Sophomore year saw me rocking a
Beatles Patrick Troughton Moe Howard haircut. And yes, I know it was the ’70s and no one was exactly a fashion plate, but for crap’s sake, Teenage Me, put down the salad bowl and go to a stylist.
As sophomores, we at last escaped the future home of the Hobart Police Department and moved on to Hobart High. New building, new opportunities.
For me, it was the chance to follow up on my interest in public performance. I signed up for theater class and joined the school’s drama troupe, the Genesius Players.
The single biggest influence of my public school career was theater and speech teacher Shirley Ann Mumaugh, the beloved grand dame of the dramatically inclined. Her classroom was a haven for eccentrics like me, a place for encouragement rather than derision. It was a rare afternoon that I didn’t find myself hanging out in the hallway just outside.
I auditioned for the fall play, an age-appropriate adaptation of the movie M*A*S*H, and scored the small speaking role of General Hammond. While my scenes were consigned to a small space on the end of the stage apron, I had the very first line. I tossed myself into the part, making a point of being “off book” (having my part memorized) as soon as possible.
While I was still a lower classman and existed on the periphery of the group, it was wonderful finally to feel like I was a part of something.
I snagged another small role in the spring musical, Anything Goes. I played a bishop whose contribution to the plot was to be tossed off the cruise ship in the first scene. This would not be the last holy man I would portray. I spent the rest of the show as part of the chorus, an experience which taught me that I really, really didn’t like being in the chorus.
My budding show biz career was very nearly derailed from the start; days before the M*A*S*H tryout I had been playing tennis (yes, I briefly had an interest in tennis) with my friend Fred when I badly twisted my knee. Now, the reason that I twisted my knee was that Fred was deliberately smacking my tennis balls over the fence and into the weeds. The top part of me turned to follow; the bottom stayed where it was.
The swelling went down after a couple of days, but what I didn’t discover until later was that one of my knee bones had chipped. Said chip began floating around, occasionally becoming jammed in the joint. I could feel the lump, and even push it around with my finger. (Say it with me, “Ewwwwwww.”)
I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital in an unsuccessful attempt to have it removed. Unfortunately, the surgeon was unable to find it. Shortly before I was scheduled to go in, my knee swelled up a second time, and I believe that it was because the chip had permanently lodged itself out of sight. As far as I know, it’s still there.
Thanks a fuck of a lot, Fred.