I had gone to the same elementary school
since kindergarten, so I knew a lot of people and got along with everybody.
Even the teachers!
When I went to junior high, which was a lot bigger, I was surrounded by
friends and still liked school.
But all that changed during the summer between seventh grade and eighth
grade. We were notified that a new junior high was being built and I had
been assigned to attend the new school. Our house was a block north of the
boundary for my old junior high.
A new school! As a Christian I guess I should’ve just accepted what was
happening, but I didn’t. Instead I went into a meltdown, allowing a whole
bunch of negative thoughts to take over my brain.
“Be anxious for nothing,” “All things work together for good,” and similar verses never entered my mind.
The new junior high was still under construction and would be for a long
time. That meant going to classes in bungalows. It also meant a lot of
noise from all the equipment. It was the last place I wanted to be.
But when you’re thirteen it seems like nobody really cares what you want,
and my parents really had no choice anyway. I was assigned to the new
junior high and that’s where I’d be going. But I wasn’t looking forward to
it. Most of my friends lived south of the boundary.
They’d be going to my former school.
Robert Fulton Junior High. That was the name of the new school. And when I
got there that first day, it was pretty much as I expected. Yes, there were
a few permanent buildings, but everything else was bungalows. Even the
administration building, where the offices were, was a large bungalow.
At my old junior high there was an auditorium and a gym and a cafeteria. No auditorium or gym at the new school. And instead of a cafeteria, there was this building where you stood in a line, walked up to a window, and paid for your food, which you had to eat outdoors. And September in Southern California is usually hot.
But something positive did happen that first day at Fulton. I was walking along and suddenly heard my name. I looked around. It was my friend Joe! He didn’t go to my old school. He was a friend from church! Right away I felt better. The Lord had sent me a friend just when I needed one.
And even though most of the kids were strangers to me on that first day, they didn’t stay strangers for long. I saw them every day, after all, and it wasn’t long before I had a lot of new friends. Including this one boy named Lee. We got along really well from the beginning, and eventually he became my best friend.
One thing we did together was volunteer to work at the food building. Our job was to stand at the windows and give the kids whatever they wanted to order, and of course take their money. We didn’t get paid, but we got free food. I liked that part! We were inside, too, and the building was air conditioned. I still remember the names of the ladies who worked in that food building. Caroline was in charge and the other two were Cleo and Marie. Marie was my favorite.
Lee and I weren’t just friends at school. Like one time the organist at my church, who was also a piano teacher, had a recital for her students. Lee and I not only went, but we stood at the door and passed out programs as people entered the building. It was fun.
Of course I also invited Lee to visit my church. At any school, but
especially a new one, it helps to get involved in a lot of activities.
Since I was in the youth choir at church, I joined the glee club at Fulton.
I was also in the drama club and even starred in the first play ever
produced at Fulton. It was called “The Dulce Man” (“The Candy Man”), and I was Pedrito, the Dulce Man. With my blond hair and fair complexion, nobody could’ve looked less like someone named Pedrito, but I got the part! I can still remember my first line. “Dulces! Dulces! Who will buy my dulces? Straight from the kitchen of Pedrito.”
Of course with no auditorium, we had to do it outdoors. But we did it. I was in all the productions at Fulton while I was there.
I had dreaded going to a new junior high as an eighth grader, but it turned out to be a great experience. Looking back, I know I should have just trusted the Lord. “He never gives us more than we can handle, and often turns something we didn’t want to do into a blessing.
No more meltdowns for me!