The Flag Salute at School
And so did I, had a sense of humor at least. Because I would tell
Frank the story of flag salutes at school. Where the flag salute was
read aloud, and not just by a teacher at the front of the room any more,
as this was a fancy Claremont High School now.
were small loud speakers installed in each room, from whence various
commands would be issued ... "Required Attendance at School Assembly" or
every morning the flag salute would drone out through the speaker.
sit in class in the new campus of the new high school with specially
designed windows, high up in the wall, so you couldn't look out the
window any more and just concentrate on what the teacher was saying and
also so we would evade being injured by flying glass in the event of the
shock wave from some nuclear catastrophe. And that last part was the
architect's actual intent when pushing to have his feature installed in
public buildings around town, and I guess he had clout at the time as
those same windows are in the new Library in Claremont, too.
they'd recruit kids from the drama class to read the flag salute back
in 1961 at the new new windowless rooms on the new campus . One fellow in particular .... you could tell he didn't like to do that, even though he was an audio visual helper and could set up the projector and movies for the required viewing in the AV department.
When drafted for flag salute duties, he'd turn on the microphone and announce the flag salute, and we would rise. Then he would stall, and stand there for more than a few minutes wondering what the hey? During which time all you'd hear were the sound of papers rustling amplified through the microphone and soon the sound of the door opening and a teacher saying, "Michael!"
Michael was one of the
kids in drama and he usually acted up, as actors are sometimes wont to do.
In the mornings, for the early arrivals to school, he would stealthily play a record across the loud speakers during home room before the teachers arrived.
One day, he read the flag salute aloud and stumbled through the words like a near-illiterate child trying to learn to read.
And he would also stick in funny lead-ins to
the flag salute ... which the teachers would warn him about, and they went back and forth like this long enough so that one time he completely rebelled.
On that fateful day, he called the children to
"Stand for the flag salute."
And we all stood there with hands clasped
over our hearts waiting for him to begin reading the flag salute, so we could recite along in unison.
We stood there hands over heart when
he said "Achtung, achtung!"
This command went out over the tinny loudspeaker directly into
every classroom simultaneously as all the kids were waiting for the
first line of the flag salute.
Which got him in a lot of trouble. I
mean, I think he was expelled.
Frank would hear those
stories from me about what I did in school that day or what happened at
school. Or I'd save them up for the next time I might happen to see
I could almost never win against that
administration in school. They ran the place very strictly, with this
big aura around it that was very right wing at the time, so the place
felt like a Nazi obedience factory.
I'd unknowingly wear skirts that were a quarter
inch too short, and my skirts would be measured by a teacher with a
ruler while I stood on the stairs ... and I'd have to go into the vice
principal's office and explain why I couldn't be sent home to change
(because I lived miles away and we only had one car in the family, and
my sister was at work with her car) .. though one time they did send me home, where I remained for the day. I wore
a black pleated skirt at the time, and I wore it five or six times to school, but
I was caught twice. So they'd tell us how to dress, how to do everything,
how to think, try to mold our minds, and .... I always seemed to be
noticed when I wavered from the path of the straight, virtuous, and true
minded of the white buckskin shoe set. Even though I was wearing white
buckskin shoes that had real functioning little ivy league buckles on the heel in an
attempt to fit in so I wouldn't be noticed.
make the mistake at school of talking in home room before class started,
and this was a Republican town, and I'd be talking with the boys who
played tennis, participated in the science fairs (of course) and over-achieved in other ways because I'd be required to
sit at that table, so I'd attempt to bring up the morning newspaper as
light conversation, and I'd say, "Richard Nixon! What a .... " and Johnny would agree
with me, which amazed me no end, and he'd say, "Richard Nixon is a
fool!" At which point the home room teacher who taught my Latin class
would swoop over and scold us, angry and shake his finger at us and yell in a loud voice, and remind us to say "I think .... " to
own our opinions and not just hurl insults, so we learned to say "I
think Richard Nixon is a fool" as that was ok to say, at least in
certain circles even in the school. And so did Frank, and all of us in
my family think Richard Nixon was a fool, so I could tell that story at