Chapter 6: Colorado IV – Lafayette Junior High School (1966-1968)
We moved from Virginia back to Colorado the summer before I entered seventh grade in 1966. That year, the state of Virginia integrated schools, more than 100 years after our Constitution stated that all men have equal rights in our country but I’m not sure to what extent that played into the equation since schools I attended previously in Colorado were integrated.
Our last year of school in Virginia was extended three weeks because school officials cancelled that long during a blizzard. I know we took pictures of the tunnel we dug in the drifts on the front porch, but I have no idea where they are. We loved not going to school then, but in late June when we still sat in hot, humid, non-air-conditioned classrooms, I couldn’t wait to move. “Colorado people don’t cancel school for snow and make kids stay in school all summer,” I told anyone who listened.
Dad even cancelled church one Sunday. However, when the Grays told him they went to a different church that day, he didn’t cancel church again until the Broncos were in the SuperBowl decades later!
Once school was finally over, in June after sixth grade a missionary family to Korea by the name of Worley came for a week of meetings. They had daughters our ages with Ginger being 12 like me. She seemed so grown up, and I wanted to learn everything she could teach me but physical maturity can’t be learned, I experienced painfully…slowly.
After the meetings we packed up to move to Colorado because Reverend Lewis left the church in Lafayette and the congregation called Dad as pastor.
When we were told about the move to Colorado, I was hesitant because after four years in Virginia I liked living there and never cared for change unless, and sometimes even if, I initiated it. Mom’s enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I looked forward to the move for more than one reason.
Mom and Dad sold most of our furniture at a yard sale, promising us new furniture in Colorado. We packed a U-Haul trailer and headed west. The printing press, Dad’s pride and joy as well as source of major frustration, sat in front of the trailer to balance the load. I’m sure it weighed more than rest of our belongings. Near Somerset, Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Turnpike during Mom’s turn to drive, the trailer began fishtailing. Wes and
Mark played a game they invented called “Rabbits” in the back of our station wagon and it’s amazing they weren’t hurt when Mom lost control of the car and the trailer hit the side of the car, totally it.
That unplanned event exhausted most of our financial resources when we had to buy a “new to us” car for $500 in an unfamiliar town. The “new” car was a blue Mercury sedan and had less room inside for us to move. Because it wasn’t a station wagon with room (back in the days before seatbelts and car seat requirements) in the back, we sat close together. One of us children, “us kids” as we called ourselves, sat in the middle of the front seat. This coveted spot lost its appeal because you were required to sit still and not hit the driver’s arm. The worst spot, in my opinion, was the middle of the back seat because I felt nauseous in that position.
I complained of a sore jaw and after X-rays lived on a liquid diet for several weeks. Later, I learned that if my jaw had actually been broken, the doctor would have wired it shut, but at the time, I didn’t question what I was told. Watermelon that summer tasted horrible because it had no crunch—I had to drink squeezed fruit!
In one town we stopped to eat and Dad became so annoyed after asking a teenager behind the counter of a fast-food restaurant for mashed potatoes. The kid looked at him as though he asked for a foreign substance. I felt so loved that Dad risked embarrassment for me.
Years later I had a root canal on a lower tooth. The dentist insisted because of the lack of decay, it was most likely due to a childhood injury! I played a lot of volleyball and softball but couldn’t think of an injury from those. Then, the car accident came to mind and I mentioned that to the dentist and he agreed that’s most likely the cause.
Carsickness still plagued me but didn’t keep me from taking my turn in the middle. I don’t believe I-70 had been completed all the way from Virginia to Colorado because in some areas we rode on narrow roads with one lane of traffic going each way. More than once we waited in long lines to pass a construction site or bad accident. Dad always told us to pray for the families in the wreaked car instead of staring. “Remember our accident in Somerset, PA,” he said.
That accident created a whole slew of new sermon illustrations. Not in this situation but at times the lack of privacy many these stories represented embarrassed me. As an adult, I’m sure it made our family appear either more normal or absolutely crazy, depending on the listener’s perspective!
Dad accepted a pastorate at the First Baptist of Lafayette where he functioned as youth director before we went to Virginia. The local newspaper, The Lafayette Leader, sent a photographer to take our picture in front of the church. The next week, everyone in town knew us.
We owned several animals while we lived in the parsonage. We called one dog “Punta” because it was Spanish for something. Lots of cats came and went. Dad creatively named one of them “Wilberforce Throck Newton I”. I have no idea where he came up with that name and the cat's daughter became “Throcket”. I know Wilberforce is the last name of the British politician who made slavery illegal in that country, according to a biography you read of John Newton. John Newton, who penned the words to “Amazing Grace”, after becoming a Christian wanted to end slavery industry that, as a slave boat owner, kept him enslaved. His laws didn’t prohibit selling slaves to the U.S., sadly.
The parsonage in Lafayette owned by the church originally contained four equal rooms. These were the living room, dining room, kitchen and Mom and Dad’s room. Two bedrooms and a bath added to the rear were the girls’ room and the boys’ room. The room Anne and I shared had a larger closet than the boys’ but their room had wonderful knotty pine paneling and built in cabinets and closet. Another room added to the east of the house was the den and became our laundry/guest room. Over the years the house morphed many times. The first renovation when we lived there closed the door between the living room and the master, lowered the living room and dining room ceilings and added dry wall. Dad kept the many old postcards and letters found in the baseboards and behind the wallpaper. Wonderful stained glass windows were left in the walls that are probably worth tons.
The church in Lafayette, an old building constructed during a coal miners’ strike early in the 1910’s, had distinctive “egg carton” ceiling. Each of us at one time or another counted the squares in it. I had a rough time with 13 times tables and there were 13 across and I didn’t want to write it down for some silly reason so I stubbornly never completed the count.
The seats weren’t pews until later when one of Dad’s friends convinced him to replace the theater seats with pews from his church. I thought the theater seats were cool because they were like the ones at Beth Eden church. I also thought it ironic that we weren’t allowed to go to theaters but our church had theater seats!
Each birthday each church member received a card with no return address, signed simply “First Baptist Church”. It was quite a mystery until one of the ladies in the church passed away and the cards stopped.
A radical idea Dad proposed when we first moved to Lafayette shocked some of the older people who muttered patronizingly about our “new young pastor”. He received approval to buy a used school bus to use for VBS, Sunday School and camp.
For a number of years, several churches met at a roller skating rink once a month on a Monday evening for “Skate Night”. A popular event, I never missed it!
Our church took over 30 young people to Camp ID-RA-HA-JE (first two letters in these words: I’d Rather Have Jesus) in 1968 and I loved it. I imagined high school as a continuation of the growing up feelings I had. Two secular songs ran through my mind most of the week, although I had no clue what their words really meant. Hearing “Hello, I Love You” or “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” always makes me think of the cute guys at that camp…not that I ever even talked to one of them. I suppose Dad and Mom’s decision to send us to Silver State might have kept my emotions and hormones in check!
Many missionaries visited the church and most stayed at our little parsonage. When we moved to Lafayette, it was determined that Anne and I would have a double bed rather than twin beds so visiting missionaries could use it. It would be our guest room. Unfortunately, Anne and I weren’t the best bed-mates and most evenings were spent elbowing each other for a while before sleeping! “Don’t touch me!” were words that often woke me from sound sleep. I don’t know for a fact that having individual beds would have made my teenage years happier but sometimes I’d like to relive it and see!
Wayne told me a funny thing after he and Anne married. One night he rolled over and when his arm touched her, she snarled in her sleep, “Get on your own side and don’t touch me!”
Anne and I took piano lessons from a lady a block away. I found it horribly embarrassing because I began lessons at the age of 13 and played at the level of some 7-year-olds! The recitals were especially tortuous because I had to play with the elementary students. Mom didn’t want to hear us practice, so we had no piano at the house. Instead, we practiced in the church sanctuary and I occasionally forgot to lock the church afterwards. Dad wasn’t happy about that! Once someone stole brand new speakers and he was sure I didn’t lock the door. I couldn’t remember but I was blown away by the idea that someone would want them. Dad said that it was probably for a rock band…I was shocked. First, that someone would steal from a church and then, that individual bands had their own sound systems.
The boys loved to scare me by crawling under the church theater seats without a sound until they reached the front row. At that point they jumped up while I played. I doubt that I ever screamed as loud at anything as that! When I tell people about this they ask a question I can’t answer, “After the first time, why weren’t you expecting them to sneak up on you?” I have no answer except perhaps I concentrated so hard on playing the piano, I forgot!
We also played our flute (Anne) and clarinet (me) for church. As you know, pianos and flutes are C instruments so I, playing a Bb clarinet, had to transpose for every piece we played. It was a great skill and for a while I could almost transpose on the fly to nearly any key.
Most people place “speaking in public” at the top of their list of fears. We grew up in a family where our dad spoke in public several times a week so I suppose it’s not surprising that each of us at one time or another chose to speak publicly.
Seventh grade, a new, exciting, scary experience waited in Colorado. I went to the school to register. I so carefully planned my first day of school wardrobe get to sleep the night before the first day of school. Alas, my wardrobe selection appeared embarrassingly juvenile and inappropriate when I arrived at school to see most girls in my class wearing nylons and heels! Not only that, many of them appeared fully developed. Suddenly my AA-size bra under my prissy dress, anklets and patent leather shoes were unbelievably out of place.
I met three people at church earlier but found none of them to stand with that terrifying day. Steve and Terry, the boys in my same Sunday School class were also assigned to my class, 7A, although I’m not sure we ever actually spoke! Lori an eighth grader from church was a week younger than I. I knew a few people from four years earlier when I was in second grade but they looked very different, having grown. Judy, who lived across the street from us when we were in elementary school, and Glenn seemed familiar but unfamiliar at the same time because of how they changed in four years.
I guess changing schools several times made the adjustment less traumatic than the one in Virginia but my primary task in seventh grade was to grow up, I realized, which wasn’t easy for two reasons. First, as the oldest child Mom and Dad resisted my efforts. But most complicated was my physical immaturity.
I was glad to be in the top group (7A) because I made fairly good grades and found it more challenging. Not all A’s but enough to consistently make the honor roll. Somewhere downstairs is my National Honor Society pin.
I had to wear blue slacks and a white shirt while the other girls wore shorts uniforms in gym class. Someone told me confidentially that she was jealous because my pants looked nicer than her uniform but twelve-going-on-thirteen is a sensitive age to be different. I thought it interesting that Wes and Mark were allowed to wear shorts for gym, but Anne and I couldn’t. Oh, well, I don’t suppose it hurt me. When I chose to wear shorts as an adult, I enjoyed it more.
During eighth grade Colorado and the mountain resorts lobbied to be the winter Olympic host in 1972. One of the guys in our class figured out that if Colorado succeeded, we’d be seniors when the event occurred. He wrote proudly at the top of each of his papers, “Class of 72, Year of the Olympics.” He grew so quickly that year that he always wore short (high water) tight pants. He was a smallish kid but had no lack of self-esteem even though he was the first kid I knew whose parents were divorced. I felt sorry for him.
Thanks to a bunch of regressive environmentalists the state declined the privilege after being selected so Japan received the honor. Many people in Colorado’s mountains lost a lot of money because they invested in hotels or other recreational places which the economy couldn’t support.
I was elected to Student Council in eighth grade. I loved the status of being part of that select group although we didn’t do much except plan a dance that I couldn’t attend.
Our health class taught by the gym teacher uniquely used so many euphemisms to describe the human body’s functions that I seldom understood the actual topic! She, a single mom of two teenaged boys who lived in Boulder, spent the entire class period one Friday in December of my 7th grade year discussing Walt Disney. He died the previous day and she regaled his accomplishments as a great man. She was visibly shaken and her transparent emotions impressed me as honest and refreshing.
I’m not sure what impact this teacher’s lectures had on others but her speeches impressed me. Sometimes I wonder if she wanted us to fulfill her dreams of traveling the world and enjoying the independence she perceived and envied in women of our generation. However, my “wanderlust” and desire to learn and experience new things - whatever their source never diminished!
This teacher told us the importance of Baseline Road that ran in front of the school marking the confluence of 40N 105W. “It is on every globe,” she proudly stated. I suppose since we could see the latitude anywhere on earth she assured us that even if we left, we could find our way back to Lafayette.
She also told the story of a man she met named Scott Carpenter, an astronaut from Boulder County. A park named for him in Boulder at that time contained an old airplane we climbed on as kids near Chautauqua. Years later when this astronaut/aquanaut spoke the keynote address at an event I managed at The Broadmoor, he appreciated hearing that a junior high teacher used him as a role model. He autographed a picture for you with the words, “Adam, send me a postcard from Mars. Scott Carpenter!” If I knew where this teacher lived, I’d tell her!
I adjusted to band class by eighth grade but in seventh grade the band director, an older single lady with a blue bouffant and deep Army-trained voice, scared me silly. On Friday each student played solo a set of scales that I invariably messed up, even though I rehearsed them perfectly at home. The pressure of all the band members listening while I squeaked my way through mortified me. Eventually I got over my stage fright and passed the class.
Around Christmas each year the band teacher played an Elvis Christmas LP instead of our standard rehearsal. Part of me wanted to snicker at the “old” singer but I hesitated when I saw our band director’s intensity, obvious admiration, and emotion I couldn’t quite understand but I respected.
I wondered if I would feel that way…someday.. I believe Elvis Presley songs must have reminded her of a time when as a young, beautiful woman she had the world ahead of her. Maybe. I’m sure she never dreamed when she joined a branch of the service; she’d be stuck in a hundred year old auditorium with a bunch of junior high kids who struggled through scales. Perhaps a young man lost in the war contributed to her melancholy…I’ll never know. However, Elvis’ rendition of “Blue Christmas” always reminds me of her.
One of the best things that happened to me in junior high was my eighth grade math teacher, Mr. Ingram. Ask any girl who went to Lafayette Junior-Senior High in the 60’s and she’ll remember him but his good looks alone weren’t what impressed me! He began the year by telling us that we were too smart for the 8th grade math book and if we agreed we’d finish it early, we could then spend remainder of the year covering the first chapters in each of the Algebra I and Geometry classes. It would require a lot of homework but it would be fun! He was a convincing, talented teacher and we agreed. I probably never worked as hard nor have I enjoyed one class as much. (Interesting, isn’t it how what we work hardest for is most rewarding?)
I never had boyfriends like Anne always seemed to have. I believe she never went one week without one from the time she was in second grade…and perhaps even more than one at a time… I thought she was so cute and glad for her that she had so many boyfriends. Although I could see what she liked in the guys she dated, they definitely weren’t my type. I also subscribed to the theory that “no one was better than just anyone”. I had too many important things going on in my life to waste time with guys I considered inferior. Looking at pictures of myself, I wonder where my arrogance originated. But as I grew up there were several guys who interested me or vice versa.
One guy in my eighth grade class liked me. He attended the Methodist church so; again, I eliminated him without second thought. His name was Ed and he was in “A” class, too. He brought a corsage to our house the day after Homecoming even though I couldn’t go to the dance with him, or anyone, because it was a dance. What a nice guy – but when you’re in eighth grade nice Methodist guys don’t cut it, silly girl.
I sometimes get his name mixed up with a first lieutenant I met in Kitzingen, Larson Post, West Germany when I visited Charyl Lee and her first husband, Phil who was a captain in the Army.
I mix their names because the lieutenant’s first name was also Ed and his last name rhymed with eighth grade Ed’s. Remember the book you loved in kindergarten called, “Make Way For Ducklings?” Each little ducklings name rhymed with “quack” such as Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, etc. The last names of these two Eds rhymed.
I’ll discuss my time in Germany later.
Reading, my favorite past time, occupied most spare time. More than once I received reprimands for not listening because I was so absorbed in a book. “Just one more page,” I said many times when called for supper or some other duty.
I liked Sci-Fi in eighth grade and books like War of the Worlds interested me because they took a long time to read and kept my attention. I imagined aliens and other things as basically friendly and pleasant appearing. I’m afraid if I had seen the movies made from those same books, sci-fi would have lost its appeal. Also, this genre turned me off when it migrated in the past few decades toward fantasy and horror.
My all-time sci-fi favorites were When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide whose obvious plots are revealed from their titles. Silver State’s library lacked variety Lafayette’s contained and I got busy reading other genres. This experience prepared me to enjoy the type when I met your Daddy.
The librarian at Lafayette High School convinced me to try the Diary of Anne Frank in eighth grade, a fairly dark book about a family in Nazi Germany who protected primarily Jewish families being pursued by the Nazis. They hid fugitives in a secret room in their home.
Not long after I started it, Dad saw me reading the book and asked what I thought of it. I replied noncommittally. What could I say? I loved biographies but this book was different in that it portrayed for the first time in my sheltered life, an uncomfortable, negative, sinister but very real element of society. Dad grew up hearing these historical happenings as current events on the radio. His words hit me initially like everything I didn’t want to accept as a teenager – denial. I wish I had asked him a few questions. Perhaps it would have initiated a positive conversation about his life which to me was “ancient” history.
The funny thing in retrospect is that he said, “You just like those books that have a lot of sex in them!” Not sure why he said that but the comment’s incongruity is hilarious because all I knew at that point in time about sex is that I read “F” in that box on my report card – the only “F” on my report card! I wasn’t entirely sure why.
I also read "Gone With The Wind" for the first time during junior high school. I don't defend the fact that slavery existed in the book, but the lack of presentism (presenting a worldview from another time period) impressed me because I felt what it must have been like to have lived during the Civil War. And, few people remember, the first black to receive an Academy Award was from that movie and one of the protagonists.
Our American History teacher assigned the movie “The Great Escape” which was on TV one weekend, so we went to Grandpa and Grandma James’ that weekend so I could watch it. It was a rough movie in that few of the prisoners of war actually escape but interesting in that I realized even more the personal toll our freedom cost.
Grandma kept magazines in a side table. Anne and I slept in the living room and Grandma told us we could read magazines if we couldn’t get to sleep. Two of Grandma’s favorites, judging by the number she had were called “True Romance” and “True Love.” I was afraid Mom and Dad wouldn’t like it if they knew I read the magazines because they were about kissing but that’s about as far as it went. Anne wasn’t afraid to read them and must have gained practical ideas from the stories judging by her always having a boyfriend. Each magazine contained allegedly “true” stories written by women about their love lives. The stories, had they been movies, would have been rated “G” but I always felt a little naughty reading them. Honestly, I found most of them boring at the time because they were about married people and how their marriages were improved through some circumstance. I couldn’t identify.
Our family doctor, Dr. Nelson, took a year off to work in Vietnam during the war there. Mom didn’t think he was nearly as compassionate when he returned but if his experiences were anything like what I saw on the show M*A*S*H, I’m sure our complaints seemed minor compared to watching young men die or become permanently disabled.
We took swim lessons the year after eighth grade. Our classes were early in the cold Boulder morning air. I’m not sure if there’s a connection but I developed a terrible cough that summer which nearly developed into pneumonia.
In my 30’s I learned that my chronic coughs and bronchitis resulted from allergies, and learned to prevent them, when I told a doc that I always get bronchitis in late October and late January. She smiled and said, “Those are high pollution times in the Denver area. Try this prescription for Claritin.” Worked like a charm.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) when the doctor looked at the x-ray for pneumonia. Mom and Dad took me to Denver Medical Center for regular checkups during junior high. The amount you paid at this clinic depended on income. Dad and Mom insisted that we dress up but I couldn’t help wonder if we had dressed down we would have paid less. I’m sure Dad’s salary was less than some of the poorly dressed people in the waiting room. An experimental surgery could straighten my spine and I could be a couple inches taller with a better-proportioned waistline. However, it could minor slipup would leave me paralyzed. Even if the surgery went well I’d be in a brace for over a year. As a teenager this was the deciding factor. We figured I could live without the surgery.
A doc said I’d never be able to carry a child because of the curve of my backbone but I proved him wrong or you wouldn’t be here! Of course, I experience sciatica occasionally but that’s a small price to pay for you.
Wes, diagnosed with heart murmurs, also went to the doctor often. For a while Mom protected Wes from a lot of physical activity but he was all boy. A visiting preacher told him how weight lifting strengthened his heart. Wes began a health regimen that didn’t end even when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis during his 40’s. One doc told him he’d never live to be 30 unless we moved to a lower elevation and he lived a sedentary life. He is well past that age!
We never called our annual road trips vacations but referred to them as trips. We continued to call them, from Colorado to Virginia, “trips” even when the popular culture used that term to describe illegal drug experiences. I especially liked it when we stopped at a motel will a pool because Mom and Dad joined us splashing in the water.
Several times we went to a summer preachers’ meeting held in Durango. We stayed in a trailer someone in the church owned. We drove go-carts for the first time while there. Staying in Durango was one of the few true vacation times, without visiting relatives, we had.
Another time we stopped in Cincinnati on the way home from Virginia for a preachers’ meeting there. We stayed in a motel with a pool and were considered old enough to stay there alone while Dad and Mom went to some of the afternoon sessions. We attended evening sessions and the choir sang an incredible arrangement of “Til the Storm Passes By” that sent chills up my spine. I can think of a few reasons visiting that large church gave me a desire to attend larger ones when I grew up. Larger churches tend to have awesome music because there are more people to choose from. However, the main reason is that in a large church there isn’t an expectation that I must be involved in whatever is going on. I can choose what I believe God wants me to do, not what others wanted but more about that later.
Usually driving across country tested our patience and my parents’ endurance. I, no doubt, played dozens of “alphabet” and “add the numbers on the license plate” games over the years. The first car with air-conditioning Dad bought thrilled us. The car’s cooling zones varied greatly but I felt we were rich when we could drive with the windows rolled up!
I’ve met many wonderful people over the years and spent time consulting in companies with stylish office buildings in Missouri. However, when I started referring to Missouri as “Misery” one year when we stayed in a motel with broken air-conditioning. We never made reservations for motels in advance and several times we stopped at more than one before we stopped for the night.
In spring of 1968 Grandma and Grandpa Kemper drove out from Virginia to visit us. They stayed in Memphis, Tennessee April 3, the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated there. Dad and Grandpa discussed the issue extensively while they were here with Grandpa’s conclusion being that “those n*****s should be put in their place.” Dad didn't agree.
I think it’s a cool irony that the lady who nursed him at the end of his life was black. He thought so much of her he asked her to marry him. She didn’t, of course, but I believe he may have given her the family Bible.
She was a beautiful woman and we met her at Grandpa’s funeral. I am encouraged by the reality that a person is never too old to change his ways or philosophies!
1968, as wild election year as I want to ever see, included the assassination of one of the Democratic Party’s primary candidates, Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles on June 5. That summer’s Democratic convention in Chicago marked by violence that even in our isolated, television-free home was apparent. The divisiveness within that party set up the successful candidacy of Richard Nixon’s first term.
About once a year we drove to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit with the Fultons. I always enjoyed attending different churches, even though, Bob Fulton usually ended up asking Dad to preach. The church wasn’t large.
Dad discussed with us on the way back how the “rich” family in their church got their money when the man returned from World War II, took the money he saved and bought a Radio Shack store. His parents thought he should have invested in land and farmed. Over the years he was able to buy several stores.
I found it interesting that Dad always talked about people who made positive financial decisions as rare, unique people, instead of role models. I wonder what would have happened if he had encouraged us to find a way to make money and support God’s ministry instead of seeming to set his expectations on full-time ministry or nothing?
We continued Friday family nights as long as we were at home or until our activities intruded.
Monopoly, a classic game we played often caused pain or happiness, depending upon whether we won or lost. Mom, always competitive, instilled a drive to win. I think how blessed we were when I hear people talk about their parents being too busy. She spent hours playing games with us and her grandchildren, too.
Many people down on their luck visited the church and since the parsonage and church shared property, they knocked on our door. If there were children in the car Dad would do almost anything for them.
We did without a lot of things that others considered necessities but often heard that we needed to help the less fortunate. By many standards, we were “less fortunate”! I still believe that the sacrifices we as a family made for others will be rewarded. We took good care of our games and though we didn’t have as much as others, I never considered us a poor family because we had each other.
Your Daddy loved school more than ever and became busy with Boy Scouts. He was disappointed that his parents didn’t have the money for him to go to enough camps to be able to achieve Eagle Scout status.