High School Hijinx
Taken from my '73 high school yearbook
A (mostly) true story
I was a freshman in high school during the early 70’s. Though I was no angel, I was certainly far from being a bad kid, but I suppose I must have done something, broken some rule, or pissed someone off to the point where I was sentenced to serve detention as a form of punishment for my youthful misdeed(s). Problem is, I simply cannot remember what crime I had committed, and for the life of me, all I can imagine is that I either got caught ditching, being off-campus, smoking, or hell, maybe a combination of all three! Be that as it may, the justification for my being held prisoner for an hour in a room full of fellow detainees is a minor point, subordinate, if you will, to what occurred during detention. The classroom that we were occupying was located directly across from a set of bungalows used for makeshift classrooms. One of those classrooms was being taught by a notorious geography/history teacher, the meanest sons o’bitch you ever want to come into contact with. This man’s reputation for doling out swats, to both male and female students, was legendary. Rumor held that he also had a finely honed razor strap that he used for the same purpose. To say that he was considered to be one of the worst teachers in this school, or any other school’s history, is an understatement. To avoid my being charged with libel and slander, let’s just refer to him as “Mr. Z”.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our little group of wayward youths were rapidly growing bored and restless, as was our “babysitter”, the male adult staff/faculty member who was supposed to be in charge of us hellions. After a few minutes, the man announced he was going to step out for a smoke (oh, the irony, considering that this may well have been the reason for myself as well as others being there in the first place!). So now the cat’s away, and it didn’t take long for the mice to start assin’ off. By the way, said adult never did return, at least during our hour-long session.
Now there was one freshman in particular, who some of us had dubbed “Clark the Ozark”, who despite being a loner by trade, managed to stand out from the rest of the crowd, in his own way. Incidentally, this young man had undergone brain surgery while in grade school, and at that time, had to wear a helmet to protect his head, which he had long outgrown by the time we started high school. (I kinda recall his propensity for taking off his helmet and using it as a weapon when unfairly provoked). I only make mention of this to illustrate that although “Clark” had some issues, little did we know he was capable of orchestrating a prank worthy of a fraternity pledge. Mind you, he was neither cajoled by anyone else, nor did he seek anyone’s approval beforehand. He simply acted on his own free will.
So now you have the setup, let’s get back to the main part of the story. The next thing we know, good ol’ “Clark” casually makes his way to the classroom phone, our only lifeline to the outside world, or at least to the school’s main switchboard. He then proceeds to pick up the receiver, dial the operator, and asks to be transferred to Mr. Z’s room. Thanks to the large tinted windows of the buildings, we could readily observe Mr. Z and his classroom, which was in full session at the time. The next thing we know, Mr. Z answers the phone in his room, and hears the voice on the other end saying to him “Hey, how's it goin', Ralphie baby!" (Yes, Ralph was Mr. Z’s first name). Just imagine the old guy going crazy at this point, saying "who is this?", which was clearly audible to the rest of us through the phone’s receiver in our room. To add to the preciousness of the moment, because our supposed monitor never returned, Clark was free to continue torturing Mr.Z, and thus keeping the rest of us entertained for an extended period of time before the kid hangs up in the old dude’s face! To add insult to injury, imagine how many points his blood pressure went up when Mr. Z called the switchboard in an attempt to trace the call, but of course, to no avail. Needless to say, we all got away with it, laughing our butts off hysterically, at Mr. Z's expense for a change - was it ever a beautiful thing to behold! Although I personally was never on the receiving end of Mr. Z’s infamous paddle, I couldn’t help but feel, in some small way, that we dished out his comeuppance for all the evil he had ever perpetrated on our fellow classmates, throughout the years. I stop short of calling it karma or retribution, but payback comes to mind as an a propos term, which we all know can truly be a bitch!