Now that I’ve made the John Hughes “Breakfast Club” analogy, I guess I can now refer to my old High School gang as the Brat Pack. We did work hard to earn the title.
I think it is safe to say, that we had a lot of attitude– especially by our Senior year in High School. Especially second semester of our Senior year in High School.
We had all been accepted at the schools of our choice and, frankly, we were hell on wheels. We could smell freedom in the air and just had to get through the formalities of graduating from High School.
We were so over Danville and High School and so ready to move on…
We were a teacher’s nightmare.
Back them, you had a certain amount of days each semester you could miss classes. It was some ungodly number like 15 or 20. We viewed that as an entitlement. Like Corporate vacation days.
We were determined to use all our “cuts”.
Teachers and the Administration viewed this differently. They seemed to think we should actually show up for all our classes. We did not understand this thought process…
Even our parents were tired of the game by our Senior year. They knew we were cutting classes. They knew we were going to college, so who cared? As far as they were concerned, their jobs were over.
I’ll never forget the Attendance Office calling my Mother at work and telling her I was not at school one day Senior year. She was most annoyed. She told me about this later…
Scott is not in school today. Did you know that?
Is there anything wrong with his grades? He’s been accepted at Washington and Lee. Unless he’s doing something to puts that in danger, I don’t care. He’s leaving next year anyway, so I assume he can manage his own time. I have a job, why are you bothering me? How can you expect me to keep up with what my children are doing? Call me if he’s having trouble making his grades, otherwise, I’m fine…
And I assume she then went back to talking to her friends on her work phone as usual…
They weren’t quite ready for this response at the Attendance Office…and apparently she had decided we weren’t in danger of joining the Manson Family anymore now that they had been in jail for several years. I think they got similar responses from several of our parents.
My parents always had the philosophy that, as long as it didn’t interfere with my/their long-range plans, they really didn’t care or want to know about it. That’s how I always read whatever I wanted, saw whatever movies and TV Shows I wanted and they were fine. Unless it was something controversial, like “The Exorcist” or “Cabaret” where they wouldn’t let me go because people might see me and “people might talk.” Otherwise, they didn’t like to be bothered too much by their children. I think that was healthy.
As usual, I digress…
Anyway, we often met at McDonald’s in Ballou Park for Breakfast and cigarettes to decide if we were actually going to go to High School that day.
We were bored out of our minds with Danville and High School and were always open to any alternatives to classes. If we actually attended classes, then we had to go out to lunch, off-campus to, deal with having to put up with a morning where we had to actually be in classes and deal with all that mundane foolishness. And we were usually late coming back from those lunches…
I might add, as one of the key Yearbook editors, I had the authority to give hall passes that got people out of classes for even more cuts. For pictures and things. We took lots of pictures. I was most popular with my friends.
I think we maxed out on cuts in all our classes and still basically made straight “A”s.
Looking back, this was not good prep for College. We thought that would be easy, too, and not interfere too much with our social lives. We then had to adjust our expectations somewhat, but that was down the road at this point in the story…We all had rough Freshman years….
Anyway, back to High School.
Our Senior Year, we were all in what would now be called “Honors Classes”. One of which was “Novels”. It was the study of novels over the centuries. It was High School, so subjects could be shallow and broad.
We had a new teacher, fresh out of College, who was most full of himself. The first day of class, he had us arrange our chairs in a circle to facilitate discussion. Then he advised us this was a most special class and class discussion was most important. It was key we were there everyday. He would not tolerate us missing classes.
A gauntlet had been thrown down…
We all looked at each other across the Circle with one eyebrow raised and telepathically shared the same thought: “Skip Day tomorrow!”
Now a couple of our friends would not cut school until after their first period math class. There was a math teacher, who was about 4′ 10″, who scared the hell out of them. We thought they were being silly. Why show up for one class and ruin the day? Sometimes the rest of us would have to wait at McDonald’s and smoke more cigarettes until they got “sick” after first period.
Then it was off to Greensboro. Everyone in Danville went to Greensboro for everything back then. My Father used to say to us:
I don’t think you people can go to the bathroom unless it’s in Greensboro.”
Funny that I ended up there.
We would also go other places. We took lot’s of College Tours. We would tell our parents we were going to Lexington, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, Chapel Hill or Charlottesville to look at schools. For the day. That was excellent prep for college when we all lived on the roads doing the circuit of our respective colleges both on weekends and during the week. It also meant we could be out later.
Then we would head off to wherever we were going for the day. We would make a cursory look at a College, then go have lunch and go shopping.
Greensboro, however, had extra thrills. We knew it better. One of our favorite things to do was go to Greensboro, have lunch, go shopping and drive by the Adult Book Stores.
Since no one ever talked to us about sex, we had no idea what that meant. So one day we had to go in….I don’t think we really knew what we were looking at or what really went on in there, but we had to go in for the adventure. We may have spent 5 minutes max in there before they threw us out…
The important thing is we went in to satisfy our curiosity and sense of adventure. And to be able to tell people when we got home and scandalize them.
At 16, 17 and 18, to us it was most important for us to be free and to seem more sophisticated than we were.
I remember our Senior Year. Studio 54 was in all the magazines. The disco phenomenom was starting…and they were opening a disco at a new hotel in Greensboro. We thought this would be our chance to check this disco thing out.
It never crossed our minds to be concerned that we ranged in age from 15-17. We just went in through the back door, through the Kitchen and we were in. We had a blast. Until they thew us out…
Back to Novels class….
The “New Teacher” had a melt down the day after our road trip when we came back to class. For some reason, he was shocked that teenagers didn’t listen to him.
It was open war for the rest of the class. Us vs Him. We challenged him constantly. He would scream at us and actually threw a book at one of us. We were too smart for him to give us bad grades and it made him crazy. We just smirked our way through and headed off to College in the Fall.
He retired a couple of years ago after doing his 30 at the same school.
That’s why I don’t understand today’s parent/child relationships. We were never “friends” with our parents.
We wore them down until they left us alone. Same with our teachers. That’s how we learned independence and self-confidence.
That’s also why I fear for American civilization. With all these mellow, passive, protected children, how are they going to know the adventures we knew? How are they going to learn to think for themselves and step outside the box society puts people in?
How are they going to learn the skills and guts to challenge authority?
That’s key to survival in a Democracy. That’s the key for the survival of a Democracy.
The importance of developing rebels seems to have been lost. People forget this country was founded by rebels.
We are becoming a nation of followers or people who just mumble discontentedly among themselves. They don’t do anything about it.
We no longer train our kids to take chances, defy authority, stand on their own principles, manage the situation and take the consequences.
That scares me…
God knows, we were far from perfect, but we weren’t mindless followers.
Followers can quickly become lemmings and lead a Society off a cliff….
We definitely weren’t lemmings.
We were the Brat Pack.