Wait ’till you hear my integration story! There’s a surprising sexual part, too, a little later on in this rather long-winded post.
At twelve years old, right before I was to start seventh grade in middle school, our school district was federally mandated to integrate at all costs. In this case, the cost being the welfare of the children.
In their great wisdom, they took an all-black high school, and turned it into a combined junior-senior high school. And how did they do that? They brought in all white seventh and eighth grade children, and left the older, bigger black kids as-is. This was in a major city where many of the parents of both races had taught their children to hate people of the opposite color.
Instantly, from the very first day, the little white kids got pounded by the big black kids. In very short order, I learned to bring a lunch, not lunch money to school, because it was taken every single day. I was assaulted constantly, as were hundreds of other little white kids.
I complained to the teachers, the vice principal, the principal, the school board, and my parents. In every case it was, ‘We can’t do anything about it,” which I interpreted as, “We don’t really give a shit.” In fact, my parents chose to believe I was making this up. In retrospect, I understand. If they let themselves believe it was real, they’d be heartbroken or worse, knowing what was happening to their child, and not being able to do anything about it.
I was given a city bus pass. I’d ride right past the local school I should have gone to, head north to downtown, wait at a transfer station for a second bus, then take that southeast to my school. It took ninety minutes each way.
Twice I was accosted on the buses. In one case, I had a broken glass bottle held against my chest. In another case, a knife against my stomach. I wasn’t actually cut in either case, but it was super-scary.
Then there were all the assaults at school. My wife says I have traces of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to this day. One kid I know from that school was hit so hard – knocked against the corner of a table – that he required brain surgery, lost the sight in one eye, and had a very weak grip with one hand.
Toward the end of the school year, it was a hot spring day. The school did not have air conditioning. A riot broke out in the cafeteria. It wasn’t the first time, but this riot became much more severe than any prior to that. Immediately all the teachers ran out of the room. Many children were injured. Kids piled up against the doors so hard no one could get out. Chairs, trays, food and silverware flew through the air. I saw one girl get smashed in the face by a flying chair. I did not see her for the rest of the school year.
I knew the pattern could not be repeated for eighth grade, even if I myself, with no attributes other than any other 13-year-old, had to do something about it. So, I showed up the first day at East High School, the one in my own neighborhood, claiming I hadn’t received a schedule in the mail. Actually, I had wadded it up and thrown it away.
They assigned me temporary classes. For the first two weeks I was sure they’d figure out what I had done, and I’d be in big trouble. But they never found out. Unfortunately, East High School had been integrated in a similar way. Now, I was almost the only white kid among all the 8th graders, and was hated for that. All the older kids were white, but that didn’t help me any. Approaching 14 years old, my body was starting to grow, so I was less of a target.
But that’s not the worst of it. Back in seventh grade at Madison High School, the phys ed department was absolutely horrible. In my massive class of more than sixty kids, we were of all ages. I never understood that. Why not just seventh graders?
The three ‘teachers’ sat in a glass-walled office just off the shower room reading paperback books. One of the gym teachers was remarkably heavy set, just the opposite of physically fit.
If the weather was fifty degrees or above, the sixty of us would be shuffled out into the school yard, and we had to figure out for ourselves what to do, as the gym teachers stayed inside. We might play an inning and a half of softball until the time was up – with three kids on bases, a pitcher, short stop, and maybe thirty kids in the outfield and thirty more waiting to bat.
Now, it starts to get weird. For some reason, we all had to take showers before we went out into the field, or into the gym on cold days. It was a common shower room, with shower heads all along the walls. We were expected to get stark naked in front of all the other kids, which for me, and no doubt many of the others with conventional, conservative upbringing, was exceedingly scary and embarrassing.
Then, the water would be shut off, and the three teachers came out of their glass-walled office, had all the naked boys line up, and would slowly walk up and down the line, pointing out a kid here and there with dirty ankles. I’d look at the ankles of kids who were singled out, and didn’t see the evidence the teachers were claiming. These few selected boys would be held back while the rest of us put our clothes back on. I never did find out what happened with them, but have my suspicions.
We’d have about fifteen minutes for our little bit of softball or rope climbing, or dodgeball or whatever it was, then back to the showers AGAIN. Again naked, we all showered together.
I should point out that the kids in this gym class were integrated. Many of the little white kids, such as myself hadn’t grown any hair yet, and had little peckers. Some of the older black kids had the whole works, with glistening curly black hair ‘down there.’
At one point in the year, we had swimming. All the naked boys were shuffled into the pool room. It was a tiled room, with a high ceiling, and no windows. Yes, we swam naked. Now, I’m told this was fairly common in the 1950s and maybe the 1960s, but this was the early 1970s. Perhaps ours was the last school on Earth to do that. I don’t know.
We were given no swimming instruction. I don’t even recall the teachers being in the room. We just splashed around in the pool. Those who could swim, did so. Those who could not, hung along the wall at the shallow end just shivering and conversing a bit.
One day, a big black kid start swimming near me as I hung against the narrow wall, standing about chest deep in the water. He came really close to my dick several times, then squeezed behind me, between my ass and the pool wall, pinching my ass as he passed by. He then rose out of the water, and commanded me to meet him behind the cafeteria after school.
After school that day, I never ran to the bus stop so fast in my life! I was scared for days that he would find me and along with several of his friends would pound me to death. I was so scared, I dropped out of gym class. I just quit going, wandering around the halls, or escaping out of the building until the period was over. Again, I was scared to death that I’d be in big trouble.
I was never found out, and my report card showed a B for gym class every time.
Very occasionally, a kid might have an erection. At one point I was one of them. I wrote that up in a bolder version of this story here: Middle School Madness.
My own take on all this was of several sorts:
1. I was terribly embarrassed to be naked with the other kids.
2. I was scared to death by the bigger kids. Without clothes I felt even more vulnerable.
3. I was somewhat sexually excited. I had started secretly masturbating at home, had no access to any sort of porn, so this much nakedness, even if all young and male, was ‘interesting.’
4. I knew however, that springing wood would be real trouble, and somehow managed not to get erect during any of those showers or swimming ‘lessons,’ except one time. When I think back on it, it’s just amazing that as a kid of that age, I had that much control.
So that was my seventh grade gym class. That, at least, was better in eighth grade at East High School.
During my Madison High days, I, who had been open-minded toward black people, learned to hate them. Over the years, as if by slow-acting magic, I became more balanced in my reasoning, knowing that black people, if given the same opportunities as white people will excel to the same degree. I met black people who were empathetic, lovely individuals, and so finally came to a much better mindset.
However, I seem to maintain a very bad attitude toward school administrators:) And that’s hilarious, because I sometimes play pickleball with a university president. OK, so I don’t hate him.
For years there was talk of class action suits against the school board, but nothing ever came of it. After all, they were just ‘doing their best’ in the face of federal mandation.