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My own personal transition between eighth and ninth grades may have entailed somewhat more change than that of many other American teenagers of the era.
Not only did I switch schools (and to a much larger and more diverse student body), but my family switched homes too. Moved from an idyllic forest setting I'd truly loved as a child, to smack in the center of town, only maybe six or seven blocks from things like the county courthouse and city police station.
I wasn't fond at all of the new location in town. But I'd also not been too keen on the increasingly crowded country home in which we'd previously resided. For I'd had to share my bedroom there with two little brothers-- with a third soon to follow (he was presently a baby).
My two sisters in their own room were a bit less crowded, though.
The fresh home was something like the fresh school: much bigger and more complex than the previous version. So big in fact, that it had five official bedrooms, and up to three more rooms which could be used so without unduly interfering with typical home functionality!
It had two bathrooms too-- which was a big improvement over the single in our earlier home. Especially for an eight-person family!
The above pic closely resembles the view in my parents' driveway between the carport and the two-story garage out back (the lower level is underground from this perspective, opening out to a sunken alley behind the house). This garage was too cramped for modern cars, so rarely and briefly ever housed any. But maybe 80% of the transformation of my 1969 Mustang into a supercar would take place in the open, empty, outdoor space seen here.
The house seen above roughly resembles the house in the city into which we moved, just prior to my freshman year in high school. I believe the style would be classified as a two story Craftsman bungalow. The house had originally been built by a well-off doctor, in the 1920s or 1930s I believe.
My family still lived from paycheck to paycheck, mainly getting ahead by strenuously scrimping, scavenging, recycling, and junk-storming our way into the lower middle-class. Both my parents worked full-time to keep our family of six kids fed and clothed and safe.
I was the oldest child, and so helped a lot to raise my younger siblings.
We would be fated to struggle with the heating bills for our new home for quite a few winters, as it burned expensive heating oil in a basement furnace. And being of nearly century-old construction, it had zero insulation anywhere in the structure. Yikes! Being so old, the house had also developed many cracks through settling over decades. So it was unusually well-ventilated. In summers this was helpful (there was no air conditioning). In winters it was not.
One winter when we couldn't afford the oil, we had to use wooden panels to close off most of the house and all of us sleep on the living room floor, around the wood-burning fireplace, during the coldest nights.
As the house utilized water-filled radiators, many of them froze and burst when the house went without heat under frigid outside conditions. All we could do was close off those plumbing connections and make due with what we had left afterwards.
My dad, ever the improviser extraordinaire, eventually managed to convert our oil burning furnace into one we could feed wood and coal instead. This new flexibility would help us be more comfortable in the winters to come.
Unfortunately for me and my new school mates, our freshman, sophomore, and junior years would be anarchic ones for our rural institution. Compared to earlier school years, the frequency and severity of violence apparently went through the roof, sending the drop out rate soaring. Kids were killed. Sometimes accidentally, sometimes not. I guess drug use boomed too-- but luckily I somehow was spared much personal experience with that. Local officials experimented with all sorts of measures to stem the awful tide. Multiple principals came and went (were fired or quit).
The switch to high school also helped put the finishing touches on the loss of my best friend from childhood: Dana Connor.
Dana and I had been tightest from second grade through fourth. Then her family had moved away so I didn't see her at all during fifth grade, and thought I might never see her again.
By sixth grade she was back in my life again, but only at school: in our previous stint she'd also been practically my next-door neighbor at home, too.
Dana and I both hit puberty and things got rocky between us. Then along came ninth grade and high school, and our split got much worse.
So in some ways I was cast totally adrift during my freshman year in high school. Having left behind an awful lot of what I was familiar and comfortable with: my childhood, my beloved woods, and my best friend.
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