Well, that was certainly an interesting weekend!
I visited my old high school this past Saturday. The school district and the Alumni Association were honoring Spring Woods High School
for the 40th year
of service to the community, and invited back all the past students to visit and see how the old place had changed. It's been 19 years since I graduated in the spring of '86, and 23 years since I first set foot in the joint in the autumn of '82.
I can't say I disliked the experience, but it wasn't all roses, either. Guess this is where the term 'bittersweet' comes in handy. Most of my high school memories were happy ones, but the flood of memories was almost overwhelming, and it was really an emotional day.
The first thing that tweaked my pique was that the name of the place has been altered slightly. Back in the Pleistocene Era when I was a student, we had Spring Woods Senior High, and right down the block was Spring Oaks Junior High. Now, the P.C. Police have determined that calling anything "Junior" is a form of oppression, so we now have 'Middle Schools' and High Schools. C'est la vie.
The outside of the school is completely different. Back in the day, the school was laid out in a giant "U" shape, with the library and auditorium in the middle. Now, they've bricked & barred up the open side, and built a new wing across the front.
I parked out by the fieldhouse, and almost parked in the head coach's reserved spot out of spite. The coaches recruited me pretty hard when I was a freshman. I was already 5' 10" and 190 lbs as a freshman, with 3 inches and unfortunately, many pounds left to grow. For months they gave me endless grief for my insistence on staying with the marching band. For a lazy kid, though, which was the better option? Two-a-days in the Texas heat wrestling with sweaty guys, or a couple of hours every afternoon out on the marching field scoping out all the cute flag corps chickadees? The choice was clear, my friends!
That cheery thought in mind, I wandered into the main courtyard through a new passageway created by the construction. I walked past the window in the band hall storage room that I used to frequently crawl out of to go on my numerous off-campus cigarette & donut excursions. Now, it's bricked over. What a shame.
I found my way to the cafeteria to register and get an ID badge. Apparently, they're not as free & easy about visitors as they used to be. They had a pile of yearbooks laying out, so I confirmed that once upon a time, I did have a recognizable waistline and a full head of hair. Damn, that kid looked so young!
The first official activity of the morning was a pep rally in the old gym. They've since built two additional gyms, one for hoops, and one for volleyball. The old gym still smelled like floor wax and sweat, just like always. Since marching band counted as a Phys. Ed. credit, I never had to take PE, so for me the gym was just a site of game day pep rallies and school dances. I found a spot on the bleachers near the band and marveled at how little things had changed. The drummers were still egotistical jagoffs, the woodwinds still herded together like sheep, and the Gods of the Band, the tubas and trombones, still radiated palpable waves of coolness.
There were a gaggle of cheerleaders, who should know better than to wear skirts that short and make me feel like an old lech. When I was a kid, I suspected it, as an adult I'll confirm it. A good T&A display surely will sell some football tickets! The drill team also fielded a squad to shake their kazoos as well.
We started off with the Star Spangled Banner, mostly to give the band a chance to practice it, I imagine. You don't get to play it as often as you'd think. Then on into the school fight song, which was odd to hear as a spectator and not blowing it on a horn.
Somehow, they managed to round up the first person to graduate back in '65, and honored her for having the good luck to have a name staring with "A", I suppose.
Next was a recognition of the veterans, and parents of veterans in the crowd. This was both the high point and low point of the event.
When the vets had gathered on the gym floor, the standing ovation was a given. This is Texas, after all. I did not expect, though, the thunderous applause and hollers of approval from the students that were attending. I guess after reading about the pinko spawn up in the Northwest U.S. giving our troops a hard time, the unabashed approval these kids laid out was most uplifting, and was the best part of the day for me.
The next bit, though, I could have done without. I would not have made those men stand out there on the floor while you played them a tribute song, and if I did do that, it would have been something fast-paced and recognizable. As it was, when you have people from the '60s organizing the event, you can count on them to pick something from their era instead of a contemporary ass-kicker like Toby Keith's 'Angry American'. As it was, we had to stand there in auditory agony as a CD played a badly dubbed copy of some whine-fest song by Gary Puckett & Union Gap
They repeated the gaffe later by insisting that we all jump up and do "what we used to do!" when they played 'The Lonely Bull' by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
. Being a band guy, I knew the tune, but knowing I was supposed to scream "OLÉ!" would have put me about 20 years before my time. Here's a thought... you've got 40 years worth of students, organizers. Let's try and bridge a few gaps, huh? Make it universally accessible. Save the topical stuff for your own reunion!
Next up was a thoroughly enjoyable talk by our most famous alumni, 7 time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens
. After too many years up in Yankee-land, he came to his senses and is now pitching for the hometown team
. For all his fame and fortune, from listening to him talk, he's still very much a local boy at heart.
After the pep rally, we divided up into groups to tour the school. It looked so different from the outside, but once you got in, very little had changed. About 10 minutes into the tour, Little Bee Boy managed to drag his ass out of bed and meet me. We quickly ducked away from the tour group to wander the halls and relive some memories. I warned him about sparking up a cigarette in the bathrooms. One of the 'small changes' was the addition of dozens of security cameras covering everything! We got some good 'action photos' of us lurking around the halls on his camera.
We ran into a classmate of ours who is now a teacher at Spring Woods. I don't know if that's a job I would like, but I'd at least know where all the delinquent students hiding spots were!
We met another of our Class of '86 and marching band buddies a bit later. He's now moving back to Houston from Austin, so I guess I'll have to dream up a nom de blog
for him as well. Hmmm... perhaps "RoboDan" will work...
The three of us were walking to the new wing to show RoboDan the new band hall, and were passing the bathroom Little Bee Boy & I got busted in for smoking cigarettes, so naturally we had to stop in and pay it a visit. Heh. Place hadn't changed a bit. Still had some of the same grafitti on the walls.
On the way out (and how weird is it to have three 37 year old guys yukking it up in a high school bathroom?) we naturally had to run into someone from our era. Serendipity and karma were in full flow that day. None other than our old band director and his son were making their way into the john. RoboDan and I managed to say our hellos and shake hands with a straight face, but we almost collapsed laughing when he went inside. My last words to "Mitta Win" (long story on the name...) was that there was surprise awaiting him inside. I'm sure he expected a noxious aroma, but I was actually referring to Little Bee Boy, who was still snapping photos of the inside. Little Bee Boy was the bane of our band director's existence for our 4 years there, so coming face to face after many years in a high school shitter must have been a treat.
We died laughing once more when Little Bee Boy came out. I mean, what were the odds of that happening? Bee Boy managed to get a shot of "Mitta Win" peeing, which probably weirded him out to no end. God only knows what his kid thought.
The three of us spent a while more chatting, then I had to take off to get some personal business done. They had a program lined up for the afternoon, with guest speakers and breakout sessions for some of the activities and the years represented, but I'd done what I came to do. There were only 7 of us there from my year, and I'd already talked to the 5 I knew. The other 2 were just faces out of a yearbook.
Besides, I was about at my limit for nostalgia. I'm gonna get a full dose next year at the 20th reunion.
So, there it is, campers. El Capitan's Olde Tyme Memory Weekend. I almost blew it off, but I'm kinda glad I went.