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Entry date: 6-17-2022 - The Mid-70s - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Thinking about the days of “Humble Tom’s Pie” reminded me of some other memories of those days. As I mentioned, my grandfather would take me to school each morning and he would tell me stories about “Humble Tom” or we’d talk about what it was like when he was a boy or what was going on at school. Sometimes we would listen to some music on his stereo, and during the late 70’s, we might also play around with a CB radio.

For the first three years of my school career, I went to Madison Heights on North 22nd Street near what used to be called Squaw Peak. Now it is called Piestewa Peak after a soldier who was killed in Iraq, Lori Piestewa. Squaw, being derogatory, was not something Phoenix wanted to be associated with and in 2003 the name was changed.

In those days, prior to State Route 51 going across Phoenix and into Paradise Valley, it was a nice little drive from where my grandparents lived on 7th street and Desert Park Lane to my school. I liked the drive a lot and think of it fondly even now. There is a street named Myrtle that we would drive up on the last leg, and in those days, I always thought it was kind of like driving in the wild west.

There were houses, of course, in that neighborhood, but they were sparse and there was a lot of natural terrain to drive past and through on the way to school. A great backdrop, I suppose, for “Humble Tom” stories. They always put me in a good mood for school.

I needed the help, too. Elementary school was not particularly fun for me, most of the time. I had a bad temper, for one, and was in trouble fairly often because of it. I also was a bit mixed up about things at home. My parents got divorced around the time I started elementary school, as well. I tended to take out my fears and frustrations on my teachers and the other kids.

I don’t remember a whole lot about first grade, to be honest, other than what I have seen in pictures growing up. I’ve been told that I would occasionally lip off to the teacher when I got bored. I had been doing first grade work for a while by the time I got there. My mom made sure I could read and write at a very early age, so school was often very boring for me.

Ms. Zeeger (not sure if that is the way she spelled it) was my teacher, though, and our classroom faced out to the field which seemed so large to me back then. I remember going to skating around Madison Heights with Mark and Ben in high school and realizing it was not that big at all. Amazing how our perspective shifts during our lives.

Ms. Grimstadt was my second-grade teacher, and our classroom was in some portables off the main building. Heights was being expanded during my second and third grade years, so second grade got the short end of the stick. I have written about Ms. Grimstadt before because she was one of my all-time favorite teachers and second grade was a much better year for me.

One thing I remember about second grade was learning to swear. It’s funny how my kids this year were, in some cases, starting to experiment with the occasional swear word. I’m sure several of them were aware of how and when to cuss, but for me, second grade was the year of adding shit and bitch to my vocabulary. “Son of a bitch” was especially fun to say. I called many a fellow student a “Son of a bitch” in second grade.

Third grade (1976/77), not so much. I struggled to make friends for much of the year and my temper often got the best of me. There was a trio of teachers that we rotated through during the week. Ms. Meyers, Ms. Orr, and Ms. Wendt. Everybody loved Ms. Orr because she was a bit of a looker. In fact, she looked a lot like Dyan Cannon, who was always a favorite of mine.

Another cruddy memory was being forgotten after little league practice that year. My mom was supposed to pick me up and I sat there for almost two hours waiting to be picked up. Apparently, there was some miscommunication, but it scared the crap out of me. I remember wondering if I should just start walking to my grandparents’ house or maybe to my friend Craig’s house, but I didn’t because I figured the minute I left, mom would be there to get me.

For a long time after that, I had a serious fear of being left places. I already had some budding abandonment issues as many children of divorce have, but it got kicked into a higher gear. On the inside, I was always worried about it when I waited to be picked up places and I always had (what am I talking about), no, must know what the plans are in just about any situation or I feel somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t do “go with the flow” well at all.

I was super mad, too, about being left. I remember it taking me a long time to not feel that way. I’d love a chance to take a little ride on a time machine and tell myself it would be okay, and these things weren’t going to happen very often at all. It might have made my life a lot easier.

Looking back, I wish there were more pleasant memories of those first few years in school. I’m sure there was some fun stuff that I can’t remember. One time, for example, Bill Denney from Channel 12 (he was a longtime sportscaster here locally in Phoenix) came to school and was the emcee for this weird fashion show we had. Who does that sort of thing? I’m sure there was a story behind that…

I’ve got to think about those years some more and ask a few questions.

See you tomorrow.

Madison Heights...not in the 70s, but close enough.

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