May 12th……….“WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE A 9TH GRADE FRESHMAN AT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL IN BATTLE GROUND, WASHINGTON”?
There was a metallic CRASH and accompanying THUD against the hallway side of my Freshman Science classroom at Battle Ground High School!!! With skin burns still hurting on my neck, my face grinned with a smile of welcomed vindication; for I knew exactly who caused that ruckus and he became my hero in many ways.
Various rites of passage have been a part of numerous cultures around the world for a myriad of centuries. Even sailors are initiated with types of embarrassing hazing when they cross the Equator for the first time. On the other side of those good-natured ribbings, they’re inducted into and were then members of the “King Neptune Society”.
In the Fall of 1968, such blushing ordeals were in store for myself and all my new fellow Freshmen “Tigers” at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington.
Freshmen Initiation Week at Battle Ground High School was a combination of fun, lots of blushing moments, and even some pain. For starters, we “Frosh” boys had to wear a white T-shirt with a long tie. That antithesis of fashion was to be our “uniform” for the week. We “newbies”, before being allowed to be counted as family with the upper classmen, first had to learn to be obedient to the orders given to us by the 12th Grade Seniors (and ONLY the Seniors…..as I recall), we had to learn to sing our school anthem song, as loudly as possible, for any Senior. If so ordered, we had to carry a Senior’s books to his next class, call him “SIR”, roll a peanut down the long halls with our nose, etc., etc..
It wasn’t something out of the Old Testament of the Bible, but to all “Tigers” at Battle Ground High, it was still considered “holy ground”. We all learned there was something that you “never touch”, “always show respect for” and “NEVER walk on it” …..that object of adoration was the hallowed floor tiles inside the High School entry that spelled a giant, orange & black “BG” (for Battle Ground, of course). During Initiation Week, many a Freshman was enlisted by Seniors to polish the BG.
Teachers cautioned us “new kids on the block” to be sure to stay on campus during Initiation Week. That was because the Faculty could better observe and regulate what Seniors could and could NOT do to us for “temporary torture”.
In my previous year of 8th Grade in the old Junior High Building, we were down in the basement cafeteria eating one day during the Initiation Week of the kids who were now Sophomores in 1968-69. A fellow 8th Grader hollered, “Heyyyy everybody!!! Come see this”!!! Looking out that window, we saw some not so smart Freshman had the audacity to wander off campus and across the street to Clark Holcomb’s 76 Union gas station during their lunch time. Sure enough, they’d been caught by Seniors and were getting a water hose put down their pants and turned on full blast!!! 😉
It’s a good thing I didn’t frequent the High School Cafeteria very often, because during that “hell week” a number of Freshmen were herded up on the Stage and made to loudly sing the school anthem (which few of us knew in those early days) and to roll up their pants legs for further embarrassment among the giggling Seniors in attendance.
But one day, I almost got hung……..literally!!!
As I mentioned earlier, only Seniors were granted the power to initiate us underclassmen into the ranks of the alma mater (Latin for “dear mother”) family. Yet, a pimple-faced turd of a Sophomore decided he was gonna initiate me to death right in front of my next class, which was Freshman Science Class with Mr. Richard “Dick” Lawrence as our teacher. Even some of the nomenclatures for the word Sophomore fit this kid…..”Conceited, pretentious, over confident, immature”…..these adjectives fit that little jerk to a T. As he shoves me up against the lockers, he’s castigating me…..“Hey Kid!! Whaddya think your puny Freshmen body is doing around our Sophomore lockers? Huh? Huh”? I didn’t want any trouble, so I was just trying to be laid back and smile it off. Nope, that didn’t work. “Well, ya little twerp, I’m gonna hoist you by your ugly necktie and hang you over the top of my locker”!!!! And, by golly, he started to strangle me as he began lifting my carcass up by my necktie!!!! Just then, in the nick of time, my tall, blonde and very muscular Science teacher, Mr. Lawrence plows, full-steam, from our classroom and breaks up this literal necktie party. “Heyyyy, Heyyyy!!! What’s goin’ on here”???? Rotten mr. pimple face lets go of me and I can start to breath again. “Elliott, you o.k.?? Go ahead and take your seat at your table”!! “Yes sir”!!!, as I gladly obeyed!! Upon reaching and sitting at my table, I heard that pimple-faced Sophomore body get slammed up against those lockers in the hallway and my hero, Mr. Lawrence read the riot act to that sorry excuse for a “Tiger” who had no business, as a Sophomore, trying to initiate me………especially with the lethal tactics he was using.
That handsome, muscular mountain of a man earned my respect and trust for him that day as a virile man’s man. Mr. Lawrence was excellent also as a fine Science teacher and, later that year, an inspiration to me as my Wrestling Coach. Like any good leader, he led by example and earned the allegiance of many young men who were glad to follow his educator’s role in the classroom setting as well as on the grappler’s mat for our Wrestling Team. Bless the memory of Mr. Richard “Dick” Lawrence who was an inspiration for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.