By Brian P. Wallace
Why is it that the four years or three years or six years for some of my friends, that we attended High School, color the rest of our life. Everything we did during our high school years has been magnified beyond belief and stays with us until we die, which is happening in greater numbers lately. I used to see pictures of Southie High’s 50th reunions and say, “boy are they old.” Well, now we are them. How did that happen? What is so magical about high school, or what is so mystifying about high school? Is it the fact we are discovering the secrets of algebra at the same time we are discovering the secrets of our hormones? When that happens, algebra takes a back seat very quickly. The girl who was yuck to us the year before at St. Augustine’s is now anything but. We find ourselves stumbling over words and turning red in the face whenever we address the object of our new-found affection.
And speaking of St. Augustine’s, the nuns could be tough but nothing like I experienced my very first home room on my very first day. I walked very slowly up Linden Street that day. I was totally unsure if I was going to walk down Linden Street later that day. I was scared and I am not afraid to admit it. I was about five feet nothing with huge glasses and I was leaving the relative sanctity of eight years of Catholic school for what? I had heard all the horror stories, especially from my brother. I didn’t know if I was walking into a high school or Walpole Prison. I would very soon find out.
It took me awhile to find my locker and my homeroom, amidst a bunch of insults. “Hey kid this isn’t Grammar School.” “There is no way you are in high school.” “How old are you?” “You gotta be kidding me,” was another remark aimed at me. I wasn’t Wilt Chamberlain, but I wasn’t Mickey Rooney either, well maybe closer to Mickey Rooney. I never had a locker before and it showed. Pat Flaherty, who I knew from the Boys Club, helped me open my locker, but he couldn’t help me with my first class.
My homeroom teacher was a nice guy named Mr. Pieri who was a look-alike for Barney Fife of Mayberry. He did everything fast, wrote his name on the blackboard fast, walked fast, talked fast, called the roll fast. He called the name Sullivan and nobody responded. He called it two more times and still no response. Somebody pointed to this big guy, and I mean guy, who was snoring up a storm in the back row. Mr. Pieri stormed to where the hulking giant was sleeping and he shook him. “Are you Mr. Sullivan?” Pieri managed in his most masculine voice. Sullivan got up and he kept on getting up and getting up. He had to be 6”6’ and 220 pounds. “You ever touch me again and I will kill you,” he yelled down at Pieri. “You ever threaten me again and I will call your Probation Officer,” Peiri countered. Sullivan pulled out a knife with such dexterity I didn’t see it coming. ” You ever mention my Probation Officer again and it will be the last person you mention,” Sullivan growled. Pieri did what any red-bloodedteacher would do. He ran out of the room like one of those characters in a fast motion cartoon. Sullivan went back to sleep. I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Boy, did I miss the nuns at that moment where a ruler was the only weapon you faced.
Pieri was in homeroom the next day, Sullivan never returned, thank God. From that point on, high school was a breeze. I loved everything about it, meeting tons of new friends, some pretty nice-looking girls, saw some great athletic events, especially at White Stadium. I even grew four inches. I met teachers like Doc Reid, Charlie Ray, Major Mudd, Rocky Stone, Mr. Vicarri, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Poor, Miss Dazzi, who became my friends as well as teachers. It was by far the best time of my life, which is why I will be at Florian Hall on November 17th to meet old friends, share fond memories, tell a few lies, the statute of limitation has run out. But sadly, it will probably be the last time I will ever see most of my classmates on this side of the grass. Mortality, which in high school, was in a far off place and a strange, strange land, is not so far away now. A lot of our classmates have gone and we will raise a toast to them. Please don’t miss this reunion. You may never have another opportunity again. Tell people how much they meant to you. Hugging is permitted and encouraged. I wonder what happened to Sullivan?