Sixth-hour Study Hall was held in the large cafeteria of Lapeer Senior High School. Being the last hour of the school-day, it was the best time for a free period. Students from grades nine through twelve were combined there. We were seated at long tables arranged in rows, overseen by one teacher, and separated roughly by grade.
Despite its name, studying was low on the priority list for many of the students in Study Hall. The teen-agers huddled over the tables, whispering about anything other than what was contained in the notebooks and texts strewn over the surface. When the teacher’s back was turned, a flurry of wadded paper balls would fly from one table to another. Now and then, a fight broke out.
I had convinced my mother that Study Hall was a good idea. “I’ll be able to get all my homework done at school,” I told her, “that way, I can help out when I get home.” I wasn’t known, as my sister Brenda was, for “helping out.” In fact, I often used the excuse of “homework” to get out of helping. For whatever reason, Mom agreed to it anyway.
I was fourteen, and in the ninth-grade. After eight years in Catholic school, taught by nuns, this was a wild new experience. I aspired to be one of the kids that was whispering, passing notes, and giggling with friends. I wanted to be a dare-devil, trouble-maker, one of the students singled out by the teacher with warning looks. Mostly, though, I did my homework. Then, I filled the margins and covers of my notebooks. I practiced different handwriting styles, did sketches, and copied the lettering found on record albums. I rarely got in trouble.
One day stands out. The teacher had stepped out of the room, and several students were taking advantage of the situation. Voices called out to friends across the room; kids left their seats.
An eleventh grade boy, a popular kid that Brenda had told me was “really cool,” stood up. He pulled a pair of shades out of his shirt pocket and put them on. He struck a pose as his eyes swept the room (think “the Fonz”). His glance paused on me. “These are X-ray specs,” he said. His eyebrows went up and down twice, Groucho Marx style.
I can still feel the heat of my face turning red. I remember the horror I felt. Was it true that a “cool boy” might now know the secret of my AA bra, stuffed with old nylons to keep the cups from collapsing against my flat chest? And how could I go on?
Then, somebody gave the boys arm a punch. There was laughter. Another boy called out, “You’re a liar!” And it was over. Blessed relief!
This incident happened more than fifty years ago. I’ve forgotten many of the details. I don’t know who I was sitting with or what I was studying. I can’t remember what the boy’s name was. Yet, when the letter of the day is X, this is the story that comes to mind!