My halcyon days of peaceful, familiar, almost dreamy, rural school life, were past. High School was a strange, unfamiliar atmosphere. The school in Nortonville was different, “town” kids were different, having several teachers, each teaching a different subject, seemed more impersonal. It was all part of a growing world when I had been satisfied with the smaller, familiar world of home and country school. As so often happens in life, that became part of my life and world.
During the first two years, Dad took Charles, Merlin and me to school as he took milk to the Condensary in Nortonville. I remember one incident in my freshman year, especially. A true country boy, I wore overalls to school (at that time they were “country” fashion, not the later fad). Charles, a year ahead of me, had become somewhat “sophisticated”. Dad showed up to get us at the end of the day. I started to catch up with Charles on the way to the car. He motioned me to stay away from him. Actually, that did not bother me long and it later became a joke.
As I remember, in my Junior year I began driving to High School, delivering milk to the Condensary in Nortonville and some bottled milk to customers on the way. A 1929 Model A Ford had taken the place of the 1926 Chevolet. It was probably a good change, since the Ford had better brakes and was generally more rugged for typical teenage abuse. A few almost disastrous escapes on the road were good lessons for wiser judgment.
The school facilities were a square two-story brick classroom building and a gymnasium adjoining a Quonset building. The school building had been built not more than forty or forty-five years previously, but construction was faulty. Students liked to jiggle their feet up and down gently to get the floor undulating. Word got around and soon the School Board realized that a collapse was a real danger.
In my junior year the building was abandoned and torn down. For that year classes met in available homes around town–very interesting, but we learned! A plus was getting fresh air and exercise as we changed classes around the neighborhood. Meanwhile, we watched the new building under construction. It was exciting to see the architecture. It was a split level design, with contrasting bricks. The gym doubled as an auditorium where I had a part in the senior play. Everything was a part of one unit. I was in the first graduating class from the new facility in 1938.
Several of my classmates were members of our Seventh Day Baptist church, a factor in adjusting to the change. We were a motley crew! There were some country boys and girls. There were “personalities.” Junior Edwinson was a very heavy-set boy who got the nickname “Jumbo” for that reason. There was a girl with very large eyes, stuck with “Platter Eyes”. June Babcock was quite a bubbly personality. Boyden Crouch was the class wit. Lawrence Fulton was “Steamboat”. I was “Little Ox” and “Little Chuck”, after my two older brothers. Almost everyone had a nickname, most of which were not particularly flattering.
The busy farm life left little time for sports or extra-curricular social life. However, at the end of our senior year I had a sort of “date.” In celebration of coming graduation, several of us went to Atchison to a movie. I was infatuated with Maxine Lindsay, who obviously did not have mutual feelings. I guess it was a case of having someone to go with as a date, so she accepted my invitation. She seemed to enjoy making me feel foolish during the evening. Naturally, that was the end of that! Oddly, the enjoyable memory was riding in a brand new 1938 Ford.
It was known in our class that I aspired to pastoral ministry. That was the source of considerable amusement, as I was extremely bashful. Each of our class members was required to give a brief address on a subject of interest. When my turn came, I was panic stricken. My heart was thumping and I fixed my eyes on a building project visible through the window, never once eying the class. Later, when our senior yearbook came out, the class prophecy read, “It was in the Nortonville News that the Reverend Edgar Wheeler and family were weekend visitors at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Wheeler. They say that Edgar’s first flock had to wait several weeks while he conquered his bashfulness enough to preach a sermon.” Quoting from “The Last Will and Testament of the Senior class of 1938,” I see, “Our tender-hearted farmer boy, Edgar Wheeler, wills his Model A to Mr. Hancuff so he can be sure of getting to Nortonville on time for school.” Looking on further, I see that I was “The Business Manager” for the Senior Class Play , “That’s The Ticket” presented May 18, 1938. “The story centered about John Betterly, a forty-five year old business man who had, with his business partner, Nick Barnes, won $550,000 on a lottery ticket. The ticket was misplaced however, and Mrs. Betterly, Peggy Betterly ,and Godiva, the Negress maid, all aided in locating the all-important ticket. Boggs, a lawyer and an ambulance attendant complete the cast of characters.” “The Class Will, History and Prophecy were read between acts,” it goes on to say. I am glad I still have my Yearbook.
High School was not totally a thing of the past, as it turned out. Several years later as a student in Salem College in Salem, West Virginia, I met and literally fell in love with Xenia Lee Randolph, a junior in high school. A mutual affection grew, and I got involved in some of her high school activities. She was Editor of the school paper so I did art work for it illustrating story headlines and for their class-produced senior yearbook I actually printed picture pages for her at the Seventh Day Church of God Publishing House, with their permission. We became the “Xenia and Ed” couple. That romance blossomed into a wonderful marriage. So in the end “high school” produced delightful memories!
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