Salem’s Class of 2005, a look back at the Middle School years

This is part 2 of a 3-part series at the Salem High Class of 2005, which graduated 10 years ago this month. Yesterday’s post is on K-5.

Middle school was under and over-sold in all the wrong ways. In 5th grade it was how they had to prepare us for middle school, that we weren’t going to be coddled, no more “spoon feeding”, whatever that meant. This was The Real World, where this was somehow a tween Fight Club. I remember thinking on the way in and on the way out, “This wasn’t hard at all.” I suspect teachers still sell this line today, like parents proclaiming they’re going to call the police on their kids.

Mr. Selman, 6th Grade

From the Class of 2005 and earlier, Mr. Selman is legendary. He moved to California after my class came through, but everyone before us remember’s his sparse corner class room. There were a few things about Mr. Selman that stick out:

  1. He had a specific sweater and pant outfit for each day of the week. Monday was red, I think. Ever Monday. Tuesday was UK Blue.
  2. He had a giant pointing stick that was a big wooden finger at the end.
  3. His Friday morning extracurricular activity was called “Current Events”.

You may not remember Current Events because so few people took part in it. It was “boring” compared to the other activities, where we’d take a look at the news and discuss, well, current events.

I remember myself, the late Gary Hartsook, Mark Fanning (both of whom were two years my senior), and I believe Thomas Smith, all together in this room. There may have been one or two more people.

Mr. Selman decided because we were such a small group we’d just rename it to “doughnuts” and every Friday morning there were fresh H&R Bakery doughnuts for us. Yeah, you didn’t even know, did you? Best kept secret in school.

Mrs. McKay, 6th Grade

In the graduation from 5th to 6th grade, we know longer had “English”, but “Writing and Language Arts”. One wonders how “writing” isn’t already a “language art”, but I’m 11, so okay, I’ll play along.

Mrs. McKay was gone one day, but left explicit instructions for the substitute teacher. We were to write a letter to a contact at the National Archives, where we’d also attach and submit a piece of writing we did. I’m sure the Archives promptly filed it in a dumpster, but this is what we were to do.

Except the substitute caused a problem when, instead of addressing the letters to Ms. So-and-So (I don’t remember her name), we were told to address it to “To Whom it May Concern”.

It was anarchy. No one knew who this “Whom” character was, but we were sure we didn’t like it or trust him. There was yelling, I’m pretty sure Tyler Trueblood cried or something. To us and our tiny mob mentality, everything was ruined. So we did it to appease the man but we knew everything was just wrong.

Mr. Vannoy, 7th Grade

Mr. Vannoy was an occupier. An interloper. A rabble-rouser who couldn’t be trusted.

First he comes in and takes Mr. Selman’s classroom. Then, all sorts of shuffling happens with teachers and grade levels and none of us liked it.

I had two big beefs with Mr. Vannoy and his language arts class.

Mr. Vannoy kept this can of Campbell’s Beefy Beef Stew on his bookcase and would point at it whenever he thought a paper wasn’t “beefy enough”. I had no idea what that meant. I still have no idea what that means.

But whatever I wrote, it was never beefy. He constantly gave me C’s on papers. I was so confused by this because everyone else gave me A’s and even the State of Indiana saw fit to tell me I was doing fine. What’s this guy’s problem?

Jessica Gilstrap, however, would always do fine. I couldn’t figure out why. And the one day he sat down and explained it to me.

“You need to make your writing more descriptive and detailed,” he said, as his pillowy mustache wiggled across his upper lip (Detailed enough for you, eh?).

To me this was awful. I hadn’t found books I liked yet, but I knew which ones I didn’t like: all the ones in the library. They were fiction and had sentences like, “The dark blue car thundered down the dusty and worn dirt road.”

This bored the everlasting shit out of me. Cars don’t thunder, thunder thunders.

“But I don’t like the author telling me what to think, I like to fill in some of those details myself,” I replied. To this day I’m the same way. Don’t tell me what color the curtains are, I like to fill in those details myself with environments I’m familiar with.

This did not go far. I think the response was something like, “Well, just do it.”

To this day I still do not like reading fiction. I started reading the first Harry Potter book that came out that year and made it 4 chapters in when I realized I hated it. Then he decided to make the class read it as a whole. Now I really hated it. And I still dislike Harry Potter to this day.

Mrs. Mahuron, 7th Grade

My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 7th grade. It was the morning of our Rube Goldberg machine demos and I was responsible for getting it to school so Andria Wiseman, Randy Hamilton, and myself could present it in Mrs. Mahuron’s class.

I had rarely ever missed a day of school. Since 1st grade’s chicken pox, I had perfect attendance. Except that January 20, 2000. I was at the hospital watching the busses roll by. I’m sure both of them were about to throw up not knowing where everything was, but there was nothing I could do. The next day I came to Mrs. Mahuron with perhaps the best excuse and reason she ever heard: “Sorry about not being here yesterday. My mom had a seizure and stroke and we spent all day figuring out she has cancer. Can we try again tomorrow?”

Mr. Myszak, 8th Grade

Algebra became a thing we had to learn in 8th grade. Mr. Myszak and I shared one and only one thing in common: a genuine love of ER. So each Thursday I’d tape ER for him so he could watch it because he invariably couldn’t stay up late and evidently couldn’t program a VCR.

Mrs. LaFollette, 8th Grade

I’m not entirely sure why all my memories seem to be from English classes, but I remember sitting in Mrs. LaFollette’s English class and Chris Wright asked a question like, “Do we return the books to the library?”

To which I replied, “No, we just throw them away when we’re done.”

I didn’t even think about what I was saying as I was saying it. It just came out, and I had a moment where I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that?”

Mrs. LaFollotte, not even bothering to look up from her papers on her desk said, “Which one of your parents uses sarcasm?”

I was slightly confused, maybe because I didn’t realize fully what sarcasm was, or that my parents used it. But today I can answer that: it was mom.

The Post-Columbine Threat

The Columbine High School shooting happened sometime when we were in 7th or 8th grade. The event had everyone on edge and when someone started putting death threat notes in lockers, people were scared.

So scared that Louisville news stations showed up to cover the story and no one felt safe. Parents were pulling kids out of class and taking them home. I remember going to school one day when the absence rate was somewhere around 70%. I sat in an English class with 3 people and played a board game. Mom eventually came to get me because, “We saw on the noon news more threats were made.”

In retrospect, I can see how most parents were absolutely terrified. The school didn’t do much because what could they? No one knew that you had to have metal detectors, cameras, and police presence. Though the police were there, it didn’t matter. Until the suspected student was caught, no one came to school.

Other Notes

Brittany Hacker somehow dated me for two years, but had a crush on Jordan Hobson. Hindsight is 20/20.

Donald Stinnette, for all the things people love and hate about him, gave me my start in computer tech.

Mrs. Barrett started her “Kool Kreations” Small Business group. Heather Kidd (Gurt) and myself (Dingus), were (if I remember correctly) Treasurer and President, respectively. We made T-Shirts on Saturday mornings with Evan Gorman and a few others, and that was fun.

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1 thought on “Salem’s Class of 2005, a look back at the Middle School years”

  1. I remember that with Mrs. Barrett! I learned to do the receipts in Access, which I’m not even sure that computer program still exists.

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