The above photo was taken in May of 1959. It shows my entire sixth grade class, with our teacher, Mr. Warren, to the right (YOUR right) of the principal, Mr. Long. I am located in the middle row at your extreme right. That little boy with the strained smile and the upswept hair- is yours truly.
Memory provides me with the names of almost three quarters of these people. The scowling boy in front of me, sitting on the bench, recently got in touch with me. He's a successful attorney with kids and grandkids. He was always affable and known as a superb athlete. When I tap his memory, things look very different from the way they look in my own memory. My classmate remembers not only the shoes he was wearing that day, he remembers the shoes I was wearing that day.
Most of these kids were eleven or twelve. Sixth grade was the last moment of innocence before we were pushed into Junior High School and the fierce competition that would ride on our backs like flying monkeys all through high school.
WE HAD NO IDEA THE HELL THAT WAS WAITING FOR US!
Some of these kids look dumb as telephone poles and others look like they're plotting to bomb the school. I'm positive that at least one of the boys farted. I'm also positive that at least one of the girls suppressed a fart, thereby precipitating her very first menstrual period.
The guy standing next to me, whose name was Lansing Boyles-Hertz, invented a working time machine in 1967. He went back to see his father during the Battle Of The Bulge and accidentally shot his dad in the head. Lance wasn't seen after that. He erased his own existence. The tall guy in the top row is in the Witness Protection Program. The boy standing just below the teacher is doing time for arson, and the guy next to him is now the Rabbi at United Hebrew, St. Louis' largest Reformed congregation.
That was the sixth grade. At the time there were only three billion people in the world. A mere fifty two years ago.