The new high school opened: Wauwatosa West. Interring.
The school was on the south side of train tracks that paralleled
Highway 100 on the western extension of Center Street. South to
North Avenue was residential. North to Burleigh was commercial --
warehouses. West was open land -- mostly belonging to the school
district. Ultimately this school was to become the junior high
school and another, bigger school built to the west. That would
become the real Wauwatosa West and our school name would be changed to
Whitman -- a third early American poet.
A little known secret about schools. There are a couple of accreditation associations which "validate" schools and universities. No accreditation and your students do not have valid diplomas. The first year in existence a high school cannot be accredited. The school has two joices. No senior class the first year and therefore no graduates. It becomes accredited and everyone is happy. The other choice is to claim that the new school is a second campus of the first. Then everyone graduates with the name of the first school. If your old school was caled Olympus, for example, and the new one Zeus, then the students graduating at Zeue would have diplomas reading Olympus. They might not like this. In the case of Wauwatosa High School becoming known as two schools: East and West, this was not a problem. Those of us graduating from West had a diploma with a Trojan symbol and the cover backing was green. Those graduating from East had a cover backing of red with a different symbol: I think sort of a tower/palisade. The diploma said Wauwatosa in either case.
School Classmate Web sites have a problem with this. Many
students from West indicae West. While many indicate east. Since
the classmate web sites organize by year, those of us with
mathematically accurae logic, place ourselves Wauwatosa with no east or
west designation. Others indicate east or west and so searches
must include two or three high schools.
Finally. But I was in the
hospital for the first three weeks. I have to explain this.
My senior year was starting. I had lost Mary Ann. I was
frustrated with the girls I had met since. I disliked that my
best friend Chuck had such a negative outlook on girls. I
had to deal with my father -- a lost cause. This meant I would
never grow up to be me. I would be forever a clone of him.
Money would be the top concern. Working without values would be
my life. I hated the concept. I can not possibly explain
how insignificant I felt. Lower than dirt. I was not
prepared for living another set of years as horrible as my first
17, I did not blame Mary Ann for leaving me behind. I would
have left myself behind. But without her, facing another
year overwhelmed me. Maybe I am not clear here: I needed a
handle on the world. I needed to have something real to hold
onto. She was my handle. Unfair. But without any
handle, I was drowning. I sat for hours on my bed with a knife in
my hand. I could not even cut myself, let alone stab myself
through the heart which I knew was the only place that would hurt me
enough to end it all. I feared permanent injury and
did not fear dieing. Dieing could not be worse than living as I
was. Living as a possible invalid and hearing how stupid I was
the rest of my life kept the knife in front of me. Those are the
words I shall alsways remember: "If your so damn smart, why aren't you
rich?" I did not want to be rich, I wanted to be happy.
But I figured it out. I wold take so many sleeping pills that
I would die. I bought a couple of bottles of the favorite sleep
medicine: Sominex. 100% safe sleep. They meant it. I
did not die. I just got very sick. Years later I met a girl
had taken twice what I did and just got sick also. But talk about
being sick. I was delirious for several days. I felt the
bugs biting me and saw the snakes. I have no idea where I spent
the next couple of days. I know at least once I was on a hospital
gurnery under bright lights. Someone asked me to show them one of
the biting bugs. I could not produce one. I tried very
hard. I may have ended up with a broken thread from some clothing
or garment but of course there was no bug. Why would someone ask
such a stupid question? I was sick. My nerves were reacting
to poison. Similar to alcohol poisoning. I hurt. My
vision was shot. I saw bugs. There were no bugs. Why
would a sane person ask me to produce a non-existant bug?
But when things settled out I was in the closed ward on the sixth
floor of Saint Michaels Hospital. That is their "Diagnostic and
Treatment Center". My room faced the front, Villard Avenue.
I started timing the buses for a potential escape. When I
entered, I weighted 135 pounds and was 5' 9" tall. Skin and
bones. So little fat on me that when I went in the water, I
sank. I had learned to swim underwater as it was easier than
trying to stay on top.
I was on some medication that made my mouth so dry it was like I had
eaten cotton balls. Or maybe it was the sleeping pills. I
had told people about the pills. I did not remember. There
was no way to convince peoiple that I was all right and that I should
be able to go home. They wanted me to gain a lot of weight.
I was put on a diet to make me fat. They were successful. I
have never been thin since.
Each inmate/patient had a doctor. When our doctor was in
residence, he was
an office and his patients were lined up outside the door. My
was Dr. Henry Veit. He was the father of one of my high school
Veit. Kirk and I were never close after that. I always
not. Did he change? Did I change? Was he warned to
stay away from
me. I always thougt it was the latter. At our reunion he
said no. I really asked. But thenI still think he was
encouraged to avoid me back then.
I did not like getting fat. I tried to skip meals. They
to force feed me. I hid in my clothes closet at lunch time.
off an alarm across the entre hospital: a patient had escaped the
closed ward. When they removed the tray, I went back to my bed
started reading. They read me the riot act for causing such a
problem. I concluded that it was possible to escape but I also
concluded that it would serve no purpose.
Then my new roommate came in: Johnny.
I think Johnny was Italian. I do not remember. But he attended the junior high school just up the road. We were permitted 2 visitors at a time. My parents came every night I think. Maybe they missed a few. Maybe not. I do not remember. In any case, Johnny had half his school in the hospital. Only 2 at a time in his room but they had overwhelmed the hospital. There were literally hundreds of them on the front lawn. They invaded the entire hospital. The mother superior came into the room one afternoon and told Johnny that they had had to stop. His friends had entered the maternity ward and were watching women in labor. They were observing some surgeries. They were everywhere.
This is where I learned about electro-shock treatment. I
instantly hated it and was thankful, very thankful, that they were not
doing it to me. Maybe they thought I had doone enough brain
damage to myself. One day I encountered Johnny walking up the
hall. He asked me who he was. He asked where he was.
He did not know anything about anything. He could have stepped
out of a science fiction movie as one of these blank zombies. I
helped him back to his bed. The concept of shock treatment is to
fry your brain so badly that you do forget everything. What
nuerons that were not permanetly damaged sooner or later come bback to
life. The theory is that the bad memories will go away and only
the good ones will recover from the shock. Are these the same
people who also buy bridges and Arizona beachfronts? The concept
is absurd -- the results terrifying. Later.
I do not remember much about Johnny after that. I do not think he was there long. At least not in the closed ward. You never knew where people came from or where they went.
I do not remember how long I was in the closed ward but I was moved
to the open ward after they decided that I would not escape. The
open ward meant that we could leave the ward but not the
hospital. We were permitted to go the lower floor
cafeteria. Maybe just during visiting hours. I do not
remember: I had no interest in the cafeteria. I already had too
much food and in keeping with family tradition: I had no money to spend
on snacks.. We had an arts and crafts room. I made a belt,
leather coasters with flowers, I made everything there that I thought
was interesting and then started over. Arts and crafts are not
paid for by insurance. I had not thought about it but I was
running up quite a tab. BUt then I was bored to tears. My
sister, Jeanne, brought me my homework each night. The written
stuff she returned to the school the next day. I had teachers
that I had never met. I read Hamlet and McBeth. Ir ead
anything I could get my hands on. Then I met George.
Geroge was my new roommate. He was a really interesting
guy. He had stolen a car and had gotten caught. It was
apparently not his first offense. The judge had given him a
choice: detention center, army, or hospital. He took the easy
one: the hospital. I had a new roommate.
Nobody remembers any moe but there was a 1930's movie with Jimmy
Stewart about an invisible, blue, rabbit named Harvey. People
thought Stewart was crazy for seeing this 6 foot blue rabbit and
blaming everything on it. George was not as dumb as most people
think hot-rodders are. But he did not count on the
consequences. George started seeing Harvey. Everywhere
George went, he made room for Harvey. We went down to the
cafeteria one evening. Oh. My parents were not there --
I guess they did miss some nights. When we got on the elvator,
made sure that there was plenty of room for Harvey and everyone crowed
to the walls. Since Harvey was so tall, George took off Harvey's
and had one of the men hold it,. The man held it carefully in front of
him with his arms under it to make sure it did not fall. When we
got out in the cafeteria, George took the hat and replaced it on
Harvey's head. George even apologized for stepping on Harvey's
foot while reaching up. We laughed all night: -- the poor man
holding the hat was terrified that he might upset one of the inmates.
But the joke was on us. George also was seeing Dr. Veit.
On the next visit, George saw the doctor first. George was a
redhead so his skin was already pale. But he came out of Dr.
Veit's office in total shock. He could barely speak. It
reminded me of Johnny but this was just an office visit. As he
passed by, he told me that the nurses had reported his seeing Harvey
the doctor believed that he really saw an invisible, blue,
rabbiit. Nothing George had said to the doctor convinced him
otherwise. George could be in the same situation as Johnny.
He asked me to help. I fared no better. Dr. Veit was
conviinced that George was seeing Harvey. After all, the nurses
had put it in writing. I think George won or maybe he lost but he
was gone a few days later. Here's to you George wherever you
might be -- you proved that the crazy ones were the ones in the white
robes. For those of you who think the title "doctor" implies
inteligence -- you are wrong. "doctor" only implies that you are at
least as pig-headed as I am and will perserverce 7 years at the
universoty or in training under really bad conditions.
Asking who was crazy is not a mute point. One woman there was
as nice as you could find. Her husband visited her
frequently. She helped other people with her smiles and
comfort. I asked why she was here. A more 'normal' person
you would never find. I was told that many peple can appear
normal in a controlled environement but can not handle the strains of
everyday life. To many of us, those strains are really huge and I
understood the concept although I did not believe it was true of my
I later, as written elsewhere, had myself commited to County
Hospital and even later did volunteer work at the children's mental
hospital in Madison. Like the song: "I have seen both sides now".
Maybe you read all of this, maybe not. But I have some strong
opinions here. I saw "One Flew Over the Cuckko's Nest". It
was a terrifying move because it very accurately portrayed a
situation that most people think is just a Steven King type
movie. Believe me: the portrayals in this movie are very
real. I was in one ward where we all pretended to ask for help to
change the TV channel as it was in a locked wood/wire cage. But
the lock was broken and when the nurse was not looking we conspried to
change the channel and adjust the tuning. Right out of the
movie. Cutting the hero's brain to stop him from protesting is
not outside the rights that these doctors (read as murderers)
Murderers? Maybe a strong word but cutting a brain or poisoning
with chemicals or electro-shock treatment is so barbaric that the movie
exposure may have saved lives. But unless you have been in
there, it is so gruesome that you find it hard to believe can happen
in real life. Believe me it does. Or at least it did into
the 1970's. I doubt it has changed as I am not an optimist when
it comes to people who are able to secretly control populations.
I had gotten out of the hospital a few weeks back. I missed
the senior photo shoot at the school and had to drive to the photo
studio to have my picture taken. I was driving east on
Capital. I had stopped for the light and was proceeding to 84th
street. I had been first in line. One of those 56/56
green/white Buicks was driving faster than me on my left. With my
zombie pills, anyone drove faster than me. Right at 84th street,
a car which had been driving west suddenly turned in front of me and
stopped. Stopped? Wisconsin has/had this stupid law that
if you are stopped, you cannot be the cause of the accident.
Ergo, whenever there is the possibility of an accident, everyone
stops. Or tries to. The end result is that there are far
more collisions than necessary and the person causing the collision, if
he were lucky enough to stop first, is not to blams. Really
dumb. So this car stops dead across the middle of three lanes of
traffic. There is no place for me to go. There are cars on
either side of my little Corvair. It is 2 minutes to 4
o'clock. I pass out but quickly revive. Both my knees were
smashed under the dash panel. Come on -- I am not too tall but
the Corvair really is tiny. I could not stand up but I was able
to hold myself up against the car. The police quickly, I think,
arrived and I was asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said
yes as I had no idea how badly my knees were injured. I just knew
that they hurt.
When I got to County General, the nurses call me a cry-baby for
wanting treatment at all and even more names when I refused anesthetic
for the stitches. I think the same police also drove me
After all, we were in Wauwatosa and in those days, police were
helpful. The changes came later.
Some time after that I received a phone call asking if I would
attend the hearing regarding the accident. I said I would.
Things are more formal today. I thought I was being called as a
witness to the drunk women causing the accident. I was
wrong. My mother drove me to the courthouse for the
hearing. The trial was to be held afterwards. My mother was
not permitted to be present even though I was a minor. Minor
status lasted until 21 in those days but even still I was only
17. I could have had a lawyer but I did not know I needed one.
But the accident was all my fault. I was speeding. We
verified I was within the posted 35 mph speed limit but the school zone
at that intersection lasted until 4:00. That the sign said "when
children present" had no bearing on the speed. There were no
children present. Two things happened immediately in my favor and
I needed them badly. With the medication making me a zombie,
quick thinking was out of the question. The first good thing was
that the officer in charge turned out to be the husband of my woman
friend in the hospital. This immediately turned him into my
friend in the courtroom. I wish he had been my friend at the
scene and given the women sobriety tests. He verified the
overwhelming smell of beer coming from their station wagon but the
judge dismissed this due to lack of testing. But the officer had
tried for me. The next thing was that the women had a lying
witness. He claimed I was passing him on the right, driving with
one hand, very fast. There is/was no law prohibiting passing on
the right in Wisconsin but everyone seemed to think so.
I not only remembered that a Buick was passing me on my left but I
remembered its license plate. This in itself was amazing as I did
pass out immediately afterwards. But their witness quickly
disappeared into the woodwork and the judge referred the matter to
trial as there was obviously room for dispute. Then the third
good luck thing happened.
As we were walking to the courtroom for the trial, we passed our
neighbor, John Udovc. He was surprised to see us. More
surprised than we were. We told him the situation as we all three
walked into the courtroom. John acknowledged that he was
representing me and apologized to the judge for not being able to make
the hearing as he was in court for another case. John was very
well respected in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The tables
quickly tuirned and the case was decided inmy favor. I still
remember the gasp from the opposing attorney when John introduced
himself as my lawyer. It was not over but there was no more
ticket (WIsconsin requires ALL incidents to be ticketed, sort of
Nepoleanic). The insurance companies now fought it out. 20%
my fault, 80% her fault. My father was never going to
permit me to drive again. This was the third incident and by far
the worst. To him anything that happened to me was my
fault. His reasoning was consistent: if I had not been there, it
would not have happened. He always used that reason. That
reason is hard to argue. I begged and pleaded and he gave me one
more chance although he did not believe that I really would have no
more accidents as I had promised.
Up until this accident I could run for miles as I has written
earlier in this document. After the accident I never ran
again. Between the medication which prevented any rapid activity
and the extra weight which hurt my knees which were sore for a long
time, there was no chane of running in the near future. In
physical education, PE, we played football outside. I could not
play. I walked over to the sideline and took a nap.
I think my teachers had all been warned about me being crazy and on
medication. I rmember the PE coach not saying anything but just
watching as I bumbled to the line. I was asleep by the time I hit
the ground. When they say that Thorazine makes you photosensitive
they mean more than just getting a sunburn.
But PE was something else. The PE locker rooms were at the far
end of the building, just before the shops. Closer was the pool
and then the cafeteria. This posed a serious problem. We
shal get to that.
This was a brand new school. It was my second such as my
junior high, Longfelllow, was also new. But I was more cognicent
of newnest here. As I think I covered earlier, I had keys for the
entire building. This included the locks for the lockers.
Oh. We each were assigned a padlock but I mean the little key
locks int he doors themselves. The arrangement was six little box
lockers and one tall clothes locker repeated a dozen times on each side
of a bench. The problem was that we had more kids in a class than
there were tall lockers. As a result, you ran to the locker room
at period start and claimed one immediately. Not being so fast on
my feet in those days, I resorted to an alternative. I just
locked the tall locker next to my box locker. We each had a box
loccker to hold our PE uniform. I alsway had my tall locker
reserved for me. The downside was of course that the other 5
periods were short a tall locker. I was not there so I do not
know the level of pain that they went through. I just presume
they ignored the locked locker. This is a fair presumtion since
had they gone to the maintence people, they had the same keys.
Two other things happened at this point.
I noticed other boys staring at my penis when I was in the
shower. This is sort of disconcerting. I did not even know
what a homosexual was but I did not think this was that. So I
started looking at theirs. Mine was different. This was
obvious. I found later it was different in two ways. The
first was that I had not been circumcised: I had a skin flap over the
end. They did not. But then I was n an innocent: I did not
know what circumcision was when I was 17. I suspect most 8 uear
olds know it now. The other difference was a problem A
problem that would haughnt me in later years. I had a birth
defect. Not to uncommon but usually repaied at birth as it is
almost impossible to repair after maturity when the penis grows and
shrinks on a regular basis and such skin grafting is a high art
form. My penis had not fully developed and therefore instead of a
hole in the middle of the dome end, I had a hole at the end of a slot
on the bottom side. This may be a little awkward to describe in
such detail but to me it was significant and I write about it in a
coupl;e of places later on.
Another incident here occurred when another student stole my
basketball in the main gym one day as we were waiting for the
coach. My daughter, Megan, may appreciate my actions here as she
did the same sort of thing in preschool many years later. Dennis
Gugliardo. That was his name although I may have spelled it
wrong. He was a very tall Italian (with a name like that, what
else) fellow. We had made up groups and wer practicing shots when
he ran off with our ball. I caught up to hime and took the ball
back on the run (Oh. I guess I could run iun gym class).
But he had pissed me off and he kept running so I pursued. But as
I said above, there was now no chance of me ever catching. But I
had deadly aim in my throwing arm. as he approcached the
bleachers, I threw the ball at his foot. He was not seriously
hurt. But he felt a lot of pain and did not walk very well for a
few days. WHen a big guy like that takes a flyuing leap into the
wooden bleachers, he is lucky to not have broken anything. But
the coach saw it. I was in real trouble. I thought the
coach to be nfair but you did not win arguments with teachers. I
had to write an 8 to 10 page theme paer to be corrected by the Englich
department with a grade of C or better. Any subject.
Wow. I had survuved to my senioor year without writing any papers
for the ENglish department and now I had to write one for the
coach. I pick the subject: diferences in social disoreders
between the Irish and the Italian cultures. Needless to say I was
overly critical of the Italians.
But it did not end here. Oh. The end of the basketball
incident ended but I had another problem. In any school so far,
at the end of the period before luch, there was a mad scramble to get
to the front of the cafeteria line so that you could spend more time
eatin and relaxing than you spent waiting for your lunch. They
had reduced lunch from 45 minutes down to 30 so getting to the
cefeteria fast was even more critical. But we had the furthest to
go to the line and we were all boys with a lot ovf energy and we pushed
and shoved and ran as soon as the bell rang. Now again I worked
in the cafeteria so I could skip the line but the problem was that I
still had to go through the line. This was a serious problem and
people thought I was taking skips in line and tried to prevent
me. SInce I was nto to poopular in the school anyway, the
resistance was not negligible.
But I had another way. Just as the bell would ring and the
crowd shoved through the double doors, I ran the other way into the gym
itslef. I ran into the mat room, up the stairs to the
cooling/heating equipment area, and out tthe door to the roof.
From there I tan the length of the building to the front side where the
loading dock railings made the climb down very easy., The primary
purpose of the loading dock was to supply the cafeteria. Or at
athis was the primary purpose during the school year. I was doing
this for some time and I aroused some suspcion. I never knew how
much the teachers talked to each other but I knew they did and I knew I
was sometimes the object of the conversation.
Nowit took me a while to come to this conclusion as I mentioned
before, they knew too much about my hospital stay and medication aadn
were very forgiving of some of my behaviour. But I do not think
my roof running fell intot his category. I noticed the coach was
eying me several times as I ran the wrong way. His problem was
that he knew I did not go outdoors and that I did not come back and I
just sort of disappeared. I do not think he came to the
conclusion himself that I was escaping through the roof door. If
so I wold have heard a very strong yell as I escalated. But one
day as I was eating lunch, Joe, my physics teacher approached that
table and told me that he did not see me run across the roof earlier in
the luch period and he was just sure that he would not see me agin
tomorrow running across the roof. He was right. He never
agin saw me running across the roof. I did find another shortcut
to the kitchen through the loading dock but without a roof run.
It did take me past the teachers lounge but I think they thought me
running through there was preferable to trying to figure out how I got
through double locked doors. At the end of the school year, I
went to the front office and gave them my keys. I had found them
in the hall and did not know to whome they belonged but they did open
thre front door. Sometimes I think I should have made a stronger
exit with my jokes (?) I mean after all, the girl at the desk
probably just turned them over to the janior who picked out a few and
tossed the rest. Maybe i I had left a note saying that these keys
were the masters of the entire builkding, including the gym and street
ockers, someone miight have understood what they had in their
hand. But then they might have alsounderstood who had had them
and how they were used. Better off with the understatement and no
recognition than a stronger statement and some very negative
You see, even with my medication making me a zombie, the Spanish
word "traviesa" fit me well. And who would have known? The
zombie who fell asleep anywhere, mostly a nerd type ahd everything but
a copy of the school blueprints in his pocket.
I cover Mr. Towle elsewhere in this document. But here I want
to mention what our class was like. I was in the lower track for
English. ALl of my smart friends were in WOrld Literature.
I was taking English Literature with kids I knew but were not often in
my other classes. Of course tracking was never discussed.
You did not think about it or at least I never did. Mr. Towle,
like Joe in Phsics was an inspired teacher. He did not have the
charm the Joe did. Mr. Towle (always Mr.) was a strict
disciplinarian. He had a great sense of humer and he could be
mean. He had us readingmore books than Ihad read for school in
all of my previous years.
We read plays, lots of plays. Two by Shakespeare. 3 or 4
by Shaw. We read a little of historic everything. We read
Beowulf. I think we read it here. I know I read it heare or
in Sophomore lit. No we read it here because I took German so I
could understand the origianl. This was a waste becasue we have
documented my inability to learn alanguage. ANd becuase Germanic
does not mena German. It means Dansh. and I took German in
my sophomore year of college and sophomore lit in my junior year.
So Beowulf came first. High school. We read Chaucer. EAnd
Mr. Towle explained that the limerics we read were not typical -- they
were very baudy. We learned the sexual references in
SHakespeare's play were subel and very ntentional. He told us to
read whatever we could get our hands on. This must have ben
frustrating for him as we discussed alter he was afraid that the only
books that his lower track group would read in the entire lives were
going to be read in his class. He cust me no slcak for the meds
or for my absence, He did not cut anybody any slack. If I
had more space I would tell you about thepickeld pigeon eggs, the fried
grasshoppers and bees and the chocolate covedred ants. I'll try
to cover those elsewhere.
There was a new man in town. I discovered that I was not so
smart the very first time I met Joe. and he wanted to be called
Crazy Joe. As the years have gone by I have learned about the
Philadelphia (?) high school principal who had adopted the same
moniljer. Mybe Joe plagerized. He was not crazy. He
was not evene eccentric. He did have a good ego. Tall,
receding hairline, glasses. He was smart and he knew it and he
would make us all smart or die trying. My first encounter with
him taught me the difference between speed and velocity to my
embarassment. He was not adverse to embarrassing people like me
who thought they knew it all. But I did know it all. In my
junior year I had read the physics text in my spare time.
<>But Joe was really different. First off, he liked me and it showed. This was unusual because as I write a little later, he thought I was a quitter. Several years later when I went back to the high school and visited some of my techers (these days they would arrest you first), after talking to the class about my computer career, he introduced me as one of the smartest kids to have ever attneded Wauwatosa High schools. From him this was one of the highest compliments of my life. We had a large number of really intelligent people in my class. I coulkd start wth Dave, and Kathy, and Barbara and Kirk and Jeff Potter and Tom Jensen and ... I should not forget my friend Steve Keidl but I do. We had been so close for so many years that I am/.was a poor judge here. But for whet Steve could do with cartoons and his radios, he would always be in front of me. I wss envious of his talents. He was also a great friend through high school and into college.
<>But this paragraph is about our physics class. Joe had a technique where he would toss out a question worth 5 points on the 6 weeks report card. I remeber one question. A mechanics question. How big of a mirroer do you need to see all of yourself? With a few off-the-wall guesses from thepeanut gallery, Paul Ramsey got the correct answer: one half as tall as the observer. But he cvould not excplain why. I cold draw the lines to demonstrate it and Paul and I sheared the 5 points. I never felt competitve with Dave or George or some others but I always fest some competetion with Paul. I never knew whyu. I did not think it was me.
<>One of the girsl in the class objected to this technique
it was discrimitaory. Mayber she was right but she had no
business being in the advanced track physics class. This was for
innovaotrs. It was not for people whoe just wanted to work their
way through for a grade. Joe was going to make thinkers adn
inspired scietntist out of all of us. I think he blew it on his
direction in the science Club but in the Physics class, he was miles
above any other science teacher I have ever met. He is dead now
so these words will not be heard by him. Maybe others of my class
who have the same meories.
<>Another technique was that before a test we could write
we wanted on the front board. Formulas, constants,
whatever. Alkl of our classwork was metric. Unlike my
college profs who fet that nit system cnversion was a major part of
physiics, Joe considered unit covnersion and absolute waste of
time. Therefore we never evenlearned there was a controvery: we
just did metric and we just learned physics. as I learned later,
calculus was invented to support the physical laws, that is
physics. WIthout calculus, physics is seriously harder to
understand. But Koe did it.
<>We glossed over mechanics and delcved into partical
We did this in the first 6 weeks. I remeber because I missed the
first 3 and Joe called me in because I had written nolab reports during
the other 4 and my grade score because of the 5 point quesitions was
100%. He said he had a problem with giving me aperfect score when
I had not written any lab reports at all. I accepted a 98 when
Iwouldhave preferred a 99. He had an argument for that too but I
forget what it was. I was going to get the 98% so logical arment
was not appropriate: it couldhave been worse.
<>I remember on of those experiments in the first 6
weeks. I t
was the one I did not have to write up. We had an experiemtn to
measure the angle of refraction of light going from air to water and
back to air again. We were using the particle model at the time
(as opposed to the wave model). I sat with little group
andpondered the sequence. after mentaly walking through the
proces several times, I raised my had for Joe's attnetion. I told
him that I could not perform the experiment satifacorily. He
asked why not and I went through the process with himn showing
that there was no process that I could perform that would give the
results that were necessary for the partical model. And he said
"And?". After stumbling what to folow up with as I thought i had done a
good job of explainging my thought, I bumbled upon the right
answer: "therefore, the particale modle fails tto explain
refraction". I goat an "A" on the experiment and did not have to
compete it. He later told me that I should still have written up
my thougth process incoming to that conclusion. But the rest of
the class was shocked: I got out ofhaving to do an experiemt just by
iopening my mouth. I think it was events such as this that gave
us all a great admiration for the man. He was not as much
interested in protocol as he was in having us able tothink our way
thorugh a problem set.
<>Joe was a great learning experince. He taught us that
thinking was its own reward. The downer was when I got to college
and discovered that first year physics at the univesrity had no
interest whatsoever in education. It was purely a matter of
how well you folled instruction. THinking ws discouraged.
But that was the Graeat University of Wisconssin and not high school
physice with a man who was qualified to teach anything at any level.
<>I do not know his youth or his background or his age.
Joe made all of it come to life for us. THere is this place as
sort of an add-on to PRinceton Univeristy called the Institute dfor
advanced research or something like that. If you are a real
science freak you will recognize the name. This is where all of
the stolen German scientists were housed during their invention of the
atom bomb. Great things happened here. Great minds.
EInstein. Heysenberg. Pauli. all of the names we associate
with the bomb were here. So was Joe. He could tell us
anecdotes about these people so that we coud see that they were real
people and not just names from the text. He told us aobut one
scientist who enjoyed supplying homes with firewood in his spare
tiem. He told us about the guy who came up with the
demonstration,very popular at the time of the muse traps and the
ping-pong balls. WHat? You nver heard of the ping-pong
balls? The idea was that you made a close array of set mouse
traps. The conventional,, spring loaded mouse traps. On
each trigger, yo placed two ping-pong balls. The idea here is
that he wanted to demonstrate the quntity of energy from a reaction of
freeing electrons from atoms. As we learned in chemistry class
(yes we took nuclear chemisrty in our high school) The amount of
energy released when an electron is freed from an atom is very
great. Even in the 'F' orvbitals. How was thos
proved? The mouse trap springs reperesented the energy af
attraction. A single ping-pong ball was tossed into the middle of
the araay of mouse traps. It would trigger the release of two
more. These would inturn fly and land oon two toher muse
traps. In a few seconds all of the mouse traps would have their
ping pong balls flying threough the air. A visible,
understandable, representation of what happend in a nuclear reaction
when atoms staart flying aaround in closely packed, high-energy
atoms. But the zinger in this lesson was nit the
demonstration..We had all seen it on Disney many times. THe
zonger was that Princeton is located n south Jersey close to
Philadelphia. The trip to New YOrk City is not terible but
at night it takes wuite a while. THis genius (they were all
geniuses) had apcked his pping pong balls and mouse traps in the back
oif his car and was driving to NYC to make afilmed demonstration.
He was arreasted on some violation and had no wallet. He like
manny other such people forgot his wallet. The police had to
acall the institue to verify that he really was this famous
person. after identification,t hey escorted him to NYC. Our
class got to laugh. We got to identify this genius (no, I donot
remember his name, come on, it is almost 50 years ago and my memory
gave out a long time ago). We also understand forever how a
nuclear reatction works. all in a 15-minute anecdote.
<>Joe seemd to know all of these peole personally. It
1962. The war was 1944. If Joe were 18 in 1944, he would
have been 36 in class. The time frame fits if he were a
college student at the time. So he could have known them..
But Joe never answered questions from me as to why he was there and
when he was there. If you knew Joe, did you ever ask? Did
he ever say? How did our glorious physics teacher get involved
with some of the greatest scientific minds in the hisotory of the
world? And what did he teach that I do not remeber? Help!
By the time I returned from the hospital, the Science Club had been
ruined. It only took 3 weeks of my absence to guarentee that
theScience Club would be returned to the nerds. The school board
was going to have its projects. There was to be in place of the
Science Club a Radio Club. They took over the entire science work
room behind the classroom. They strung an antenna across from one
side of the building to another. We shall get to that. I
was in no position to argue. The medicine that I was on
had turned me into a zombie. I could not speak without
stuttering. I could not get excited without falling asleep.
My mouth was so dry that I could not speak in whole sentences as my
tongue got stuck. But I tried. I went before the club and
explained my postion on where the science club member priorities (those
that had elected me) had been and
should have continued. Then Joe, our teacher/sponsor got up and
spiel. There was a vote. I lost. I quit the
Joe never understood. He called me a quitter. He was
wrong. He had replaced the group that had elected me with a new
group. He had directives the exact opposite of where we
started. There was no compromise. Had I stayed, I would
have just objected to everything. It was better to have executive
level people who agreed with the new directives -- not attempting to
It did get a little interesting though. Every week on science
club day, I drove a group of students at break-neck speeds to the old
high school. We got there almost on time. The little
Corvair was packed and seriously overloaded. We did this for
about a month. But we could not keep it up. I almost killed
the group going down the hill from the old high school to State
street. The Corvair was not intended to have 8 people -- the
brakes gave out. Luckily the traffic cop saw us coming and
I was called into the principal's office and told that I must
abandon my attempt to start a second, unsponsored science club.
This new club was a surprise to me but a group of fellow students were
attempting just such a thing. I had to call it off. I have
been called a male chauvenist many times by my daughters. And
maybe I am but I am here to tell you that when I was in high school, it
was my objective that ALL students, boys, girls, whoever, should have a
posive attitude towards school and especially the sciences. I
wanted it to be fun because without the fun, it was just a jumping off
point for the nerds.
Oh. The radio club. One night we needed a loaf of bread
from the store. I volunteered to go to the super market to buy
some. The local supermarket was a couple of miles away.
Jeff Cleary and Chuck Krueger and I had been planning such a
trip. I picked them up and we took off for the high school.
It could not have been Jeff he had moved to Brookfield by now. We
had a third. We dropped me off at the school and they went for
the bread. I climbed to the roof and cut the antenna into
sections. The dogs were barking and the police came. I
actually hid in the building chimney as the police scoured the building
looking for me. I always wondered how they were so prepped.
In any case when they settled down, I climbed down, ran to the sand box
out front. Up in Wisconsin, there are snnd boxes in case of
ice. The school driveway was downhill and so we had a box.
When Chuck came by, I hopped out and we went home. I have no idea
when the cops left. My mother was
not too upset by the delay. No one ever heard about who did this
until this writing right now. The next day at school the entire
school was called out on the grass to look at the cable sections.
Not a word was said and we returned to classes. I asked why we
did that and was told about the cable. Some things I will never
understand. I did understand that a boy from Butler took the
blame. In fact he was Mary Ann's new boy friend at this
poiint. But that was a long time ago and that was just a
rumor. Cutting the cable was not a rumor. And the only
damage was for them to reconnect the sections and put it back up.
It is not like I caused any damage -- just some additional effort and
some solder. I could have plugged it into 220v up there on
the roof. I could have stolen it but those would have been
damage and malicious. We did it more as a joke or prank than to
cause damage. But then no body understands anything.
Nothing really happened here of any excitment. I bring up this
class as it was important to me. American history. Most
students took it in their Junior year. Why I did not, I do not
know. But the teacher, like many of the Wauwatosa High teachers,
no make that most of the Wauwatosaa teachers of any grade, were
exceptional. Eveyr one wanted to get into Mr. Avery's class
although I do not remember any other history teacher there. On
the first day of class, he had each of us take out a single piece of
paper. On one side we were to sketch a map of the USA and drawn
in all of the states and their capitals. Wheh. On the other
side, name all of the Presidents, their terms and an event for each
term. I got 47 of the 48 states. To this day I do not know
which one I missed but I think it was a midwestern state like Kansas or
Missouri. No, I got Missouri. Whatever. The oteher
part was a disaster. I got the ifrst 3 presidents and the last 3
presidents but noone in the middle. I fared better than almost
everyone. I think maybe one or two got all of the staes.
Many got more presidents. But the class was really disheartened.
Disheartened until the teacher collected the papers and stated that
this was to be the first prt of our final exam. This is what we
would learn this school year. the current papers would not be
scored. But it gave each of us a goal. We knew what we had
to do this year. We took our studies seriously because not one of
us wanted to draw another blank paper.
I still remember that one president was in for such a short term
that the only significant event of his presidency was that his wife
moved a piano into the White House.. Not historically significant
unless you are a music lover but it counted and that is what we
need to have.
This was the most serious disaster of missing the first 3
weeks. I never recovered as by the time I got to class, all of
the key stroke exercises for learning the keys was over. We were
now tping papers. Easdy papers but papers. Except for
me. The techer gave me an option: quit at the semester and he
would give me a 'D'. Contiue and he would give me an 'F'. I
happily accepted the 'D'. Now I had a study hall period where
before my day was full.
I hope I can remeber his name somewhere along the line. He was
the Mu ALpha Theta sponsor at the old and now the new high
school. The first semester was Trigonometry and the second was
Analytical ANalysi, a warm up for calculus. Danr. I wish I
could remember his name. He always wore a tweed sport coat.
Was not short but not tall. Sort of chunky with heay rimmed
glasses and always a sort of Mona Lisa smile.
Not much happened as far as math was concerned. But a couple
of things did happen. One day as class was about to start on of
the sudents, Bryan I think was his name, came intto class with that
same look as after a shock treatment. Oh, he was cognicent but he
was shocked. He had just learned that the wall tiles in the
hallway were blue. He had always thought they were gray. He
had just learned that he was color blind. I really do hope the
schools are doing a better jog of vision testing than they were doing
when I was in schoool. As I have mentioned somewhere else, I saw
double until I was 21 or 22. Nobody had told me that I should not
see double and I had two eyes so I thought it was normal Car
accidents? If you have no depth perception, the scrapes that I
had might have been much worse.
The other theing that happened was I again took the prelinary test
for the Mount Mary College math contest. Our school was permitted
7 stduents. Each school got a team of 3 to represnet the school
for scoring purposes. I had placed third as a sophomore. As
a junior in Mrs. Striegls class, I was never even informed of the
competition. But now me, as a zombie took the preliminary
test. I missed the qualigying score. I placed 10th. I
was not too surpised as this is a timed test where accuracy and speed
both count. Speed was not my forte this year. But the most
amazing thing happened. The three students who placed before me
disqualified themselves. You could have knocked me over with the
proverbial feather. I started to object but this would insult the
graciousness of these students. I do not remeber who they were
except for one. Barbara Schrage was the seventh and she let me go
in her place. I did not do well in the test at the college
although Bob/Bill, Steidl did and we did place as a school as a result
of his score. I really felt like I hhad let Barbara and the
schoold down. Thank you again, Barbara, wherever you may
be. I thought your action was misplaced because you were
certainly one of the very smartest people in our class, but your
genorosity has never been forgotten.
Our school did not have a dress code. But in those days, everyone
dressed respectably. Shirt with collar, slacks. Girsl wore
dresses or skirts unless it was too cold and then they were expected,
although not required, to take slcks during class.
For not having a dress code, I think we had a dress code. The boys slack sould nothave outside pockets. This made them "jeans" and jeans were not permitted. So guess who blew it? One of the two times I got called to the princiapls office. Easter week was approaching and our veloved Student COuncil with Miss Kritz as the sponsor, posted two dress up days the same month. Dress up was always optional but in those days optional had a stronger meaning than it does today. SO when she announced the second such day in one month, I posted poster saying: "In the spirit of Easter, Let's crucify Miss Kitz". The posters did not last too long but the word was out: we would ignore the second dress up day. My problem was that I did worse than ignore it. I ignored the rule against outside pockets and was hauled into the pricipals office and told to go home and change but to not miss any class time nor leave the campus. This implied that my mother must come with a change of clothes for me. I think if I had intentionally worn sloppy clothes, I would have beeen in real trouble but as it was, these slacks probpably would have gone unnoticed on any other day., But not this day. I was reprimanded, told I was a bad example, and sent back to class, somewhat embarassed because everyone knew why I had seen the principal.