This morning as I drove to work, into my mind popped some songs from my high school days. We thought we were so ahead of the pack - singing racy songs, stealing flowers, playing pranks on teachers and boys, smoking, occasionally we even drank a beer or - heaven forbid - a drink like rum and Coke or something. There were a number of "older"(maybe a year or two)boys we coaxed into driving us around so we could further show the world how worldly we were. Delusional - that is what we were!
But, the songs we sang spoke to how naive the times were. There was a college professor (UC Santa Cruz, I think), Tom Lehrer by name, who got himself un-professored by publicly tinkling a piano and singing his irreverent, tongue-in-cheek ditties. I used to know all the words but now I can only recall a few - such as - "Plagarize, do not shade your eyes. Plagarize, plagarize, plagarize." urging students to cheat on exams. There was "The Old Dope Peddler" who "spread joy wherever he goes." And "The Boy Scouts' Marching Song" - "Be prepared as through life you march along. Be prepared to hide that pack of cigarettes. Don't make book if you cannot cover bets." And so on and so on. Naughty! Redd Foxx's album of dirty jokes played on an actual red vinyl platter. We mischievously asked one of the boys what "masochism" was. He ran away, his face bright red. We thought we were legendary in our feats of stealthily snatching flowers from private yards and then using the flora to decorate school events.
At the same time, the boys busied themselves with guns and cars. The "garbage dump" was the best place for target shooting. They would drive slowly up the narrow dirt road, lights off, and when they got to the trash, someone would signal and all the headlights would flash on - supposedly paralyzing the rats for a moment. Bang, bang, bang - who knew who shot how many? "Deer Flu" raged every fall when the males could only be cured by trekking into the woods in search of Bambi or his cousin. Gazzam Lake (more like a pond except in the dead of winter) was the site to practice duck hunting. The guys had a special call, sort of Whoo,Hooo, Whoo, whoo, to let buddies know their whereabouts at the same time, not scaring off any potential dinners.
Most of their cars were pretty utilitarian. A few displayed distinct California influence - flashy paint, striping, lowered chassis and the like. Nearly all the boys were novice mechanics. The engines were not yet computerized so could be fixed in the back yard. The local junk yard supplied parts. If one guy couldn't fix his automobile or truck, one of his friends could. Spit, gum, and baling wire - not even duct tape yet.
Some of the pranks were traditional - like the graduating class having "Senior Sneak Day." Supposedly it was a secret day all seniors knew about but no one else did. Not! Maybe the first time it happened but from then on, it was an expected perk. The year I graduated, 1958, all of us Seniors met up at Island Lake on the Olympic Peninsula. It rained - no surprise there - but we had a great time nonetheless. Each class had its own identity/motto - ours was "Zorro" - you know, the guy who wore black including a black cape and mask, rode a white horse, and pretended to be the Wild West's Robin Hood or something like that. Anyway, another tradition was that each class' motto had to be painted on the top of the water tower behind the high school. As would be the luck, when a couple of "our" guys shimmied up the tower, good ole Sheriff Burroughs just happened by and shined his spotlight on the artists. I think they were glad to have the light. Climbing that tower in the dark was not only scary but foolhardy. No arrests, no discipline, like I said, it was a tradition.
The kids who lived on a paved road got to paint their names and graduation year in front of their houses. Many of us, though, didn't get that opportunity for fame - lots of dirt roads on the Island.
About the time my class entered high school, the Island was awarded another peace officer - this time a State Patrolman assigned to watch over the State Highway No. 305 which cut through the Island from the ferry terminal in the south to the Agate Pass Bridge at the north end. The Island became part of the State's highway system at the same time the bridge attached us to the outside world. Frank Perry did not take long, however, to become just another one of the Island's favorite "parents." It wasn't in his line of duty to keep the kids in line but he did his part. And he did it with his own style of humor. One time, an important football game between two of our rivals, North and Central Kitsap, ended with the team we considered to be the least of our competitors, as the winner. Well, one of our super jocks was rolling merrily down the highway when Perry pulled him over, siren blowing, red lights glaring. Perry told Spearman, "Hey, Roy, guess what - North won!" Then he laughed, jumped in his patrol car and roared away leaving the boy still pulsing adrenalin.
We were fortunate to have lived so closely watched over.