The year was 1959 and Detroit automakers were on their continued design quest to make cars look like space ships. At least three years before John F. Kennedy's challenge to reach for the stars, Harley Earl, famed GM auto stylist was conjuring up the next “Jetson” concept that would allow American commuters to become “six-lane space pioneers”. All that glass and those huge fins were seemingly a prelude to the challenge of placing a man on the moon. Mr. Earl's '59 Cadillac classic tail fin design marks the design pinnacle of the “automotive space race”. Average yearly wages were $5,010.00, a gallon of Gas was 25 cents, Fidel Castro became the new premier of Cuba and “the music died” when Buddy Holly's plane crashed in an Iowa cornfield.
Meanwhile, the education machine was in full swing and our new temporary quarters would be the newly built East Northport Jr. High School on 5th Avenue, a facility that seemed to rival Idlewild Airport for sheer size and confusability. It was the ninth grade and my first elective language course would be Spanish I, starring Mr. Bosco, our teacher. He was a diminutive man with horn rimmed glasses who taught us exploratory language in prior years. Latin, Spanish, German, Italian and French. He taught them all. In Spanish I, we learned to trill our R's (as in Senor-addah) and to pronounce our D's with some kind of a “th” suffix as in Feliz Navidad-th. It was all foreign to me, but then we were after all learning a foreign language. As I recall, we started with a little reader, the Spanish equivalent of “Dick & Jane” entitled “Qunito y Pepe”. I wasn't considered a preferred Spanish scholar and couldn't even muster a “Gentleman's C”. Easily qualifying as a dunce, I produced a predictable “D”, hence I sat in the designated and disgraced “D- Row”.
I suppose the strategy of Mr. Bosco was that we “dunces” who defined the D-Row would be humiliated into achieving better grades but I don't think he took into account the mindset of a 13 year-old. On the plus side, I had a reasonable window view with only the “F-Row” to block my vista. I sat in front of one of the hottest chicks in the school and I could never be accused of being a “book worm”. Of course not all these benefits were appreciated by the “powers-that-be” but I was learning to trill a little and use the “th” suffix here and there. Conjugations, the infinitive and gerunds kept me firmly in my sweet spot, the “D-Row”. You might say the desks occupying real estate over by the windows was the “poor side of town”.
One day, all the kids in the class regardless of their scholastic achievement decided by prior arrangement to make a show of defiance by lurching forward with their desks at a pre-defined hour/second on the wall clock at the front of the classroom. In unison, 30 students with their desks and chairs all moved forward squeaking and groaning as the furniture closed in on the teacher who stood at the head of the flock. At that particular point in time, the “haves” and the “have-nots” worked as a symphony of anarchism. The teacher stood in shock as this wave of protoplasm, steel and wood closed in, but in the final analysis, he must have been dumbfounded to know that this body of students could be so cohesive.
Back in the day, the “have-nots” took responsibility for their own position in life as the “haves” moved forward in their own agenda. In the end, most of the “have-nots” improved their position while a few of the “have's” fell short. Looking back, boredom was mostly misdiagnosed by our educators as low intelligence. I have learned over the years that the will to succeed has allowed a generation to thrive. In spite of what early educators may have thought, most of the “D-Row” moved on to become productive citizens. The hot chick who sat behind me went on to Harvard and earned her law degree. Don't ever count anyone out. Now, well over 50 years later I still consider her to be a true unwavering friend without compromise. And for those who may be wondering, she's still hot, too! To her, I dedicate this piece. Yo te amo.