Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Hell That Is High School

This year will see the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation from high school.  For the record, I hated high school in general and my high school in particular.  But many of the fellows were all right, and some much better than that (we were all fellows at my Catholic high school).

One member of my class has put together a comprehensive list of the students in our graduating class.  It must have been a great labor too, only a few names have no information and the rest have either current locations or dates of bereavement for the guys that have died.  It's remarkable to think about everybody now.

The Dead

Of the dead, Hilary Carroll went first.  Hil was a good friend of mine, and his death in '66 was a terrible thing.  That whole story is here on the blog, see "Three Deaths, Part I."

We had a pair of twins in our class, and boy were they hot stuff.  The Faster twins.  Very cool kids, tall and handsome.  John was the cut-up, he was a laugh riot.  Getting our junior year class picture taken we were all bobbing and weaving as a bee flew around us.  John said, "what are you scared of?" and grabbed it out of the air, threw it on the ground and stepped on it.  "They can't sting you if you keep shaking them in a loose fist."  Victor was the twin that most thrived, this is common with twins.  Vic was a little more solid than John and a lot more level headed.  He was as good a student as John was a lousy one.  Both died terribly.  John was thrown off a Long Island Railroad commuter train in some kind of a fight; Vic was killed by traffic after his car broke down on the Long Island Expressway.

I knew about John and Hilary, but there were many surprises on the list.

John Connolly was an interesting guy.  He loved explosions and it was his downfall.  He'd been a very good tennis player in high school, on the school team.  He was playing with his chemistry set one day and subjected himself to an unfortunately large, close range explosion.  Both of his hands were on the vessel, and the blast and glass tore up both of his hands and arms.  He lost some grip strength, and any tennis career that he might have had.  Died of natural causes; had his own interesting business; lived in a rich neighborhood.

Tommy Moore . . . oh! Tommy!  This one hit me the hardest, of the surprises.  Tommy was a great guy, and a great friend.  Tall and athletic, and tough, he was an important part of my security detail in my town and my high school.  Never afraid to step in between me and some bully, his presence defused several close calls for me.  Not the half of it though, we got along great.  I walked an extra ten blocks almost every morning to swing by his house so we could go to school together.  On the way to the bus stop he'd usually steal a newspaper, and he usually ate his bag lunch on the way to school.  He loved to tease me (I've always been easy to tease) but he treated me with respect too.  I loved him.

William Van Ohlen and John Yarbrough were boys from my town.  I'd known both of them all through grammar school.  Neither particularly exciting nor interesting, both were solid boys who were pleasant and capable.  I hope that they lived happy lives.

Shouts To The Living

Greg Curran . . . hey, Greg!  A very lively companion and a fine bowler, but only if there was a dollar in it.  On our intramural bowling team he had a mediocre average and usually made little effort.  But if you bet him a dollar that he couldn't do it he'd make any spare on the alley, and if he decided to show off he'd just throw strike after strike.  Happy New Year!

Mike Scally . . . another boy from my town.  A lovely, polite, friendly boy, tall and athletic, and a joy to know.  Thanks for everything Mike, and now go be well and happy! 

Michael Dooley . . . one of the most talented among us, great line with a pencil and a great imagination.  Also very good natured and a good friend.  I wish that I'd been a better friend to him, and that we'd never lost touch.  He's had an interesting life, using his talent to build a successful career.  I couldn't be happier for him.  Kudos! 

Michael Sheehan . . . A good friend and fellow Surf Music enthusiast.  Also one of the finest chess players that I knew.  I beat him only once, and it really pissed him off.  We're both lawyers now.  (Although I'm teaching law these days.)  Mike, I hope you're happier with the law gig than I was.

Gary Pagano . . . shout, bro!  Gary was a lot of fun to be around.  He was a band guy, he played and sang in rock bands.  He  gave me the best advice that I got from anyone while I was in high school.  I expressed an interest in playing guitar and the whole band thing and he told me, "there's a million guitar players, so it's tough to work.  Better you should get a bass and a big amp, learn to play and sing backup.  Maybe get a P.A. too.  You got all that you'll always be in a band."  I didn't take the advice, I went after the guitar anyway.  Never in a band, but I played with friends and had fun with it.  Thanks again, Gary!  Sorry that I didn't listen.

Robert Cavanaugh . . . another big surprise!  Glad that you're alive man!  In the late sixties someone told me that Bob had been killed in Vietnam, and I believed him.  I've always thought that he was long dead.  I thought of you often, Bob!  You were a good guy and a friend in high school, and I thought that you were the only one of us that had died over there, which made you kind of a hero.  I'm very happy to find out that the report of your death was exaggerated, and I hope that you're doing great. 

And Happy New Year to the rest of you too!  Safe, happy and the rest, wherever you are.

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