Photo of porpoises off Masonboro Island.
Last spring I wrote my memories of 1968-69. I was in the fifth and sixth grade then and ended those stories with a statement about how excited I was to be going to Roland Grice Junior High School. I still remember that excitement, but it hit a wall about the middle of the first week of school and thereafter Junior High became what it is for most students, a nightmare. But there were bright spots, as I try to show in this story of a 13 year old infatuation for his teacher.
“The older I get, the better looking older women get,” my father confided in me one afternoon after we’d caught glimpse the lady two doors down who was out doing yard work in a swimsuit.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My Dad had never talked like that about any other female except for my Mom. But I knew what he meant. I’d just been thinking the same thing about my seventh grade math teacher and she looked mighty fine even though she was ancient. I bet she was staring thirty right in the eyes.
Under Mrs. Numbers tutelage, not only had we learned about adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing and fractions and so forth, but we were also introduced to probability analysis, although that was not in the curriculum approved by the school board. “What was the probability Mrs. Numbers would wear that short pink dress tomorrow?” we’d ponder on the school bus. Or “what chance did we have of her wearing that blue dress which caused her eyes to sparkle, accented her curves and showed as much cleavage that a teacher in 1970 could get away with?” By the end of the year, we had it all figured it out. Mrs. Numbers had ten dresses (two in particular that lit up the eyes of her male students) and she wore her dresses in a two week rotation, so that one week we had a Tuesday and Friday to look forward to and the next week we knew we’d be in a dry spell..
As a seventh grader, I hadn’t yet had the chance to learn the fine art of seduction. Like most new teenagers, I was a bumbling idiot with just two tricks up my sleeve. I could play the clown, which always got a few girls interested, but it wasn’t working with Mrs. Numbers. So I decided to try my other trick, to the play the bad boy. I was sure that Mrs. Numbers would be fall under my spell as she strove to save me from perdition. I’m not so sure why I thought this when she was married to a coach at the high school and I wasn’t even able to make the Jr. High team. But I’ve always set my goals high.
On this occasion I should have listened to Jerry’s admonishment at our six grade banquet that we not commit adultery during our Jr. High Years. That is, we should not be committing adultery if we wanted to stay on the straight and narrow. But Mrs. Numbers, like Eve’s apple, was just too tempting. I started playing the role of the bad guy.
A few days later, Mrs Numbers caught Mark and I doing something devious, probably shooting spitballs, and ordered us to stay after class. As this was the last class of the day and the buses left right away, we missed the bus. But this was okay, we thought, for we knew that Mrs. Numbers also lived down in the Myrtle Grove Sound area and we were sure she’d give us a ride. But she either didn’t want two aroused 13 year olds in her car or more likely wanted to make a point, so she sent us to the office to call our parents. Neither Mark nor I had a desire to make the point Mrs. K wanted us to make, so we cut out for South College Road and, facing traffic, stuck out our thumbs. For a long time, no one stopped which surprised us for we thought we were fairly innocent looking, not like the 7th grade felonies.
About the time it was beginning to look like we’d have to walk the five miles home, a brand new sedan flew by, then hit the brakes, screeching and throwing up dust as it pulled onto the shoulder and came to a stop. “It’s our lucky day,” I yelled as the two of us ran up to this car. Mark got there first and, looking back at me, had a worried look on his face. Immediately, I recalled those warnings about perverts picking up kids.
“Our luck just ran out,” Mark said as he started to open the door.
“Stop,” I said grabbing him by the shoulders, let’s just walk. That’s when I caught a glimpse of the driver. Mark was right, our luck had just expired. It was his Dad, and he didn’t look too pleased at the prospect of doing a good deed by giving us a lift home.
Mark’s dad was a car salesman and was test driving a new car that we’d not seen, that is we didn’t see it until it was too late. In that long drive home, which seemed to take as long as walking would have, he gave us a blistering lecture on how dangerous and idiotic our actions had been. But then, to our surprise, he dropped it and didn’t tell either of our mothers. I’m assuming this had nothing to do with benevolence; he just didn’t want to have our blood on his hands, or maybe the thought of his wife in the slammer for filicide would have weighed too heavy on his conscience.
As that six week term drew to a close in Mrs. Numbers class, the prospect of the unsatisfactory conduct grades on the dreaded report card loomed ahead, a fate just as scary as that terrible day of the Lord of which the Prophet Joel speaks. Mark and I began to make plans to run away from home. Our destination was Masonboro Island. We thought we could live like the hermit down at Fort Fisher, subsiding on a diet of fish and shellfish, and telling our story to those who pass by our way,
Living on Masonboro Island was going to take some ingenuity. There’s no fresh water on the island and I suggested we save saving scraps of plastic to make solar stills in order to produce fresh water. I’d tried this in scouts and figured that it’d take a dozen or so three foot solar sills to create enough water just to quench our thirst. We’d need another couple hundred to have enough fresh water for a shower. There were also other supplies to gather. We needed a tent and each a mess kit and some fishing gear and since it was baseball season, a radio with a season’s worth of nine volt batteries. We also needed some additional grub, as the spring of the year is about the worst time of the year to catch fish along the Carolina Coast.
By the time we figured out what we needed to set up for a lifetime of housekeeping on the island, there wasn’t a boat in Myrtle Grove Sound large enough to haul us and our gear across the waterway. We thought about commandeering the USS North Carolina, which was parked over in the Cape Fear River and wasn’t being used for much of anything but looks, but then we learned that it was stuck in the mud. That’s okay; we’d probably even have capsized it with all our junk. Mark never heard of downsizing and couldn’t be convinced to leave his baseball cards at home.
Soon the report cards came and we forgot about Masonboro Island and took our licks like men. As the azaleas started to bloom, I dropped Mrs. Numbers for a younger woman.
Other School Year Memories
Memories of '69
Memories of '68, Part 1
Memories of '68, Part 2
Memories of 68, Part 3
Memories of 68, Part 4