08 Feb

Times were different in the 80s



You might find the poem here offensive. Or just stupid.

I found a bunch of my old stuff in a box upstairs. In it was this satirical poem I wrote in the first week of school in 1982, my senior year at Nathan Hale High School. I ran off ditto copies (if you remember “dittos” you are no longer young, folks) and distributed them throughout the school. If a high school student today wrote this, I have no doubt that he or she would be arrested and expelled, and it would probably make the local newscasts. But in 1982, nothing happened.

(Of course, I also didn’t get caught, and made darned sure I wasn’t going to. I assume that at this stage they can’t take my diploma away for revealing I was behind the prank!)

The story behind this was that there were some stupid new rules that came into effect that year, and a principal I didn’t like. (Why? I have no idea now.) One of the new rules was that, even though we had an open campus, you were not allowed to walk off campus if you were going to your car. As there weren’t really a lot of places within lunchtime walking distance (walking distance, yes. Getting there and back during lunch period, no) this had the de facto effect of closing campus without actually closing campus. Which seemed pretty stupid. They could not enforce it anyway, as it turned out. There was also a new stricter attendance policy and some other stuff that bothered me. So I wrote this, partially inspired by the then-recent movie Rock and Roll High School, in which the Ramones show up to incite high school rioting and then the school gets blown-up.

I suppose I might have gotten suspended if they had caught me, but back then this wasn’t the sort of thing they’d call the cops over. In retrospect I suppose someone could have overreacted and called it a death threat, though of course it was nothing of the sort. It was just a joke, in teenage bad taste, and it was many years before Columbine and other school shootings sensitized people to these things. There actually was a school shooting in the early 80s — Brenda Spencer, of “I Don’t Like Mondays” infamy. But it didn’t seem to affect the zeitgeist the way the 90s shootings did.

(Of course, even now the vast majority of kids who joke about blowing up their schools are still probably, like I was, completely harmless.)

I also ran a KAOS game on campus with the tacit approval of the administration. KAOS stood for “Killing As Organized Sport” (I know, I know) and it was basically a game where you would hunt down targets (other players who signed up for the game, never random bystanders) and shoot them — with squirt guns. Eventually there would be only two players left, both looking for each other. It was great fun and completely harmless — and if I was a current high school student and tried it, it would probably get me a psych eval, expulsion, and a police record. But we were just having fun goofing off with squirt guns.

Here’s page 2 of the poem. The photo above links to page 1.

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