As I have mentioned before, I grew up on the not-so-mean streets of Detroit, back in the ‘60s & ‘70s. Unlike some kids, I was a goody-two-shoes, for the most part. However, during the run-up to Halloween, we used to get into all sorts of mischief. Mostly good-natured. Knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. Although, being a get off my lawn kind of guy these days, I can see where that was probably really annoying.
Unlike most school districts, Detroit had its elementary schools set up as K-7. Then junior high for grades 8-9 and onto high school for 10-12. It wasn’t until we moved to the ‘burbs in ‘76, that we learned that most school systems had middle schools, instead of junior highs. I attended Arthur Jr. High. Unlike my grade school Carleton, which was only one block over, Arthur was quite a hike. 1.3 miles as the Google crow flies.
I would walk or ride my bike. I always liked to get to school early for our pre-bell football game. I was the MVP. Not because I was better than anyone else, but because I brought the ball. A yellow Wiffle football that I still have in my garage to this day. Yup.
Whenever we get a big snowfall here in the Detroit area, I’m always reminded of the time I ran afoul of Arthur law enforcement. One year, the Spitball Wars broke out. Someone discovered that a Bic pen casing was a perfect spitball shooter. I’ll admit, I was one of the combatants. One day, the law had enough, and I got ratted out as one of the most grievous offenders. I still call BS on that after all these years. You other spitballers know who you are!
As punishment, the top three, (Klaus, Kurt, and I) were forced to make 2000 numbered spitballs. Since I didn’t want my Mom to find out (and more importantly, my Dad), I didn’t work on any spitballs at home. This resulted in legions of my classmates helping me get my numbered spitwads done in time. If you were one of those kids, thank you very much!
Our School Counselor, Mr. Sandler had a devious plan for these spitballs. We were told to dump our numbered ammunition onto the stage in the auditorium. This was after the bell had rung on the last day of school, just before Christmas Vacation. A truly inhumane punishment, but it got worse. We were told to find number 786 out of 6000 spitballs. At first, we had to find all three 786s. However, after making no progress after an hour, Sandler said we could leave if we found one of them. Then he made the critical mistake of leaving us alone.
Klaus was more devious than Kurt and myself. He thought to bring along some unnumbered spitballs and a pen. When Mr. Sandler took his smoke break, Klaus wrote 786 on a blank slip of paper and kept it nearby. We kept searching for about ten more minutes once Mr. Sandler returned, and then Shazam, 786! We said our Merry Christmases and headed home. There was a fresh snowfall as I made my way down McKinney street. I’ve never forgotten the snow-covered Tudor-style houses, as I sloshed my way home from school.
Fast forward many years. My wife and I were looking to have our wedding portrait framed. And lo, and behold, Mr. Sandler was working at the picture frame store. Of course, we engaged in some Arthur reminiscing. Then I let him know how we had bamboozled him during our Spitball Wars punishment. He took it in stride, but I felt vindicated by finally sticking it to school authority! Albeit, thirteen years later.
I hope this article finds its way to all of my fellow Arthur Jr. High alumni. I’m posting it on their Facebook group, so hopefully, this will bring back some great memories for them.
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