School spirit didn’t come easy for uninterested kid

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2001

When the new junior high was finally established in my hometown – after much argument, soul searching and money raising projects – it changed the entire atmosphere.

Thursday, November 08, 2001

When the new junior high was finally established in my hometown – after much argument, soul searching and money raising projects – it changed the entire atmosphere. We had never had a junior high before. That we had one now gave us a feeling of being advanced to a point of sophistication we had not hitherto achieved.

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A noble structure, the building had three floors. Ninth-graders had the first floor, eighth-graders were on the second floor and the youngest, the seventh-graders were upstairs on the third floor.

There were great hopes for the youth of the town. To better guide their feet along upright paths, a Citizenship Contest was established in the new school: grade against grade, homeroom against homeroom.

The winning floor at the end of the school year received a cup. One homeroom on each floor received for winning a purple and gold (school colors) banner. Each floor and each room started with a certain number of points.

The points, though, could be lost: by coming late to school, unexcused absence, spilling ink, running in the hall, writing notes. The list was endless. I doubt if any of us could remember all of it.

On the other hand you could gain points by participating in the 15-minute homeroom program on Friday mornings before class started; taking part in competitive inter-homeroom games; being in a school program; or joining an interest group.

My expectations as to any pleasure from school were never high. Left to myself I’d have been a first-grade drop-out. Unfortunately, I was never left to myself. The interest group was mandatory. I put if off so long that all the interest groups were filled except the handicraft one. I had to stay for an hour every Tuesday and by the end of the semester had painted two milk weed pods with sealing wax dissolved in alcohol. One of the pods was painted with red sealing wax and the other with blue. The inside of the red and its stem was gilded with gold paint and the blue with silver.

I took them home when finished to present to my mother, who courageously put them in a bud vase. Though, she was heard to observe that she hoped I wasn’t going to turn out like my Great-aunt Susan. My great-aunt suffered from some sort of nervous indigestion, the remedy for which came in tiny glass pill bottles. She carefully saved all these, painted them in soft pastel shades, tied them together with matching ribbons and hung them about her front parlor.

My homeroom classmates also tried to encourage me to be a bit more cooperative. I remember the terrible morning when they elected me to play in the softball game against another homeroom. I promptly declined. I could neither properly throw nor catch a ball.

The homeroom teacher all but broke into tears. &uot;How can you treat your friends like this?&uot; she demanded. &uot;Everyone in this room voted for you. They like you. They have confidence in you.&uot;

My own opinion was that if they had anything like goodwill toward me they wouldn’t have done such a perfectly awful thing to me. But I felt I was upsetting the teacher, so I played.

Every time I came up to bat I made an out in a different way. Once I struck out. Once I hit a fly ball and once I got tagged while running to second base.

My teammates were more amused than angry. They even made a medal for me out of the aluminum top of a coffee can. They punched holes in the top through which they ran a ribbon. Somewhere they found paint to print on it, &uot;Love is our heroine.&uot;

Later in the spring, one of the lads whom I always suspected of spearheading the drive to get me taking part in the ball game, and also probably led the drive to prepare me a medal, signed up to be in a program in the auditorium for the entire public.

Poor soul. He didn’t know what he’d be getting into. It was a conservation program and it developed that he was to appear as an arbutus.

His friends were laughing like mad. Even I felt sorry for him. When he finally came to me offering me candy bars, stamps from his collection, anything, everything, if I’d just take his place, I let him suffer for awhile then reluctantly agreed.

As a matter of fact I made a pretty fair arbutus. I don’t remember my lines now, but they started &uot;Well I for one am glad to hear that children are celebrating wild flower day again this year.&uot; I didn’t think much of the poetry, but I did get to wear my best dress, a green silk with an embroidered border. Usually reserved for church and piano recitals.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.