The Way We Were – 1942-45 & 1967-70

Part Twenty-eight

As the years have passed, it has been quite interesting what former students, now long-time adults, even friends, will recall and reveal to their former teacher or principal. Adulthood has obliterated the line between the kid full of hi-jinks and the authority figure who might have called him or them into accountability. This story from Episode #2 (1967-70) came to me years after its occurrence and humorously related by an unremembered witness.
It was the evening of the Christmas concert and Vera Miller was vocal instructor. Custodian John Torgerson had placed the school’s risers near the east end of the new gym. Mrs. Miller had arranged the students in customary fashion, boys in the back and girls in the front. She had everything under control (as far as I knew) so I, as principal, simply faded into the crowd to enjoy the music.
The glee club was well into its concert with Mrs. Miller using her baton to direct their voices. As an aside, it is very possible that the young lady at the piano that evening might have been the one to whom I now send my stories, hoping she’ll catch the typos I may have missed! If so, she’s Wanda (Senska) Swenson.
(Editor note: Wanda did accompany choruses in high school, as did Gwen Senska and Darla (Feistner) Kempf, so it was undoubtedly one of those three accompanying that night.)
To continue the concert story, in the back row stood a young man with white shirt and tie looking poised and proper. He assumed a part of a well-rehearsed choral group but was actually the epitome of deception and the maker of mischief. Some few inches ahead of him stood a row of lovely 15, 16 and 17-year-olds, all dressed in their finest—long, colorful formals, most of them closed in the back with zippers from neck to waist. It was too much for that young lad to resist. I would suppose he continued singing or at least mouthed the words as he raised one finger and placed it on the zipper of the girl ahead of him. What she thought of that subtle pressure, she alone knows. Without moving the zipper, he slowly traced his finger down her spine until he reached the end of the zipper. What she could not know, she imagined.
Picture the young couple, isolated in public view, momentarily engaged in an unthinkable interlude. She in front with distraction, fear and panic, not daring to disrupt the music. He in back enjoying his part in the concert with the knowledge that she would do nothing. He also knew he was doing nothing destructive, physically painful or immoral. But she could picture her gown falling in a heap at her feet in the public of her peers, as well as parents and friends.
Now, it was true that her gown was in perfect shape and her torture lasted but a few minutes. It was equally true that it would have been a huge and startling curtain closer had she whirled around in the middle of the song and slapped that youthful male alongside the head! From my inconspicuous position as a spectator, I would have been astounded, along with several dozen other viewers. But looking back, what a delightful and satisfying ending to the total picture that would have been! What would Mrs. Miller have done? What should I have done?
In reality, Mrs. Miller knew nothing, the principal knew nothing, most of the students knew nothing, and I suppose everyone has lived happily ever after. As Kelly Larson and I relived that ludicrous event a few months ago, he told me what I had not known—the name of that rascal. The feminine singer he did not recall, but the boy he did. And I might now ask, what is your version, Billy Zell?

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