My former band mate, Tim McPike, left a comment on my "Wisdom of Zak" posting yesterday, and Tim mentioned the fact that Zak was a National Merit Scholar at Crystal Lake Community High School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The stuck-up rich kids and their parents resented Zak getting this honor because he was strictly lower-middle class.
Plus, Zak went to St. Thomas Grade School, which meant there were two strikes against him right off the bat! Ace and I were also St. T. grads (I'll have to write about the Crystal Lake High School discrimination against St. T. grads at a later time. It was something I didn't notice at the time, but it became apparent as I looked over National Honor Society photos in yearbooks recently).
In order to become a National Merit Scholar, a student must score in the 99th percentile on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). Zak & Ace became National Merit Scholars in 1965, and when Crystal Lake Community High School had the photo taken of the handful of scholars, Zak and Ace held up their National Merit certificates with their middle fingers prominently displayed--the old one-finger salute, if you will.
Zak and Ace also had these shit-eating grins on their faces! (God, I wish I had that picture!). All the high school kids knew what was going on, but no one said a word. Zak and Ace were telling Crystal Lake High School what it could do with its National Merit Scholarships. Everyone thought the photo was hilarious, and it was even funnier because the administration completely missed the one-fingered salutes and the shit eating grins.
The principal, Mr. Robert Wolf, had the photo published on the front page of the Crystal Lake Herald, and it was also placed prominently in a display case in the commons outside of the high school cafeteria. Still no one caught it!
In fact the photo hung so long in the commons that we all forgot about it.
Finally, at Parents Night in the late fall of '65, a parent pointed out the one finger salutes to Principal Wolf, and Mr. Wolf pulled MY mom & dad into his office and screamed his displeasure at them. Wolf knew that Zak and Ace were my friends, and of course neither Zak's or Ace's parents were at the open house. My parents were Wolf's only option for venting, and vent he did!
Mom and dad were horrified, and when they came home, they both started screaming at me about Zak and Ace being National Merit Scholars and giving the finger in the picture. They didn't mention the shit-eating grins! I guess they didn't have to!
"What is that finger thing supposed to mean?" my old man asked me.
"I guess they don't care much for Crystal Lake High School," was my reply.
My parents, who BOTH graduated from CLCHS, harumphed and said they thought it was an outrage. I just laughed, which made them even madder.
"Quit yelling at me," I said. "I didn't do anything!"
"YOU should have been a National Merit Scholar!" my mother said indignantly.
"Maybe," I responded. "But then I probably would have given the finger too!" I said. "Just think of that!"
"Maybe it would be better if we all went to bed," my mom finally said.
And so we did!
Of course Zak and Ace were called into Mr. Wolf's office the next day and reprimanded. But there was not much Wolf could do to them because he had allowed the photograph to be published in the newspaper and prominently displayed in the commons. The fault was more Wolf's than Zak's or Ace's.
I'm sitting here just busting a gut thinking about it!
Now I know what you readers are thinking: How can an English teacher who taught for 31 years endorse such behavior?
O.K., fair enough. But take a look at Ace's photo above and look at how his hair has been moved up to the top of his forehead. When we had our senior pictures taken, Mr. Wolf actually stood right next to us and physically brushed our hair off of our foreheads, He did it to me too! There was a "no bangs" policy for boys at CLCHS, which was only one of the many repressive rules.
Now that is Nazism at its finest, boys and girls.
Simply stated: Mr. Wolf deserved what he got!