THESE TIMES: For one weekend, we were 18 again

THESE TIMES: Remembering (enduring) junior high

By: 
May. 8, 2014

I was sorting through boxes in my garage a while ago when I came across my Lakeview Junior High journals. So, there went my afternoon. Oh, the things that were so important to me then — petty problems with friends, boy troubles, the heat. Why did I complain every single day about the heat? Was I afraid it would frizz my perm (which I just knew made me look exactly like Olivia Newton John at the end of “Grease”)?

I had the pleasure (and honor) of having the same English teacher in seventh and ninth grades: Susan Storch, who was keen on her classes keeping a daily journal. I laugh to think of her having to read the “utterly important” drivel of her adolescent students.

It was in her classes, however, that I developed my love of the written word, which led to a writing career at The West Orange Times. So, I guess those silly journals really did have a purpose after all.

I attended Lakeview from 1979-82. I was the painfully shy teen who hated attention (still do). I was the girl who had to settle for Pep Squad because I could never make the cheerleading team, despite numerous attempts. I had the glasses and the braces and the nervous smile. I wanted to be one of the popular girls. I wanted a boy to like me.

If you look at the yearbook pictures of the Valentine’s Dance, you might spot me. I’m the girl with the frightened, lost look on her face. And, of course, I’m not dancing (because somebody might look at me).

It’s a good thing I didn’t know just how awkward I was; otherwise I might not have made it to school each day. I wonder how many other classmates — trying to fit in — felt as far on the outside as I did.

Don’t get me wrong — I had lots of friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with.

And we all braved our junior high years together, as Lakeview was full of traditions — some wonderful, some dreadful. 

Some of my most dreaded moments were during P.E. Why did I always get a morning class period? Didn’t the administration know I struggled enough with my hair without enduring wind and rain and sweat? My locker was usually at the top, too, which gave everyone an open view of my lock combination — and several times I had clothing stolen, including my favorite gold stretchy belt with the heart buckle.

Fridays were the worst, though, because Mrs. Venables and Ms. Stinnett made us run 10 laps around the track. We felt like we were getting away with something when we ran the straights and walked the curves. The Harp twins always ran them without stopping and finished early. That would have killed me.

And how about the tradition of throwing people into the locker-room shower on their birthdays? I somehow escaped that one all three years. Not everyone did.

My favorite days were Thursdays because I got to wear my maroon cords (that’s the cool way to say corduroy pants) and maroon LJHS shirt. My friend Colleen’s mother made us matching maroon and white yarn pompons for our hair.

Cheerleaders sold white or maroon spirit ribbons on those days, encouraging our Lakeview Red Devil football players to “Crush the Cardinals” or “Bash the Blue Devils.” I kept all of them; I’ve got the hair pompons, too. 

During the last period of the school day, everyone gathered in the gymnasium for pep rallies. I can still hear the echoing sounds of students stamping their feet in the bleachers as we ramped up the team.

On Thursday evenings, everyone — athletes, cheerleaders, students — met at Walker Field on Park Avenue in Winter Garden for the weekly game. The cheerleaders threw mini Lakeview footballs with the names of local businesses, and I remember finally catching one. Yeah, I still have that, too.

Also in my Lakeview memory box is my ninth-grade T-shirt with the names of all of my classmates. Just last year, my friend Vince posted on Facebook a current photo of himself squeezed into that shirt.

When I recall my freshman year, I can’t help but think of the talent show in the auditorium. Several close friends performed (I sure didn’t!), but the only act I can vividly remember is the heavy-metal band made up of Karl, Monte, Paul and Rob. It included screaming Black Sabbath lyrics and a coffin. And probably a fainting teacher in the audience. And it possibly contributed to the cancellation of future talent shows. So much for that tradition.

I had my own traditions, as well, that continued after school, when my best friend, Leigh Anne, and I walked from school to one of our homes in Valencia Shores, grabbed a Little Debbie snack, watched “General Hospital” and the latest MTV videos and talked about boys, wondering why this one didn’t like us and why that one would “go with” a certain girl. We certainly never had all the answers.

After hours of discussing all of our junior high dilemmas, my friend and I went our separate ways for dinner and homework.

And the next day, I plastered my curls with hairspray, put on a different color pair of cords and endured it all again. With some help from my friends.

Thank you, Mrs. Storch, Leigh Anne, Colleen and all the others, for making junior high bearable.