Playboy magazines and a green, fuzz-covered gym shirt.  Fred Bread taught us a lot about living, about dying, and what it was to be a man.  Actually, he taught us the value of a roll of quarters and a cup of laundry detergent.


One positive thing about the Lakeview campus was there was everything in a room and a room for everything. The building itself was almost a military-industrial complex in scope, with metal and wood shops, a massive gymnasium and locker rooms, band and choir rooms, business school rooms for IOE students, a darkroom for yearbook and newspaper photographers, not to mention offices for teachers and classrooms for everything from Latin to physics.  The only catch was that students had five minutes at best to travel between all of those areas.  Logistics rarely entered the equation whenever we were selecting our classes for the next semester.  Anyone who signed up for Algebra II and choir, for example, would have to run from the last room of the top floor on the north side of the building to one of the last rooms on the bottom floor of the south side.  The first bell served two purposes: the end of the class period, and the start of the daily 300 yard dash to the gym's locker room.


One class at Lakeview became very popular because of Ohio state law.  A would-be driver under the age of 18 was required by law to present a certificate of completion from a recognized driver's ed school. Those who could afford the tuition fees had the option of attending what we liked to call a “crash course” on driving. Sear's offered a four day driver's ed course that satisfied at least the spirit of the law. Successful students would indeed receive a certificate of completion and could take their driving test in Cuyahoga Falls.  However, there were many of us who enjoyed turning that kind of privileged positive into a Stowbilly negative.  If a driver in the Stow area ever did something hazardous, like stopping short or failing to signal a turn, many of us would yell “Where did you learn to drive? SEARS?”.


Meanwhile, the rest of us who were of driving age would sign up for the school-sponsored driver's ed course at Lakeview.  This meant 18 weeks of classroom, simulator and real world training, but at least we wouldn't drive like those heathens with the Cracker Jack box certificates.  The driver's ed instructor had exactly the demeanor you would expect from a social studies teacher shanghaied into teaching 16 years how to handle a 3,000 pound Deathmobile.  He was fond of pointing out that he was a fervent bicyclist, so he was essentially giving us the means and ability to run him off the road later.  We would watch the required “Blood Runs Red on the Highway” snuff films, spend time behind the wheel of a 1963 Studebaker in a driving simulator, then drive around town in a real car.  The instructor did have a second brake installed on his side, however.  At the end of the course, he doled out the certificates of completion, which he called “death certificates”, and warned us all not to say anything approaching a thank you.

I'll end with one final memory of a teacher from Lakeview, a man who fought in Korea and enjoyed repeating his one good story about the place.  It seems he was a hit with the local ladies because of his thick red hair, and they gave him a Korean nickname which he translated as “Number One Redhead”. He taught history at Lakeview, although he was the kind of person I always thought should be making history somewhere else.  I really enjoyed his class, and sometimes I would visit him during my 8th period study hall.  He also owned a miniature golf course, so occasionally he would hand me a set of free passes to play a game or two.  One day I walked into his empty classroom and found him watching TV.  It wasn't a standard over-the-air channel, but an uncut cable movie channel.  The cable television line ran on a pole right outside his classroom window, so he managed to splice some coaxial cable and tap into the signal.  We watched Superman II for an entire class period, then I left to catch my bus.  That's one of my lasting memories from my time spent at Lakeview High School, the building with no lake and no view, but still plenty of heart and soul.


Submitted: February 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Michael Pollick. All rights reserved.

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