By Tommy Towery
Last week I promised my reader this issue would contain an article listing nine memorable things from the period I spent in the ninth grade at Lee Jr. High. I never promised they would be earth moving or historically important, but just nine things I remember happening my first year at Lee Jr. High. It is sometimes odd the things which happened so long ago can still come to mind over 50 years later, and things which just stay attached to some memory cells in your aging brain.
In reflecting back upon those days, I actually find I have a hard time trimming my list down to only nine from the many things I remember about that academic year. But, since I promised only nine I will try to honor my word and give you only the ones I have selected as the top nine most memorable moments, which I will list in no particular order. I will not be able to elaborate on all nine of them in one issue, so this will become a series of article until I cover the list in detail.
To be honest, many of you will wonder why in the world I have listed some of these things which seem so unimportant and so boring today, and I really cannot tell you a good answer. I can only be honest and say these are some things which, for some unknown reason, made a lasting impression on me.
Here are the first three of the memorable nine.
1. For the first event on my list, I selected a silly incident which I have always remembered, and why I cannot tell you, but it has always stayed in my memories. This incident happened early in the 1960-61 school year, and just struck me as being funny. Some of you may remember the typing lab at Lee was used not only for typing classes, but it also contained desks for other classes and was used for Mrs. Parks’ homeroom. She also taught ninth grade English in the same room. My ninth grade class schedule had me in the same room for all three of those periods, and I have many memories of things which happened during my time in this room. This funny memory of mine is about a day in my English class when we all sat in the desks where the typewriters were located. One classmate, whose name skips me, was sitting in the back of the room and decided to type a note on the typewriter in front of him one letter at a time when he was supposed to be paying attention to Mrs. Parks' English class. To accomplish his task, he would cough loudly, timing the cough with each keystroke and let the sound of the cough cover up the tap the typewriter arm made when it hit the paper. He was doing okay and even though he sounded like he had the flu with all his coughs, his note was coming along fine – until! If you remember, a manual typewriter had a bell to warn the operator five spaces before he was about to reach the end of the line. Well, as the note typer reached that point in his endeavor, we heard his cough and simultaneously the loud ding of the bell. All his classmates heard it and so did Mrs. Parks. We all laughed, but not Mrs. Parks. Anyone who ever had her for a class knows she was not timid about calling out any offender of her class policies and this was no exception. Again, I don’t remember who it was, but I do remember the verbal tongue-lashing he got that day, and never again did he try to type a letter during her English class.
2. My number two memory is of a personal incident which occurred in Mr. Blackburn’s science class, located across the hall from the Clothing Lab in the same wing as the Typing Lab. I am not sure why I was doing so, but one day I was cleaning the glass aquarium he had in the science classroom. I was taking large circular swipes on the glass with a cloth and on one of the swipes I was not paying close attention and dragged my right index finger across the sharp edge of the metal rim of the aquarium. At first it felt like a paper cut, but when I looked closer I saw a half-moon shaped chunk of skin had been cut away from my fingertip. Blood was streaming from the wound. Using the skill I learned while earning my First Aid merit badge, I quickly applied direct pressure to the wound and ran straight to Mr. Blackburn to show him what I had done. He told me to release the pressure and when I did the blood started streaming again. Mr. Blackburn was a much better chemist than a medical doctor, so using his best skill set available he reached in a cabinet and took out a chemistry bottle containing some type of clear liquid and proceeded to pour the liquid over my cut finger. I don’t know to this day what the stuff was, but it quickly solidified and made an almost plastic type shell over the cut and the bleeding ceased immediately. The cut was bad enough I probably needed stitches, but I never went to a doctor to get it looked at. Over the next few days the plastic covering stayed on my finger and when it finally came off, the bleeding was totally stopped and the healing process began. I still have the half-moon scar today to remind me of that day, and I guess the scar is why I remember this incident so vividly.
3. My number three memory was one of those quick moments fame we sometimes unexpectedly encounter. The summer before I started the ninth grade at Lee Jr. High I attended the 5th National Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Due to my poor financial situation, my participation had been sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club and one condition of accepting their monetary assistance was a requirement to make a speech to the members of the club after I returned. It was well after school started before my speech was scheduled, but it finally rolled around and one night I spoke to all the members of the club at their meeting at the Russell Erskine Hotel. I do not know why, but I was never afraid of public speaking and thought nothing about getting up in front of the crowd of business professionals to thank them and talk about what I had done on the trip. It turned out our principal, Cecil Fain, was in the audience and the next day during his morning announcements he proceeded to include mentioning my speech over the school P.A. system and commented on what a fine job I had done. For the next week everyone I saw had to say something about hearing my name in the announcement, and added to my path of becoming known because of my own accomplishments and not just because of being Don's little brother.
In the next couple of weeks I will expand upon the other six items selected as the memorable nine events.4. A girl name Gloria.
5. Kissing Linda Pell.
6. The Movie Book Report.
7. A Night to Remember.
8. Lima Beans.
9. Being choked to unconsciousness by a classmate.
To Be Continued
Memphis, TN - I don't have any outstanding memories of Christmas at Lee Jr. High as a ninth grader. It seems to have been just one of those years that meld into a collective memory of Christmas in general. I don't even remember what I received as a present when I was 14, but tend to think my presents had morphed from toys to clothes which was befitting a teenager in a new school.
Our best wishes go out to all of you with a non-PC wish of "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" with this year ending on a high note of the many positive responses I have had in the last few weeks of the stories published in Lee's Traveller.
More Pennies From Heaven
by Tommy Towery
Last year I told you of my plans to donate all the money Sue and I picked up this year to the Salvation Army. At my Cousin Jim’s funeral several years ago it was revealed that he had often said when he died he would go to heaven and drop pennies down to earth for his grandkids to find. Since his funeral, every time Sue and I found a coin on the ground we’d say “Cousin Jim’s been here!”
This year was a busy year for Cousin Jim, and from January 1 to December 1, 2014, we have picked up a remarkable sum of $6.88 in coins (not all pennies) we have found during our walks around the neighborhood and in the parking lots of stores where we shop. Now don’t think we always walk with our heads down, because we don’t; these are coins which just happened to catch our eye.
The second part of our promise to donate the found coins was a personal pledge to add 10 times the amount to the Red Kettle, and late last week we fulfilled our promise. We waited until it was announced that a local business would double-match all donations made that day to complete our promise. Along with the $6.88 cents in badly worn coins we dropped into the kettle, we added a check for $68.80, making our contribution for the day total $75.68. When it was matched, it meant the Salvation Army’s goal was $151.36 closer because of the pennies Cousin Jim left us.
We have already started this year’s collection with plans to repeat our pledge again next year.
We sometimes think of this as pennies from heaven and thank Cousin Jim whenever a penny on the ground catches our eye.
Christmas Songs and Toys of the 50s and 60s
I found this video on youtube and think it will bring back some wonderful memories of our Christmas days of the past. I hope you enjoy it. Please share with the rest of us any special memories triggered by the video. Merry Christmas.
From Our Mailbox
Subject: John Drummond's Series
It's good to see that John Drummond is back on the trail of television Westerns. Although I probably watched all of the episodes of the show (after all, I did start my life in American in El Paso, Texas), I doubt if I've thought of Texas John Slaughter since it ended its run in 1961. I liked it and am pleased that John brought it back into the spotlight briefly. I hadn't forgotten about Tom Tryon's novel, The Other, though. Just a few months ago I recommended it to the woman who recently became my son's wife. I was never much into horror fiction as a young man, but I read the book shortly after it came out in 1971. The reviews were good, and I was interested to learn for myself how proficient Tryon was as a novelist.
I remember sitting outside on the patio of my parent's house, being entertained by the story that Tryon was telling and then suddenly being overcome by a creepy feeling as I realized what The Other was all about. I know that I've never been as scared by a work of fiction since. That dark moment struck so powerfully that I was frightened out of my wits--and all on a bright summer afternoon. Stephen King has mentioned Tryon (who died in 1991) as an influence on his work. I've read a lot of King's books, but none are as scary as The Other. I ordered a used copy of the book from Amazon (costing 1 penny and $3.99 for shipping and handling) just the other day to try to rediscover that uncanny moment of horror.
Being reminded of Texas John Slaughter jogged my memory of another Western series that The Wonderful World of Disney featured: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca, which featured Robert Loggia at the beginning of his long career. There weren't many episode of that, but it was also enjoyable. I hope I haven't spoiled your next essay, John.
I wanted to write last week but son’s wedding got in the way. As part of my Sunday evening, or Monday morning, e-mail check, I open the newsletter and scroll down. If a photo starts to appear as I scroll down, I always stop. Call me a pessimist but those photos often times announce the passing of one of our classmates. Thank goodness the photo was of a young Tommy Towery and the article contained good news from the past and present.
Like you, I don’t remember when school started. I remember watching the clock tick down at the end of the day, and I think the last bell was at 3:15 or 3:20.
I remember catching the bus to Lakewood in the back of the school and in the front of the school after the gym was built. The following story involve catching the bus in the front of LHS. Not being a expert on female fashion, I do recall when petticoats (?), crinolines(?) were worn under skits in order to make the stand out at the hem. Girls normally carried their books in front of their body using both arms. Guys like to carry books on a hip. The wind was swirling around the front of the building as we waited for the buses. A tall girl (everyone was tall to me at that time) was holding her books and a gust of wind blew her skirt up over her head. She couldn’t see anything and was trying to hold her skirt down but couldn’t because both of her arms were around her books. We had a an assistant principal (Jones?) who rushed to her aid and was trying to push her skirt down with both of his hands/arm. She obviously thought that one of the boys was trying to accost her. She dropped all of her books except one and slammed it down on the asst. principals head. She was very embarrassed and he was rubbing his head.
Subject: Federal Workers
Nancy Hill Watts
Class of 1972
The form you are talking about was the used to get money from the government for employees who worked on federal property. Apparently, that property did not have to pay taxes. My mom was responsible for getting them all done for different schools for many years. I do not think they do it anymore because there was not enough money being generated.
Subject: Lee's Traveller Questions
Most of my answers were taken from the 1963-64 Student Handbook.
1. What time did classes start and what time did school let out each day? Homeroom was at 8:10 and the first class was at 8:30. School let out at 3:00.
2. What did it cost to eat in the cafeteria? A "hot lunch cost $.50 and a half pint of milk was $.10. I always saved my lunch money to buy cigarettes at the little store across the railroad tracks on Oakwood Ave.
3. What was the slogan for T.T. Terry’s where we bought our textbooks? "Great Is the Power of Cash"
4. Does anyone have a copy of the little Student Handbook? I have the 1963-64 edition.
5. Did any of you participate in the diversified education program, and if so, what did it entail? I did not, but I think it was "on the job training" for those of us who did not wish to go to collage.
6. Did you, or anyone you knew, have any issue arise from the "dress code" or smoking policy and if so, what? I did have an issue with the "dress code". I don't remember who was the Assistant Principal at the time, but a few of my friends and I were suspended from school for three days for wearing our haircut in a "Beatle Haircut".
P.S. Thanks for the memories of our times at Lee. Keep up the great work!
Subject: Lee Memories
I have enjoyed reading Memories of Lee and of all events in my life, my six years at Lee certainly shaped my future. My family is from Anniston and with eight Aunts and Uncles, I had more first cousins than I could count. In Anniston there were several feeder elementary schools that fed into Johnson Jr High and then Anniston High School. I could hardly wait to start the seventh grade at Johnson to join the ranks of other Hollingsworth cousins and leave the younger ones behind. My dad was in the grocery business with a small chain named Kwik Chek that later became Winn Dixie. My mom worked in the Post Exchange at Ft McClellan and in 1959 there were rumblings that my dad may be offered the opportunity to manage a new store in Huntsville that was at Parkway and 72. It was agreed that mom, my brother and I would not move until Christmas Break so the first of January I was introduced to Mrs. Cruise and my Home Room Teacher.
Things were strange in Huntsville. In Anniston all my text books were supplied by the school but in Huntsville we had to go to a store named T. T. Terry to buy them and I thought that was really odd to go to what looked like a hardware store to purchase books. Those first few months left memories to this day, a new Christmas Song, Little Drummer Boy was played over and over on radio as was Brenda Lee's Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, if you went anywhere in town, it involved traveling Parkway north or south. Carter's skate rink which I later met the family when they built a new rink here in Irondale and my daughter and son spent their weekends at Carter's as I did years earlier. Then there was Parkway City Shopping Center with stores like Montgomery-Ward and GC Murphy.
Living in the Lakewood area was like a Whose Who at Lee. The Twins, The Milburn sisters, Sara Jane, Randy and Judy Sherrill, Jim Love, Elbert Balch Lamar Taylor, Jim and Nancy Harris and I would have to go down each street to pull all the names from memory. Beyond a doubt by best friend was Mike Garrison (Home rooms were alphabetical) so I was closer to A - L than M - Z but we did not hang out too much on the weekends, he had been dating Paula Patterson from Hazel Green for years and his weekend time was with Paula (Polly). Then at the start of our Junior year we had a new girl from Woodlawn in Birmingham transfer in. She was Martha Fincher and one of her first days another female, Janna Gouchneir told Martha she did not like Martha and she was going to call her Marty. That name stuck and she has been known as Marty to this day. Mike arranged a double date with he and Paula and told Marty she should go with me. Marty became best friends with Paula and was in Mike and Paula's wedding. Paula was in ours.
Despite starting shaky in 1959, Lee and everyone I met changed my life.
Subject: Lee Memories
Class of '66
A lot of students had a class or teacher about whom they would complain, but I don't remember anyone complaining about the one class not included in your list, physical education.
I don't remember whether anyone could substitute another class for P.E. I do remember that at the time I attended Lee that sixth period P.E. was reserved for those participating in football, basketball, and/or track to allow an extra hour of practice for those sports.
To quote Bob Hope, "Thanks for the memories," Tommy. I look forward to reading Lee's Traveller each week. It is a high spot in my week.
Subject: Lee Memories
Escoe German Beatty
I'm suppose to be doing Christmas stuff so this will be quick! One thing you forgot about the morning routine was that it was always asked how many would be eating lunch that day and the number was sent to the lunchroom so they could prepare for that number. I think the lunches were 25 cents and then later moved to 30 cents. The fish on Friday was always served with a slice of lemon. I think the trays were sectioned and made of plastic and were a pale green color or a pale dirty white color. I can still remember that peanut butter they used on the sandwiches it was just different. At break, if you wanted to give up the walking and 'viewing' time you could purchase either chocolate or white milk for a nickel (?) in the lunchroom. I think we were lined up on the back wall and kinda escorted out of the lunchroom to ensure we didn't disturb art, choral or band people that might be in classes on the hall (it was never an issue passing by the office because you would never act out going by there) I say this because I distinctly remember Mr. Jones (C.O.) yanking some guy out of that line and taking his (Jones) belt off and laying into him for whatever it was. Ahhhh the good ole days...sigh.
They didn't have to say anything about girls not smoking because it wasn't EVER done by girls... at least not in the 7th, 8th or 9th grade...!! (I will not speak of the 10th, 11th, or 12th grades) Girls were treated differently than boys... we were held to a higher standard and were expected to be more responsible than you guys... in fact we were taught that we were not to wear any sheer blouses that a bra strap might be seen through and we were to sit thus and so to keep our skirts over our knees and pulled down as far as possible. These were temptations that boys just could not handle well and it was our job to help yall out. This was deemed so necessary that an all girls assembly was held in the auditorium and taught by Mrs. Minnie Marie Hedden. She even had a desk on stage to give a visual presentation of the acceptable sitting positions! Just look at how far we have come.... Hummmm those WERE the good ole days!! Women were in a lot more control then than now in many ways!!! (I'm sure there will be those that do not share my observation... oh well...)
Merry Christmas to all!