More About Silver Lake & Sanford Jr. High
Bob & I rode the bus to school in Sanford. It was a big city. I hated that school, except for band class. The kids in band were nice & that conductor was friendly. I got to be first chair flautist that year. It was an incredibly long bus ride.
There were mean girls at that Sanford Jr. High, where I was in the 7th grade. They wore Egyptian style eyeliner, jangly bracelets, high heels, tight black skirts & cashmere sweaters. Three of them would loiter at the door to the girls’ PE lockers. I dreaded going to PE, my first class each day.
“Hey! Here she is! Little Miss no tits.”
They’d laugh. “She doesn’t even wear a bra!”
One of the girls, a 9th grader with teased, shellacked, bouffant black hair-do, reached out every morning to run her hand down my spine. “No, still no bra.”
She chawed bubble gum & snapped it in my face. Sometimes, the PE teacher would break up their cluster. Other days, I’d have to shove my way through the gauntlet, using bony elbows against their soft arms.
“Ow, you are such a bitch!” They’d snicker.
Mom finally insisted on taking me brassiere shopping. It was humiliating. I’d never grow bosoms so why bother? Mother picked up a box. Maidenform.
“You’ll grow into this,” she stated.
No I wouldn’t. I knew I was doomed to look like a boy all my life. My mother insisted I wear that torpedo-shaped undergarment to school on Monday. I stuffed toilet paper into the cups. Otherwise, they’d collapse & look weird.
“Here she is!” The mean girls chanted.
“Oh my gosh! She’s got one on!” They all snapped their fingers. Mean beatniks.
I could not wait until Dad got another USGS assignment. Why couldn’t there be a small school closer to home? Kathi got to go to an elementary school near our house. Mom drove her over, she was too young to walk alone.
We kids Loved Silver Lake, trees hanging with Spanish Moss, swimming after school, lying in the sun. Playing with our dog, Gretchen. Running around our three acres, pretending to be pirates with cut-off saw palmetto fronds.
page from my photo album: top left, Gretchen von Elder had puppies when we lived in Bryson City, NC. top right, me giving Gretchen a bath in Silver Lake, FL: middle right, my 13th birthday party at our home (between Waycross & Hoboken, GA). We girls had been swimming in the Okeefenokee swamp right by our house; middle right: me wearing pink dress Mom made for trip from Florida to Washington D.C. Dad had interview for desk job with USGS. He drove Uncle Jack, Kathi & meto hear Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “That guy is going to change the world,” Dad said.
The neighbor kids were friendly at Silver Lake. Their father worked at the Air Force Base. He was involved in the space program, doing some sort of engineering. Dad was a civil engineer, so they’d talk about that while the women sat & smoked, drinking cocktails Mom mixed in the metal shaker. “Shaken, not stirred,” the men joked. My brother walked around in a red bathing suit, wearing sunglasses, saying “I’m Bob, James Bob.” The Bond films were all the rage.
One day, I got my friend to go running up the sandy lane with me to the asphalt highway that passed by the orange groves.
“Let’s see who can run the fastest!”
It was late Spring & I was in full mania. We ran for thirty minutes or more, until we were winded. Then strolled through the forest.
“What the HECK?” I pointed to a burned area, a perfect circle with three scorched ovals inside the bigger circle.
“Something landed here!” My friend was shaking.
“UFO!” I cried.
Rustling in the bushes. Something black ran out & across the pathway.
“Oh my God! An Alien! He got burned in the crash.” I screamed.
My father was a UFO believer. He was mapping near Roswell, New Mexico when that crash happened. He talked to the locals & knew the FBI had quieted the truth down. They’d carted away the poor, dead aliens & kept the secret so the public wouldn’t panic. Mom always told him to stop telling tall tales when he regaled me with these stories.
Dad told me Earth was populated, originally, by volunteer space explorers from other planets in far away galaxies. Black people from one planet, Caucasian, Asians, Aboriginals from others. Hopis, Sioux, Cherokee all came from separate planets. The experiment was to see if people of different worlds could all live together. They all took vows to improve life for all beings before getting into their space ships & heading toward Earth, the most fertile planet they could find that was not yet inhabited by intelligent beings.
“But they mated with primitive humans that evolved from chimps,” Dad warned. “That’s how they got thrown out of the Garden of Eden.”
“What do you mean? Who threw them out?”
We didn’t read the Bible in our house, my father was an atheist.
“If you screw up & go back on your vows, you’ll make a mess of your life.”
I took that to heart, vowing to keep vows.
My father read science magazines & loved Ray Bradbury’s stories. He was 100% for the space program. We kids were for it, too. Yeah! Some day, we’d all live in Outer Space!
My friend & I stared at the burned sand.
“This is an Emergency! Let’s get your father!” I shouted.
We took off & got to her house in no time flat. Banged the screen door into the kitchen.
“Daddy! Come Quick!”
The tall, thin man came out looking worried. He shoved his black glasses up & asked, “What’s going on.”
“A UFO!” we screamed.
“Calm yourselves. Walk me to where you saw this thing.”
“And a burned alien! Like at Roswell. My father said!” I was babbling.
We got to the location of the burned circle. The engineer bent down to examine it. He studied the ovals from every angle. He sniffed some of the burnt sand.
“I’d say this was a failed rocket that set down. Somebody’s toy.”
“Toy?” I was crestfallen. I wanted an alien invasion. Proof that Dad was right about Roswell.
“You know, all engineers fiddle around with stuff at home. One of the Air Force guys probably made a miniature disc, remote control. Landed it & sent it up into the air again. Nothing to get excited over.”
My cousin Mike made all sorts of gizmos. He even flew a remote control airplane for us one day up in Maryland.
“But what about the little black creature?” I asked.
“There are wild pigs all over the place down here. That was just a black boar. Now you girls go play quietly. Settle yourselves.” He ambled along with us down the sandy path toward home.
My friend & I walked to the lakeside & sat down. We talked about boys. She had a crush on a red-headed guy named Tommy. He had freckles & was nice.
I was madly in love with Doug Button, a trumpeter in band class. We’d gone on an all day field trip to play in a state competition. We competed against other schools & did individual recitals. It was scary!
Boys & girls had to dress in black & white: black trousers, white shirts for the boys, with neckties. Black skirts, white blouses for the girls. Mom made me a cute, shiny pink necktie. I always wanted to dress more like a boy than a girl. But girls weren’t allowed to wear pants in those days.
As we were getting settled on the bus, Doug came up to me & said, “Let me fix your tie.” He took hold of the knot & arranged it neatly.
I was blushing like mad. The other musical girls whispered, “He likes you!”
My friend was in awe. Doug Button was the cutest boy at Sanford Jr. High. He had black hair, with long bangs. Dark brown eyes. He was taller than most of the 7th grade boys. He dressed real fine..
“He’s so fine!” we sang, trying to sound like The Chiffons.
Romance filled our heads, blocking out War of the Worlds images.