Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rio High School Memories

I have often wondered why it is that the four years we spend in High School have such an impact on our lives? Why is it that when I hear certain songs on the oldies but goodies station I am immediately transported back to an exact place and time that I heard it forty years ago? It is like those forty years in between don't exist. AND why when we receive and invitation to a reunion do we go, or at least think about going?

I graduated from Rio Americano High School in 1969 and moved to Southern California to go to college. I never moved back to Northern California, so the chances of ever running into anyone I went to High school with was very remote. And now I’m so old I’m not sure when I see someone from the past - which past are they from? But, I can say that I think about many of my fellow 69ers and am just curious enough to want to know how their journey has been and want to know “Rest of their Story.”

All of us have a story.

I was asked recently to describe an insecurity I remember having around the time I entered High School? An insecurity??? How about how to narrow that down to just one? Just thinking about that first year of high school scares me and I still carry a little bit of these around. Did I look good enough? Did anyone really know how totally insecure I was? Would all the upper classmen think I’m stupid? Would they all see me get off the bus? Would I find the right bus to get home? Would I find my classes or wander around looking like an idiot? (Still have dreams about that.) Where was I going to sit at lunch? Would I know anyone or have to sit by myself and look really stupid? There wasn’t a lot I remember about the academics but a lot I remember about how important appearances were. What I learned was that you would care less what people think about you if you knew how knew how little they did… and act as if you belong (or fake it till you make it) somehow has the long term effect of making you believe you do.

I don’t remember much about my freshman year. I know I had some oxford shoes and I thought they were super groovey. I took “ALM. FRENCH. LEVEL 1, typing (who knew how important THAT would be?) and had my first serious kissing session with Scottie Farnsworth. I used my yearbook signatures to help me remember that year and mostly what I see is that someone drew a beard and mustache on my freshman yearbook picture. I remember feeling pretty much lonely and hormonal. My family had recently moved to Sacramento and I still didn’t have a lot of friends. My sister Cindy and I had gone to Starr King together the year before but now I didn’t even have her to hang with. Dawn Johnson, Marilyn Manier, (recently died of a heart attack at 57 years old) Katie Gunn and Kathe Quinn befriended me, but I still felt lonely a lot of the time. It was a constant tightrope walking between showing the confidence I wanted to convey to everyone and hiding the insecurity I had hoped to keep secret.

At the end of freshman year there were tryouts held for JV cheerleader and I decided to try out. Before our move from Modesto, I had tried out and won head cheerleader for 8th grade and had to resign that summer when our family moved to Sacramento. It was a heartbreak for me to have to move at such an important part of my life when things were just beginning to go right, so I had this drive to see if I could make cheerleader again. I didn’t think I had a chance but miracles do happen and I was elected! Trisha Leverty, Susie Harris and I were the new JV Cheerleaders. YAYYYYYY, GO TEAM I hoped somehow my life could change with this new direction and purpose.

Sophomore year was a lot of fun. In some ways my life did change. There WAS new direction and purpose. I had cheerleading practice and games, met new friends and got more involved at my church. I was feeling a little more like I belonged. Where I didn’t belong was Geometry. I never had to struggle so much for a D in my life. I had done OK in Algebra 1 but Geometry and I never made a connection. I’ve been told by some educators, that very often if you do OK in Algebra and Trig, you might struggle with Geometry and vice versa. Geometry is a different kind of math that requires logic and proofs. I know am not logical. I have had to learn to be more logical; to follow a logic takes a lot of my brainpower. I am so much more a “feeling” or mood person, but it was the first time I realized that I couldn’t do anything I put my mind too (like I had been told). I had to admit I had limits, weakness and I could fail. What I learned was to grow up, you have to resist living in a fantasy world and make a friend with reality. And, that failure is not as bad a thing as I thought. In many ways it provides an energy to do better.

I loved my English teacher, Mr. Epperson. It is the one class I remember the most. He was not afraid to try new stuff. He showed movies in class; The Haunting, I remember because it scared me and especially because we were not allowed to watch stuff like that at home. We had to read Brothers Karamatsov. I loved the discussions about the book. It increased my appreciation of classic literature and the power it had to change my thinking about things. Why I remember that class, I’m not sure but I think it is like this- “When the student is ready - the teacher shows up.” (Side note – I heard that the reason he wasn’t around my Jr. and Sr. year is that he was fired for being gay. His wife left him- big scandal.) Regardless, he was one of the best teachers there at the time.

One of the most humiliating things happened to me Sophomore year was when an upper classman invited me to homecoming. I had to really work on my dad to let me go because there was dancing involved. (He was opposed to that.) But, mom spoke up for me and I was finally able to go. At the dance this upper classman happened to get back together with his girlfriend, and her date, who stood with me watching them dance together, ended up having to take me home. Talk about rejection. It took me years to get over the wound to my delicate ego.

At the end of Sophomore year I tried out to be in the RA’ettes. I loved to watch them perform at games and believed it could be my chance to be on a great team. I ended up the shortest on the team and was assigned to be on the end – always last or first. Many of my friends were chosen to be RA’ettes too, which made it really great. I also switched from French to Latin because the Latin Club had a great toga party at the end of the year.

My Junior year was marked by hard work. RA’ette practices were in the early morning before school and I am not a morning person. My classes were pretty hard that year. The lessons I learned in Geometry were reinforced with Chemistry (Thanks Mr. LaDue). I LOVED my English class with Mrs. Moulton. What an outstanding educator. She helped me on my way to love the art of writing. I was pretty bad but loved the expression and creativity it provided, AND her methodology in her pedagogy inspires me still.

I met some great girls in RA’ettes and loved being “part of” a group. Many great memories include, Anne, Wendy, Bette (or Gaye), Michelle, Becky and Sarah Lamb. Many thanks to Sarah who drove her classic car (Queen Ann?) all over for us when I was a Soph. and I was always the one in the trunk with Dawn when we went to the drive in. It had a great folding back seat. One thing I learned as a result of being part of the team is that in a group of girls - there are always going to be mean girls. There were challenges in deciding how to behave in the midst of meanness. I didn’t always handle it well, mostly got defensive and was mean back. That never felt good and so I struggled to learn how to handle it when I felt threatened. Not sure I learned how to do that in High School, but later in life I can say that I have learned to “stay in my shoes” and do a little better in conflict situations.

I was asked to the Junior Prom by the handsome Rick Crow. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so for my first formal my mom had to sew my dress. She took me to a fancy dress place in town and I tried on some gowns and found one I LOVED. It was yellow dotted-swiss and had a beautiful ruffle down the back. My mom went out, bought the material and made an exact duplicate of the dress. I loved that dress. Dressing up was so fun and I was so excited about that night. When we arrived at the dance, Joan English was wearing the actual store bought dress exactly like mine. There’s nothing like showing up in the same dress for everyone to make comparisons and I tried to avoid her the whole night. She, of course was darling and younger, I felt so insecure. I had a wonderful time otherwise and Rick was a perfect gentleman.

Try-outs for cheerleader were held at the end of Jr. year. There were about 24 girls or so who tried out for 3 positions. My sister tried out and was running against me. I was so nervous the whole day they counted votes because Bob Crites saw me during the day and told me that the race was between Cindy and me for Head Cheerleader. The thought kept running through my head what if Cindy gets the most votes and becomes Head over me??? I wondered if I could handle that. The rest of the day until the announcement, I was a nervous wreck. When it was announced that I had won Head and Cindy and Becky Dugas were my squad, I about collapsed. I had gone through so many scenarios in my mind related to how to be a gracious loser, or would I just quit or run away and what that would look like, that when I didn’t have to stress about it anymore, I about fainted. Be anxious for nothing is what was reinforced in my mind.

Senior year was such a “gas”. I was part of a group -Steve H. and Carol, Steve Z. Phil Oates, Mary Jane Gooch, Dawn Johnson. Gordon Langstaff and others. There was Young Life, the raft race and the Purple Royal Flush, Football games, Basketball games, after game dances, TeePeeing, the haunted house in Gordon’s mustang and getting busted by the police, football and picnics at the park, parties on the weekend and driving all the drunks home. I remember after one of Gordon’s parties where I was driving his mustang and the passenger door was opened and I was looking the other way when I (who was driving because I was the only one sober) backed out and the door kind of bent back the other way. I felt pretty bad about causing damage to his cool mustang. Sorry Gordon, I think I was most likely needed more backing out of a garage experience.

I never touched drugs and didn’t drink, but I sure saw a lot of that my Senior year. It was the beginning of the “experiment with drugs hippie era” that summer right about the timing of Woodstock and a man on the moon. I had one of the most influential classes that year. It was Biology with Mrs. Leach. I found I loved Biology. I loved the “living” part of it. It fit the Sanguine part of me. The study of life. I actually graduated from UC Davis with a major in Biological Sciences mainly because of that class. Ann Henderson was my lab partner for the dissection of the shark. SMELLY. Her death that year was a “come to Jesus” meeting for me. I learned that Life is short and you never, ever know when it will happen to you. Which reminds me …I went to Bob Crites funeral in Torrance, CA in 2001 and it was another sobering experience of the same nature. I was reminded again to always be prepared for eternity to happen.

Cheerleading for Football, Basketball and occasional other appearances, like when the Rio Olympic swimmers had a welcome home from the Mexico Olympics. We even got our picture in the paper. There was a lot of talent at our small high school! Made me so proud. I did go to the Latin Club toga party, but not sure it was worth transferring from French. It kind of came back to bite me in college for a language requirement. I went to the Senior Ball with David Christenson. We doubled with Susie Harris and was it Peter Hart??? Not sure. But it was a fun night. I think we changed clothes and went ice blocking or something later that night, but my memory is fuzzy. I think I had a real early curfew that made me mad because it was the night that day light savings happened.

Andy Rice and I dated senior year. He took me to see Chicago at the Cow Palace. Loved it and think of that still whenever I hear Does Anyone Really Know What Time it IS? I remember we watched the men landing on the moon at my house that summer. Andy was so smart and so mysterious that it intrigued me. I was just a dumb cheerleader and always felt out of my league. I had been accepted to Azusa Pacific College on a scholarship and grant so I spent that summer getting ready to leave. I was a life guard and swim instructor at Arden Park Pool which was a fun job, and then, I left Sacto for good.

I think in all I feel really blessed to have had such a “normal” high school experience. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I had a wonderful normal family to come home to. So what have I learned? To be so grateful and enjoy the memories. Thanks to so many of you that made it a great four years to grow up in and to learn how to “do life”.


trackerdan said...

I to graduated from Rio in 1969. Did Marilyn Manier really pass away from a heart attack 2 years ago?

Good write up by the way. I enjoyed the read.


Unknown said...

I also attended Rio. Graduated in '79.
I loved Rio....a great school.