Hey, remember when I said you’d see that plaid jacket again?
That’s right, in my senior photo I’m wearing a nightmare jacket that I stole from the theater department’s costume room.
Looking back, it occurs to me that I always have challenged authority. I was especially troubled by matters of censorship. For my senior talent show, I wrote and performed a song-and-dance number about the Moral Majority, the would-be cultural arbiters at the time.
Here are the (partial) lyrics, set to the tune of the old Frank Loesser song, “Murder, He Says.”
We’re trying to pass a law now
To ban sex on teevee
What you think doesn’t matter
You’ll have to follow our decree
We’ll boycott all of your companies and annoy ya
Just because we’re religious don’t mean we won’t destroy ya!
We say, we don’t think it’s right, we say
Today, we’re achin’ for a fight, we say
All day, we’ll have to censor it all!
When it comes to satirical songwriting, I am not exactly Tom Lehrer.
Censorship became a more personal concern during my year on the school newspaper, the Ho-Hi Life. (Theme song: “Ho-hi! Ho-hi! It’s off to work we…guy?”)
I was in charge of the editorial page, which suited my dual interests in writing and having opinions. There I took bold stands against school buses and mandatory student convocations.
That winter, our intrepid news team encountered the heavy hand of The Man. Embarrassed by an unflattering story about one of his “Talk to the Principal” sessions, Dr. Wirtz declared that all future issues would have to be pre-approved by him. Outraged, I appealed to Indiana’s Attorney General. I still have the reply that I received. (“…it seems that the principal, in screening the paper, is acting as publisher. Understand that freedom of the press principles apply primarily to prevent outside interference.”)
I did have the last laugh, after a fashion. Around the masthead of our final issue, I carefully laid out a border of Morse Code dots and dashes: “Dr. Wirtz is a jerk.” Vengeance was mine.
Yet my enmity toward Dr. Wirtz was nothing compared to my white-hot resentment of the football team.
Understand that I attended Hobart High during the early years of Brickie Football mania. (Our team was named for the former brickyard which housed the football field until 2008. Our mascot Yohan was a knock-off of Purdue’s Boilermaker. So was our coach, Mr. Howell. Seriously, Coach Howell was built like Yohan. It was creepy.) Football was the only thing of importance at HHS.
I learned this the hard way the time our drama club tried to participate in the pep rally. We had rehearsed a skit that we felt would show our support for the team, but were booed out of the gymnasium. It would be the last time I had even the slightest school spirit. Thereafter, I made a point of sitting for the school song. I was just like Rosa Parks, except for the not-making-a-difference part.
Hell, not even the other sports teams were respected. After one notably unpeppy rally for Brickie Basketball, Coach Howell railed against the assembly, infamously declaring “We sweat blood for our jerseys!” Soon, “Sweat blood!” became a rallying cry for me and my disaffected friends.