I don’t know the exact date, probably late October, it was a bit chilly out. My walk to school was from the northwest edge of town at the far end of Coleman on Ives Avenue. It is two miles from the school. I can walk it in under 20 minutes, no big deal, it’s only uphill on the way home. Down to Keystone and through the muck of the freeway construction and the concrete viaduct for the Orr Ditch. The west bound entrance to I-80 should be open soon, the east bound freeway has come to an abrupt halt, all the way to Vista in Sparks; completion was still about five years away.
Of course there is a locomotive hauling 86 boxcars across Keysyone at 4 mph.
The last time I got stopped by a train, it began to rain, no not your central California light rain that lasts for days, but the 19,000 gallons per minute rain that lasts as long as it takes for an 86 car freight train to make it across the road. The caboose and the rain pass me at the same time. I raise my muddy foot and step across the four steel rails, onto an arid patch of fine Nevada dirt. The dust covers the mud on my boots.
This time it was good. I dodge the construction of the Keystone Bridge and cross the River. I look down Booth and see a couple classmates acting goofy in front of the school. As I hit the school grounds there is a knot of students standing in the R circle. I see a friend and step inside the sacred ground. He tells me that there is a protest going on. The boys want to wear their hair longer, and the girls are tired of freezing their nether parts off, ,having to wear skirts in the winter. I am all for the longer hair part, my hair has always been squirrely curly. If I don’t cut it is slows down growing; but only after it exceeds the school regulations. If I get it cut it sprouts and curls faster than a patch of Alabama Kudzu.
All eyes have turned to the center of the circle as Flipper, Barney, or Tiny grabs the ringleader and hauls him into the office, I become a member of the scrim following them. We enter the front doors and turned towards the administration office. Twelve of my friends; that’s not true I don’t think any of them liked me, but in that moment of Activism we were brothers. I am the 13th and final disciple for our cause through the door as it slams shut. BANG.
A few minutes later there a 13 young men walking out the front door, two week suspension letters in their hands. Three of them look worried about what their parents are going to say, six more put up a brave front, and for the rest, my dear self included, we were ecstatic, hell I hadn’t been going to classes much anyway, and it even got better when my friend Rob pulled up in his newly acquired 58 Impala; only a 348 with a two barrel carb, after which we drove up to Tahoe.
The following Monday I am home, Mom didn’t have much to say about the suspension. The doorbell rings and she opens the door; there stands Tiny, 6’5” 280 lbs; he is inquiring into why I was truant from school. Mom grabs the letter of suspension and waves it in front of his face. I can’t remember word for word what my mother began ranting to him, but I am in awe. Tiny is left on the step quivering and slowly makes it to the big Ford Galaxie the school uses.
My glee does a quick about face. My stepfather has been called up by the National Guard and is being transferred to Kansas or somewhere equally flat. My younger half brother is going with them, I AM NOT. Two days later I take my first aeroplane flight from Reno to San Francisco, CA. I should say flights; there were two ‘blow your nose’ flights. Take off from Reno, blow your nose, land in Sac; take of in Sac, blow your nose, land at SF International.
The next day safely in the arms of my Aunt and Uncle, I am registered into my final high school, Crestmoor High School, in San Bruno, CA. There are guys with hair down to the middle of their backs, the girls are wearing shorts. There is a fifteen minute break between 2nd and 3rd periods when you could step off the school grounds for a quick smoke, your choice of tobacco or pot. I take boxing and find out I have a decent right cross, and a flexible neck. There is a pool, within a month I have an advance life saving diploma. No ROTC. And the most influential teacher in my life, Mrs. Dunne, English Lit. She is the reason I still try to write today.
I guess good things come to he who waits. It was the only year of school, well half year I liked.
Only one problem. It was 1967/68 and the school was 6.7 (a guestimate) miles away from the corner of Haight Ashbury, and I knew the way there. But that is a post a bit further down the road.