Life in the Ville By Jimmy Del Ponte
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My fear of the first day of school changed entering grade 9 in 1968. I was going to public junior high fter eight years of parochial school. Let me elaborate a little. Eight years of bossy, grouchy, mean spirited nuns. I still can’t believe my parents paid good, hard earned money to send their three kids to a place where they were berated, embarrassed and abused. I got off easy, but some of the poor kids may have been scarred for life.
Let’s move on. I entered the Western Junior High School as a ninth grader in September of ‘68. Just the fact that I didn’t have to wear a button down shirt and a tie was awesome. Imagine, no more nuns! It was like freeing a caged animal. Of course, there was the matter of the bully that made my life miserable for a while. Not only did I have to fear him at school, but he actually lived on my street! As soon as I made some pals that were around 6 feet tall and 250 pounds, the bullying stopped. But I’ll never forget the heartache that guy put me through.
Some of my fellow student’s fears were that they wouldn’t be wearing cool enough clothes. I can relate to that. We had to wear what our parents bought us. Instead of “pegged pants” and “Cuban heels” we often had to wear what was on sale at Anderson Little, JM Fields or Zayers.
And although we wanted to have Beatle haircuts, it was usually a “regular boys” from Lionel’s or Dente’s Barber Shop that most of us ended up with. Most, but not me. I was a true rebel and a budding hippie so my hair was getting longer and longer. My dad had three kids to buy for so he couldn’t care less about me keeping up with the styles of the day. But I must say that when I was in high school, my mom let me pick out some pretty wild duds! I was one of the first kids at Somerville High to wear bell-bottoms. And they weren’t “flared,” they were huge bell bottoms straight from Harvard Square’s Truc store.
Good thing my older sister was always around to defend me when the teasing started. That girl was fearless. It took a lot of guts to wear some of the crazy threads that were popular back then. Some of today’s kids’ fashions make the clothes of the past look tame. Imagine paying good money for dungarees (yes, I said dungarees, not jeans!) that are already worn out with holes in them? When I started at the high school we couldn’t wear dungarees. We soon took care of that with walkouts and demonstrations. Hey, it was the 60’s!
Some songs from 1968 still remind me of my school days. One in particular described my eight years of sister school. That song is The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The song Born to be Wild was how I felt after my stretch with the nuns ended. And it was It’s A Beautiful Morning when the first day of school rolled around and I didn’t have to wear that uncomfortable white shirt and dumb necktie and face the nasty nuns. Yummy, Yummy, Yummy described the school lunches, especially the American chop suey and pizza. Stoned Soul Picnic reminded me of cutting class and sneaking over to Nan’s Sub Shop.
My high school experience would have been perfect if not for a couple of teachers. I think they may have been plain-clothes nuns (even though one was a man). I use the word man loosely. Yeah, he was that bad.
I was also lucky to have been in the last graduating class from The Western Junior High School before the 2 million dollar fire in November of 1968 that gutted it.
In closing, one song sums up my Somerville public school years…Those Were the Days!