39. QUEEN ANNE HIGH SCHOOL part I

My older brother William’s reputation had preceded me. I arrived at my counselor’s office for my appointment to lay out my course of studies. “I remember your brother William”, said the stern Mrs. Lawson, her stiff white blouse buttoned all the way up to her neck and her severe haircut framing her pale face. She had an iron grip on her pen and barely looked at me as she went over her paperwork. “You’ve indicated an interest in art courses. Well, I can tell you that it won’t begin to prepare you for life in the real world. Your brother isn’t working at his grade level and has been missing classes. I hope you’re able to perform in a more consistent manner.” I assured her that I was already working as an apprentice in my father’s commercial art business and wasn’t requesting art courses for an easy grade but had a sincere desire to pursue art as a career path.

Fortunately, I had already satisfied my science and math requirements and Mrs. Lawson seemed willing to let me take the classes I had suggested as long as I rounded out my course of study with English and Social Studies classes. Dad had wanted me to take some Physical Education classes and I didn’t see any harm in it. I made sure that it was my first period class so that I could catch a later bus and still shower before school began.

I was determined to not be intimidated by the older students and established myself in the Student Union Center where the politically progressive students discussed the radical issues of the day. I stayed abreast of antiwar protests coordinated through the University of Washington and other college campuses around town.

The Student Union had begun some years earlier as a social outlet for students to meet each other outside of the school’s more sanctioned activities of sports, dances and extra mural activities and clubs. I had no interest in participating in football games and didn’t bother going to the school dances where the rigid social caste system determined who was popular and who wasn’t. Those students now met in cafes outside the school grounds and areas near the campus where they could show off their cars, smoke cigarettes and try to look tough. The other socially suspect students were welcome in the Student Union Building, a portable classroom situated adjacent to the cafeteria. Some of my friends were on the Steering Committee and scheduled radical speakers and organized protest actions that seemed to validate some of the naïve activities I’d engaged in during junior high school. 

The more creative students; writers, musicians, the drama crowd and visual artists occupied areas near those departments. After some time in the art room the older students who were there for an easy grade began asking my advice on their projects. I also started developing friendships among my brother’s circle of friends.

The older students were beginning to realize that they would soon be subject to the Selective Service Administration and would be drafted into the U. S. Army action in Vietnam unless they could obtain a deferment. The war had been going on for years and only a concerted effort to resist United States policy seemed adequate to effect some positive change. Racial inequality also rose to paramount importance and militant activities were evident in the music and popular culture that was in the air. 

So a delicate balance required that I attend to my studies and excel in my art activities, stay out of trouble with the school authorities while courting progressive politics and developing my own sense of worth.