This sound of alarm eckoed down the halls.
Years later working as a salesman for General Foods at a salesmeeting in Denver we were given instruction to read a book by Dale Carnegie. “How to win friends and influence people” I thought to myself I learned to do this in the gym that day in Bicknell.
1963 first day of school in a new school, it was uneventful until just after lunch as I walked past the gym I saw a bunch of girls dancing to records. So I walked in. Little did I know I had crossed the forbidden threshold….
The girls said the boys don’t come in here. They knew I didn’t know better, I was new, it was a small school. I was confused I said “I like to dance can’t I dance with you.?” “Yes” they said all at once. With excited words they all talked at once. As they picked a single voice they explained that the boys all agreed that they were not going to dance at noon. I said” I never agreed to that”.
At the door to the gym there were lookerins who refused to enter. The girls and I danced together as I tryed to remember their names. I heard later that up and down the halls the alarm had sounded “there’s a boy in the gym.” I learned that as long as they could remember the stubborn boys held there ground and wouldn’t come in. Well I was winning friends that’s for sure. Any girl that had been in the hall when this started was in the gym now. They took turns taping each other on the shoulder and dancing with me. All those girls. I was in heaven. It seemed a long time but I knew it was only a few minutes the bell rang and we were off to class.
In the halls that afternoon the girls were all smiles I was passed several notes and asked to the Sadie Hockens dance. Things were going well. The boys on the other hand were not to happy with me. I guess that might have been” influnce people” but they didn’t like it. Second to last class was going to start next. I had gym class. As I headed for class a boy reached out and snached my pen from my shirt pocket.
I grabbed his hand and we had words. He asked if he could “borrow” my pen for the next class only. He would meet me after class and return it. It wasn’t just a pen it was a Parker t-ball jotter and my grandmother gave it to me. I was irritated but I went to PE and was looking for him after. He didn’t meet me as promised. I saw him walking toward me. I reached out and snatched my pen back.
I could hear his cowboy boots comming from behind. He put his hand on my left shoulder and spun me around. He was ready to yell at me , I was ready to fight. I hit him hard in the jaw. He staggered back into the lockers then I hit him in the stomach. He was on the ground and it was over, I went to class.
Part way thru class someone came and told me the principle would like to talk to me. I expected as much. He threatened to call my parents. I said they were expecting me to get into a fight. I moved a lot and didn’t get along with bullies. I asked if the other kid had been trouble before. I told them I usually go through a bullie or two then that was the end of it. I turned on the charm and told them I was a lover not a fighter. Then I smiled. They said they had heard I was in the gym dancing with the girls and I might have more trouble here than I thought.
Then they said in their school there was no fighting in the halls. Fights took place after school in the baseball field. I promised to live by that rule then they said “let him in”. I found they were speaking of the pen snatcher. He came in and was all mad and chalanged me to a fight after school. I said ” man you are special kind of stupid….. I have never had to beatup the same guy twice and you want it twice in one day.” I must have not finished the job. I agreed. But I was calm and not the one who was the problem. The principle could see I was just fighting back.
Then I said” oh wait I ride the bus” they said oh don’t worry the busses won’t leave if there is a fight. They will wait. I must say I was impressed with there efficiency.
As soon as class was over I went to the ball dimond and smacked him a couple more times. He suffered a lot I never got hit. My Knuckle’s hurt thats it.
Next day I got more notes and a couple plates of cookies, at noon everyone was dancing in the gym. Some of the guys were letting me know this girl or that girl was there’s and not available. I said” ok and what is your name “and” I am Phil.” Shaking hands making friends. And thinking that I might have a future in politics. It went well, or so I thought.
In gym class there was one guy that still had a problem with me. We were playing basketball and he kept shoving me. I stepped back from him but he was picking a fight. I shoved him back and the coach said”that’s not how we do things here.” I said “OK in the ball dimond after school? “No “said the coach ” now with boxing gloves”. “Oh good” said I” we won’t keep the busses waiting.”
These gloves were huge. This guy was way bigger but I knew I was a good boxer. I hadn’t lost a fight sence forth grade. This just might be that day. Once we started he couldn’t lay a glove on me. But with these big gloves I wasn’t sure I could out last him. He just kept taking it, his face must be numb. There was no end of the round bell. This was unstructured boxing. He started to drop his guard a bit I was getting to him. I side stepped and gave him a right cross to the side of his head. This was untorchered Realestate. He spun and did a face plant on the gym floor. By the sound of it he didn’t catch himself with his hands.
I had a wise crack about that had to hurt or something like that. The coach went for the ammonia snap things. The other guys helped me with my gloves. They were full of questions about boxing skills etc. Some also said they were glad the boys were in the gym during lunch now. That whole thing just baffled me.
Once my apponant was on his feet he shook my hand and congratulated me for the good fight. I said “your one tuff kid I wondered why ,sence you couldn’t land any hits on me why you didn’t just give up? “He said”Could I do that part way through? Is that allowed”?” Sure” I added” you could throw your hands up and say I quit. That would have been easter don’t you think.? ”
I just looked at this guy and thought to my self they have a different was of doing things here.
After this all blew over, lunch time dancing was the new way, boys and girls. Lunch started and some ran to be first in line to eat. Others went to dance while the lines would be long then they would go eat in few minutes. By the end of the lunch period there were quite a few in the gym. Other kids did other things no one really cared who did what any more.
A few months later on November 22nd 1963. We were dancing in the gym to the Beatles “She loves you.”Someone from the office came in and turned off the phonograph and said “Students there will be am important anouncement in a minute. Please listen for it.” And they walked out.
Over the intercom we heard. ” President Kennedy has been shot. ” We were stunned, they further told us school was over for today. Get ready to go home the busses will be taking us home and we will get television coverage. This was a historical event and the first time in history that we will be able to see the events as they unfold. In the past people needed to wait for newspapers.
We as a nation were watching live as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, as well. We watched as President Kennedy’s little son saluted his casket in the funeral procession. This TV coverage was non stop. The only thing on and the whole country was sickened by it.
Back at school things were different. We were different. No one cared who danced with who anymore.
In the end I really loved my year at Wayne county High. That was my junior year I got my class ring and drivers license. I highly recommend you visit Bucknell some day for two reasons. One its on the doorstep of Capital Reef national monument and that is a very beautiful place. Two there is a cafe in the middle of town where they serve pickle pie that is not to be missed. If your waitress turns out to be almost 70 and lived there her whole life I probably danced with her in highschool.
Next year would be a new town and new school. New bullying. New adventure new girls.