Middle School – a.k.a. Greaser Central: Part 5

Hicksville Junior High School

One of the main reason my parents moved to Hicksville was because the Junior High was all Andy Hardy and looked like a very large bank. But its neo-classical exterior, doric columns and sprawling lawn was merely a cover-up for the no account shenanigans taking place on campus.

I’ll never forget the early days of seventh grade. After a typical cafeteria lunch of Turkey Delight, English muffin pizza or the mysterious Salisbury Steak (a.k.a, hockey puck) — dished out by cranky, overtaxed kitchen staff on sickly-green-tinted prefab plastic trays, and which, oftentimes, featured a solitary stewed prune as dessert — we’d be dispatched to the schoolyard to partake in what was laughably called “recess.”

It was more like work. The reason being that a successful rite of passage for girls transitioning from elementary school to junior high had everything to do with appearance — specifically, leg-ware.


A sharp observer of both fashion and the behavior of others — and as a result of a rather instructive lunchtime experience of man’s inhumanity to man — I accepted the fact that bobby sox were out.

Nylons were IN.

Around the same time, and in a misguided attempt to “relate” to his legion of teenybopper fans, pop idol Frankie Avalon recorded an idiotic song about stockings — a song that was creepy and strange.

Weirder still is this clip of him as a middle-ager performing this dopey song to an audience of senior citizens:

Anyway, that day in the schoolyard I was passing the time under a shady tree talking with my classmate, anklet-wearing Helen. Out of the blue, a smarmy little “greaser” (those sleazy jerks who overused Brylcreem) and his bitchy vampiresque female entourage — boasting beehive hairdos and bad skin, thick black eyeliner and slathered-on pancake makeup — approached us, snickering.

“I like your so-ocks. Where can I get a pair?” the vampires intoned, in unison, as the pint-sized greaser lording over them snorted his approval.

Those miscreants took to shadowing us around the schoolyard like the Greek chorus from Elektra, tauntingly and harassingly, until, we were literally saved by the bell.

As time wore on, Helen would choose to ignore them and continue to wear her socks. She gets points for that, I suppose. To my mind, though, the issue of socks was a problem easily solved, so why not capitulate? As the product of an embattled household, avoidance of conflict was my great motivator. There was enough to worry about both in and out of school. The day would come, however, when I wouldn’t take it anymore and would find myself another lunchtime companion.

Speaking of people you’d like to avoid, we had an equally unhealthy assortment of odd teachers in Junior High as we did in elementary school. Looking back, I remember only one teacher whom I liked and that was Mr. Aversano. He taught English. His favorite play was Shakespeare’s Richard III. So much so that we’d formed a Richard III club outside of class (okay, I do admit, it was geeky). All of us made a pact with him to meet on the lawn of the Junior High the summer after graduation.

We showed. He didn’t.

Still, Mr. Aversano was miles above the likes of, say, Mr. Wagner — my biology teacher who was incapable of uttering the words “mammary glands.” One afternoon during class, rapping his large wooden pointer against a roll-down geographical map of the female form, he cagily alluded to this body part without permitting its name to escape his lips. Instead, he began dropping clues in front of the class like so many crumbs of bread. Not a single student took the bait.

Finally, to put an end to the uncomfortable silence threatening to gobble up the room, I raised my hand and blurted out, “Mammary glands.” Not the smartest way to attract attention, as I would find out.

Because, during class, Mr. Wagner enjoyed strolling among the desks as he taught. When the girl next to me, the attractive “Sylvie” — with the stylish blond bob, who looked as if she’d stepped out of a Truffaut film — repeatedly rebuffed his overtures of, shall we say, enforced bonhomie, he set his sights on me.

On rainy days, when I’d wear my boots to school, Mr. Wagner would hang around my desk trying to coax me into removing them. I guess he was “into” feet. Soon after, he started calling me by a pet name: “SAM” — a rearrangement of the initials of my monogram.

But by the age of 15, I already knew about fetishes, primarily because my Uncle Jack, a cop and repository of weird stories, had recently busted a guy with a purse fetish. The perp, it seemed, liked to snatch purses from unsuspecting women because purses turned him on. His cache of purses would later be discovered hidden away in the his bedroom closet.

Therefore, I can’t remember why I would ask Mr. Wagner to sign my autograph book. Maybe it was just the way we did things back then. Besides, most of the teachers deviated from the norm in one way or another so I guess I took it all in stride.

Surprise, surprise. He was a religious man! And check out the lowercase loop in his capital “J” (exaggerated and overblown),  the lowercase  loop in his “y” (entangled with his capital “W”) and the lowercase loop in his “g” (an angrily repressed dagger). Enough said.

Yet, I survived Junior High!

Senior High School, thankfully, would prove to be a lot more fun…

(P.S., I’d like to give a shout-out to Oh, who commented on my last post about Buster Brown and Tige: Look what I found!!!)


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