Sunday, August 19, 2018

Turning Points In My Life (continued)

Typing class from my school 1958 - unfortunately I wasn't in this picture but these are my classmates.  I don't know where I was that day!

Picking up where I left off in my previous post of "Turning Points in my life":

A big turning point in my life was when I entered ninth grade and had to choose what educational course to take.

Of course I preferred the Academic course which was the college preparatory course. But when I told my Mother I was going to choose this course she told me "We're not going to pay for you to go to college.  You choose a course where you can get a job after high school."

Of course I was greatly disappointed because most of my friends were taking the Academic course. And remember how class conscious were were in high school, those who took the Academic course were the preferred students. The chosen anointed students. I wanted to be in that group. Plus, those who went to college and obtained a college degree were almost always assured of a good paying, interesting job, Mom gave me a reality check, I wasn't going to be a part of THAT group. Thus, what little self confidence took yet another knock.

I briefly considered getting scholarship but I knew I wasn't that smart. I was mostly a B student with a few A's and an occasional C.    

Another alternative was working my way through college. How was I going to do that?  I had no idea nor enough self confidence.

Another problem I had was that I had no car. Back then in the Fifties, one needed his or her parent's approval to buy a car before their 21st birthday. My parents would never sign for me. They told me that. Think they would buy me a car? Even a used one?  Out of the question.  So if I did go to West Chester State college, the nearest college to my hometown of Downingtown, how would I get there?  The obstacles were too great for me to overcome, at least I thought so at that time with my low self-confidence.

I had to choose another course. The options left to me are the following:


Actually, it was no choice. I had to choose the Commercial Course.  The course the "girls" choose.  Some guys chose the Commercial course but it was mostly girls. Well, I was one of the "girls", by default.

The other two remaining courses were totally out of the question.  The Agricultural course was for farmers. FARMERS. I don't know about the school you went to (in the Fifties), but being called a "farmer" was about the greatest insult a teenager in high school could be called.  No female ever took the Agricultural course. The guys who took it looked like farmers and generally smelled like farmers (always slight manure smell they had about them). And of course those guys lived on farms while going to school and were expected to return to their farms after graduating from high school.  I was a "townie".  That is, I lived in town.  I didn't live on a farm.  Taking the Agriculture course would be totally useless for me.

The last course was the General course. Everyone knew the General course was for the losers. And as much low self esteem I had, I didn't consider myself a loser. Not that kind of loser, with the greasy ducktail haircut and don't give a f-ck attitude.  

Now to make something perfectly clear. I have since become wiser in my old age and I now realize that the Agriculture course and General course were fine courses for those who took them. But back in those days, when peer pressure was very effective, I looked down on the guys who took those courses (and there were always guys who took the Ag course) as beneath me.  My bad.

Commercial course it was for me. 

One thing, I wasn't going to take shorthand. No was I going to be secretary.  Maybe a bookkeeper but not a prissy secretary.   Shorthand was out. In hindsight, that was a wise decision. Do you know of anyone who uses shorthand today? Neither do I.

I did take typing though. Reluctantly. And I had problems with typing. My first year I got D's. Barely passed. I just didn't get it.  Funny thing happened though, my second year of Typing class, I excelled and was awarded "Best Typist" in class. Of course I'm typing now. Typing is a skill I've used all my adult life and I use all my fingers, not just my two forefingers. My WPM (Words Per Minute) were 77.  And that was on a manual Underwood typewriter. That's why I think I would probably excelled at piano playing, one of my great regrets that I never learned to play the piano,

In my Commercial class there were only four of us guys. Me, Glenn M., Jim R., Don S. Three gay guys and one straight (found out later in my life). In fact Jim R, was a boyfriend of my Bill before I met Bill).  All the rest in my Commercial class were girls. Me and the girls, that was tough for the low self-esteem, very self conscious teenager that I was at that time. Just another chapter in my life that I felt I wasn't good enough. Of course later in my life I realized that I was good enough, I just chose a different course with some very fine people. And as it turned out I chose the right course.

The next chapter in my Turning Points was one of the most significant in my life.  Little did I realize at the time it was but a decision I made as a result of a misunderstanding put me on a totally different life course than I had planned for myself. A course which probably saved my life.  That I will write about in my next post. 


pat888 said...

Ron - wow 77 WPM on an underwood. You must have had biceps on your digits. I was in a 5 year course and I took typing which I've been forever grateful. Still a sloppy typist but way better than what I would have been without the practical training. Ours were old manuals too. Quite a feat getting the little pinkies to press those keys all the way down. You know I also had to study Latin and calculus. Typing turned out to be a way better investment of time.


nitewrit said...


When I went to Junior high I was put into an Academic section. This was not because I choose it, although I probably would have, not because anyone thought I was college material. Like you, my parents had told me early that I was not going to college. o, I was put in an Academic Section because I was in band. I was in band in elementary school (trumpet) and continued so in Jr. High. All the members of band were put in the same class because we had rehearsal period together a couple times a week. I did my three years in Academic not doing well. I almost failed ninth grade, mainly due to Algebra and Latin.
Luckily for me, we moved after ninth grade and that proved a fortunate turning point in my life. At Owen J. I was again faced with choosing a section. Because I didn't do well in North Grade at Downingtown, I decided to take something different.I basically had the same choices you did, Commercial, Agriculture or General. There was also Home Economics, but only girls were allowed to choose it. It was the female class rather than Agriculture, which at that time only boys could take. I certainly didn't want General. This was students who didn't care about school and dropped out by 16 or were into Mechanical Drawing. I choose Commercial.
On my first day of tenth grade I discovered I was the only boy in Commercial. As you have stated, peer pressure was big in those days and I had already taken enough bullying at D-town, so that afternoon I went down to the office and switched to Academic. I did much better in it using Senior High. I thought later I was dumb, though. If I had stayed in Commercial there would just be me and all those girls!


angie said...

Your story reminds me of my mother. She was one of 11 children and lived on a farm. Her parents didn’t want her to go to high school and wouldn’t pay for book fees because girls didn’t need an education. My mother was stubborn and wanted to go to h.s. I think she did sewing for others and cleaned barns to have the book money. She graduated in 1958. Her two younger sisters had to do the same so they could go to school. They were the only 3 of the 11 who received a diploma.
I did two years of typing in high school and its served me well.

Ron said...

I had a difficult time in my first year of typing (several D's) but finally caught on in my second year. My fingers are very dexterous. That's why I think I probably would have been a good pianist if I had ever pursued that skill. I envied my classmates whose parents made them take piano lessons. I would have loved to have piano lessons. I think I would have like to study Latin, because Latin is the basis of many of our words. Calculus? Even back then I didn't see the value of studying calculus or Algebra or slide rules. Of course that's now been proved true because of the easy access of computers to figure out these things for us. What I really wanted to do in school was have a home economics class but back in the Fifties that was unheard of for a boy to take such a class. So many ways the Fifties was backwards. At least students these days have the option to chose between shop and home ec.

Ron said...

What an inspiring story about your mother Angie. In our history, women even more than men have so often been held back from pursuing the education and occupations they want. Good for your mom!

Joel Reisteter said...

One of my big turning points in high school was in ninth grade as a freshman, I and several other students were selected by our guidance counselors and the principal to go the vocational-technical school route. To make a long story short, I took the electrical construction course. It worked out for a few years, but don't call me an electrician. Many years later I found out why I and others were sent to Vo-Tech. The V-T school was composed of three school districts in Lehigh & Northampton Counties. Anyway, in the Northampton Area School District, there was a bigot on the school board and he did not like Catholics to say the least, and wanted Bethlehem Catholic High School out of the V-T system. Anyway, there was a high school transfer in the cards for me, from the Catholic school system to the Bethlehem Area United School Districts.

Travel said...

I never took typing, 30 years on computers, and I have become quite good, and I so use all of my fingers, but probably not in the prescribed manner.

I worked my way through college, 10 years for a four year degree, and it was paid for when I finished (at a very nice private college.) I borrowed for law school, and took three wonderful years off from the real world in my late 30's to do it. (repaid the loans in 7.5 years.)

Ron said...

I wish I had your self-confidence at that age. I would have tried working my way through college. But by the time I got out of high school, I had such a low opinion of myself, working my way through college wasn't even a possibility. The best thing I ever did though was join the Army. After three years in the Army I matured and gain self-confidence. Best learning experience of my life. After getting out of the Army I got my college degree (Associate) by going to night school three nights a week for four years.

Ron said...

I don't understand.Are you Catholic and you were went to Vo-Tech to get you out of the school?

Ron said...

That peer pressure back in those days was something wasn't it? I probably wouldn't have succeeded in the Academic course anyway. I had no interest in Algebra or Latin. To me that was a waste of time. And now, many years later that has proven to be true. Who uses Algebra or Latin? Or slide rules? But much of what I learned in Commercial (Bookkeeping) I don't use either although those were my first job when I got out of the Army. Typing is the main thing I use. I'm using it now. I've used typing on every job I've had since I left the Army. My typing skills have always been an advantage for me. I just wish I had learned how to play the piano. I think I missed a big opportunity there.

Jon said...

I can identify with so many of the things you mentioned. My parents couldn't afford college, either - but I was never thrilled about it anyway. I finally went to college when I was about 24 (my memory is hazy) and majored in music (performance and conducting). I went for less than three years and only did it for the musical experience.

Much like you, I was one of the top two typists in my 9th grade class. It was me and a black guy named Kenny, who was one of my best friends. Strangely enough, none of the girls in my class were good typists.

I remember when the agriculture students (farmers) were viewed with disdain and made fun of.

Joel Reisteter said...

Ron, we were sent there so the Catholic high school still could have a presence in the vo-tech outcomes based educational (OBE) system.
As far as typing is concerned, I never took any classes, I just learned it on my own and I do quite well using four fingers - my index fingers and my thumbs.

Ron said...

More we have in common! Except the musical talent of course (smile). When I went to school, the guys in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) were viewed with scorn. Now I understand that was ridiculous because those guys did real work (keeping the family farm going). The greatest insult during my days in high school was to call someone a "farmer." Yet those who took the General course were the real losers but they weren't viewed with the disdain that the FFA guys were. So much in the societal pecking order in high school was wrong. Now I see that.

Ron said...

That's what those fingers (and thumbs) are for Joel!

Linda said...

My friend who retired as a major in the AF had much typing to do in his later career and in his stint in college and getting a MA at Georgia Tech. He related to me how he bought the best electric typewriter and depended on his wife to type. He had great regret that he did not take typing in the early fifties in high school. He said he was better than those in typing class since he took sciences and all the hardest math courses. He said it was a stupid attitude he had. He never did buy a computer because it was typing and he only used his index fingers. It is amazing how smart we become when we are older.

Ron said...

One of the best decisions I ever made, taking two years of typing. My Mother actually made the decision for me because when I was in high school we were only required to take one year of typing for the commercial course. When I quite bookkeeping in my senior year, I had study hall. She made me take typing because she said "You're not going to waste your time in study hall." Thank you Mom! That was one of the best decision you ever made for me!