Recently, Howard High School celebrated its 40th anniversary. This brought back to me many memories and thoughts about the school. I was a student there for three months in the fall of 1960. But my association with Howard High goes back further.
My mother, Ethel D. Mullaly, was the school's librarian from 1954 to 1960, so my family attended and participated in many Howard High events.
Over those years the faculty and staff saw very little turnover. It was like a big family, where you got to know the children and spouses of the staff at get-togethers, like homecoming and staff end-of-the-year picnics. So, I more or less grew up as part of this family.
One of the memories I have from Howard High is meeting Brooks Robinson and Chuck Thompson at a homecoming in the '50s, and getting an autographed ball from Brooks. I still have it.
When I was a 10th-grader, I remember how evenly split the student body was over the 1960 presidential election, which caused some minor altercations.
The summer I was 14, I recall my mother teaching me to drive to the high school. We were on what is now Route 108. At the time, this road was virtually deserted.
It was illegal for me to drive, of course, but there was no one around to witness my attempts to shift gears and steer the 1950 Chevy down the road and into the school parking lot. Such a thing would be unthinkable on that stretch of road today because of the heavy traffic.
That fall I entered Howard High as a sophomore. The experience made me realize what it was like to live in a goldfish bowl, to be scrutinized under a microscope, if you will. You see, practically the entire staff knew me going back to 1954.
It was then that I realized what pressure was. To do your best no matter what, no goofing off, no fooling around. There's nothing wrong with that, but a high school kid needs a little anonymity.
Howard High in 1960 was under the leadership of Omar Jones, who later would become Howard County's first county executive. He ran a tight ship. Mr. Jones commanded a lot of respect, and if you stepped out of line, you paid for it.
I recall Mr. Jones stopping into classes from time to time to hand out corrected test papers and make choice comments to the recipients. This was double pressure-packed for me, since he had known me for a good while.
One day I was seated in the library of a new wing added over the previous summer when an explosion from down the hall cut the silence. Two students entered the back door of the library, out of breath and quickly taking seats. Down the corridor from the opposite direction, and moving at a fast clip, was Principal Jones.
Apparently a cherry bomb had found its way into a toilet in one of the new boys restrooms, and it created quite a mess. This event occurred on a Friday, and at a school dance that night I heard that Mr. Jones knew the identity of the perpetrators. As I remember it, these gents were expelled the following Monday. Not suspended, expelled. Justice was swift then.
My father was transferred that fall from Fort McHenry, where he was a historian, to the Roosevelt/Vanderbilt National Historic Sites in Hyde Park, N.Y. I was upset about moving away from my friends, but on the other hand, I felt a sense of relief to be out of the goldfish bowl, to be a regular high school kid. I graduated from F.D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park in 1963 as just one of the guys, not the librarian's kid. No offense, Mom.
(As a note to those who remember my mother from Howard High, she and my dad are retired and living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.)