We are proud to be running "Tower of Memories", a continuing series of short stories about Fairview High School written through the creative eyes of our classmate Tom Kender. His stories are entertaining and they will surely put a smile on your face. Thank-you Tom for allowing us to use the stories on the class site. You may log onto Tom's blog "I read the news today, oh boy" at: http://ireadthenews.blogspot.com or email Tom at tomkender@att.net for full posting privileges or to comment.


This is our story. Yours and mine. 
A look back in time at Fairview High School in the 60's when our biggest worry in life was finding a date for the weekend. We survived the death of a popular President and the Vietnam War loomed in front of us but we had The Beatles, The Stones and 66' Mustangs. Add your stories along with mine and over the next months, as I compile our history, we will laugh and cry together.
1st in the series of stories
1st Day, 1st Week . . . 1st Detention

by Tom Kender, March 6, 2009

It didn't take me long to get off on the wrong foot after I entered the sacred halls of Fairview High pursuing a higher education. I wasn't a bad kid, I just made bad decisions.

I didn't have the pedigree of going to one of the several public schools that funneled into Fairview....I was one of those 'catholic" boys, whose parents knew they weren't about to throw good money after bad to further my education at the catholic high school....so off I went to seek a new reputation at Fairview.

Although I had an older brother, Rick, who was a senior there, I was Persona non Grata as far as he was concerned. I mean I couldn't even get a ride in the morning or in the afternoon with him....so I had to find my own way.

The kids I had hung out with prior to FHS for the most part were a year or two older than me. No doubt they had trouble written all over them.

So, here we are....my freshman year and only one week into the semester and I am "challenged" to skip school that day....well, maybe not challenged but you know, kinda following the crowd.

I don't think I was quite versed on the technical aspects of skipping school. I think the procedure that had been allegedly used successfully by my peers had something to do with calling into the school's Attendance Office and saying you were home sick and your parents would call later.

It sounded good at the time, heck, what did I know.

After making the call secretly from our one telephone in the kitchen, I headed out for school but then detoured for our rendezvous at Bobby's house. We really didn't have any plans made for the rest of the day all we knew was....yeah, we're skippin' school!

It wasn't long though maybe about an hour...we had been sittin' in his garage, smoking our Lucky Strikes and me thinking...."hey, I can really dig high school".

About that time we hear a car pull up and we stomp out our cigs, eat a couple of sen-sens and who walks into the garage....MY MOM. Oh man, am I in trouble.

After an endless lecture to all of us I'm dragged, well maybe pushed a little into her car and driven to what would be one of my first of many visits to see Mr. Barger.

Three days detention! Not bad I think....but the worst was yet to come......I had become a marked man....the scarlet A would hang around my neck as a troublemaker and only until a couple of years later would I become Don Barger's fair-haired boy....

Next up.......Hangin' across the street at the Mascot
2nd in the series of stories
Hangin' at the Mascot
by Tom Kender, March 8, 2009

As in many parts of the world, we had our own caste system at the Mascot, a revered institution for snacking, eating lunch, smoking and the most important of all, socializing. Occasionally it would be the arena for settling arguments as in "I'll whip your butt at the Mascot, right after school to settle this".

Naturally, seniors ruled the entire area, the juniors waiting in line to rise to their seat in power remained subservient yet an occasional stag would challenge for superiority. The sophomores, fresh from their rise from the lowest of lows would wander aimlessly in search of their rank. And the poor freshmen, who through no fault of their own other than being the designated brunt of all jokes would look with forlorn eyes hoping to be recognized even if it meant ridicule. Nothing was ever brutal....but everyone had their place.

The highest honor of all belonged to whomever had secured a table within the walls of the tiny clapboard building. French fries always seemed to be the meal of the day...everyday. Lord help you if you took your eyes off of your plate for even a second as everyone would devour your meal like starving buzzards on a deer carcass.

The Mascot was either packed to capacity and then some, or it was closed. I doubt the fire codes were being adhered to and I know the health codes ......well, I'll allow you to imagine if it was even inspected.

But it was our place to escape, even if for only a short time at lunch to catch up on the news of the day, have a smoke or gulp down a coke and fries.

After school was over for the day, crowds would mingle for awhile, sometimes waiting to catch a ride with the lucky individual who had their own car. A little shoving and pushing and "guy" things would happen when the testosterone levels were at their highest. Dates would be made for the weekend.

And then we would begin to peel away like layers of an onion as we either went to work at after-school jobs, or made our way to the practice fields, or contemplated the long walk home or simply stood outside until the last person left, afraid that something might be missed that would be the topic of the following day's discussion.

A few of us began a routine of going to Dave Todd's house which was just around the block and slugging down a few more cokes and discussing even further the events that had happened and who was dating who and did someone say if they liked me or not......Oh yes girls, we guys did the same thing too! I guess this has now been replaced by texting and twittering. Each individual in their own singular world chatting back and forth without the pleasure of someone knocking the books out of your arms or giving you a wedgee while your hands balanced your coke and fries........Man, those were the days....not the wedgees....the Mascot!

Up next: How in the world did I get placed in advanced Biology?

3rd in the series of stories
How in the world did I get placed in
Advanced Biology?

by Tom Kender, Monday March 9, 2009

As I had said previously in 1st Detention, I had learned my ABC's at a catholic grade school. It's well known that parochial schools do turn out better than average students, well, at least it's well known to the parochials??? Anyway..

In spite of the fact that I did receive a significant amount of "failure to exercise self control" and a number of "fails to apply himself" and perhaps labeled a "lolligagger" and a maybe a "doodlemonger"....and my knuckles were constantly scabbed from the "attention getting" 12 inch rulers that the nuns wielded...I did get a good education from Our Lady of Mercy (now there's an oxymoron....nuns bashing your knuckles and they teach at Our Lady of Mercy)

I don't think I was counseled when I put my class schedule together and you know we had some good counsellors, I probably took things into my own control and made my schedule at the last minute....that reminds me I got a couple of "fails to finish tasks on time" also.

Well, it didn't take long to scream "Boy, did I screw up" when I am in Mr. Kaenzig Biology class and I don't know a grasshopper's mandible from a bullfrog's anus. I mean I was lost. I dreaded that class because I felt so inept...here I was in class with guys who would later become some of the fine doctors that graduated from Fairview and all I have on my mind is "did I pack my deodorant for gym class" and how many more minutes before I get to talk to the girls in the hallway. I didn't have a clue.

It guess it finally showed up in the first six weeks report card. ...I needed to start at a much lower level in my science curriculum.

Fortunately, I was able to get over to Phil Prather's General Science class before too much damage was done. Now he was a good guy.

O.K., this is cool.....I can dig General Science. I mean I can probably skate through this without doing much work. And it was true. I didn't have to do much....I was pretty smart and made good grades.......unfortunately, not until I started writing this story did I finally realize.... that maybe those nuns were right after all.

Next up: Best Teachers

4th in the series of stories
Best Teachers
by Tom Kender

I'm thinking I should have titled this "Most Memorable Teachers" but we'll leave it like this.

Naturally, we all had our favorites but I can easily decide which teachers made an impact on me. I don't know if it was necessarily because I enjoyed the subject matter more or if it was the way they presented the material, all I know when I think of Fairiview and the faculty I think of these people first.

Looking through my dog-eared yearbook Mrs. Rowe always comes to mind. I find it interesting that our creamy white faculty and our creamy white student body was fortunate to have a dedicated teacher at a time when it was probably very difficult for a woman of color to find a position in an upscale high school. I mean this was the 60's. But never once in mind did I ever think of her as being black, I only thought of her as being so conscious of who we were, our confusion at a time of global responsibility and our difficulty in setting our compasses in the right direction. She set the course for me when I asked a question about the looming Vietnam War.

Although we were still a couple of years away from finding out what our future might bring and our responsibilities, I asked "what if I don't want to go to war, what if I want to move away to Canada". She responded by explaining the legal obligations of what was the edict at that time. Following the laws of the land. But then she explained we had a moral obligation as well. If we felt in our hearts that there were injustices in the world, then we should stand up and express those opinions. It scared me to think about the repercussions that might result. I'm guessing her comments were more directed to the race wars that were slowly brewing but if still gave me the help in deciding about my service to the country. Ironically, a couple of years later after college, I decided to serve in the Air Force. Not necessary in favor of the War but still be willing to stand up and express my opinion if injustices needed to be corrected.

On a lighter side, or maybe a more institutional perspective, my ability to cipher' is through the teachings of Charles Mumma. Ask me any math question and I'll solve it for you. Hell, I can even give you the correct Lotto numbers, it may not be on the same day that they pick them, but they will be the right numbers?? Mr. Mumma was a no-nonsense teacher who treated you like a good ole' yellow dog. When you did good, he praised you, when you screwed up he made sure you didn't make the same mistake again. To this day I love math, algebra, geometry, statistics, calculus anything to do with numbers. Maybe it is the one science where 2 plus 2 always equaled 4. You can always find the answer. Rest assured, I didn't later become a rocket scientist but I still get a little buzz when a math problem shows up in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in Parade magazine. And Sudoku....give me a break...I was doing Sudoku when Sudoku wasn't cool.

I still have a list of people who made me what I am today. And I want you to share your list as well.

Next up: Some More Best Teachers

5th in the series of stories
Some more of "Best Teachers"

"Every grain of sand affects the tide"
by Tom Kender, Tuesday March 10, 2009

If you ever had the chance to take Dorothy Herbst's English class, or maybe it was called Humanities or something like that...the above sentence still stands in your mind.

I had a sole purpose or maybe a soul purpose in enrolling in Ms. Herbst class. ..To go to New York City...but I'll leave that story for a later date because I really need to pay her a much-deserved due.

I had already wasted 3 years of idiocracy in my antics at Fairview....and yes, if I had to do it all over again, I would have certainly studied harder, became more involved in other activities like theater, or art......but then I guess I wouldn't be what I am today....and to some, who believe in me, that's not so bad. But, I had a chance to maybe find my creativity with Dorothy and I blew it. She so much loved what she did. She lived in the moment and could look into one's eyes and see that beautiful sculpture that lay enclosed in a block of marble and I just let her down.

She knew better than to struggle with me while I stole her time from much more deserving students. She knew I had some kind of a gift, and she told me so.....but that layer of protection that surrounded me, those insecurities of fear of success that I misinterpreted as fear of failure, prevented me finding my passion until years later.

Today, as I visit art museums or take in a play or relish in musicals, I sometimes think what it would have been like if instead of trying to be cool I would have tried to explore a deeper, a more intense, an exposure of the soul type dedication to expressing emotion or feelings other than just getting by for another semester in order to just have fun.

Yes, Ms. Herbst, I waisted your time and my time back then but perhaps these little acts that I perform now in this blog as I strut and fret my hour upon the stage I can repay you for your devotion to bringing out the best in us.

And speaking of those who believed I had or have something to offer is Barbara Minton. I remember her as fresh out of college wanting to teach and share her passion for the written word as she was thrown into a class occupied by my "Spagnola-type" behavior. A couple of years ago as I contemplated reaching for my quill and parchment that I had so long ago set aside in search for a more profitable career, she came across my earlier bloggings and we began to correspond as I asked for direction and criticism as I pursued my longing to be a writer. Through no fault of her own, I ran from our talks, scared once again of that fear of success of wanting that passion for telling my stories. Barbara, thanks for your help and I hope you can once again enjoy my musings as I try to bring a laugh and a smile to everyone's face.

Next up: Dating and broken hearts