Wednesday, November 30, 2005

1975

I wasn't ready for college when I graduated high school in 1975. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. High school felt safe and I knew what was (or wasn't) expected of me but I was glad that it was over because I was getting nothing out of it. Thomas Jefferson HS was a lab experiment of sorts and we students were the lab rats. Modular scheduling was the latest improvement and for students who loved to screw off, this new structure, or lack of it was our friend. Modular scheduling divided the school day into 24 'mods' of 20 minutes each. You would schedule your classes and where you didn't have classes you would have free mods to do with what you wanted. I remember on Wednesdays and Fridays having a class for the first 3 mods of each day and no classes the rest of the day. I learned early on that in a family of 6 siblings all I really needed to do was to maintain good enough grades to keep the folks from having to get involved. There was very little incentive to do any more than what was necessary. I chose the path of least resistance and found myself ill prepared for college in the fall of 1975. Paying for college would've been a whole other issue and I never got that far in my thinking.

Since January of 1975 I'd been living with my sister, Claudia at the Stagecoach apartments in Bloomington. My dad's job had relocated him to Pottstown and I was given the opportunity to remain behind and finish high school. I suppose I gave it some serious thought for all of 2 seconds before deciding that it would be in my best interest to stay behind and finish the education I wasn't getting at Jefferson HS.

Dad took me out and got me a green, 1970 For Maverick with 3 on the tree shifting and plaid seats. It was a great little car with 50k on it. AM radio was about all I knew of back then and it suited me just fine.

After high school I moved 30 miles north to live with my sister, Jackie and her husband Jerry in their apartment in New Hope. I'm not sure where I would've gone had they not offered me a place to live. Possibly out east to PA.

I worked a job for the first month or so out of school at a place called, Minter Brothers in Golden Valley. We put state government licensing stamps on packages of cigarettes. I couldn't have lasted long there because I remember working most of the summer at Northland Aluminum in St. Louis Park. If you've got a bundt pan in your cupboard there's a good chance it came from Northland. In their break room was the place where I first experienced the joys of microwave cooking. I remember heating a poptart with the foil wrapper still on and having it catch fire. I didn't do that again. I worked the late night shift and while on break I used to sit in my car and listen to Radio Mystery Theater on wcco. I used to wear a pair of large, bulky headphones while working the line and listen to Hobbs House on WCCO...anything to pass the time.

In the fall I took a job at the Holiday gas station west of county road 18 on highway 55. That was back in the day when gas was priced around 60c per gallon and kids not sure what they wanted to do with their lives pumped it into your car for you...in addition to cleaning your windshield and checking your oil. I also enrolled at Hennepin County Vocational school in Plymouth to study drafting. Drafting was about the only job I could think of which held any interest for me as a possible career. I went through the motions at school for a couple months but I never really threw myself into my studies. I wasn’t necessarily striking out but I wasn’t getting any hits either.

It was around this time that Jackie suggested I go and talk with the Navy recruiter. I’d never before given much if any thought to enlisting in the service but I figured a talk with the recruiter couldn’t hurt.

I went to the recruiter's office in I think Robbinsdale and talked with a guy named Chuck Wilson. We talked for a bit and he scheduled me to come back and take an exam which if I decided to enlist would help determine what sort of job and schooling I would qualify for. I took the exam and scored well enough to get a seat at the Radarman school near Chicago after Bootcamp. I still wasn’t convinced that I would enlist and then the time came for me to go in for the physical. I remember asking Chuck how far into the process I could go and still back out. It was then that he told me I could go until I signed my name and raised my right hand but that when a guy goes for the physical they like to think a prospective recruit has made a commitment at that time. I remember thinking about that as he drove me downtown for my physical. I think it was in his car on the drive that morning that I decided I would enlist.

Three weeks later was New Years 1976 and I remember being in bootcamp thinking how just three weeks earlier, joining the Navy was the furthest thing from my mind…but there I was…no hair and quickly leaving my old world behind.

I don’t know that I ever talked with Mom and Dad about my decision to enlist or if I sought out their advice...I suppose I did, I just don’t remember. Bryan and Jerry were encouraging to me at the time. I’d learn later that Dad was also a radarman while he was in the Canadian Navy. Being a radarman I suppose paved the way for me getting into air traffic control because I doubt I would’ve shown much interest in the field had I not had some previous radar experience.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts from 1975.

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