GOOD TIME TO
CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS
There has been much debate over the years about
converting to a year-round school calendar, with two weeks vacation here
and two weeks vacation there, rather than the traditional three month
In fact, some school districts have gone that route,
thereby assuring that their students will go through their entire
adolescence without ever changing.
Two weeks? No one comes back to school from Christmas
vacation with a different personality. But three months---now thatís
where the boy becomes a man, the girl becomes a woman, and the shy,
bespectacled introvert turns into a tattooed, body-pierced, leather-clad
hell-raiser. Or vice versa.
Thatís what "back to school" is all about, at
least after 8th grade, when the hormones and brains of
adolescence are raging out of control. Three months is easily long enough
to shape a brand new personality and alienate all your old friends.
I remember going back to school at Lowell High, in San
Francisco, in the early 70ís. They were tumultuous times, very
political, and everyone was very serious. We would say goodbye in June,
some of us pledging to overthrow the government during summer vacation,
others merely hoping the sexual revolution would continue for at least one
I claimed to be somewhere
in the middle, but I was secretly pulling for the sexual revolution. I
kind of liked the way things were going, and while I wanted some changes,
I was pretty happy bouncing a basketball and hoping the war would be over
before I turned 18.
When September rolled around, after three long months
of political turmoil, we would all arrive back to school and quickly
survey who changed and who did not.
Some changes were fairly harmless. One close friend,
solid as a rock, went to England for five weeks and came back sporting an
English accent. "It was a bloody dashing summer," she would say,
and we would immediately write her off as a terrific phony and never speak
to her again.
But other changes were far more serious. At Lowell,
there was an area about 100 feet below the classrooms, near the football
field, which was called "The Pit."
It was very secluded, nestled in a bunch of trees and
bushes, and it was very late Ď60ís, early Ď70ís.
To this day, I do not know what went on in The Pit,
primarily because I was never invited to go down there. But I heard the
rumors about rampant marijuana use and couples frollicking naked on the
grass and I eagerly believed them to be true. Besides, we could quite
often hear guitar music coming from The Pit from our perches behind the
Boyís Gym, and we all knew what went hand in hand with guitar music.
So come September, the big question when we all came
back to school was which of our friends transformed over the summer into a
Pit-dweller. Given the times, it was inevitable that we would lose a few
each year, and we did. We would sit on the back lawn on the first day of
school and assess the damage.
"What about Dave?" I would say. "Have
you seen him?"
"Full bellbottoms and a leather vest with no
shirt," a friend would answer. "Heís gone."
"Last seen blowing bubbles. History."
It was painful. Once
they entered The Pit, we would never see them again. They apparently
surfaced from time to time to attend class but they must have come in
late, sat in the back row, and left early, returning to The Pit to do
whatever they did down there.
A check with some current Lowell students reveals
that The Pit, at least in name, doesnít exist anymore. No one seems to
know when it was phased out, and it certainly wonít help to ask anyone
who ever dwelled there.
But at Lowell, and in other high schools, September
brings its own version of "The Pit." The friends of June
disappear into another world, be it good or bad or neither, that developed
over the long, sometimes tortuous adolescent summer vacation.
The more I think of it, maybe year-round school isnít
such a bad idea.