My first experience with Wilbur was watching The Music Man in '67 or '68 I think. Two years later, I’d participate in Oliver. It was a huge transformation to go from elementary school to junior high. Lockers, 7 periods, snack bar, snack machines and a cafeteria – things not available in elementary school then.
AND, to hone my tough-guy image, Wilbur had an open campus so that if I were on the Mitchell Park side of the path, I could smoke cigarettes with the 8th and 9th graders. Not a lot of us 7th grade smokers during my first semester.
Ahh, and then there was Miss Heilman, my 7th grade homeroom teacher that I had a crush on. In her enthusiasm, she’d pound the podium teaching Western Civilization. Back then, some teachers wore “mini skirts” (grrrrououwwwwwww). Years later, she’d recall that I was scholarly (no doubt she had me mix up with someone else).
Then there was Vice Principal Mr. Leon, who every morning would ride his bike past us smokers at the BBQ area of Mitchell Park (“back then,” teachers and staff lived and worked in the same city, or very close by). We’d exchange pleasant good mornings. That was one thing, I was never tardy for school. I’d get to the BBQ area at about 7:15am with some scrap pieces of wood from new homes being built. We’d burn them in the BBQ’s for warmth during the winter.
Bell bottoms had just come on the scene and although we weren’t into styles and brands, if you were cool, you wore bell bottoms, and if you wore bell bottoms, you were cool. In 8th grade, me and 5 others were “busted” by the Palo Alto Police. Using “narcs on bikes” (Palo Alto Times ran a story on this elite group), they staked out Hoover Park where we were passing around a joint. They had long hair, beards and beads, and they swooped down on us so fast, we were still wondering what was going on while we were being cuffed and police cars driving through the park to pick us up. We were taken to the new jail (now old) and 3 of us were put in one room and three in the other room. We were transported to Juvenile Hall in San Jose where our parents picked us up that evening. Back in the days of “hands on” parenting, I was surprised that my parents were not as pissed as I thought they were going to be. But, like the rest of my peers, my parents were on the verge of a divorce. Being busted only increased our “coolness.” For the most part, even us “at risk” (that term wasn’t around back then) kids made it through school and eventually to college. While there were clearly different groups of kids, there wasn’t much division between the groups. In fact, there was probably a mutual respect for different group’s personalities.