This blog post was first published on a Howe High alumni website on January 23, 2003.
I had the unique privilege of attending Howe schools for all 13 years of my primary education. I got to experience Mrs. Wormsbaker’s afternoon kindergarten class to Mrs. Cordell’s English classes, and everything in between.
Elementary school should be a blur… after all, that was more than 20 year ago! But it’s funny what the mind remembers. I can still remember my kindergarten class. Almost every kid in class got the chicken pox that year, and the class practically shut down for a month.
I can recall the silly games we used to play, and the cardboard ‘bricks’ that we’d use to build castles and then go crashing through them. We played Red Rover on the playground until the entire class was wheezing and bruised from the shoulder to the fingertips. The entire school would occasionally gather in the kindergarten room to watch a reel-to-reel movie; I saw Herby The Love Bug for the first and only time on that old projector.
I remember hanging out in the ‘bus room’ before and after school. I think I learned as much about life in that bus room as I did in any class (don’t push or shove, share your stuff, don’t jump from a desk onto a stack of books).
I remember playing softball on the high school band’s practice field. I still have a scar from the day I got too close to Casey Keene while she was batting and received a face full of baseball bat.
I remember that day in 1981 when President Reagan was shot. I recall watching Prince Charles and Diana Spencer get married on TV, but I didn’t understand why the media made such a big deal about it.
Middle school was great. Remember the merry-go-round they had in front of the building? They tore it down shortly after we left for high school, probably in part because of some of the stunts we pulled on it. I can remember standing between the support bars while others pushed the merry-go-round, and we’d have to run at top speed just to keep from being thrown down and dragged across the concrete. And who could forget running around the gym playing dodgeball with underinflated rubber balls, and returning to class with red marks all over our faces and arms.
I remember the day that lightning struck the big tree out in front of the building, and they had half of the playground roped off for months. What a bummer.
I remember the portable buildings we used for classrooms. In fact, our band hall had 3 different locations in just two years. I can still smell the smell of the new carpet, paint, and computers the day we first used the new computer lab, and the euphoric feeling of finally moving into the new band hall.
I remember the day Jennetta Jones was killed in that tragic car accident, and the long and silent bus ride to Dallas for the funeral. I remember the fears about the cold war with the USSR, though it took me years to realize its significance. On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded two minutes after takeoff; I remember Mrs. Power interrupting our class to tell us of the death of the 6 astronauts and 1 teacher.
Hackey sack … walking to the pizza shop by Mitchell’s before basketball games and listening to Bon Jovi on the jukebox … Top Gun … Pac-Man and Space Invaders … Ferris Bueller’s Day Off … Rubik’s Cube … junior high football …
High School was, for me, a transformation. I had always been the geeky student in middle school; by my sophomore year, I had morphed into a carefree party seeker (but still geeky). I went from 8 consecutive years of perfect attendance (really!) to literally counting the number of absences I could accumulate and still pass. So many times I have wished I could go back and slap some sense into my younger self…
I remember Freshman year very well. I’m certain that I still have a scar on my head from Charlie Ham’s senior ring, where he buried it into my scalp on the first day of school. I remember getting up early for Coach Rich’s driver’s ed class (this is torture for a teenager), and thinking that my 16th birthday seemed so far away.
I got my car during the summer of 1988, and my license the following September. As one of the oldest people in our Sophomore class, I was the first one of my friends to have a license, so I spent 8 months as a pro-bono cab driver. My first car was a white 1979 Oldsmobile 98, a large but fast car that had the passenger capacity of a small school bus. It had an 8-track player and wire wheel covers, and I had a blanket laid across the front bench seat because the springs were protruding through the seat cushions. It was old and worn out, but it was mine. It was the crappiest car I ever had, but I’ve never had as much fun in any other vehicle.
We would get up early on school mornings just to hang out in Mitchell’s parking lot before school. There was always an effort to be the coolest by providing the loudest and deepest bass from the car stereo. We would play Sir-Mix-A-Lot, the Beastie Boys, and (ugh) Vanilla Ice as loud as possible.
Remember the water balloon fights every Halloween night? We’d ride around town in the backs of pickup trucks and throw water balloons at each other until we ran out of supplies or someone got arrested, whichever came first. During my Junior year, a small group of us got sneaky and staked out the viaduct under US75, and threw balloons at our ‘opponents’ as they drove by… that was, until we hit an innocent passerby’s vehicle and had to run for our lives down the median of US75. Thank God for dark-colored clothing and a moonless night.
I was hired for my first job on Valentine’s Day 1989 at Wal-Mart in Sherman. This was before it was a 24-hour supercenter, when it was in the building that is now Toys-R-Us/Staples/Tractor Supply. I can remember many nights of cleaning nasty restrooms and mopping floors and pushing shopping carts in the pouring rain. And there were many mornings at school that I had to struggle to stay awake in class, particularly during the long working hours of the Christmas season.
Remember the fights at Piss Hill? Not sure how it got that name (its politically correct name was Urination Incline), but this was the place where people would meet to duke it out… always with a large audience. We didn’t have a lot to see around Howe, so we found unusual things to see… the Chicken Tree … Beer Hill … the Glowing Tombstone … the Haunted Bridge on Dripping Springs Road … such an exciting life in a small town.
We would hang out at Midway Mall until closing, and then on to Main Street in Denison. It was socially acceptable … heck, it was expected … that one should simply ‘hang out’ on the weekends, with no particular destination or goal (as adults, we now refer to this as loitering). We would terrorize Mazzio’s Pizza on Friday nights after the football games – that is, until we were banned from there by the Sherman Police Department.
We had some great teachers in Howe, though they were completely unappreciated by their students. We gave Pat Stewart such a hard time in computer class, and Mrs. Cordell provided to be an endless source of entertainment. I don’t think I’ll ever find a cooler English teacher than Dan Welborn – somehow, we had an all-guys English class my Freshman year, and certainly took advantage of it. We had so much fun that year, Mr. Welborn quit teaching at the end of the year and became a long-haul truck driver, or so I heard. Bill Martin (aka Mr. Bill, but only for the upperclassmen) was great, I can remember the subtitled Spanish movies that he’d show us while he held up a piece of paper in front of the TV to try to cover up the bad words. The constant rivalry between Mr. Macon and Mrs. Mullins was always fun, especially when they were assigned to adjoining classrooms. But possibly the greatest of all was teacher/Hollywood actor Norman Bennett. Such a mild-mannered guy, but I saw him once lose his temper at a group of students who were cheering on a girl fight in the Freshman hallway. And only Mr. Bennett could get away with saying the ‘S word’ while speaking in front of an assembly of the entire student body, faculty, parents, and school board.
I recall the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin wall. The (first) Gulf War broke out during January of my senior year, and I remember wondering whether I would go.
I remember very well the night we graduated in May of 1991. It had rained torrentially all day (I heard there was some guy building a boat and gathering pairs of animals in the south parking lot). The graduation ceremony went well, and we all went outside to perform the traditional tossing of the hats. Everyone huddled under the awning for a few minutes until a few brave souls stepped out into the downpour. One of my greatest memories of high school (I wish I had a photo of this) was the entire 1991 graduating class standing in the pouring rain in front of the auditorium, tossing hats and hugging and shaking hands. That was a great moment.
Howe High School was probably not the most exciting place to go to high school. There may have been more educational opportunities at a larger or richer district. But as for me, I wouldn’t trade a single memory from my years at Howe. It was a great place to learn and grow up.