America’s Oldest Teenager

Maybe it’s because it’s a gloomy day but more likely because Dick Clark recently passed away that I’ve been thinking about that period of my life, the 1950’s. I was attending Denny Junior High in Seattle. It was my first experience with getting to know a lot of different people. I don’t think I harbored any strong feelings about race but I did learn that the first Black people I interacted with were just like everyone else, a lesson I’ve remembered ever since. There was “Roy” (and his last name was not “Rogers”) who was a bully who used to use his size and strength to go around pounding on his fellow students. I remember he beat up one of my friends pretty bad. But there was also “Curtis” who was one of the nicest, most sincere people I’ve ever met. In those days, we didn’t have “skaters” or “emos.” We did have the self-styled bad asses who emulated bad boy Presley (in their minds at least) by wearing chinos, leather jackets and long greasy hair cuts called the “Duck Ass.” I walked to school and one afternoon on my way home, I was confronted by a gang of Elvis imitators. There was five of them and one of me. The leader said something like, “Give us your money kid.” They were surprised when I started laughing. The switch blades came out and I was still laughing as I turned out my pockets showing them I didn’t have a penny to my name. They put their blades away, recognizing a fellow ingrate and moved on. Today, they would have probably cut me up just for the sport of it but things weren’t quite as tense then as they are today. Mom always made my lunch and gave me just enough change to buy a carton of milk. The President wasn’t the only one who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. When I got home each day, I did my home work but I always managed to tune in to American Bandstand. For many years, I had the pleasure of seeing the likes of Chuck Berry and many other icons of rock n roll courtesy of Dick Clark. I learned to dance by watching the Philly teens on the show doing the latest steps, the “Bugaloo,” the “Stroll,” the “UT,” and of course, my favorite ( which I later won a couple of dance contests doing) the “Twist.” Someone once said ( I think it was me ) that while you can never go back, you can look back. I guess this is one of those times. Rest in peace Dick.


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