February 22nd…“WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM YOU REMEMBER HAVING IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL?”
A roll of the steering wheel by my mother brought our 1963 Dodge 330 into the driveway of the Battle Ground School District for the first time. Just weeks before, our family had left our beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota and had driven 1,720 miles to begin a new life in Washington State here in the town called Battle Ground.
My problem, other than being a pimpled-faced teenager with enough skin oil to grease a frying pan, was that I felt totally lost and overwhelmed by the gigantic layout of this new school campus compared to our much smaller school back home in Minnesota. Another problem I had was a massive inferiority complex accentuated by a silver-crowned tooth that “sparkled” right in the front of my mouth. It appeared like I had caught the “Lone Ranger’s” silver bullet in my mouth and was showing it to the world every time I smiled. I had received this embarrassing “trophy” when I crashed my bike on a gravel road on the last day of 6th Grade back in Minnesota. While trying to ride across “ice boil” wash-boarding on the gravel road, the handle bars “jack-knifed” and threw me forward off of the bike. I landed on that gravel road directly on my face and broke off that front tooth at a glaring three quarter slant. Dr. Pirsig, our kind dentist back home, said the best fix would be to cover the broken tooth with a silver crown. Now, here in this new town and culture, I was super concerned about being made fun of by all these “strangers” I’d be going to school with now in this new alma mater for education.
The East Junior High Building was regally classic as a two story brick monument to education and had been constructed in the 1920’s. At that time, it had been the original High School edifice until the “new” High School was built nearby in 1953, or so. Over the years, an impressive growth of ivy vines had crept up the entire brick surface of the east face of the school; giving it an aura of the traditional “ivy league halls of education”. As Mom and I stepped into those massively long hallways, they talked back to our footsteps with corresponding echoes off the walls. As we approached the door, graced with multi-paned glass, of the school’s Main Office, I gave it a pull to open. The old, dry hinges on that antiquated door needed oiling badly, so the resultant creaking gave the announcement of our presence into the administration office.
Looking up from her desk, the brilliant smile of Mrs. Pat Smith (Junior High School Secretary) gave both Mom and I a sense of a warming welcome into this new world of education that would become my alma mater for the next five years. Pat Smith, with her dear soul of godly womanhood, made us both feel “at home” already as she began to get me registered for the Fall 8th Grade classes of the 1967-68 school year. Comfort flooded this scared young teenager’s spirit because now I knew that there was going to be a refuge in this dear person that I could go to for answers anytime I needed. All I had to do was pull open that squeaky office door and find that kindred spirit in the smiling kindness of our Secretary, Mrs. Pat Smith. I felt then, and still do today, that our loving Lord had placed one of His “angels” to greet, set at ease and encourage my soul in the bodily form of this precious lady whom I still count as a dearest friend of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.