Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 10 (Commentary)

Returning to the question from the Introduction: Why, then, this prank? It was an impish dream made real by extraordinary, out-of-the-box teenagers — not one, or two, but the improbable grouping of four of us of like mind (4 out of 54). We had the “gall” (or, better, using words from fellow Senior 1964 Joe Torres, the huevos) to use that dream-come-true to “kick against the pricks” of a graduation year “going bad,” to reach out and “seize the day” — to take control of a situation that was turning the end of our school days into something very forgettable. It was admittedly strange and improbable, but this prank seemed to “do the trick.” Like a bolt of lightning, the prank shot into the “perfect storm” of unusual circumstances and altered permanently the course of the storm into a memorable and fun-filled trek. (By the way, in my opinion, Joe’s compliment to us is the highest one guy can give to another!)

The question of “Would we do it again, knowing what we know today?” may be moot, as I think we would answer “Absolutely yes!” IF the circumstances were the same. But, they can never be the same again. As to the question “Was it worth it?,” which is probably not moot, the answer would be the same, especially if you factor out the effects of the prank on our mothers. It is hard to put into words, but it was as if we graduated from high school with at least two diplomas, not one; we had another from the “School of Hard Knocks,” from the “School of How the World Really Works,” if you please. Earlier than most high school graduates, we learned some very important lessons beyond those in the classroom. We learned we could keep and nurture the joys of childhood without having to remain childish; we learned that respect for authority had to be earned by the authorities, not given to them because of their positions; we measured evidence supporting the philosophy that schools are about students, not about adults — schools are about developing students’ minds, not about providing “career ladders” for so-called “professional educators.” We learned that when friendships clash with the wishes of the school, of the family, and of the community, friendships can triumph.

An obvious part of our triumph was the fact the chair/desk escapade was only the beginning for the string of successes making up the M-4’s “resume” beginning in May, 1964, though it is true that That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013] was the last “escapade” involving all four of us. The other escapades, for example, The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013], and Crashing The Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [August, 2013], involved only one, two, or three of us. The absent one was Berry, not because he chose to be, we like to believe, but because of the four of us after we graduated, Berry had the “shortest leash” held by his parents. Not even Lee nor Clark Odom were kept away from us as much as Berry, it seemed. Nonetheless, we went through our adventures after high school as if all four of us were always present; we conjured the spirit of 2/11/64 every time we “struck,” and the first person to whom we reported afterwards each time was always Berry. We wanted him to share in our “triumphant successes.”

But it takes very special friendships to be so triumphant. I’ve said it was highly improbable four “like us” were together in the same classrooms. What do I mean by “like us?” We could not articulate what we had as friends back then, though we certainly felt we had lots of things that compelled us to interact. Hindsight, especially 50 years of it, is indeed probably “20-20,” and a similar span of experience teaches one how to articulate with substance, hopefully, and not “chirp” with empty rationalization. With this probability and hope, I would like to list some of the special characteristics we had as friends within the M-4:

We did not overtly compete with each other; if we did use each other for comparative purposes, it was individually and covertly done. We decided things as a democratic group; we never allowed any one of us to “take over,” and we maintained that egalitarian status quo by “cutting each other down” as brunts of jokes “across the board;” no one was immune; no one could be in our group and have a thin skin. We avoided, if we could, situations placing us in competition with each other; that alone explains a lot about the attitude Adling, Berry, and I had toward our King Lobo candidacies (Chapter 3). And, we deliberately did not “go” for a girl any of the others had his eyes upon. If one of us was dating a particular girl, she was “his” until he declared to us she was back “available.”

We accepted each other “as we were” — or, as I like to put it: “warts and all.” No one of us could hide his strengths or his weaknesses, as he knew the other three could see them as plainly as he. Most importantly, we did not try to change each other; we respected each other more than that. We, for the most part, enjoyed each other’s differences as much as we enjoyed each other’s similarities.

We supported each other and each wanted the best for the other three — like loving brothers, if you please. But, as I’ve said, it was better than actual siblings — we chose each other. From my perspective, I chose Berry before we even started to school; I chose Adling at the end of sixth grade; I chose Cole in Mrs. Pirtle’s biology class when we were high school sophomores. Each of the other three would have their own set of similar “choosing” statements. We tried and try to “be there” for each other, but sometimes, that is easier said than done; I wish that when Berry was having trouble academically at A&M, forcing him to go to college elsewhere for an interim, I could have helped him in his courses; Cole was soon to arrive on campus to also be of help to him. But, “one of his warts” was his pride, making him reluctant to ask for help often enough.

It was and is really difficult for us to be truly upset with each other; when Adling got angry at me as described in Chapter 6 was literally the last time I remember him being so with me. Instead of raving at each other over something one of us might think is stupid of the other, we just laugh at the other at his own expense — no pity, and no mercy. We kept and keep each other alert and “on his toes.”

We REALLY exemplified this next trait of true friendship, a trait that, thankfully transcends the M-4 to many other good friends — it does not matter how long two or more are apart, when we reunite face-to-face, it is like we departed only the day before. We “pick up right where we left off.” Like dogs, when it comes to seeing each other, we have no concept of how much time has passed; always, it is a joy to see each other.

We lived our friendships with each other to assure that “in the end,” we would have no regrets. Most people, sooner or later, deal with such personal questions as, “What would have happened if I had…?”, “What would have happened if I hadn’t stepped back from…….?”, or “Should I have taken that step into the unknown…?” We, as individuals and as a group, know the answers to those questions; in other words, our lives have had few, if any, moments struggling with “What if?” questions laced with regret. Because we had the huevos, we have lived our lives without looking back, without regret, without remorse, without second-guessing ourselves. The secret to not being bothered by our conscience (outside being bothered by our mothers’ reactions)? We made sure we never did anything harmful to anyone or anything, by our definition of “harmless.” In many people’s eyes, we “pushed the envelope,” “fudged the rules,” “played needlessly with fire,” “behaved questionably,” and “acted irresponsibly and controversially.” Because we were judging our behavior for ourselves, and not anyone else, we could go to sleep every night with a clean conscience, by our own reckoning; we would not have “done it” otherwise. So, our reaction to those who judged or are judging us to this day is something like, “So…?” or “And your point is what?” Then, possibly, comes further judgement that we are defiant, unrepentant, disrespectful, arrogant, sneaky, and non-exemplary. That’s OK….bring it on!

To us, only those last two adjectives are correct — sneaky and non-exemplary. So..? And your point is what? We were seventeen years old, full of testosterone and Dad’ root beer, and we all had the huevos to make our ideas into reality. I’ve not met many high school graduates who can say similarly all these things together.

Yet, we never thought of ourselves as entitled to anything; we never whined, complained, or asked for clemency, forgiveness, or chances to make amends when the “throw the book at ‘em” view prevailed. We were as human as our “inquisitors,” only we thought and still think we were and are more humane than they.

We like to stand alone, on our own. We were and are no one’s “patsies,” “yes-men,” “bitches,” or pawns. We were never going to be some adult’s vehicle through which that adult would live vicariously his/her life.

I’ll stop the list right here and point out that most of these are traits we could have had without the prank. What did the prank bring to these traits of special friendships? The prank “amped up” the risks and dangers to which teenagers are prone; we lived “on the edge” when doing pranks more than average. The more risky and exciting our innocent pranks, the more closely-knit became the bonds between us; as we worked together, we saw and felt why we thought so much of each other (the “super-glue” of soldiers and athletic teammates, as I’ve said). We found we were so “good” at pulling pranks together, we never got caught; found out, yes, but never caught red-handed. Success only strengthened the bonds between us, just like going through our “punishments” together brought us closer together. “Super-charged” teen-aged excitement and the success that accompanied it morphed us into irrespressibility. In our “moral ivory tower” of our own making, we were beyond reproach, guilt, or shame. Half those in our world, including most of our peers, seemed to agree.

In terms of our friendships, high school without the prank would still have been a great ride. But with the prank, high school was a hell of a ride! Despite the legacy and love of our mothers, we cannot help but be glad we did it! And, we can only hope that our classmates are glad we did it, too! They have giving us lots of evidence they indeed feel that way.

We defied the stereotypical teenaged “gang” always looking for trouble, so I have always believed we never were a “gang.” We defined what kind of group we were, and it just goes by the name “M-4,” from which exudes the “M-4 experience.” We were never compliant, but we were respectful, even at times when that was difficult to do. We together, not necessarily individually, did not smoke, drink, or curse, but that was just our choice, not a deliberate attempt to be exemplary. Most of us were church-goers and none of us had homosexual tendencies. Each of us had likes, hobbies, and tastes that the other three could try or not, and however any one of us reacted to the others’ likes, hobbies, and tastes did not affect our friendships one way or the other. The M-4 experience did not demand certain behaviors or moralities, nor was it ever burdened by having to accept behaviors or moralities of individual members. Our decisions and directions were always the results of open, honest, egalitarian democracy; whether these results reflected one or more of us as individuals was coincidental, but these results necessarily reflected all four of us. We were and are a meritocracy, each member of which is never threatened by the achievements of the others; on the contrary, we all rejoice in those achievements.

Take one attribute of mine that attracted me to the other three strongly — I loved to be different from everyone else (still do!). I’ve often proudly said I’ve never met anyone in my life like whom I would exactly want to be; I have only one hero, and that is a sports hero — the great baseball slugger Hank Aaron. I admire traits of others and despise other traits of others; I do not look for living or dead examples from others to live by — I take admirable traits from a lot of different people, living or dead, to make them my own and reject the despicable traits of, often, a lot of the same people. I say this bit of personal philosophy to say that the M-4 experience seemed to operate similarly, with our “warts and all” policy and our ever-skeptical respect of others.

Accordingly, it is hard to describe the M-4 experience succinctly; elsewhere (The M-4…And the ‘M’ Stands for… [May, 2012] and above) I gave the M-4 only two definitive adjectives — sneaky and non-exemplary. Even after 50 years, I not sure I want to go much further than that. We still do not like being pinned down and defined, and we still do not go around preaching that people, young and old, need to try to be as we. During my teaching career, I’ve had many “groups” in my classrooms wanting to pull pranks — I knowing about their plans because my students have always known that as long as I hear nothing harmful or dangerous, I will not “squeal” to the administration on them. I demand they read the section from my memoirs on what happened to the M-4 before they proceed with their idea, whatever it is. Only then, after reading, I tell them they can plan knowing what we did not know and thereby I have a “clean conscience” as a champion of student expression; they have been warned. Some groups change their minds; others go ahead with their prank, and, usually, get into trouble for it.

The M-4 experience helped me as a “rookie” teacher in public schools, leading me to the conclusion that the more effective teachers were those who were not “perfect” when they were students; instead of my being frustrated with my students trying to pull stunts and pranks on me, I “smelled the attempts out” before they occurred, thinking to myself how “amateur” as pranksters the students were compared to the M-4. Sometimes I get concerned about how politically conservative or socially prejudiced Adling or Berry sometimes appears nowadays, and I think to myself “he is forgetting his M-4 experience.” I have faith that, for both of them, their “backsliding” is a sneaky M-4-like cover, a covert “distraction” away from their real agendas; conservatism, elitism, and prejudice were and are not part of the M-4 experience. Cole is so true to his M-4 experience, I really don’t know what his political views are, despite our working together regularly trading labor on each other’s ranches!

Would that others who read this have experienced the kind of friendships we had and have as the M-4!


We hope the chair/desk escapade changed the relationships among students, faculty, and administrators at the Cisco schools for classes that followed us in graduation — changed for the better; we hope the aftermath of the escapade will remind both the school and the community, not to mention schools and communities everywhere, that students must be an integral part of solving collective, local, educational problems. Never marginalize a class of students, as was attempted with the class of 1964! And never underestimate the power of teenage dreaming!

It is important to point out the legacy of the M-4 was not created to compare or compete with other school pranks or pranksters associated with Cisco High School or any other school. We came together and planned in complete ignorance and indifference to pranks that preceded us; what had happened in the past was not germane to the “perfect storm” of the school year 1963-1964. Any comparison of what we did with other pranks is a prerogative of others, not a point of interest to us.

What makes the M-4 and our legacy so “gray,” so controversial, and, therefore, I think, so interesting is that we inadvertently exposed the foibles of particular authorities and of authority in general; we laid bare the brute and embarrassing fact that the school administrators at the time and the city officials and police at the time (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013]) made inappropriate, myopic, inhumane, childish, and un-called-for decisions; then, they followed up on those decisions with actions and inactions of the same ilk! (not that both groups of authorities did not also make some good decisions and do some good things along the way) How can I say this? Look who’s talking! If anyone can identify inappropriate and childish decisions, it has to be us, the M-4! We sure made our share! But, and here’s the “rub,” ours were not myopic and inhumane; we knew what we were doing and we knew the risks; our “cause” justified our actions in our minds; we were and still are not so sure the same could be said of the school and city administrations back then. Throughout the history of the M-4, just who were the “adults?”

For each of us the M-4 experience and legacy has been of immeasurable aid during our diverse professional lives. The other three have to tell their own stories on this matter, but my story has already been alluded to above in connection with my chosen field of being a high school physics and advanced math teacher for almost 40 years. Beyond help in the classroom, being an M-4 member has allowed me to see quickly that a lot of bad administrative decisions at high levels have been made over the years to bring the state of public education into decline. Simply put, the wrong models — the “business” model and/or the “coaching” model — are/is being used to demote public school teachers into “employees” or “workers” or “team members” who loyalty lies not with their clients, their students, but with the “company,” or “team,” the school. The correct model that has been ignored is the one we saw used back in Cisco High School — the “colleagueual” model wherein teachers are treated like professionals with students as clients (analogous to doctors having patients as clients and lawyers having legal clients). You can imagine how “unfit” I was, as a member of the M-4, to be a “company” guy, to conform to the “cookie-cutter” educational philosophy they attempted to cram down my throat! (For the amusement of those readers who went to Cisco High School back in the 1960’s, can you imagine such “cramming” being done to Mrs. Lee, Mr. Bint, or Mrs. Bailey? How about to our Jr. High Teachers Mrs. Hart and Mrs. Schaefer?) {If you want to pursue this matter further, see my three posts on educational reform, 1: Educational Reform — Wrong Models [May, 2013], 2: Educational Reform — The Right Model [May, 2013], and 3: Educational Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need [May, 2013].} Being of the M-4, having to leave public schools as a teacher before I wanted caused me no frustration whatsoever; it did increase my concern for my clients, my students.

Is there any public figure that reminds the M-4 of ourselves? I think Johnny Manziel, or Johnny “Football,” the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Texas A&M does. And not because I am an Aggie and Aggie fan or because Sylvia and I have season football tickets at A&M; and not because of his great skill and jaw-dropping performances on the football gridiron. It is because of the way he was treated by the NCAA and the media when he was under suspicion in the summer of 2013 of making money off his signature, which is against the NCAA rules. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, what was alleged seemed to be “spun” as being as bad as possible, without evidence, just as the chair/desk escapade had to be seen by some as being criminal, without evidence. There was a feeling Johnny needed to be made “an example,” just as was attempted on us. I hope I can speak for the whole group, Johnny, when I say, “We feel for you, man! We not only sympathize, we empathize with you; we know exactly what you have been going through. Hang in there!” And, in the other direction, I like to think Johnny agrees with us when we think about the whole M-4 experience and philosophically muse “The world is a lot ‘grayer,’ not stark ‘black and white,’ than most people think!”

It is merely my opinion, but, back in 1964, the path the school administration should have taken was laid before them clearly, if our information from the faculty meeting concerning our “fate” is accurate — the view of Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Lee, and Mrs. (Page) (Chapter 8). Something would have been done to us under their view, but the “punishment would have fit the ‘crime';” justice would have been served, and the school would have avoided the divisive chaos “throwing the book at us” caused. As far as we were concerned, had this happened, we would have made our point and would not have, perhaps, felt the need to carry on the legacy of the chair/desk escapade. On the other hand, had this happened, our subsequent “adventures” would have been, if attempted, much less significant in meaning, and our legacy would not have soared near as high. “Gray,” very “gray.”

I shall close with this thought: What if the new administration and the new coaching staff coming in for our senior year in 1963 was enlightened enough to see that the only way they could successfully transition into the new school facility was to heavily involve those who would be most affected by having no high school building — the CHS Seniors of 1964? What if they recognized our immense insights, imagination, abilities, talents, and potential? (All they had to do was look into the Coronation we produced for the Seniors ’63 in early 1963.) If we had spent our energies with the power and where-with-all to actually change the atmosphere from pessimistic resignation to optimistic fun, would there have been a chair/desk prank/escapade at all? As it was, with no such power and where-with-all, and with the adults of the school distracted from us, playing their silly adult games, Adling’s imagination came up with a way we could change the atmosphere of the school from pessimistic resignation to, at least, chaotic (if not optimistic) fun. It took four of us; I was the “how” of Adling’s idea; all four of us were the executioners of the idea; the back-breaking work wrought the change, and our quartet got a new name. Our friendships soared exponentially. Like the school year after February 11, 1964, we and our class were never the same. Long live the memory and legacy of the M-4!


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy)

Next, we went to see Mrs. Catherine Cole at Cole’s house. She “took it” better than we had expected, maybe because we appeared to her en masse. Then, we went downtown to City Hall, where Mrs. Lois Adling worked, to break the news to her (In addition to reacting to her son’s involvement, she now for sure knew she had to guard against exposing Bobby’s peripheral involvement (Chapter 8); she might completely forgive Bobby — her son was another matter.) Finally, our quartet visited Mrs. Charlotte Hastings at First National Bank, also in downtown Cisco, where it was difficult for my mother to respond, probably, as she wanted in such a public setting. Generally speaking, our mothers responded to our news with a great deal of disappointment, voicing disbelief we would have done what we did; yet, they all were in agreement the “punishment” did not fit the deed. None of our mothers were “crusading suffragette” types to gather public pressure against the school to come up with a better response to what we did; the times for such responses had not yet come in small towns in Texas. Personally, what was difficult for me to handle was that we could not voice to our mothers how we actually felt — we were proud of what we had done and delighted at the results we had caused already at the school; they would not have “taken” to those sentiments very well at all. Now, our fathers might, but we dared not tell them, either for fear it would get back to our mothers, or for fear it might become a divisive point between our parents, or both. (It was years later when my dad thought it “OK” to let me know something he never told my mother: soon after our admission, he had lots of friends come to him at the meat market counter where he worked at A&P Grocery as head butcher and shake his hand in masculine congratulations; they knew that deep down fathers everywhere would be proud to have sons with the “gall” to do what we had done. The same thing happened to Mr. Berry when he visited downtown at that time.)

Needless to say, our plans to camp out during our “3-day vacation” from school went over like a “lead balloon.” Our parents, in fact, went out of their way to see none of the four of us even saw each other during this time. Cole spent those days mostly working on his dad’s ranch with his uncle, who had “a blast” asking Cole over and over why he wasn’t in school. My dad took some time off and took me to Abilene to buy some college supplies — specifically a foot locker for my anticipated days in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — and I had to relay the “embarrassing news” to my aunt and great-aunt, who accompanied us on our trip to do shopping of their own.

Nonetheless, we managed to have contact with our peers during the “vacation,” mostly with certain Juniors, who were working on producing the Coronation. There was a school-wide consensus brewing that thought we had been punished much too severely; we suddenly had a solidarity of support and sympathy. Petitions of protest were circulated and signed by the braver students, all organized by Dr. Addy’s sons, Ervin and Blair. We learned the petitions were squelched by the administration, like King George responding to Patriot calls to resistance. Rumors were piling up about the faculty meeting, like names of teachers who had tears in their eyes over what had been decided about us.

Adling, Berry, and I not getting to live out our King Lobo candidacies not only called consternation with our mothers, it caused a lot of havoc at school. The call for new elections to replace the three of us “blew up” in the administration’s face. Not lost upon the student body was the fact their wishes for who should be King Lobo were being disregarded, as if it was a matter of who the school wanted, not they. The question arose, for whom was the Coronation — the school, the parents, or the students? No doubt what answer was in the students’ minds. When we returned to classes after our expulsion to serve our “probation,” one of the first things the three of us were told was that the prank had no negative effect on their vote; many even said the prank “reinforced” their vote, indicating that the three of us got lots of votes in the original election. The new election was hastily called and held (just for King Lobo candidates, not for Queen candidates and all other members of the court who were elected in the original, “legit” election), and the student body actually told they could not vote for any or all of we three! Many voters in the new election told us they wrote in our names anyway, and, of course, these were ignored. What a “great” lesson in democracy for high school students! As a result of this new election, we three were replaced (Gene Darr and Robert Mitchell, originally elected, remained candidates) by Clark Odom, Earl Carson, and Stan Livingston as King Lobo candidates.

These three were and still are friends of the three of us. (For me, Clark was one of the “study group” at my house (Chapter 2), Earl I had known from first grade and was one friend whose ankles I had taped many times, and Stan I had known just as long and with whom I went through years of Sunday School.) So my comments on the “new” King Lobo candidacies have nothing to do with these three good friends; they have to do with the sham the administration made of the election of King Lobo in 1964. I am not saying that Adling, Berry, or I would have won King Lobo (In fact, Gene Darr, who was elected King Lobo, along with the Queen, Leannah (Leveridge) Darr, was an excellent choice — traditional outstanding athlete — more than worthy to represent our graduation class, CHS Seniors 1964.), but however the election for King Lobo turned out that year, it was the outcome of a “rigged” election — “fudged” by the administration in complete repudiation of the wishes and preferences of the student body. Moreover, it was hypocritical; under the conditions the three of us were elected, Earl would not have been academically eligible; yet when it came to applying the rules in his case as a replacement, a “blind eye” was shown. It also appeared that the three replacements had no choice — they had to participate regardless of how they felt about being placed in such an embarrassing predicament — acting like a winner instead of an “also-ran.” Not only was it a sham, it was a farce for the Senior boys.

The Juniors working to present the Coronation for the Seniors and the rest of the school knew it too. The idea cropped up among them to refuse to put on the Coronation unless the three of us were reinstated as King Lobo candidates. The administration “freaked out” at this, threatening to cancel all future Coronations if they “striked.” It was another bluff; this administration was good at bluffing! (Chapter 8) Specifically, it was emotional blackmail of all the parents of the community who had present children and were to have future children honored in the Coronation. To the calm and rational, any administration who tried to cancel Coronation in Cisco would not have jobs very long! The short-term irrationality of the threat shifted, unjustly in my opinion, blame to the “rebellious” Juniors, and the upcoming Coronation was commanded and pushed forward, under duress and protest, as far as lots of students were concerned.

The Coronation was a public event, so the administrators, even if they had wanted to, could not prevent the three of us attending. However, Mrs. Berry absolutely forbade Berry from attending, citing it would look like he was bearing a grudge. There was no such prevention of the attendance of the other two “ousted” candidates and of Cole, so Adling and I got to see the replacements participate wearing the accessories he and I had helped choose! I had a date with Sylvia for the Coronation, and she was not happy with me for wearing a white formal coat just like the other King Lobo candidates and replacements were wearing in the program (Perhaps she had the same concern as Mrs. Berry, or, perhaps she would have preferred me to be more “humble.”) Adling and Cole went as “stags,” protesting by wearing big, black, broad-brimmed cowboy hats, Adling having borrowed his from me. When the program was over I went down on the gym floor, seeking out Mr. Roach. I found him among the crowd, reached out and shook his hand, and wished him a nice evening. He acknowledged my greeting, but did not look me in the eye.

When the Junior-Senior Banquet was held, traditionally right after the Coronation, Adling “threw” an “alternative party” to the banquet at his house, in honor of the four of us. It was the place to be that night, written up nicely by Kay in the school section of the newspaper; many came over to Adling’s right after the banquet, not staying for the dancing, etc. As a “honoree” to this “shindig,” I dearly wanted to be there, but I had to stay away to placate Sylvia, who was struggling to know how to react to all this, as far as our relationship was concerned. It was possible, again, I was going to lose her. This was one time my love for her trumped my loyalty to the four of us, and I vowed thereafter to do all I could to prevent these two important aspects of my life from ever again coming into conflict.

Speaking again of farces, our month’s “probation” turned out to be the greatest joke of all; that is why I’ve put quotes around the word. I can only guess the administration thought we would passively observe all school activity, lamenting we “took ourselves out of it.” They never understood there was nothing passive about us; we were irrepressible. Take the Student Council, for example, which was presumably stripped of Senior boys because of our “probation.” C. B. Rust, the Vice-President, took over my Presidential duties. Before each meeting, he would meet with me, often accompanied by Berry, Student Council member because of his Senior class Presidency, and Cole, Senior class Student Council representative. We would go over all the items and issues that needed to be discussed; then, after the meeting, C. B. would brief us on what had occurred, and, if I needed to, I could talk also with Seniors Kay (Wallace) Morris — Student Council Treasurer and Alice Ann (Webb) Holliday — Student Council Secretary. Berry, Cole, and I never felt “out of the loop” because of our absence.

We soon found out in our “probation” who sympathetic teachers were and who wanted to “make us an example.” Coach Turner teased us about “singing like canaries,” but we could tell he did not approve of what happened to us; whether true or not, Mr. Hughes made us feel better by saying we did such a good cover-up job, he had become convinced we did not do it right before our admission. We took respectful advantage of the sympathizers, as they went out of their way to make things as “normal” for us as we wanted, and then some. Speaking of my personal experiences, I think I got to do things at school as Student Council President and as President of the Drama Club I would have never got to had it not been for the prank and its aftermath. I was allowed into the “taboo” ground of the teachers’ lounge to mimeograph off copies of the Edgar Allan Poe-like short story collection (entitled “Stories to Ponder”) I had written since my Junior year and allowed to distribute those copies throughout the school; we were allowed, thanks in no small part to Mrs. Mulliner, to put on a play I had written (not quite the Senior Play, but better than nothing), despite there were no theater facilities in the building (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]), even though we had been told at the beginning of the year we could have no plays (Chapter 1). The student body was very supportive, treating us like celebrities, both on and off school grounds; our peers went out of their way to keep all four of us informed and “in the loop” just like the three of us on the Student Council.

I took a copy of my short story collection by Coach Cromartie’s house one afternoon after school. He made the remark that it looked like we “had the whole school in the palm of our hands” during and after “probation.” It seemed true. We four began to experience what it was like to be “public heroes” and “household words.” Lee Wallace, Kay’s brother, and “fish” in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M at the time, started referring to us, tongue-in-cheek, as the “Malicious Four,” knowing full-well there was nothing malicious about what we had done. The name made its way to Cisco quickly and it stuck; we used it ourselves for a while, but did not like its implications if not used sarcastically — it misrepresented us, so we took advantage of its popularity and only said “M-4,” letting anyone who heard our story make up their minds what the “M” stands for (The M-4…And the ‘M’ Stands for…. [May, 2012]). The prank, we began to find out, made several radio shows over the State, as well as a few newspapers, although one paper shortchanged us on the number of chair/desks we transported — how dare they! We wanted to document all this publicity, but, given the moods of our mothers, we never did.

It got to where we felt we could steer the student body any way we wanted; they seemed to beg us to organize them in some way to retaliate for the way their voice in the King Lobo election had been eviscerated; we were the de facto leaders of any expression of the student body, not the Student Council or any faculty advisor. For example, one noon hour at school, a group of boys, disgruntled at the rule that students could not be in the main hall at lunch, asked me to lead them on a protest march into the hall. Leading the student “mob” up to the main entrance door where we had done the chair/desk lifting, I soon was facing a very nervous Mrs. (Page) and Mrs. Cotton, faculty hall monitors that day. Seeing their uncertain faces, I realized that if I went through with this piece of anarchy, I would lower the name of the M-4 to a level our detractors would wish we would fall and thereby justify all the unfair treatment we had received in their twisted minds. I acted as if the monitors knew what they were doing and said it was not as good an idea as I first thought; I lost a little prestige, perhaps, in the eyes of the wildest of the “mob,” but I “saved” the reputation of the M-4.

It seems not even new information about February 11, 1964, information that potentially could have caused the M-4 disaster that night, could tarnish our growing legacy. We learned that weather reports for the early morning of the 12th called for a high probability of rain, which, thank goodness, did not materialize; I’m glad we never heard that forecast! Also, Mr. Mitchell, head custodian and Robert’s dad, who lived across Avenue H from the school at the W 12th Street permanent roadblock, said later he thought he heard “strange noises” from the direction of the school before he retired that night and “came within an inch” going to check them out! But, fortunately for us, he decided they must be coming from the religious meeting up the avenue, or, more likely, from neighbors “moving furniture.”

If any of our peers asked us why we did the prank, all we had to do, eventually, is ask him or her if we had come to him/her and asked them to help, what would they have said? Noting our growing fame and the perks accompanying it, the answer always was “I would have said ‘yes.'” We did not have to justify anything about the prank to our peers before long. There was no way we could justify the timing of the prank, given the King Lobo “thing,” to our faculty sympathizers, and there was no way we could justify anything about the prank to our mothers.

Because of the chair/desk escapade, we had inadvertently redefined ourselves. We started out to change the school year, and we ended up changing ourselves as well. Because our friendships were based upon humor at each other’s expense, we had made a set of great friendships even greater; we could take on all the fame the world could bestow, we felt, and we would never get the “big-head.” It had become far, far more than everything one of us becoming King Lobo could have brought on. To this day in Cisco, one is pressed to know who was King Lobo when, but many know the name “M-4″ and the event from whence it sprang.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath)

It was a bluff; they were trying to “scare” confession and apology from us. We know now that if they had any evidence against us, they would have brought it up at our “line-up;” we should have asked for their evidence, but their haste in getting us to “confess” would not allow any cross-examination from us; they were deliberately not giving us any time to think clearly. The “college” thing was pure scare tactics; with the rights of students today, they could not have come close to preventing us from graduating and going to college; we never looked into the rights of students back in 1964, but, as discriminatory as they were against students back then, had we had any legal “savvy,” we nonetheless could have received some legal counsel to assure our matriculation to college, if we chose not to “cooperate.”

The title of this chapter says “Admission,” not “Confession.” The difference was the basis of all that was whirring through my head when I was asked to respond first at the end of our “line-up” in Mr. Midkiff’s principal’s office. I was still sure they had no proof we had done it. But, to have confessed would be commensurate with our thinking the deed was somehow criminal, I thought. So adamant was I the deed had been “innocent” and guided by the spirit of fun, the spirit of our friendships, I saw no shame or guilt in admitting I had been a part of it — I was genuinely proud of what we had done and only sorry for the hurt we had caused our mothers. I knew that if the school could derail our plans for college, risking those plans was far more serious than risking anything the administration could do to us in high school. The moment we went to sleep after that successful night of chair/desk work, we, in my opinion, had reaped our reward; nothing coming our way, including King Lobo and Junior-Senior Banquet could equal what we had already received through our own efforts. We had clearly changed the whole school year forever, as we hoped, and the looks we were getting in the office in the “line-up” were but confirmations of how successful had been the change we wrought . And nothing they could do would diminish those rewards we were savoring, but to treat us like criminals and deny us our college education was ludicrous. Whatever we lost in our admission would be a pittance compared to the loss of our futures.

How I replied as first responder under the duress of the line-up has been as unknown or misunderstood as much as why we chose to do the deed before, not after, the Coronation (Chapter 3). We ourselves are partly responsible for this, as the line-up was our first set-back, and to “come clean” with what happened is a blow to our pride; but the truth more than makes up for any loss of pride. My three “compadres” have joked with me that I “confessed” and got us all in trouble, but they know what actually happened as well as I. In truth, I decided to admit my own involvement without implicating anyone else, using such words as “speaking only for myself.” I did not think it through, for it immediately implicated Cole, due to our association that night, a fact Cole has never let me forget! Adling and Berry, however, were free to deny, using their Hamilton basketball game alibi, which, thanks to the silence of people like Anthony and the cooperation of people like Bobby and Larry, was holding up.

(Here was a moment pregnant with possibility, a moment for which we had not prepared, for if we had prepared, we might have opted for one of several different scenarios, any one of which would have made this school year even more fun than it actually became after February 11, 1964: 1) Cole would also admit his collaboration with me, but Adling and Berry would deny their involvement. Then the school would have to continue their investigation, for who would believe only two people did all that work? Cole and I would be heroes to the students and martyrs to almost everyone else. The burden of proof would be on the school to “finger” more than the two of us, and I don’t think they could have done it — probably they would have had to bring back the police for help, much to their embarrassment. 2) Cole would be surprised, saying something like “That’s what you were doing when you slipped out of my house that night?” In other words, with Adling and Berry in denial, I would be the only one who did the deed! That nobody would buy, and would heap upon the school major embarrassment; the rest of my school year would have been hell, as everything would be denied me until I “squealed” on others, but the more that went on, the more heroic I would appear and the more villainous the school would appear. I think I could have held out, for they could not have denied me graduation, since I had admitted I had done it. 3) Anticipating the possibility of being found out, work with the student body without revealing ourselves as the perpetrators, and say that if they find any who said they did it, then we all (or at least a majority of the student body) would say they also did it. What would they do — “punish” half the school? Students, parents, and a lot of the community would be outraged. 4) I (or Cole and I) would be the only ones who confessed, and then hint there were lots and lots who helped me (us), but not Adling, Berry, or Cole (or not Adling and Berry). This would create a similar dilemma for the school as would 3). Perhaps the reader could come up with his/her own scenario. One thing is sure in all this fun speculation about scenarios: had we had the experience and “savvy” of the way things worked in the world during this line-up that we were to gain over the next year or so, then one scenario similar to those described above would not have been so speculative.)

But back to reality. As the “floor” passed to the other three from me, the strength of the bond that had been forged among the four of us in the planning and execution of one prank became apparent. As Berry said, “We couldn’t let you take the blame for what we all committed to.” Whatever was going to happen to one was going to happen to all four — sort of a “Three Musketeers” thing. We were four individuals, but we were loyal and dedicated to each other — to a fault; nothing that could happen to one or all of us could “crack” or weaken the friendships this prank had conjured. Though forged because of the high school, our friendships had transcended the high school.

Each of the other three, down the line (I don’t remember the particular order, except Berry was the last one.), admitted to the deed much as I had done. Each of us implicated only himself. Immediately they acted as if they did not “have everyone,” and asked who else had been involved. This indicated they were in many ways “lucky” to have called in the correct quartet; they merely called in the four most talked about around campus and in the community. We were certainly not going to say anything to hint about Bobby’s and Larry’s prior knowledge of “something” happening (a mode we strictly followed for over three years thereafter, until both of them were graduated), but we did at that moment have the opportunity to “set them off on a wild goose chase” looking for our helpers who never existed. Instead, our pride of being so few to do so much in so little time took over all of us, and we proudly stated that only we had done it all that night. The physical achievement of the prank still remains after fifty years a source of astonishment to many reading or hearing of the deed.

The two administrators, after our admissions and their fruitless “fishing” for accomplices, gave us time to say something else. We supposed they wanted apologies and queries for forgiveness, as if we recognized we had committed something heinous, harmful, shameful, and criminal. To us, there was nothing to apologize for; nothing we had done, as far as we were concerned, needed forgiving (except for the matter with our mothers, which was an issue that was none of the school’s business).

We were dismissed with the announcement there would be a faculty meeting that afternoon after school to decide our “fate,” and we were not to attend. We left the office and went back to class in relief of not having to be so guarded any more; we left in a mental posture that was to mark us for the rest of our “career” as a sneaky quartet — unapologetic, unrepentant, proud, confident, without remorse, and without regret. Not that we were not concerned about what might be our “fate;” but we knew that whatever was going to happen to us, our conscious was “clean;” our “moral ground” was “high and dry.”

Word of our line-up spread like wildfire throughout the school. The rest of the school day we were treated like heroes, kings if you please. Our classmates wanted to know details, how we did it, how we planned it out, and how we got away with it without being caught. The greatest surprise to those who inquired seemed to be how simple the modus operandi was; no one seemed to think of the simple lifting site near the main entrance. We had to demonstrate to them how it worked in between classes before many of them believed it. During sixth period at the community gym Adling, Berry, and I continued to be surrounded by congratulations and questions. Danny Clack made his way through the group around us, reached out, and shook my hand vigorously.

“I said I would shake the hands of those who did it!” he said, as he shook Adling’s and Berry’s also. I like to think we reminded him that if he had not done so, he should not forget to shake Cole’s as well.

To use a term from the 1960’s, we were on a day-long “high” of being school-wide “heroes.” It portended the fact that we were “in” with our peers for the rest of the school year, at least “in” with a majority of them. Our fate was being determined at the secretive faculty meeting after school that afternoon, and we were as clueless as our questioners as to what was going to happen to us. Needless to say, our peers, for the most part, agreed with us that we had to be “punished,” but, surely, the “punishment’ should fit the deed — note I did not say “crime.”

There emerged, after the fact, conflicting reports about what actually happened that afternoon at the “faculty meeting.” The only thing we know for certain is that the prank divided the faculty, the administration, and, later, the community, just as surely as the school bond issue had divided the community back in 1963 (Chapter 1). It was a division over what should be done to us. One report we got was that the first inclination of much of the faculty, including Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Lee, and Mrs. (Page) was that the whole thing should be forgotten and forgiven, taking into consideration there had been no harm and we had freely admitted we had done it. That position became one way of saying the “punishment” fitted the spirit in which the prank was done. But there was a position strongly opposite that one, one that treated the prank as if it was malicious and criminal — a position fueled by the fear that a light “slap on the wrist” might encourage “copy cats” and would outrage parents and community members who felt no out-of-the-box behavior should go unpunished as a lesson to all present and future students; they needed to make an “example” of us. This “throw the book” attitude was pushed upon the faculty by the school board responding to certain parents and community leaders, we surmised; we heard that for their part Mr. Midkiff and Supt. Roach were sympathetic toward us, reporting the details of our admission to the faculty. Yet faculty members like Mr. Hathaway, Coach Bates, and Mrs. Odom (Clark’s mother), we were told, led the “throw the book at ‘em” faction among the faculty. Not as certain in our information is the “gag order” that was apparently placed upon the faculty by the school board and the administration; teachers seemed “scared shitless” for their jobs when, later on, we pressed some of them for details, so it appeared that to break that order would put, in their minds, their jobs in jeopardy. Compounding all this was the rumor there never was a faculty meeting or a vote, that the faculty was merely told what had already been decided and that they should keep their mouths shut.

With this alleged “gag order,” how did we know so many rumors? One of our sources was Coach Jack Cromartie, who had “fallen in grace” with Coach Bates and knew he had no job in Cisco the following year; a gag order meant nothing to him; he also was sympathetic to the four us, having us all in his fourth period civics class. However, he was so “disgusted with the situation,” seemingly bent upon “hanging” us, he did not even attend the faculty meeting, so his breaking of the “gag rule” was based upon second-hand information told to him by fellow and brave faculty members who also were disgusted. We’ve always wished he had attended, for we know we would have gotten first-hand information from him instead of rumors from other sources.

Regardless (I always like to use the archaic “irregardless” in irritating honor of all my English teachers over the years.) of who was sympathetic to us and who was not, it now seems clear that the “throw the book at ‘em” faction was commensurate with the “take names, sit down, and shut up” posture the new administration and new coaching staff was foisting upon the school district, all backed by what seemed to be a hard-line school board at the time.

Moreover, it appeared, our “punishment” was a “cave-in” to the pressure of the “throw the book” faction subgroup consisting of parents of students whose children had been punished in the past for vandalous acts against the school and of students and community members who thought something like “They won’t punish them!”

To get the “dark side” of this punishment phase out-of-the-way before covering the “fun side,” a true crime, an actual vandalous act was committed in the wake of the prank, for which we, because of the way the four of us were treated, were blamed: several administrators’ tires were slashed while cars were parked in driveways one evening; that means, for the criminally-challenged, knife blades were thrust into the soft sides of the tires to form one long slit, which, of course, deflated the tire and ruined it. Curiously, Lee’s tires were treated the same way, and he was the only student victim. As Keith Starr (Senior classmate who unfortunately did not get to graduate with us) said to me recently, “There was also a lot of bad stuff going on at that time!” There was never any serious consideration we had done it, to the credit of the more rational in the community (We had lots of witnesses of our whereabouts and actions that night.), but what it did for us was to contrast deeds; even our detractors saw how stupid it was to treat what we did as similar to the tire slashing. The tire slashing was never solved, either by the police or by the school. As I’ve said elsewhere, the school administration could catch harmless pranksters; they could not catch actual criminals. The whole terrible incident vindicated in our four minds that we wanted no part of “adult” leadership in our lives, if “adult leadership” means childishly treating playful pranks as malicious acts. As Adling summed it up, “…the administrators showed less character in their action than we did in ours. They sold out to unwarranted pressure.”

Our punishment was to be announced on Tuesday, one week after the prank, the day after the faculty meeting. Mrs. Bailey’s room was vacant the first period, so that was the site where we were gathered, Adling, Berry, and I plucked from Mr. Bint’s class and Cole “fished” from band. Now it turned out (I can’t make this stuff up!) Berry had a radio devotional on the county radio station that morning to deliver, and when we told Mrs. Bailey about that, she had to “fish out” Mr. Roach to get our meeting going (We suspect Mr. Roach was deliberately making us “sweat” and wait.). Mr. Roach, now knowing about Berry’s appointment, hurried up and “pronounced sentence,” to which we listened very calmly throughout. But he “blew it” with us with the way he ended, after he went over what was to happen to us. Perhaps because we were not showing remorse, and, therefore, were walking affronts (at this moment, sitting affronts) to the authority of the school, he tried to bully us once more. Among our “punishments” he told us earlier was three days’ expulsion — which immediately became a 3-day vacation in our minds — and Adling was told in a high-handed, intimidating tone he could not come back until he cut his hair so it did not touch his ears. (How’s that for dating all this crap?)

As I said, we were expelled for three days; Adling, Berry, and I were prohibited from participating in the Coronation — the ballots making us King Lobo candidates would be discarded and a new election would be held to find our replacements (In addition to our already choosing our accessories, our names were already printed on the Coronation programs.); for each day we were expelled, 3 points would be taken off our six-weeks average, for a total of 9 (A few years after 1964 a similar case wherein a school tried to take away points for a prank was taken to court. The court ruled taking away points could not be done, as part of students’ rights. Pity they couldn’t make that ruling retroactive! As it was, those 9 points off my grades in the end caused me not to be the valedictorian at graduation about three months later, allowing Kay (Wallace) Morris to be valedictorian and Clark Odom to be salutatorian. I’ve never let them forget that! I know all this because Mr. Midkiff, just before graduation, allowed me to see my grades and calculate my overall grade average without the 9 points off and compare it with the averages of my fellow honor graduates. So strong academically was our class (Chapter 2), the 9 points off dropped me to fourth.); we could not participate in the Junior-Senior Banquet; we were to serve a month’s “probation,” during which we were prohibited from participating in any extracurricular activity, like the Student Council, on which Berry, Cole, and I served.

We were more concerned about getting Berry off in time than we were about reacting to Mr. Roach’s pronouncement and tongue-lashing of Adling. As I’ve tried to argue, anything they could do to us could not “crack” us; the reward we had already gotten had far exceeded anything they could take away from us. We just wished our parents (read “mothers”) could have seen it that way. After we were “released” and after Berry finished his devotional on the radio, we knew we had to go report to our parents. Making sure we gave no satisfaction to Mr. Roach, by listening to him “stone-faced,” as soon as he was finished and gone, we went to our classrooms to get our books for our “3-day vacation.” which was to begin immediately. Walking into Mr. Bint’s class to get our school stuff, it was like four “dead men walking” to our peers; the class was stone silent, probably for the first moment of the whole school year! We ushered Berry off to the radio station, and, before we left the school grounds, Adling, Cole, and I began making plans to go camping during our “vacation,” as part of our “shaking off” what we had just heard; probably at this moment we would have admitted to being “a bit stunned” hearing our “sentence,” yet we were far from down-hearted. By this time we were prepared for the worst, and we felt we got it; the classlessness that had been thrust upon us was by now morphing into vindication of our conviction that for more adults than we thought, the joy of youth had dried up within them and blown away; it was sad, but it was hard for us to feel sorry for them.

There was no way we were going to tell our mothers as anything less than as a quartet. So, we had to wait for Berry to finish his devotional before we began probably the hardest part of the whole escapade — a lot harder than actually doing the physically demanding prank — telling the very people who loved us, but, who could never, ever, understand why we did it. Adling, Cole, and I gathered at my house (Both my parents were on the job.) to listen to Berry’s devotional on my transistor radio (Great clue for dating all this!). He did a great job. We waited for Berry to join us at my house (a plan “in the works” before Berry left the school before the rest of us), and then collectively we set out to do the “hard part.” We decided to go to Berry’s house first.

Mrs. Bonnie Berry had already received a couple of phone calls complimenting her son on his devotional by the time the four of us arrived, much to her surprise and puzzlement. In fact, we had to wait for her to finish one such call after we walked into the kitchen, where she was using the wall-mounted kitchen phone. As she hung up, she proudly told Berry it was another congratulatory call to him; then, she realized we were all there during school hours, so she asked the obvious. It is hard to imagine the mixed emotions she must have experienced at our answer, with Berry doing most of the talking to her and with visions of devotionals and expulsions in her head! We stayed to allow her to get over her shock and consternation. Then we left for the next “leg” of our “tour.”


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out….)

The day of chaos at Cisco High School, Wednesday, February 12, 1964, defied description. The chair/desk escapade caught everyone by surprise; its effects, emulating from the success of its execution the night before, far, far exceeded the expectations in the minds of a particular four Seniors. My memoirs recall two of the four minds’ first impressions upon arriving at school that morning, we acting as “normal” as possible:

According to Adling, “The next morning I got up easily — could have arrived at school early, but wanted to come characteristically late — wanted my arrival to be no different than usual. I parked in my same spot, walked toward school and noticed nothing unusual until I got near the door and heard some guys call out to me; the desks were still there — I wasn’t sure if the administration even knew where they were or not.”

I had gotten up unusually early so I could return my things to my house from Cole’s before going to school. As I drove up and parked in my usual spot, I saw the unusual sight of several students running around the school building in a great deal of excitement. I smiled to myself. As I walked to the entrance of the gym, the place we had to stay before classes began, I made sure that I did not look up at the rooftop. I was greeted by the late Ervin Addy, who rushed out the door to me.

“All right, Hastings,” he said, “why did you do it?” Realizing it was said in jest, I casually inquired into what he was talking about. “Look!” he said, pointing to the roof. The edges of the great mass of chair/desks could be seen by moving a bit away from the school building toward the flagpole. I did my best astonishment act and asked Ervin who had done it. “No one knows,” he answered.

So began several school days in which everyone seemed to “examine” everyone else; the students’ reaction was as we had hoped — a vast majority of them, especially the boys, thought the prank was “unreal” and “neat,” to use but two descriptors. Laughter over the chair/desks atop the roof was contagious and irresistible. The whole mood and demeanor of the school was so different on February 12 compared to the whole school year prior; we had permanently altered the course of our senior year.

Nothing could compare with the chaos of that first day. What was the school going to do without chair/desks in most of the classrooms? When it was clear the school day was not going to be cancelled, first period for Adling, Berry, and me was Mr. Bint’s chemistry class, wherein, like all the furniture-less classrooms, the boys had to sit on the floor and the girls had to sit on the low windowsill on one side of the room. I sat down by Robert Mitchell on the floor, who asked me quietly what I thought about “all this.” I said I thought someone had pulled off a pretty slick job, and I was wondering just who had done it; he agreed. Mr. Bint, trying with great frustration to teach in these conditions, was having little success getting any information over to us, the low laughter, giggles, and snickering filling the air with a constant din. Adling recalled during this class becoming “uncontrollably giggly at points,” despite his being called upon by Mr. Bint to work a problem on the chalk board, which, of course, he could not do. I struggled with “uncontrolled giggliness” when I spotted Anthony Strother (Recall he played basketball at Hamilton the previous night.), stretched out prone on floor, falling asleep!

Immediately after this first period, we had to use our alibis, as everyone on the faculty and many of the students, became “detectives” trying to solve the mystery before everyone’s eyes — a role the four of us took on also as cover. Mrs. Mulliner (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May 2013]), who lived next door to the Coles and therefore knew that I had stayed overnight with Cole at his house, thought she had us “dead to rights,” deliberately and cleverly questioning both of us separately about what we had done the night before. Her enthusiasm collapsed, however, when our stories of our aborted bowling trip corroborated. She had questioned Cole at the end of first period, and she later questioned me fifth period, at the start of speech. I guess she did not think that Cole and I probably would have a few stolen moments alone to talk with each other between these two periods.

The administration had to attack the chaos of the first period, so just as second period teacher Mr. Hughes was assuring all of us sitting on the floor again that who did the deed would soon be found out, our principal, C. B. Midkiff, requested the services of Mr. Hughes’ “boys” to help get the chair/desks off the roof. Mr. Hughes volunteered us right away. Students’ pick-ups were backed up to the edge of the school roof on either end of the building into which chair/desks were to be loaded; eventually all the boys in the school were “volunteered” to help get the chair/desks down; Mr. Mitchell’s custodial ladders were used to get us up on the roof, and I was amused that no one seemed to notice they could get up there also using the hand rail by the main entrance. It took all of second period (45 minutes) for about 175 boys to get down what four of us had gotten up in about 3 hours! (That shouldn’t be surprising, as getting out of second period classes “mandated” taking one’s time.) At one point during the “take-down,” Berry and I passed each other going in opposite directions atop the flat roof out of earshot of anyone else, one of us carrying a chair/desk and the other returning to get another. I whispered to him out of the corner of my mouth while still moving, “Does this seem familiar?” Adling recalled that this second period school-wide work force, compared to the prank the night before, “wasn’t a whole lot of fun.”

At the start of third period, the chair/desks were off the roof, but back-jammed in the main hall (like they were the night before) to be sorted back to their “proper” rooms — classroom teachers flattering themselves they could recognize all “their” chair/desks. I particularly remember Mrs. Bailey, Mrs. Cotton, and Mrs. Mulliner going up and down the hall pointing out “their” items to boys carrying them. The four of us were privately amused to see that these and other teachers were claiming chair/desks we knew (It was amazing how many chair/desks we individually recognized, having handled them the night before.) had not been taken from their rooms!

When all the chair/desks were back in place, so to speak, near the end of third period, the chaotic “melee” of that school day continued on; attention of the students could not be drawn away from what had happened. During lunch, Mr. Hughes, who took up our lunch money at the end of the cafeteria line, announced he would inspect the hands of all the boys, something that startled me at the time, as I had not even looked to see if I had any callouses on my hands. Before I got to loading my lunch tray, I peeked to see no obvious sign of “chair wear” on my hands, and I passed Mr. Hughes’ inspection, thankfully.

For a week after the prank, all self-proclaimed “detectives” seemed to have their own ideas about how the deed was done, none of which was accurate. Mr. Bint thought the chair/desks were put up on the roof through the skylight windows of the classroom; no one thought of the simple lifting at the front entrance. The most common pattern of speculation was that several people had to be involved — at least 8 and as many as 15. Girls were suspected as well as boys. Students like Danny Clack spoke for a lot of students when he said he considered whoever did it to be heroes, and that he could not wait to “shake their hands” when identified. All these speculations were much to our delight. Not to our delight, two days after the prank, Cole and I were going to get a podium for speech class during fifth period. (Recall Adling and Berry left speech class after the first semester — Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013] — and were in Mrs. Lee’s room as her student assistants.) As we passed the office area we saw Chief of Police Parkinson (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [August, 2013]), Principal Midkiff, and Supt. Roach (Chapter 3) talking together!

After we passed, Cole whispered, “Did you see what I saw?”

“I sure did!” I replied.

I added we should act as if the presence of the police was not upsetting to us. When we reported this sight to Adling and Berry, we all were concerned, but still confident there was little or no evidence of a committed crime; evidence for even breaking and entering was merely circumstantial. Our confidence was “on the right trial,” as it soon became common knowledge the school was not wanting to make it a police matter, but, rather, wanted to make it an “internal” matter. The “high moral plane” upon which we saw ourselves carrying our the chair/desk escapade was paying off: it bore the marks of a prank, not a crime, and the school knew it.

But the “high moral plane” was a “double-edged” sword for us. It played no small part in our being found out within a week by the process of elimination applied on a small sample of possible suspects. The facts that there were 1) no evidence of any kind of foul play, 2) no damage to or theft of school property, and 3) merely circumstantial evidence that did not prove breaking and entering, indicated that only certain students with certain characteristics did the deed. Using, unapologetically, the stereotypical judgments placed, justly or unjustly, on all four classes of that school year, by both the students themselves as well as by the faculty and the administration, the following logic was applied: The freshman class did not have the nerve to even try something like the prank; the sophomore class did not have the skill and experience to successfully execute the prank; the junior class was not precise or careful enough to perform the prank — they would have probably added some damage in their wake; the senior class had some members that just might go to all that trouble, seeing it as a challenge. Only the administrative speculation of that time, gone forever, could tell us, but it is also possible the administration was cognizant of the pressure being put on Senior leadership (Chapters 1 and 2), making the prank an act of some kind of retaliation by that leadership. This “whittled” down the number of suspects to that of the boys in the Senior class, about 30, as girls were not seriously considered, though some faculty members, like Mr. Bint and Coach Bates, thought otherwise. It became a matter of listening to what was being said about this population, especially the leaders of this population. Yet, it must have been difficult to believe those leaders would risk as much as they would to pull off this prank. As I said in Chapter 2, they probably only thought they understood those upon whom they were beginning to focus.

One day during the week before our “ID-ing,” Anthony Strother (of sleeping in Mr. Bint’s class floor “fame”) blurted out jokingly he knew exactly who did it — Adling, Berry, Cole, and Hastings, as he remembered seeing them all together at the truck stop after the basketball game (Chapter 6). Those of our quartet who heard this laughingly acted like we were caught, and we thought that was the end of it. But the more Anthony thought about it, the more it made sense, so, on another day at the gym during sixth period, he cornered Adling and Berry and began grilling them on details about the basketball game, which, of course, they could not answer directly. Anthony immediately shut up about his idea; he knew he had stumbled upon something the school would love to know, and he was not going to “rat” on anyone. At about the same time Anthony was grilling Adling and Berry, Cole was being grilled by Mr. Bint after school. He asked Cole if he, Berry, and I were involved (I think he already suspected Adling, given his “calling out” of Adling to work the chalkboard problem the “morning after,” mentioned above.). Cole refused to incriminate anyone, and Mr. Bint let him go. It was clear the number of suspects was getting small indeed.

When it came time in this week for final preparations for the Coronation, we candidates for King Lobo (Chapter 3) met to choose our accessories to wear during the program. After the decision, Mr. Hathaway (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]) said we had decided upon ties, but it had not been decided if all of us were going to be in the Coronation! Sylvia was becoming worried I was involved, due to, of all things, the orderly arrangement of the chair/desks on the roof! Not wanting to jeopardize our relationship and with things looking like they were going to “bust open,” I wanted her to hear from me that I was involved, assuring her there was nothing criminal in the prank, yet asking her to talk to no one about what I said. She was asked about my involvement before we were found out, but she would only say that I had some idea of who had done it. This was the first, but, unfortunately, not the last time I was afraid I was going to “lose” her because of my involvement with the group who was to become the M-4. Mrs. Bailey began to suspect Adling, Berry, and me because of the tremendous amount of planning and work that went into the prank, as well as the deed’s neatness and completeness. Like Sylvia, Mrs. Lee was impressed by the ordering of the chair/desks on the roof; this made her think of Berry, who, in her words, “always had to have things just so.” She began to believe that the day “after,” we had acted too much like “little angels” instead of the “little devils” we always seemed to be; she too seemed to be zeroing in on the four of us. One afternoon at the community gym Coach Turner found me alone and asked me, with that broad grin of his, what I was going to do when the authorities “came after me.” I acted surprised he would say that and dodged his questions concerning what my parents were going to think.

We were being trapped by our uniqueness and our success!

Because of all this “heat,” it was becoming more and more difficult for the four of us to be together to talk, but when we could talk “prank” to each other we agreed that a) things were getting “hot” for the four of us, and b) we still could flat deny everything, as we saw no evidence they had any evidence on us. If anything was constant, it was our confidence we had carried the prank out without a flaw and that we had “covered all our bases.” We were not happy we were being cornered as if we were criminals; we were consoled by the fact we were not. Adling contacted in secret Bobby and Larry, making sure nothing was going to come out from them, and assuring them that whatever happened, they would never be “fingered.”

That weekend after the prank was the “time of the parents,” for the whole town seemed to be talking about who did the chair/desk escapade, and my parents were asked about me, as was Mrs. Adling asked about her son. My parents confronted me with the “64-dollar question,” and I unashamedly told them I was involved and was one of four executioners/planners. My mother was very upset, of course, but what concerned me was her thinking I was unduly influenced by “bad friends,” instead of recognizing I could be a major cog in such an enterprise. My dad, I think, could very well see me doing the prank; he had been a teenager like me once, after all. But, understandably, he could not break the solidarity my parents wanted to exude. That solidarity came in the form of being “grounded” in the future, regardless of what was going to happen to us at school. I accepted not on the basis I had committed something “wrong,” but upon the basis I had been deceptive in my actions. Meanwhile, Mrs. Adling (Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012]) became so frustrated she could get nothing direct from her son regarding his having anything to do with the prank, decided to call up Bobby Smith to ask him if Adling and Berry had indeed been at the basketball game that night! Commendably, Bobby, knowing the situation at school, told her, as hard as it was for him to do so, that indeed those two had been at the game. Mrs. Adling was momentarily satisfied. (When we were found out, she knew that Bobby was culpable, but she, like the four of us, never “ratted” on Bobby.)

Our being found out became tangible on Monday at school, six days after the prank. All four of us were in Mrs. Hughes’ trig class, and Suzette (Hagan), second-period office girl, came as requested that the exacted four of us were to report to the office to see Mr. Roach, and, we presumed, others. As we walked en masse down the hall to the office, Adling whispered, “All right, let’s deny everything! They can’t prove anything!” Cole commented in a low voice that we better see exactly what is going on here and that we should “play it by ear.” All of us wondered if they had something on the four of us, or if “fingering” the “right” four was just a lucky coincidence. (As we later concluded, it was a bit of both; the process of elimination outlined above and the circumstantial evidence of our two “groupings” that night were enough upon which the administration could “go” with the four of us before the Coronation occurred; they were on a “tight” time schedule to settle this matter!)

We walked into the office to line up, like a police line-up, facing Mr. Midkiff’s desk, behind which he and Mr. Roach stood. Without being able to say anything at the start, we were told that they knew the four of us were definitely involved in the chair/desk incident; if we denied that we did it, we would be expelled from school permanently and would not be allowed to attend any other high school in Texas — no graduation from high school for us! Unbelievably, we were being treated as vandals for a harmless prank! They acknowledged no damage had been done, which sounded like they did not consider it a crime, but then, the next moment they repeated the ultimatums as if we were criminals, or, at least, the worst of juvenile delinquents! They demanded an immediate answer to confirm the knowledge of our culpability they said they had, and we were to answer individually.

I was standing on one end of the line-up, and, because of this or for some other reason we will never know, for both these men are now deceased, I was commanded to answer first….


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 6 (Carrying Out the Deed — Later Stages)

However, we could not test out my idea immediately after we all four were together in the school; we had to wait on the meeting in the little church across Avenue H to end. Taking our cue from Adling’s and Berry’s excellent idea of “lining up” the chair/desks from the classrooms near the entrance of my idea’s testing, we began moving chair/desks from as many classrooms lining the main hall as we could reach, lining them up “bumper-to-bumper” as quickly as we could in front of the east (NE) main entrance. The remaining meeting might delay chair/desk lifting to the roof, but it did not have to delay chair/desk moving.

The sides of the hall were darker than the center, so as we finished all the chair/desks in Coach Bates’ stage room and began moving chair/desks from hall classrooms such as Mr. Hughes’, Mr. Bint’s and Coach Turner’s into the hall, we tried walking and carrying near the hall sides, but found ourselves running into the hard-to-see tall metal trash cans, making much too much noise! When the noise gave no response from outside, we would laugh at our clumsiness, yet seemed reluctant to take the time to move the trash cans! The classrooms were much brighter due to diffused street light, but still dark enough there was little chance of being seen by a car driving along W 11th St., though we “ducked down” below windowsill level by instinct. One particular moment found Berry and I in a classroom while Adling and Cole were jamming up chair/desks near the east entrance. Suddenly, a shadow appeared at the windows of the room! Thinking it was someone at the window, I hissed out, “What was that?” It proved to be someone all right — a cat jumping upon the window sill from the ground below. With Mrs. Bailey’s room already right at the entrance and with now about five rooms emptied, the main hall was getting mighty crowded with chair/desk traffic!

We had to take short breaks because of the hard work, and during one such break we discovered a new problem at the west (SW) end of the main hall, where we knew the band hall meeting had ceased. A home across Avenue I displayed an open, brightly lit window commanding a nice view of the west entrance. This entrance had originally been tagged as possibly the site of moving chair/desks from a couple of rooms at this end of the main hall; it was believed my lifting idea would barely work there also. To lift from the west entrance or not, that was the question; in our usual, efficient, and democratic way of making decisions in the M-4, we decided on a compromise position and decided to move only Mrs. Cotton’s chair/desks out the west entrance when the time came.

At about this time, the religious meeting across Avenue H broke up; it was time to move jammed chair/desks in the hall to the roof; it was time to test my idea.

My idea of how to get the chair/desks atop the school’s flat roof above the main hall, my modus operandi, was mind-numbingly simple: at the double main entrance at the east (NE) end of the building, the flat roof jutted out to provide sidewalk protection for an extended side of classrooms; the truncated side ended at the doors, leaving a bare, open edge of the flat roof, only a little over eight feet above the sidewalk. A 20-ft square open-air decorative flower bed, planted in lantana and/or nan Dina, just to the right of the doors as you walked out toward Avenue H, had two of its sides ringed with these bare, open roof edges. One of these edges on the square butted up against the wall of the entrance. I saw that if one stood just inside the square off the sidewalk/walkway right outside the entrance and “pressed,” like a barbell, a chair/desk above his head, gripping simultaneously the back of the chair and the front edge of the desk, two legs of the chair/desk would be just about roof level, where another person could kneel down and grab the piece of furniture by one or two of the upward-jutting legs and bring it up out of the “presser’s” grip, turning it around upright in the process, and place it on the flat roof. The distance at the west entrance from the ground to roof level was greater, but believed to be doable also, if the person on the roof reached down as far as he could below the roof level.

It was decided at first Berry and I would climb upon the roof just outside the main entrance, using the sidewalk guard rails like ladder rungs, and start as the two “roof men.” Cole was the first “feeder” of chair/desks out the door and Adling was the first “lifter” to Berry and me. It worked — just as I thought it would! I think we all felt a surge of relief and great satisfaction, none more so than I. It was not easy, especially on the lifter, but we found we could generate a rhythm efficient enough that the feeder and lifter could keep both roof men in perpetual motion walking one way loaded and the opposite empty — setting the chair/desks in ranks and files across the width of the flat roof above the main hall. We experimented to find the most efficient arrangement of our quartet, exchanging positions for several “units.” We found we seemed to work best, fast and efficient, with Adling and Berry on the roof, Cole as the feeder, and I as the lifter. I recall the sensations of a “well-oiled” machine: the soft crunching of the flat roof’s gravel under Adling’s and Berry’s feet during their two-way repetitions, Cole’s reliable maneuvering of the chair/desks from the hall, through the partially propped-open door, and to the lifting spot, and my seeminglly never-ending “military pressing” of each chair/desk over my head.

Our greatest concern, of course, was to be spotted by someone in a car driving on Avenue H, so we had a “system of concealment” should one the roof men, doubling, reasonably, as a watchman, should whisper as loudly as he dared, “Car!” That word would be relayed down along our “conveyor belt” of moving chair/desks. The roof men would quickly place any near-by desks they were transporting in the shadows and both lie flat on their stomachs upon the gravel; the feeder would shove any chair/desks at the entrance back inside the building and get inside the door, shutting it behind him; the lifter would assist the feeder as much as possible and then duck behind the lantana bushes in the landscaping. Thankfully, this system did not have to be employed too many times, and each time “all was clear” within seconds of the car’s passing. If any of us had a moment to spare, which was not often, he would glance up at the sky to look for signs of our greatest dread — worse than being caught in the deed — rain. Again, thankfully, no signs of rain were ever spotted.

Periodically, as more and more chair/desks were lining up along the roof top, we would all four stop our “conveyor belt” and go back inside to push more desks up close to the entrance for the efficient “feeding of the feeder.” At the end of one such “feeding,” we decided to go to other end of the hall and put up the one room of chair/desks from Mrs. Cotton’s room, for, no one seemed to be appearing at the bright window across Avenue I. This lifting site was more difficult, as both lifter and roof man had to stretch to complete the “hand-off.” Here the west door was left propped open all the time during lifting, as that entrance was entirely in shadow; a broken “business” end of a baseball bat was found as the prop. As we finished the chair/desks from this one room, it was my task to get rid of the broken bat that had served us so well. In our surging confidence I carelessly tossed the bat so hard it thundered into the end of the band hall with a loud thud! The three in the hall and I at the door froze; I hurriedly shut the door and received right away a “triple-tongue lashing” concerning my careless “stupidity.” The lashings turned to giggles when it was apparent there would be no response to the loud thud.

Back at the main lifting site at the east entrance, we had stopped for a breather and to check to see how many chair/desks we had to go. As we all talked just outside the entrance, I was holding the front door open so it would not close and lock us out, when it slipped out of my hand and did just that! There was a brief moment of panic, as we all had the realization that such a great plan, having been so successful so far, could be ruined by something so stupid and trivial. Adling became very emotional, and for the only time any of us over the years can remember, he “lost it;” composure became beyond him at that moment.

“Hastings! It ain’t going to be too difficult in the morning to figure out who did all this when they find Berry’s and my jackets and my books in the teachers’ lounge!” he said as loudly as he dared. The way Adling railed at me reminded me of the acting scenes he and I used to do for each other back in our junior high days; I could not help but start laughing, right in Adling’s face. As Adling became more and more upset with me, Berry and Cole became infected by my laughter. Adling noted Cole laughing nervously and did not notice that Berry’s laugh was curiously care-free. An observer of our as-quiet-as-possible quartet of laughter might have thought it a scene of condemned men laughing at themselves. My whirring mind quickly thought of a way to get back into the building, and, apparently, the same thing occurred to Berry. But neither of us let Adling know what we were thinking, as we were enjoying his rant too much. Adling even began laughing at himself ranting. Cole, also clueless to Berry’s and my thoughts, but true to his “coolness under fire,” decided to take it upon himself to calm Adling down and suggested the two of them walk around to the west door where we had recently worked to see, if by chance, it had been left ajar. (He probably wanted to make sure Adling was away from me, in case Adling was really angry enough at me to attack me.)

As Cole escorted Adling around the corner of the building closest to the intersection of W 11th St. and Avenue H to walk the length of the building around to the west door, Berry and I stood side by side without a word until they were out of earshot. We looked at each other and I asked him, “Do you want to go, or do you want me to?” Berry grinned and shrugged his shoulders. At that moment we both knew we were thinking the same thing, and to this day, I do not remember us saying anything about how to get back in to each other! I do remember him answering my question.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. Feeling myself responsible for this “mess,” I said I would go; I climbed onto the roof, squeezed into the small window above one of the stalls of the boys’ restroom, and dropped onto the toilet seat and down on the floor. In a matter of seconds I had let Berry back inside at the main entrance, and the two of us began walking toward the west door to see if we could catch Adling and Cole there. Who should we meet coming toward us down the hall through the maze of chair/desks yet to be “processed” but Ading and Cole! The west door had somehow been unintentionally left ajar! (Perhaps in that “frozen” moment when I slammed the bat against the band hall?) We all now, even Adling, had as loud a “snickering” fest as we could for a couple of minutes over this farcical series of events, when Adling “lost it.”

We returned to the final stages of stooping, reaching, carrying, lifting, and scooting. 10:00 PM changed into near 11:00 PM and we were determined to get at all the chair/desks we could. Some rooms were locked, so we could not get to our “prey” in these — Mrs. Lee’s (outside entrance), Mrs. Wagley’s, Mrs. Pirtle’s, and Mrs. Page’s, not to mention the library. We worked so continuously, efficiently, and rapidly we did not take the time to count the number we did get to and transport to the roof. Near the end, fatigue was appearing, reflected how hard we had worked, in the form of slips and accidental bumping of the chair/desks. But, when finished, we estimated we had reached a total of eight rooms, each with 25 to 35 chair/desks, for a total between 220 and 240! Four of us had done this in a little under 3 hours! (Not counting the preparatory positioning Adling and Berry had done before Cole and I joined them.) Little wonder back then and even today many suspect more than four did the prank, in light of the work done, and that we are still “covering” for no-telling-how-many!

When we could not reach any other chair/desks, we had to call a halt, much to the relief of our aching backs, and we took turns going up on the roof to view the surreal, fantastic, and hilarious sight of what we had accomplished — the entire long flat-roofed corridor over the main hall was jammed “bumper-to-bumper” with ranks and files of desks; the flat area over the offices was completely clogged with chair/desks, with some units sitting on the sloped “wings” of the area; the roof was full of school chair/desks! We seemed to agree, despite how tired we were, that the results exceeded our wildest expectations conjured in our planning sessions. Classrooms below were empty; the sight on the roof compelled laughter; midnight was approaching; the job was done. Tired, sweating, proud, and happy, we all four congratulated each other by shaking hands once again.

Our obvious success spurred us on to complete the rest of our plan for the evening. Cole and I left the building to retrace our steps along Avenue I across town to his car near the cemetery. We ran for a good deal of the way, and, to our surprise, we got barked at again by Tiny at Cole’s house! Meanwhile, Adling and Berry made sure there were no traces in the school building of who might have done this deed and made sure all doors were locked before they closed the last one behind them. They then, with jackets and Adling’s books, waited in the shadows for the sight of Cole’s car. That sight was to appear in the same area where Berry had been deposited back what seemed now a long time ago. Following an obscure route, Cole drove upon the school ground, as he had done on Berry’s deposit. Cole slowed down, and I once more slipped into the back seat to open the right rear door; Adling and Berry slipped into the back seat with me and closed the door quietly; I slipped back up into the passenger seat; it was hard to know which was smoother — the depositing of one or the pick-up of two. Cole drove directly to the rear of W.W. Smith’s service station, where Adling and Berry got out of Cole’s car into Adling’s, to begin acting as if they had just returned from the basketball game.

It was planned for Adling and Berry to meet Bobby and Larry after the team’s return from Hamilton to obtain information about the basketball game. After we had let Adling and Berry off behind the service station, Cole and I, resolving we were not going to lie about our aborted bowling trip, decided we needed more “substance” to our alibi, other than just “riding around” all this time. So, we thought it would be good to say we had waited around for the return of the basketball team, “meeting” athletes and “basketball fans” like Adling and Berry, after we couldn’t bowl. But we missed the arrival of the team at the community gym, so we quickly started looking for any team members not home yet to we could be seen by them. We did find such members at the all-night truck stop on Highway 80 at the west end of town, but, to our surprise, there were Adling and Berry also! It was cool to see that apparently Adling and Berry had gotten to speak to Bobby before going into the truck stop, for they were “talking up” the game with Bobby, Earl Carson, Macon Strother, and Anthony Strother, as if they had been in the stands. Not germane to the game, Cole and I made sure the story of our aborted bowling trip was well circulated at the truck stop. Cole and I felt our alibi strengthened, if the need arose, despite the unplanned gathering of a very tired quartet.

Adling dropped Berry off at the latter’s house and himself drove home; Cole and I arrived back at his house not very long after midnight, about the time we had told his mother we would. We were all back in our “normal” positions for the evening — the plan had been executed!

We all went to sleep that night tired, dog tired, but experiencing the exhaustion of a job well done. Before nodding off we talked, long after the fact, that we all experienced when retiring after the prank a “different form” of disbelief; it was hard to believe everything had “gone off” so very well; our planning had been successfully carried out, even to details, meeting and exceeding our expectations. Cole had radio station KOMA on as we “fell” into our beds, and the newly famous group, the Beatles, who had played at a concert in Washington, D.C. that very evening while the four of us were “so busy,” were being played — their first big hit in the U.S.: “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” I commented how appropriate it was to hear the Beatles to end such a fantastic night; Cole only mumbled something against the Beatles, as was his wont, but he did leave the radio on to the end of the song for me. Just before Cole went to sleep we shared the thought of how the next school day was going to be “interesting,” and how hard it was going to be to keep straight faces, hoping it was going to be hard to be found out.

Alone now with my thoughts as sleep came easily, my feelings, before they yielded to fatigued “grogginess” were best described as tidbits of triumphant giddiness. In Coronation terms, it was as if we all four had been crowned King Loboes; like Napoleon had reached out and crowned himself, we had reached out and done something about our Senior year to make it memorable; we had declared we were kings of our lives — not the pawns of anyone. It was an act of freedom, of defiance, of youthful joy — an act that had turned us into bonded brothers.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 5 (Carrying Out the Deed — Early Stages)

The school day of February 11, 1964, at the “replacement” Cisco High School building with the flat roof seemed ordinary enough, but inside the heads of four particular individuals, that school day was far from ordinary. It was hard for us to focus and concentrate on the normal tasks and activities; good thing we had by this time in our own individual ways developed considerable “acting skills.” During the school day I recall a couple of omens, or, what we might have thought were omens “special” to us with a certain plan in our heads — one good and one bad. The good omen was that the day did not portend any threat of rain; in fact, it was a bright, partly cloudy day, and unusually warm. Had there been inclement weather imminent, we would have had to call the whole thing off and create a whole new set of alibis, as well as a new date, for, the last thing we wanted was the chair/desks atop the roof being weather-damaged. If we were found out as the cause of ruined school furniture, we visualized having to work for the school district the rest of our lives to pay for the damages. The bad omen came in Mrs. Evelyn Bailey’s Senior English class (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]) when something was said about vandals somewhere breaking into a school. When this was said, the four of us, all in the same classroom, dared not look at each other.

The final period of the day was sixth period, when Adling, Berry, and I had to report across town (Berry had not taken his car to school, so he “bummed a ride” with Adling to school, so they could efficiently “leave for Hamilton” after school “in Adling’s car.”) to the community gym for “athletics,” even though during this last semester of our high school years Adling had no more official “duties” as an athlete, and Berry and I had no more official “duties” as manager/trainers; we were out of school at the end of sixth period like everyone else not associated with athletics, like Cole. He was spending sixth period as a classroom assistant in Mr. Bint’s chemistry class back at the school building where we were all four planning on being “very busy” later on.

Cole was to wait just after school (for some reason he did not drive his car to school that day either) for the three of us to arrive back at school after sixth period, our returning to school to get “a book I had forgotten.” He would then hitch a ride with us (Maybe this is why he didn’t take his car to school.). But we three were late getting away from the gym in my car Liberty (’53 4-door light green Ford), and Cole thought it not wise to hang around the school for no apparent reason, so he took it upon himself to walk home, so as not to arouse suspicion (Just to remind the reader — this was before cell phones, so we had no way to communicate with each other via phone.). I tried in my “ode” to him (Ode to Robert W. Cole [May 2012]) to use this discretionary decision of his to illustrate yet again why he was the “perfect fourth;” even when the unexpected cropped up, he was always cool, calm, and rational; he never panicked nor made unwarranted assumptions. One of lesser metal than Cole might have assumed something more than just being late had gone wrong; it was just a “hiccup” in our plans early on.

Nor were the three of us arriving in my car, finally, to the school, upset when Cole was not there; we knew we were late and guessed Cole had done just as he had. Adling brought his schoolwork and books with him, as we stepped inside the building near the office to find few people in the main hall. We then went down the side hall by the office and the boys’ restroom to find the gymnasium/stage area empty (Recall that stage had been turned into Coach Bates’ classroom (Chapter 1).). Berry stood watch at one side hall entrance to the gym and I stood watch at the other side hall entrance. (The second side hall contained the teachers’ lounge and the girls’ restroom.) After giving Berry the keys to his car, Adling casually walked diagonally across the gym floor to the entrance down into the abandoned dressing room located beneath the stage floor, right underneath Coach Bates’ classroom; he disappeared through this entrance door without anyone seeing him.

Adling’s disappearing act was our “crossing the Rubicon;” there was no turning back now.

Berry went back to my car parked on 11th Street outside the school, in its usual place of Senior parking privilege, while I went to Mr. Bint’s room to pick up my “forgotten” book (Rooms had to double as locker spaces.). Back in the main hall I met Mrs. Mulliner (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]), who wanted to introduce me to someone (I’ve long since forgotten who that stranger was.). While I was trying to politely cut a conversation short in the main hall and underneath the stage Adling was trying to adjust to the darkness of his new environs, outside who should walk up to Berry waiting in my car but two junior cheerleaders, Sheri (Heyser) Malone and Cathy (Abbott) Strother. Naturally, Berry volunteered my car to give them a ride they were needing as soon as I came back with my book. As surprised as I was to see the two young ladies in my car with Berry, it was nothing compared to the surprise Berry and I got when Sheri asked what had happened to Adling! She apparently had seen the three of us together when we drove up! Without hesitation, we made up reasonable replies; we said we had both looked for him (I taking longer than Berry because of the book) but now we were pretty sure he had gotten a ride with someone else, dismissing the Adling absence with a “You know Adling!” This seemed to satisfy our impromptu passengers, and casual banter soon changed the subject, as I drove them to their destination in an atmosphere of chivalry.

By the time Berry and I drove as only two back to the community gym and Adling’s waiting car, it was about 4:00 PM. Berry used Adling’s keys and drove Adling’s brown and white ’56 Chevy, with me following in Liberty, on a obsure, indirect trek to a pre-determined place in the downtown area — a parking spot in front of West Texas Produce Co. on E 9th Street, about a block east (NE) of Avenue D (Conrad Hilton Ave.). This spot was used to Adling’s car, as he worked at West Texas Produce off and on as one of his many odd jobs. I then took Berry to his house (“to wait for the ‘delayed’ Adling to come pick him up so they could get off to Hamilton) and went quickly to my house (Neither of my parents had got off work yet.) and called Cole, who was by now getting anxious to hear from us. He was relieved to know “all systems were ‘go'” and to know he had made an admirable decision not to stay at the school. I gathered my things together in order to spend the night at Cole’s house, where we planned on doing homework and going bowling later on. (Note no quotes around bowling; we were actually going to bowl so that if we had to use our alibi, we would not be lying.). After arriving at his house about 4:30 PM, we talked openly in front of his mother about our bowling plans and proceeded to work an hour or so on a trig assignment due to Mr. James Hughes the next day.

(Today I consider my spending the night at Cole’s and our going bowling on a weeknight a weakness in our alibis, as we had never spent the night with each other on a weeknight before, nor had we ever gone bowling together! The sudden decision to do the prank because of the basketball road game, a grand, strong cover for Adling and Berry, forced a not-so-grand and not-so-strong cover for Cole and me, despite the fact we were actually going to go bowling at the lanes in neighboring Eastland. It is interesting, however, that parents at both my house and Cole’s house apparently saw nothing strange about the two of us doing on a school night things we had never done before. It was a testimony how things like war-gaming, noon-time “shenanigans” as described below, and Dad’s root beer had made our association with each other a strong and comfortable one in people’s minds.)

Meanwhile, back under the stage floor, Adling was working on his trig also, his adjusted eyes having barely enough light to do so. But it was hard for him to concentrate, as he wondered if the custodian, Mr. Mitchell (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]), checked the abandoned dressing room before locking the building for the night. Thinking that unlikely, he nonetheless stayed as close to the completely dark hole leading underneath the gym floor as his “homework light” would allow, in case the door through which he “crossed the Rubicon” were to open. (Adling’s hideout had become a familiar place to us in this alleged high school, as during our lunch hour many of us, probably most notoriously Cole and I, would sneak down into the abandoned dressing room and up hollow “chimneys” on either side of the stage using 2 x 4 framing as ladder-like “rungs” and into the space above the tiles forming the ceiling of the gym. I remember vividly one noontime Cole and I barely making it out of this “crawl and climb” maze of darkness to appear in our class after lunch — civics taught by Coach Cromartie — disheveled and covered in dust. Sitting close to us and noting our unsightly appearance, Lanell (Stanford) Bond asked us what we had been doing. Just to “mess with her” [as we did with Jeanette Shirley {Cole’s ode} as sophomores back in the old “true” 3-story high school], we told her we had been in a fight with each other on the playground after lunch; she was horrified until we said that wasn’t true; she couldn’t again ask for the truth, as class had started.)

About 5:30 PM Cole and I, in his ’59 blue and white 4-door Chevy, arrived at Berry’s house to pick him up as a favor for Adling, who had to “run some errands” before he could “get off to Hamilton with Berry to the basketball game.” We were “saving some time” for Adling so they could “get going on time.” Mrs. Berry was surprised when Cole and I told her we were not going to the game also, but, rather, were going to go bowling after we finished our homework. She also wondered why Adling was so “busy” at the estimated time of departure. Nonetheless, the three of us, back in Cole’s car, did not feel uneasy about Mrs. Berry’s questions. We drove down to Adling’s parked car at West Texas Produce, Berry (who had eaten before we picked him up at his house) again used Adling’s keys and drove off to begin a long time-consuming trek around the countryside of the county so that Adling’s car would not be seen and so the car would appear to be “driven to a basketball game.” Cole and I verified with Berry before he left we would rendezvous with him in just about two hours. During this time, while Berry was driving God-knows-where, Cole and I returned to his house to finish our homework and to have supper, and Adling, in his under-stage “hide-out,” determined it was getting dark enough he could safely exit the dressing room.

Adling crept around in the surreal setting of the locked school building (Remember, these were the days before security cameras and alarm systems in schools.), hearing cars driving up on the more-than-a-block area that was the year before the junior high playground and sports fields– cars doing “doughnuts” — going in tight circles with spinning, dirt-and-gravel spewing, and squealing tires. He hoped such activity would not attract the police to start keeping an eye on the school building anytime that evening! His mind began to wander back over the details of the plan so far and the plan to come, and he thought about the possibility of being left intentionally in the building by his “three compadres” as a super double-cross practical joke, the ultimate “counter-prank.” True to our friendships, instead of being worried, he laughed silently to himself at the thought.

Around 7:00 PM Cole and I, homework finished and stomachs filled, announced we were leaving to go bowling, but, of course, not right away, as we had to meet Berry returning in Adling’s car from his cross-country trek at his anticipated arrival time, about 7:15 PM. We, in Cole’s car, were to meet him at one of Cole’s favorite “birddogging places” used by parked couples — a small turn-off sheltered from view by mesquite trees (leafless now, of course) off the “old, old” highway to Abilene that used to skirt the perimeter of Oakwood Cemetery, the city cemetery, not far from the site of the bonfire back in November (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]); this rendezvous site was at the east (NE) end of the cemetery near an “east” entrance through the rock wall surrounding the city’s burial area and a little further from the corner rock arched entrance at the intersection of W 2nd Street and Avenue J. We decided to arrive a bit early in case Berry lived up to his fast-paced driving, and, sure enough, about 7:10, we saw Adling’s Chevy approaching us near the rendezvous site from an out-of-town direction, from around the far corner of the rock wall on the “old, old” Abilene highway. It was a perfectly timed connection!

Berry reported he had generously replaced some of Adling’s gas he had used, and he got a report from us that things seemed to be going well “from our end.” We made sure we were all encouraged and proceeded in the newly arrived darkness in a two-car caravan to W. W. Smith’s (He was Bobby Smith’s, one of our underclassmen confidant’s, dad.) service station at the corner of W 8th Street and Avenue M, approaching it from the back down the now-dark avenue. Berry parked Adling’s car in the back-alley shadow of the station and crawled into the back seat of Cole’s car. Next, we had to get something for Adling to eat. So, while Cole was driving across 8th Street to the Dairy Treat (To have gotten food at Woody’s would have almost assured we would have been noticed by some fellow classmates (Chapter 3), a scenario we wanted to avoid if we could.), Berry lay down in the back floorboard of Cole’s car so as not to be seen when we drove up to order some food; after all, he was supposed to be going to Hamilton. I ordered a hamburger, a milk shake, and three soft drinks to go. The first two items were for Adling, and the three drinks were for us in the car. We drove off toward the school by dark avenues and streets.

Meanwhile, Adling, getting bolder in his exploration of the building with the growing darkness, moved about to crouch below window levels, allowing him to peer just over several sills to “case” the school’s outside perimeter. Cars making “doughnuts” on the playground area had ceased, but he discovered there was an unexpected meeting in the band hall in a separate building at the west (SW) end of the main hall, a building paralleled by the lunch room building. Then, at the other end of the main hall, at the main entrance (a spot vitally figuring in my modus operandi  idea), he peered out to see, again unexpectedly, some kind of Tuesday night religious meeting going on in the little church at the corner of W 11th St. and Avenue H, right across this avenue from the school’s east (NE) entrance. There was a lot going on simultaneously that night at the school site!

When Cole, Berry, and I arrived in the blue and white ’59 Chevy, we “cased” the block as part of the plan, only to discover the same two surprises that Adling had from inside the school. Adling was supposed to let Berry in through the west (SW) entrance, but, because of the meeting in the band hall, that idea had to be “ditched” and a new entrance had to be determined, all the while hoping Adling would be thinking as we were (How our situation would have been made so much easier if we had had cell phones!). The three of us decided to proceed as planned, Berry thinking he could keep to the shadows and out of sight from the band hall area and well-knowing the original planned entrance needed a substitute; we were banking on Adling being as aware of the situation as we, and we trusted that Berry and Adling could adjust to the unexpected situation and come up with a new solution “as they went.” We in our planning sessions had talked about keeping “our cool” at all times, especially in surprise contingencies we could never have anticipated.

Cole drove casually and slowly onto the school block behind the building onto the area where a block-long section of W 12th St. had been partitioned off to link two full blocks for the school building and its play and sports areas. This was about the same place where the “doughnut” cars Adling heard earlier had done their stunts. It also simultaneously put the gym building between us and the church and placed us in an obscure line of sight with the band hall. As Cole slowed down even more, Berry, clutching the sack with hamburger and shake, sat near the right rear door (The building was on our right.). I crawled into the left rear seat to assist Berry with the right rear door. Cole had made sure the car’s interior lights would not come on when the rear doors were opened; Berry opened the right rear door of the moving car and slid out onto the ground running in a crouched position and clutching the sack; I shut the door as quickly and quietly as possible; the car never stopped moving. I got a brief glimpse of Berry ducking into the shadows of the school building near the outside wall of the stage area, near Adling’s “hideout.” Then I crawled back into the front passenger’s seat for Cole and I to begin our journey over to Eastland to go bowling. Had Cole and I checked the time, it would have been just about 7:30 PM.

While Cole and I were driving to the lanes in Eastland, a bit more than ten miles away, a “comedy of errors” ensued before Adling and Berry could rendezvous. From a crouched position peering over the windowsill of a classroom, Adling made out forms of a car and a passenger emerging from it on the school playground. As he said, he “instinctively knew” it was Berry. He wanted to let Berry in by a different door due to the meeting in the band hall, so he hurriedly went to the door on the side hall leading into the gym nearest to the girls’ restroom. Meanwhile, Berry thought of the same plan, but he thought Adling would be at the west door at the end of the main hall near the band hall, waiting for him as originally planned. So Berry went to the west door and while he was there Adling opened the side door, propped it safely open, and stepped out into the shadows between the main hall and the stage building, softly calling out Berry’s name. Not finding him, Adling went back into the building and down the main hall to the west door, just as Berry left the west door and went to the side door Adling just left! As I described this moment in my memoirs, things were a “tad out of phase!” Berry lingered just long enough near the side door to allow Adling to return to spot Berry and the food sack — at last. Berry was inside.

By now Adling was famished, and he “latched on” to the hamburger and milk shake. They went up into Coach Bates’ classroom and sat in a couple of chair/desks for Adling to finish his meal and for them to talk about how things had gone so far. They delighted in sharing each other’s perspective of the ongoing plan, and began talking about details of what they best should do before Cole and I joined them, discussing at length potential problems poised by the church meeting across Avenue H and the band hall meeting. They disposed of the hamburger wrapper and drink cup beneath the gym floor, using the dark entry hole which, the reader might recall, was in Adling’s late afternoon “hide-out.” Then they waited for the meetings to be over and for the return of their “bowling buddies” in the unlocked teachers’ lounge in the side hall close to the girls’ restroom, depositing jackets and Adling’s books there. Adling described the “camp-out” in the teachers’ lounge, a sort of “holy of holies” — off-limits and very taboo to all students — as “a really sort of odd, unplanned rebellious-type action.” Nothing drove home the reality that this was “really happening” than their conversation in the darkness of the teacher’s lounge!

Cole and I were in for a surprise when we arrived at the bowling alley. It was ladies’ night, so we could not get a lane! After voicing a few of our “patented” politically incorrect expletives borne of war-gaming, because we really did want to bowl to add reality to our alibi with scores, etc., we decided we would pass the time we had for bowling — the plan gave us only 30 to 45 minutes to bowl — just watching the ladies bowl. As we watched, we decided that we would just honestly describe the reason we did not get to bowl after all, should it ever come up in the future. About 8:15 PM, about the time we had to get going on our return trip, the manager said there was a lane open for us at last, but we had to decline, with our thanks to him anyway; we had no time for bowling now. So much for the bowling alibi!

We drove back to Cisco to leave his car in the mesquite-masked parking spot turn off near the cemetery near where we had rendezvoused with Berry in Adling’s car earlier. Now we had to make a trek on foot essentially across town to get to the school. We walked to W 2nd St. and Avenue J, the site of the cemetery entrance rock arch, then east (NE) on W 2nd one block to Avenue I, which would take us to the school on W 11th, nine blocks away. Ironically, we had to pass right in front of Cole’s house between W 5th and W 6th Streets on Ave. I, where the Coles’ house dog, Tiny, happened to be in the yard to do “nightly business” and gave us a hearty watchdog bark as we passed. There was not much traffic on the streets of Cisco on a school weeknight, even as we crossed Highway 80 (W 8th Street), so we made it to the school with no trouble dodging car lights. As we arrived at the intersection of Avenue I and W 11th St., we could see that the band hall meeting that had surprised us at the “depositing of Berry” was over, which meant we knew we would have no trouble getting into the building unseen.

Adling and Berry, before our arrival by foot, had wisely decided to “get things going” by getting “inconveniently placed” chair/desks, like those in Coach Bates’ classroom on the gym stage, in position near the site of my “lifting” idea, my modus operandi, the east (NE) main entrance at the end of the main hall near the office facing Avenue H. They carried each chair/desk from that classroom across the gym floor, and, as they came to the side hall by the boys’ restroom, they would set the chair/desk down at the window opening up on Avenue H and push the piece of furniture by squatting down and duck-walking behind it, placing it into position near the main entrance doors. The religious meeting across the avenue, unlike the band hall meeting, was still ongoing.

They were just about finished with this positioning of the first of the “chair/desks” to be “processed,” when Cole and I pecked at the side entrance door between the gym and the girls’ restroom, the same door into which Berry was admitted with Adling’s food in the “comedy of errors” earlier. I can’t remember which one, Adling or Berry, heard us and let us in, but in a moment’s time all four of us were standing just inside that side entrance door, bivouacked together in the school, as planned! We all four shook hands in congratulations and for reassurance.

Each pair of us briefed the other pair as to what had happened so far. It was exhilarating; even the unexpected was not a problem so far; things were going as planned. As Adling described his feeling in the teachers’ lounge earlier, “We’re inside the school, all is going well; there’s no reason why we can’t proceed as planned.” That is, unless my idea of getting the chair/desks on the roof did not work for some expected reason. After all, we could not have tested my idea before tonight; if it did not work, we had gone to a hell of a lot of trouble this one evening for nothing! Not to mention a lot of wasted planning!

It was time to see if my “brainchild,” my modus operandi, was going to work as we had envisioned.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..” begins Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities. So also seemed the times of late 1963 in the town of Cisco, Texas, specifically in Cisco High School, home of the Loboes. The fun-driven lifestyle and friendships of certain students in the Senior Class of 1964 assured in our minds we were living in the best of times, well worth waiting over 11 years for our graduation. However, new coaches, new administrators, a new school bond, and our class in “facility limbo” threatened to lay our hopes and frivolity low…..unless we lived up to our fanciful self-analysis that we could overcome anything thrown our way. It wasn’t an unrealistic “Let’s put on a play and everything will be all right!” attitude from Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movies; it was more like “Ok, how can we get control of this thing and turn the tables on everyone?” We may not have known the answer yet, but our self-confidence made us look for one.

We had just been successful saving the Homecoming Bonfire from college arsonists (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]), but we had no Senior Trip and Senior Play as our traditional senior privileges. Like the days before the French Revolution, there was an uncertain tension in the air, and our not-so-serious microscopic Cisco context of tension reflected the very serious context of the world in general, both near and far. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were about to start the “British Invasion” of America, giving us, through rock ‘n’ roll, motivation to resist attempts to squelch teenage expression — resistance through music and fashion; we found rogue radio stations who played rock ‘n’ roll despite censorship of the music in communities and churches. JFK had brought youth, hope, and optimism to the Whitehouse and to the country’s psyche, but he was assassinated in Dallas about two weeks after our bonfire. College youth were beginning to ask poignant questions about US foreign policy and thinking of ways they could make a difference from campus, while at the same time the US was becoming more and more mired in a no-win situation in far-off South Vietnam. Young women were questioning their traditional roles in society, but Title IX had not yet come along to give them equal opportunity in school-sponsored sports. Dr. Martin Luther King had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D. C., but before that, in June, 1963, Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”

To quote Adling from his diary: “We dreamed more than the average kid. There comes a time when you want to see some results of some dream — see something actually happen. I’m not sure why pure dreaming is not enough, but it is probably a universal truth that something exciting has got to happen to a dreamer on a dreamer’s own impetus sometime. That’s getting at my motive for thinking of putting the desks on the roof; it was subconscious. I recall driving by (the “converted” high school building) [parentheses mine] and for some reason noticing the natural cover provided by the roof lines for hiding desks and their movers. This time I began forcing all my thoughts into a ‘it might could come true’ configuration — a bit like releasing 100 small helium-filled balloons and grasping and grabbing them and shoving them down into a barrel, the too wild ones would just have to float away, and I’ll just use what I can contain….so, I had a dream that could be converted. I was really excited.”

Not exactly Martin Luther King “dream stuff,” but that was the beginning, a novel idea that would not go out-of-mind for being too fanciful. It hinged upon the flat roof of the building foisted upon us by the circumstances of Chapter 1 — the flat roof that covered the long central hall between two rows of classrooms, covered the hall from the offices to the gymnasium, and covered the walkway that stretched from the double-door front entrance out toward Avenue H. In my memoirs I called that roof the most unlikely place to find the school chair/desks, yet it appeared to be attainable, but in a way that had not come to Adling yet.

Continuing from Adling’s diary: “As I recall I went to your home and told you I wanted to show you something; you (and you should have known better) went with me on a drive-by, and I told you my thoughts. You were enthusiastic and immediately took to the project.” We now know there were at least two important reasons Adling went straight to me — 1) we had been imagining and dreaming together since the end of the sixth grade; it was what we did; as I have said, no matter how wacky an idea would pop into our heads, we knew the other would listen to it, probably when no one else would, and 2) I was the perfect friend on whom to try the “it might come true” test, as Adling did not know if it could be done. I was like a sieve selecting those “balloons” that needed to be let go and pointing out those that could be grasped. Cleverly, he presented his idea by showing me the evidence of plausibility (the drive-by) and by challenging me through asking if it could be done. From the outset my impression was his conviction that this could and needed to be done.

Part of my enthusiasm centered upon this challenge, to be sure, and I began mentally working on a way to do it, showing how ideas Adling had at first would not work. But if early conversations about the idea were recorded, all one would hear was giggling, outright “guffawing” laughter, and an occasional “Oh, man, that’s neat!”, “Patrick, that’s cool!” (We called each other “Patrick” — that’s another story.), and “Just think of it!” But I soon figured it out, sometime near the end of November, as best as I recall; I did not keep a dairy — think of the incriminating evidence! — and I did not write my memoirs until six years after we graduated high school.

(37 years after we pulled off the chair/desk escapade, in 2001, Adling and I were on a trip together celebrating our M-4 anniversary. In a restaurant in New Mexico, outside Santa Fe, he told me for the first time that he was so unsure the idea was realistic when he first thought of it and told me, that if I had said it could not be done, it would have been just another “balloon” that needed to be let go. 37 years!?! I never knew that! I’m sure that if I could not come up with a plan of how to do it, I would have “shot the idea down.” I considered that part of my “job” within the world of our friendship. I still don’t know if Adling was telling the truth in New Mexico, or if he was just trying to get a stir from me!)

By the end of 1963 and of our aborted class plan to paint the Lake Cisco dam during the Christmas holidays (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]) Adling and I had snippets of private time together in which to build a skeleton of a plan. The whole thing had to be motivated by entertaining the student body; we savored the thoughts of what our peers would do when they saw all the chair/desks atop the flat roof. It had to be throughout as innocent a prank as it could be — no criminal action, no vandalism, and no property damage. From the beginning, not only did we plan on not getting caught, we planned on our being the perpetrators of such a mystery, it still would not be solved until we graduated. Our plan called for us to announce, once we had our diplomas in our hands the following May, that we had done it, when, we surmised, it would be too late for the school district to do anything to us. Our skeleton plan was 75% fun and 25% thinking of possible risks. Our determination to get together and plan the “desk thing” would spike as I would get fed up being the “messenger boy” between Coach Bates and Mr. Hathaway (Chapter 2), or when Adling would get fed up with another teacher, usually Mrs. Mulliner (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]), or when the Senior Club would take another “hit” by the school and community (Chapter 1).

But, not surprisingly, the spirit of the two of us in “skeleton planning” was the happy-go-lucky spirit of our friendships going back to the sixth grade (See Adling’s “ode.”). It seems naive of us in retrospect, but to us at that time, fun-filled motives justified the “logical” assumption that the prank, if successfully pulled off under our firm criteria, would be taken by observers in the same spirit as it was done.

The beginning of 1964 brought pressure from the athletic department upon the Senior Club and Student Council dances out of concern of athletes breaking training rules, despite the end of football season (Chapter 1); King Lobo nominations brought unfair concerns about Berry and me (Chapter 3); Adling and Berry had quit speech class over clashes with Mrs. Mulliner (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 2013]); with a joke of a high school building and no prospects for a Senior play or trip (Chapters 1 and 2), people outside Cisco did not know whether to pity us, laugh at us, or both. And, if all that was not enough, rumors not squelched by the administration were beginning to circulate that imposed student dress regulations were being considered. Adling’s idea and my modus operandi for the idea seemed the only things we could control to bring back to our Senior year the fun we expected the end of high school to be; if we did nothing, the school year seemed bound to an unnecessary turmoil from the authorities and/or a forgettable mediocrity that only a new school building could cure — a cure from which, cruelly to us, we could never benefit and enjoy.

The two of us began to scrutinized and tweak our plan in earnest; we felt compelled to do so. Our fun with the skeleton plan spread into the concrete. The math was daunting if we were to stay two. The CHS student body (grades 9 through 12) then was a little over 350 students, which, in the “converted” high school building, was served by around almost 300 chair/desks, 20-35 units per classroom, according to the mental counting Adling and I would do during our “normal” school day. The prank had to be pulled, we reasoned, during the school week, on a week night, as to do it on a weekend would risk the chair/desks to extended exposure, possibly weather damage; we absolutely wanted to avoid harming any school property. To do it on a school night, with school the next day, meant our window in which to execute would be limited to “prime time” only, limited by midnight, as none of us was allowed to be “out and about” on a school night past then. If we limited ourselves to two working only for a few hours before midnight, we might not be able to handle all the desks we could reach before we had to get back home for the night, making a partially completed job — an outcome we found absolutely unacceptable to our self-esteem; we had to find someone to help us; we had to let someone else in on “the plan.”

Whoever was going to join us had to meet strict standards the secrecy of our planning had spawned. He (unfortunately, no female classmates were considered) had to speak to no one but “the conspirators” about the plan; he had to remain absolutely silent about the plan if he did not want to join; he had to work like a dog; he had to risk being caught in the act; he could not “take over” the group of planners, nor could he just “follow along” and not contribute to consensus decisions that would be demanded of the group; he had to commit to the high moral ideals of the plan and hold them more than worth the risk. In other words, he had to be like one of our study group that met at my house! (Chapter 2)

Both of us knew who the “third” had to be — Berry. He was a “no-brainer” choice; we decided upon him in seconds. If anyone had more motivation than Adling or I to do something about this school year and the direction it was going, it was Berry, President of the Senior Class and President of the “infamous” Senior Club. He could be as sneaky as we could, and his loyalty lay with the student body, especially with our graduating class. He was as uncomfortable about his King Lobo status as I, and for the same reasons (Chapter 3). So far, he had had little or no means to deal with the pressures put upon him regarding the Senior Club and the unofficial “private” dances it sponsored. The plan for the prank might just give him the means to “push back.” Berry was the “perfect third.” As Adling put it, “You and I agreed on Berry as a natural, able, and ‘must’ helper….”

Berry and I made arrangements for me to pick him up one afternoon after school in my car Liberty at the community gym, with no agenda or reason being mentioned. Berry later said he thought it was a matter concerning relationships between the Student Council and the Senior Club and the trouble he and I were having with Coach Bates and/or Mr. Hathaway. He was quite surprised when I demanded his complete and absolute secrecy about our conversation and that if he chose “not to go along,” he would give his word not to reveal anything I was about to tell him. Now curious, he agreed to these terms. When I told him of the idea, he had the same reaction Adling and I had when first thinking about it — he burst out laughing! He joined us enthusiastically, feeling the fun of the challenge immediately as I told him details of how far Adling and I had planned, emphasizing we needed his input.

As a planning trio now, it was harder to get together to plan without drawing anyone’s attention. Many times we three would be with other friends and classmates acting “normally wacky” as usual, and then, if we were lucky, the three of us would find ourselves alone, and we immediately “transformed” into planning mode, which was also wacky, but in a different way. Planning was much like study sessions — a few minutes of serious talk followed by even more minutes of laughing and joking. We came to several agreements — the prank had to reflect the happy-go-lucky attitude of our friendships and must be free of crime and dishonesty, the latter as much as possible. We had to have alibis, among our greatest challenges, and we were determined these, even, would be diversionary at worst, free of untruths. The more we thought about it together, the realization that to “pull this off” would demand far more minute-by-minute timing, cold execution, and frenzied, back-breaking work than originally anticipated.

We concentrated upon alibis, checking and re-checking that my idea of how to get the chair/desks upon the roof would work, and how to gain access to the school building one afternoon after hours without “breaking and entering.” Even without anything concrete, we were confident we would figure out how to do it not only without being caught in the act, but also without being found out. Berry agreed with the idea of telling others we did it only after we graduated with diplomas in-hand.

The chair/desk numbers, which Berry confirmed, soon had the three of us realizing we needed a fourth, and, possibly, a fifth. We guessed that four would do it in a few hours, if we worked very hard, and if my modus operandi proved successful. To let five in on it would increase the chances of leaks and the chances of our being “grouped” as a quintet often as suspicious; we had to trust that being possibly seen as a quartet would not seem suspicious.

But who to get as a fourth? Ideally, he would be as “perfect” as Berry was the third. We turned, naturally, to consideration of the rest of the study group, Lee and Clark Odom. But such consideration did not last long, as the three of us quickly agreed: Clark Odom did not have either the spirit or the gall to even think about joining us. Lee, on the other hand, had the spirit, being as mischievous as any of us, but he did not have the gall; we doubted he would take the risks we were taking and we were certain he would find something immoral in it, no matter how “perfectly” we planned. We had to look outside our study group. Adling and Berry became apprehensive, as they could not think of anyone suitable off-hand, and I agreed with them that if we could not find a fourth to join us, the likelihood that the chair/desk plan would soon be just another crazy “balloon” that had to be let go would be very high.

But I had no such apprehension as they; I immediately suggested Cole. Readers of Cole’s “ode” [May, 2012] know why I knew Cole and his qualifications better than Adling or Berry. Berry knew Cole better than Adling from double-dating with him, but he (Berry) seconded my suggestion right away when he thought of Cole’s crucial contribution toward saving the Homecoming bonfire back in November (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]). Adling trusted Berry’s and my judgment, and soon Cole and I met over at my house alone, and a scene reminiscent of Berry’s took place; Cole “died laughing” as soon as he thought of the “uproar” all the chair/desks atop the school’s roof would cause; to keep his mouth shut about this to anyone but the other three was “second nature” to the secretive Cole. He joined us at least as enthusiastically as had Berry. As I suspected, Cole was our “perfect fourth.” (For the record, had we decided we had needed a “fifth” — and I’m not talking about a fifth of whiskey! — I would have suggested Joe Woodard, Cole’s fellow “birddogging” and Dad’s empty root beer bottle “planter,” and I think I would have been supported by Cole in this selection, despite the alleged “rivalry” between Cole and Woodard {See Cole’s “ode”}.)

Again quoting Adling: “…you chose Cole, whom I did not even know — but he turned out to be an excellent choice. We four had rather extensive planning sessions and kept the project an absolute secret among the four of us.” Perhaps this was why Adling was also to describe me as the “leader” of the prank from the moment I came up with the way to do it. “In fact, you spear-headed the deal the rest of the way,” he was to say later on. Personally, I’m not so sure that is accurate, for, when we were a quartet at last and planning together, the chemistry that was to become the spirit of the M-4 seemed to develop and grow exponentially. We all four suggested, not demanded “our” ideas be considered; instead of statements like “I think we ought to…” or “I say we do…..,” there were lots of questions of each other like “What do you think about….?” or “How does this sound?” I suppose I made lots of suggestions and asked lots of questions in our planning sessions, but I do not recall doing so more frequently than any of the other three. Our planning included lots of “casing” of the school at night-time to familiarize ourselves with the “scene” of our plan, a scene seemingly assuring us that my idea of exactly how to do it would work.

What was the “spark” that galvanized our resolve to actually act upon our fanciful plan? When three of us were elected as candidates for King Lobo, near the end of the basketball season. To be nominated by our peers was like all three of us winning; the possibility of one of us actually being crowned sat uneasily with us, as our friendships were based upon a very non-competitive egalitarianism (Chapter 2 and Chapter 3). Rather than dwell upon the discomfort the situation personally caused us, Adling suggested we should do it before basketball season was over, before the Coronation. Besides, so confident were we that we could do this without being caught or found out, for us to think about actually doing it did not seem to be risking anything at all.

The last “away” basketball game was to be at Hamilton, on Tuesday, February 11, 1964. Adling’s and Berry’s alibi, therefore, would be to “attend” that out-of-town game. Cole and I would come up with a plan for us to do something else together that night. Cole was not present when we decided upon the date, as we made the decision at athletics during or after the last period of a school day. Later that afternoon, when I told Cole of the “day of decision,” he first thought I was talking about some Student Council project with which I needed his help. I think all of us felt “strange” we had evolved the plan into something much more than some crazy idea over which to laugh.

I recall being concerned regarding one point about our preparation, due to the sudden decision to do the prank. There would not be enough time for us to weave a web of diversion and deception Adling and I had cooked up, with the approval of Berry and Cole. To break association of us being seen together with suspicion of what we were “up to” (See Adling’s “ode”), he and I were going to stage at school a “falling out” with each other. Funny now, but I don’t remember any doubt in our minds that we could successfully convince our peers, and our parents if necessary, that it would be questionable we were going to hang around each other any more. We actually thought that if we could “put on our act” as we envisioned, there would not be a “knee-jerk” association with each other should one of us be suspected after the prank. As it turned out, this was only a “pipe-dream” preparation plan, about the only one of so many we could not follow.

Commitment to doing it on the evening of the game meant that someone actually going to the game had to be brought into our confidence so they could relay to Adling and Berry details of the game, all in order to support the their alibi. Those brought into the confidence of the plan would not be told what was actually going to happen, for their own protection, but would be told the importance of passing on detailed information from the trip to Hamilton. Adling took it upon himself to suggest basketball players Bobby Smith, a sophomore, and Larry Hargrave, a freshman, to be the “chosen ones.” As Berry and Adling trusted my judgment concerning Cole, Berry, Cole, and I trusted Adling’s judgment on these confidants. Adling got their cooperation without having to tell them very much about what we were going to do, although Bobby and Larry tried to get as much information as they could out of Adling; the two underclassmen pledged their secrecy as we requested.

All seemed in place the evening of Monday, February 10, when we all gathered at my house to go over final details without my parents overhearing and to wish each other luck. As I said in my memoirs, the next evening was going to be “quite busy” indeed! Our collective state of mind was to shed ourselves of the “worst of times,” leaving only the “best of times,” to inject good memories into our senior year to replace ones appearing not-so-good. We had unwavering faith our friendships were up to the task.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 3 (“….fellows like him could be King Lobo.”)

Whatever posture those associated with Cisco and Cisco High School during the 1960’s took concerning the M-4, many were traditionally critical about our timing the chair/desk escapade, as we executed the prank just in time to put our status as King Lobo candidates in jeopardy; as these critics logically point out, had we waited a couple of weeks or so, the King Lobo Coronation would have been over, and even if retroactive punishment concerning the Coronation was dealt out, it would have been too late to tarnish any social accolades from the Coronation coming our way.

To be King or Queen Lobo was and is the highest honor that could and can be bestowed upon a CHS senior. “Court” was held for the crowning of the King and Queen in the community gym (the same one into which Coach Bates had moved the football field house — {Chapter 1} and the only building on the block of the bonfire {The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom[August, 2013]}), and couples representing grades 1 through 11 were in attendance , along with senior couples representing king and queen candidates. Each grade voted for its representatives and all of the high school voted on king and queen. Once you were a grade representative, your eligibility to participate did not return until you were a senior. For example, Berry represented the first grade for our class with Kay (Wallace) Morris, and I represented the second grade for us with Ann (Brunkenhoeffer). It is not difficult to imagine that mothers in Cisco “lived” for the year their child would be in the Coronation.

The Coronation was timed for the end of the basketball season, usually sometime in late February or early March, during a “lull” of extracurricular activity and before spring prom season. Prom season at CHS back then was held in the form of a Junior-Senior Banquet and Dance — held just after the Coronation — a facade-like concession to the influence of anti-dance churches in the community, I suppose; thinking of it as a banquet instead of a dance was more palatable to certain sensibilities.

Originally, the main criterion for being King Lobo was that he had to be an athletic letterman, almost always a football letterman, as well as an outstanding contributor to the school off the field, and he got to select his “queen” to be crowned with him. By the 1960’s this sexist component had been removed, and the Queen was voted upon just as was the King, but there was no athletic requirement for her. Between our freshman year (1960-1961) and this, our senior year (1963-1964), the athletic letterman requirement had been relaxed, despite opposition from leading teachers such as Mrs. Edward Lee (Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012]). In my opinion, this changed was brought on because of unfortunate cases such as Larry Johnson’s. Larry was a Senior 1961 who had been head football manager my freshman year (1960-1961); he taught me all I needed to know about being a manager, knowledge I was to later pass on to Berry; for me, he was a “perfect” candidate for King Lobo — campus leader, class advocate, great student, talented artist for school art displays, and coordinator of administration/faculty/student relations; I watched him carefully as an example to follow when I ran for offices in the Student Council after he graduated; most of all, he was my friend — I wish I could have been in high school with him more than one year. Yet, he could not be a candidate for King Lobo.

So, by the time we were Seniors, non-lettermen such Berry and I, could be King Lobo candidates. And there began the “rub.” Both of us were cynically seen as being “handed” the privilege of being candidates, as if the change had come about because of us, not because of people like Larry Johnson. Neither Berry nor I felt comfortable about this situation, and when we began individually saying we did not think the change had anything to do with us, it seemed to fuel the rumor (to be fair, often in a good-naturedly or joking manner) that our mothers had “bribed the school” to make the change so that their “little boys” could be King Lobo. We could always say, and we did, that if they felt we were “set up,” then don’t vote for us as a candidate (The guy and gal receiving the most votes among the candidates were the new King and Queen, the results not being revealed until the Coronation itself, when it became time to crown the “royals” before the assembled “court.”). Though we did not talk about it together in private, Berry and I later concurred that the situation made us feel uncomfortable; our egalitarian sensibilities were “rubbed the wrong way.” The two of us were hard-working leaders, not elitists given fine things, deserving or not.

Another change that was made about the same time, one pushed by Supt. Roach’s new administration, was that king and queen candidates must meet some minimal academic standards, as determined by transcript grades. This, for our class, affected people like Earl Carson (see Adling’s “ode”), who was an outstanding football player (He went on to become a successful high school coach.) who struggled in the classroom. Apparently, in the past, you could have had some real academic “dummies” as King Lobo!

But another traditional criterion that wasn’t changed became controversial simply because it wasn’t changed while all the others were: candidates for king and queen had to be in the district for a minimum number of years. Since Berry and I had been in Cisco schools “from the beginning” this non-change was perhaps seen as another component of our “set-up.” This “veteran” criterion at this time meant that Adling was eligible, as he had arrived on the scene in the sixth grade. But Cole (even though the new non-athlete rule was in his favor) was not, and nor was Macon Strother (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 3013]), an outstanding and popular athlete against whom I ran in the race for Student Council President the previous spring, as both of them, like so many others, had arrived in the district “too late.” (Clearly, being a student leader was not affected by the “veteran” criterion, as Macon could run for Student Council President, and Cole had been elected as Senior class representative on “my” Student Council — not to mention a Council that also included Berry as our Senior Class President and Macon’s brother Anthony, a Junior class representative.)

One weekday evening very early in 1964 Adling came by my house to see me for a very unusual reason; I knew this right away because he wasn’t griping about our homework and he did not immediately tell me a joke he had just heard, or talk about a new rock ‘n’ roll song he just heard on the radio, or a goofy story he had just made up to which he knew I was about the only one who would listen. He said there was a large group of CHS students, mostly Juniors and Seniors, who had gathered at Woody’s, “the” hamburger and jukebox hang-out in Cisco (on W 8th Street, next to Westfall’s service station just before one gets to Front Street) to discuss the changes in the election of King and Queen Lobo, an election coming up in just a few weeks.

I probably asked if Berry was there, and Adling answered negatively. I did not blame Berry for not showing, for the reasons stated above. But I was President of the Student Council, of the student body, so Adling reminded me I needed to show too, despite the fact the new rules for king put me in “a conflict of interest.” It was a very lively group at Woody’s when Adling and I arrived, one that included Macon and Anthony Strother and other athletes, like Earl Carson, David Waters (Play Rehearsal Night, With a Side of Greased Flagpole [May, 3013]), C. B. Rust (V.P. of the Student Council), Tim Bennie, Richard Coats, Jimmy Brown, and Nicky Lopez. There I was, “up to my neck” in controversial and conflicting issues concerning the election of King Lobo; once more I envied Berry’s absence. I tried to be the moderator between the group’s strong concern that it seemed the school was dictating who should be king and queen, when it should be left up to the students themselves to make that determination, and the reasonableness of the new criteria. I agreed that it should be up to the students, but that I had confidence that despite the new restrictions, which arguably did not treat people such as Macon and Earl fairly, the students would elect Kings worthy of those elected in the past. (Politically, I got “more than my money’s worth” from my leadership experiences in high school!)

Then the group asked me if I would go with a committee of them over to Supt. Roach’s house that very night to lay these issues before him, so there would be clear communication to him of their concerns. I agreed, and the committee members joining me in the three-or-four block trip to the Roach house were Adling, Macon, C.B., Anthony, Tim, and Richard (3 Srs. & 4 Jrs.). It was still “prime-time” in the evening, so Supt. Roach, though very surprised to see us at his front door, graciously invited us in air our concerns. Gathered in his den, many of the same things said a few minutes before at Woody’s were presented to our host, just about all of us chiming in, as I recall. (Remember, I was the only non-athlete in this ad hoc student committee.) Mr. Roach responded, of course, in defense of the changes in criteria, calling them “necessary” to insure the “best” of the students would be candidates for King Lobo. Then he stunned me by continuing to call them necessary, saying, as he pointed directly to me, that they were needed so “fellows like him could be King Lobo.”

I was immediately uneasy; I do not know what was going on in the minds of the rest of the committee, but I felt certain they had just received “official” verification of the rumors that had been circulating about Berry’s and my candidacies. I hated right away any tarnishing of my reputation with my fellow students, my peers, caused by Supt. Roach’s words, which I knew would be spread school-wide by the end of the next school day on the morrow; I wished then, and I wish to this day he had never said those words. Within seconds I was resentful of what I saw as an attempt to “shove a silver spoon in my mouth.” What really hurt was the cavalier way in which these words were said, as if I welcomed them, as if I deserved them, as if I should be grateful to the “rules makers” for my “social promotion.” As the meeting broke up and we left the house, what could I say to my peers? It was one of the few times in my life I felt speechless. They could not think of anything comforting to say to me.

Not even Adling could make me feel better as he drove me back to my house; he was very sympathetic. When Berry found out what had happened, he empathized with me; he knew exactly how I felt; he confessed he was glad he was not part of that visit to Mr. Roach’s house.

My spirit was not down long, and for me, the fun of the senior year returned to me within a matter of hours. But Berry, Adling, and I never forgot that night at the superintendent’s house; we never put it behind us. For the sake of what we had developed among us (Chapter 2), what Mr. Roach’s words had done to me, and, through me, to Berry and Adling, could not be forgiven. That probably was not true for everyone else in the school and community (with the exception of, perhaps, Cole), especially when the results of the candidacy elections were announced.

Candidates for King Lobo for the school year 1963-1964 were Robert Mitchell, Gene Darr, Bill Adling, Bob Berry, and Ronnie Hastings. For Queen Lobo were Alice Ann (Webb) Holliday, Kay (Wallace) Morris, Shirley (Page) Strother, Leannah (Leveridge) Darr, and Betty (Reynolds) Cooper. All our mothers, at the very least, were elated.

Critiques of the timing of the chair/desk escapade, which came within weeks of rehearsals for the Coronation, after all the votes were in for King and Queen, often are made in ignorance of all this background of this particular Coronation — another layer of circumstances placed upon all the others (Chapter 1), mixing into the “perfect storm.” We were so busy before the prank we never got to tell each other our feelings concerning our three King Lobo candidacies, but after the prank, and years and decades beyond, we have had the chance to understand what we did with those candidacies and why. Our mothers would never understand, and that is understandable; they would, at some level, never forgive us. We never asked anyone, including our dear mothers, to understand. We can only pass on our “why,” knowing that possibly most, if not all, our critics might think what I am about to say is mere weak rationalization.

In retrospect, what Mr. Roach said that fateful evening “cheapened” the candidacies in our minds, if you define them as honors bestowed upon us “from above” by the school authorities. True to the sentiments expressed at Woody’s that night, we saw the candidacies for King Lobo as saught-after affirmations, as honors from our peers, in no way “cheap,” from the only “authority” we truly respected in our seventeen-year-old brains. To be voted as candidates was as good as being crowned for the three of us, for, thinking of it that way prevented us from having to compete and compare with each other as the vote would do, however it turned out. So strong was our special bond (Chapter 2) that for one of us to win as King (as I had done as Student Council President and Berry had done as class President) would be a leadership and popularity label “gone too far,” making an “alpha male” or an elitist out of one who was to go on to be part of the M-4; those who pulled off the chair/desk prank could not have done it harboring any elitist sensibilities. Not that we thought this exactly per se, but all three of us did feel that, as we approached the Coronation, we had all three already won. That feeling was primary, so that “going through the motions,” as our mothers and the school were anticipating, was secondary or even tertiary. Whatever the school was going to do for us in a ceremony was “small potatoes” compared to the statement made by our fellow students; the student body had spoken — that was sufficient.

When planning time came for the prank, then, risking King Lobo candidacies was risking merely another in a long list of secondary or tertiary items of our “resumes.” What was primary was not what the school thought about us, but what our peers thought about us. The special conditions placed upon our senior year were compelling us to behave and react as expected, to conform, to accept, to comply. To conform, to accept, to comply, would have been to us pitiful admission that, as so many in the school administration and faculty and so many in the community saw us, we were “just another class of high school seniors.” At least for four of us, we were not going to conform, accept, or comply; we were going to seize “our day.” To be proactive instead of passive was the hallmark of how we lived out our friendships.

Special students respond to special conditions in special ways. Our friendships (Chapter 2) made us special students; Cisco schools in the 1960’s (Chapter 1) made the special conditions; now would come the special ways.


P.S.  For readers who prefer a simpler explanation, we did have early on an explanation for our critics as to why risking King Lobo candidacies was nothing to be concerned about, an explanation as equally valid as the long one above.  Because of our careful planning, “leaving no stone un-turned,” we were so damn overconfident that we would never be caught and never be found out, there was no need to “sweat” risks!  As it turned out, our prediction of not being caught and not being found out was half-way right.

The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 2 (Dramatis Personae)

To this day it is not clear that the Cisco schools had an accurate idea with whom they were dealing when it came to the CHS Class of 1964. I have observed in my teaching career almost 40 high school graduating classes both in Waxahachie, TX, and in DeSoto, TX, and only three of them compare academically with our Cisco class. We graduated as a class of 54 in number, 18 of which (1 in 3) graduating as honor students. Our class average has remained at or near the top well into the 21st century. The college degrees we went on to garner include two M.D.’s (Lee and Clark Odom) and one Ph.D. (myself). We became a graduating class replete with professionals of many types. Consequently, it is not surprising that not only were the M-4 class leaders, they were part of the class’s academic strength; besides my degrees, Berry and Cole hold bachelor’s degrees in petroleum engineering and mechanical engineering, respectively, both successful engineers in their respective fields; Adling’s architecture degree vaulted him to form his own architecture firm in Lubbock, one of many places worldwide identified by structures and buildings he has designed and had built (He is also an excellent watercolor artist.).

What IS clear to this day is that we were no ordinary high school class. Too many people were behaving back in the mid-1960’s in Cisco, Texas, as if extraordinary circumstances (Chapter 1) were engulfing ordinary high school students; in reality, extraordinary circumstances were encountering extraordinary students. The “perfect storm” of circumstances mixing with really “different” young minds made the chair/desk escapade explode into the history of Cisco and Cisco High School.

Part of my goals in writing the “odes” to the other three (Adling, Berry, and Cole), referenced in the Introduction, was to demonstrate those “really ‘different’ young minds.” Instead of repeating myself from the “odes” here, I hope to supplement this demonstration as it related to the chair/desk escapade, and all the other M-4 escapades that followed.

By the time we reached our last two years of high school Adling, Berry, Lee, Clark Odom, and I had formed a study group that usually met over at my house in the weekday evenings. But we just didn’t study; we would work for ten minutes and then joke and laugh for fifteen, starting this cycle all over again. All contributed to the joking and laughing except Clark; he merely tolerated the whole situation and good-naturedly took his share of being the brunt of jokes. We made fun of everyone, including ourselves; everyone took his turn of being the brunt before each evening was over. We discovered and developed extremely useful study techniques which went on to contribute in no small way to our later successes in college; we seldom dated during the week, and not often on the week-ends; we never talked much about girls or about who of us was dating whom; in later decades, we undoubtedly would have been called “nerds,” or some similar term. Out of this habit of studying and doing homework together, we had emerged as four jesters our junior year (all but Clark) when our class sponsored the annual Cisco High School King Lobo Coronation, for our routine for tryout for jester was a repeat of what we did at our study table at my house one weeknight when Adling decided to quit studying for a while and try to interrupt my concentration (He went so far as to crack a raw egg over my head!).

This marvelous, creative crucible masquerading as a study group is indicative of the friendships we had established over many years (The absence of Cole indicates that Cole had only been in Cisco since the beginning of our sophomore year 1961-1962, and that our friendships not involving Cole had needed a long time “cooking.”). Our secrets? Three that come to mind are that 1) we accepted each other as each was (“warts” and all), not trying to change each other, 2) we did not maliciously compete with each other over grades, girls, possessions, or popularity, and 3) we were not a “gang” for many reasons, principle among which was that there was no “leader of the pack,” no “alpha male.”

This egalitarianism was very significant, in my opinion, and explained a lot of things, such as Berry’s and my successes being elected to class offices (Berry) and being elected to both class and student body (Student Council) offices (me). The egalitarianism Berry and I used to be successful politically was duplicated by Adling, as all three of us had a very broad range of friends, some of which we shared with the other two, and some of which we didn’t (For example, up until our senior year, Cole and I were friends, but he was not closely acquainted with either Adling or Berry.). The unfair reason Adling did not achieve the political success fostered by friendly egalitarianism, in my opinion, was that he was a “Johnny-come-lately” to Cisco, arriving in our sixth grade in junior high. Compare this with the fact Berry and I were “Cisco originals,” having known and played with each other as pre-schoolers. As for Lee and Odom, perhaps it is generous and fair to say only that their egalitarianism was not as broad as that of we three of the M-4.

I tried to describe the friendship that was so strong among the M-4 as best I could in And God Said ‘Let There Be Friends’….And It Was Weird! [April, 2012], and the best definition I’ve found for those kinds of friends has to quote the “f-bomb” (which offended minister Buddy Surles of Cisco schools (who was with us in CHS in the 1960’s) so much he unfriended me (!) (What Did I Say or Write? WTF?!! (For Adults Only) [January, 2013])) — indicating that what we have as a quartet can only be described in the strongest, most forceful terms of our lexicon. The birth and further adventures of the M-4 served to only strengthen traits and qualities that were already in place by the time our senior year rolled around.

In addition to what I said about Adling in his “ode” I can only reiterate how important our imaginations were between the two of us. He helped me in rekindling all the imaginary stories, characters, and places in which I reveled when I was a pre-schooler through about the third grade or so, when I played mostly with my cousin Dwayne Scarlett. He (Adling) was a social outcast who literally and figuratively couldn’t dance, and, in many ways, so was I, as I pointed out the scene at Student Council dances (which I helped to set up, along with help from people like Cole) of the two of us playing ping-pong over in a dimly-lighted corner of the gym where the dance was held, while lines of good-looking girls were waiting to be asked to dance. We made up stories just to tell each other; we talked UFO’s and weird phenomena in general; we challenged each other to do really, really stupid tricks and stunts. When the two of us, along with Berry, became the first Beatle fans in Cisco (That’s our story, and we are sticking to it!), Adling and I talked of making our way to New York City and stowing away aboard a freighter across the Atlantic to Liverpool. We competed with each other in games, not with each other’s ego. Adling had brought a “chip on his shoulder” regarding any kind of authority with him from Ballinger, and, though we who befriended him tempered that teen-aged angst of his somewhat, his “courage under fire” rubbed off on us in return, making things like Berry and I handling the intimidating pressures of our offices as senior class leaders (Chapter 1) lots easier. As I’ve said elsewhere, Adling was the “John Lennon” of the M-4, perhaps the coolest of us, but with smoldering rage beneath. He was our perpetual dreamer…….a dreamer full of fun.

I’ve already indicated in Chapter 1 that the unusual circumstances of our senior year potentially could have been used to drive a wedge between the “ancient” friendship Berry and I had. Nothing, in my opinion, had a chance to do that! Like with all my close friends, competitions gradewise had no effect on the two of us, though I think he and I used each other to “goad” the other to do better and better. Like all the others, he was not “put off” by my climbing to the “top of the heap” academically (Had I not been expelled as part of the M-4, I would have been valedictorian of our class, as the reader will find out later.), and, like all the others, he could do other things better than I (He was the socialite, the “ladies’ man;” Adling was the athlete, the anti-authoritarian; Lee was the moral compass and the most avid reader; Cole was the clandestine “assassin” and the “tall, dark, silent type” for the ladies; Clark Odom was the dedicated, hard-working scholar; I think I tried to be all of these, playing war games in addition {still another “world” of imagination; see The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013]}, so I probably was not the best at too many of them.). Berry and I discovered that, as a team, we were an unbeatable duo, as shown by our management of the Lobo football team our last two years of high school as trainer/managers; we taught each other skills and mannerisms to use around the coaches and players; we “had each others’ backs” if help was needed in the moment; we relished preparing for and “striking” at the end of both home and away games; the feedback we were getting from both players and coaches was that things were working because we were working — I think that was true. Our friendship grew on the basis of this working relationship to heights that surprised even us. (See Berry’s “ode”)  As Adling and I imagined and laughed, Berry and I conversed and laughed; no limits to Adling’s imagination and no limits to Berry’s topics of conversation! What Berry brought to the M-4 was a incredible work ethic exemplified by our duo-as-managers on the field and in the field house; no job was to be left undone, and every job had to be done right. Berry was a leading worker, not a supervisor; he showed “how it was done” by example, and he would finish it alone, if he had to. Once committed to the task, Berry was our participatory taskmaster…….a taskmaster full of fun.

What fact about late-arrival Cole would tell you the most about his qualifications that made him an obvious addition to our long-term friendships? In my opinion, given the words just above, it is the fact that in less than two years’ time after he moved to Cisco, he had ingratiated himself as part of the strongest of CHS friendships, friendships as old as Berry/me, Adling/me, and Berry/Adling. The chair/desk escapade was like a “super-glue” that bonded “new-comer” Cole to the three “veteran friends,” as if he had been there with us from the days of junior high or elementary school. That does not happen often among teen-aged relationships, and speaks well for all four involved, especially for Cole. Berry and Adling, showing a compliment to me, took a chance that I had read Cole correctly since Cole and I had befriended each other across the biology class table when we were sophomores (See Cole’s “ode”). Cole and I talked and played war games, shared experiences working cattle with our dads, and discussed plans to set up our own chemistry lab inside a shed in his back yard; he would keep me in stitches pretending how much he detested Joe Woodard one minute and in the next relating how he and Woodard had been out bird-dogging parked couples and leaving empty Dad’s root beer half-gallon bottles on “victims'” porches well into the wee hours of weekend nights; I refused to take sides in his (Chevy) and Woodard’s (Ford) “car wars” — it was more fun to listen to the two of them “go at” each other. But, then, on the other hand, Berry knew what I was saying about Cole’s qualities to be true first-hand, having double-dated with Cole and having seen his CHS patriotism the night we protected the bonfire from the college arsonists (The 1963 Cisco High School Homecoming Bonfire — No Sleep and Almost Torched into Martyrdom [August, 2013]). Once Cole was one of us, the friendship “super-glue” between Adling, who claimed he hardly knew Cole before, and Cole worked fast! No better example of the egalitarianism that exemplified all four of our friendships was there than this “rapid bond.” Cole brought to the M-4 ranch-work toughness (as I tried to do) and an un-matched “coolness under fire” (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [August, 2013] and Cole’s “ode”); he was fearless, and intimidated by nothing. He was our “silent executioner”…….and executioner full of fun.

These, then, were the extraordinary friendships that met the imposed extraordinary circumstances of the Cisco school year of 1963-1964. The meeting fostered the dynamic, organic, and social “perfect storm” of conditions making the chair/desk escapade possible.

Nothing, no school work, no demands by teachers and coaches, no pressures from family, no romances, and no topsy-turvy school year could “bring down” the spirit of our friendships described above, which metamorphosed after the escapade into the spirit of the M-4; no matter what came our way, we were going to keep our fun going. What we had among us was beyond ordinary friendships; it was beyond brotherhood. Members of championship athletic teams know what I am saying; soldiers of a coherant, efficient, and successful unit know what I am saying.


The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 1 (The Set-Up)

By the time the Cisco High School class of 1964 was entering their senior year in the summer of 1963, the town of Cisco had lived at least a year torn into roughly two camps. Not that these two groups were fighting each other or feuding with each other; rather, they were entrenched into two opposite opinions. And the CHS class of 1964 was caught “smack dab” in the middle.

The divisive issue was over the school district needing a new school. If we needed one, then a bond referendum had to be approved by school-tax-paying voters. Opponents to the school bond saw it as a money issue, and most of these citizens lived in the rural areas of the district or they lived in town and, for whatever reason, did not, like most of the town dwellers, look at the evidence supporting the need of a new high school building (The proposed bond, curiously, called for the building also of a new junior high facility — sort of like “killing two birds with one stone.” Though not eventually condemned like the 3-story high school building, the junior high building in which we had attended grades 6 through 8 was in a state that would suggest replacement.).

Personally, I had at first doubted the need to condemn the high school building, as surveying the entire outside of the classic 3-story brick school-house revealed no obvious structural problems. One had to go down into the basement beneath the 1st floor and look at the support columns of all three floors, of the entire building, and see the evidence that, for one, turned me from an opponent of the bond to a proponent — huge diagonal shear cracks across the width of several support columns (steel-reinforced concrete) on the end of the building whose 1st floor housed the lunchroom and the Ag department. (This end was usually thought of as the east end, but really was the northeast end, as streets in Cisco generally run NE and SW, while perpendicular avenues run NW and SE. The address of the condemned high school building was between W 6th St. and W 7th St. and between Avenues K and L, taking up an entire city block.) These cracks were not small — the largest of them over 3 inches wide, and were the reason the whole northeast wing of the high school was partitioned off in our junior year 1962-1963. As Vice-President of the Student Council during that year, I was one of many students that guided visitors down into the basement during this school year to view the cracks.

Also, the high school auditorium was condemned, along with the “east” (NE) wing for this school year, so assemblies of any kind, from Student Council campaigns to pep rallies had to be held at the community gym at the corner of W 3rd St. and Avenue L, across from Chesley Field, the football facility for the Loboes, three blocks away from the multi-storied high school. All school year we could only have assemblies in good weather, and, a lot of school time was “used up” walking the six-block round trip each assembly. (These were the high school building conditions in which the story Mrs. Lois Adling, Mrs. Edward Lee, and the Big Afternoon [June, 2012] unfolded.)

In addition, I remember attending a “town hall” meeting with Chip White during this year (Chip’s senior year) where the need for a new school was debated. I remember returning to our partitioned, cramped, crowded high school building wishing the opponents to the bond who attended this meeting would come and not only see the cracks, but just spend a day or two with us students under these far-from-ideal conditions the cracks had caused. A support parade for the bond was conducted down Avenue D (now Conrad Hilton), the main street of Cisco, with lots of students calling for voters to vote “yes” on the bond. Berry’s car bumper getting hung up on the bumper of the car in front of him is the only specific incident I remember from that parade.

The bond issue barely passed, much to the relief of all its proponents, but, because of the divisiveness it had caused, it was passed much too late for the new facility to be built in time for we Seniors 1964 to be the first graduating class to graduate from the new building. The school was given the dilemma, after the Seniors of 1963 had graduated, of what to do with the high school student body the following year, with no new high school building ready for occupancy and with the entire old, condemned building declared unsafe for any use by students. Rumors abounded: were we going to have to go to high school in tents? Worse, were we going to be bused to, God forbid, Eastland High School?

Thus were the CHS Seniors of 1964 in “the catbird’s seat,” in the “eye of the storm” — a storm that suddenly pounded the school district, or, rather, pounded the school administrators and school board into making some hard decisions. We could not believe our luck! Here we were, missing out on having a new building from which to graduate, missing out on graduating from the traditional old building, and feeling helpless, as if there was nothing we could do to help the situation. We were going to be the first class in Cisco ISD history, perhaps, not to graduate from our own high school building; we were going to be graduates without a site from which to graduate — in the tradition of “Rebel Without a Cause” or “Man Without a Country.” We, as a class, were “shit outta luck!” And we had done nothing to deserve any of this mess!

The school’s solution was, actually, clever, given the lack of options; we did not have to go to Eastland. The “high school” was to be the junior high building in which we were 6th graders through 8th, a building, it will be recalled, that was to also be replaced by the new bond (The junior high site was actually two blocks in area — mostly open playground — between W 11th and W 13th Streets and between Avenues H and I. A block-long section of W 12th St. was “chopped out” of this street’s route by this site.). Junior high was to move to a series of company buildings in “Humbletown” in SE Cisco, buildings the Humble Oil Co. was not using anymore as part of its withdrawal from Cisco. Consequently all kinds of students were to be bussed back and forth to the lunchrooms at the junior high site (read “high school”) and at West Ward Elementary (increasing the busing for lunch that was always done from East Ward to junior high). High school science labs would have to be held at the labs at CJC (Cisco College), starting extra early in the morning on lab days (usually Mondays — (!)) so as not to interfere with the college labs. High school assemblies would have to be held in the junior high gym we had used while in junior high, and the stage in the gym would have to be used as a classroom.

Piled atop these uncomfortable physical plant conditions were announcements to remind us Seniors that the year we had been waiting 11 years for would see no Senior trip and no Senior play, Cisco High school traditions torn from our grasp by unruly classes on trips from about three years before in the case of traditional class travel, and by the lack of a safe auditorium in the case of the traditional play.

Moreover, a new coaching staff was hired, Billy Bates being the new football coach (Coach Joe Turner, the one we thought would be the next head coach after Coach Rice, declined the promotion, as he had little patience with the downtown armchair QB’s with whom all Cisco coaches had to contend.). Coach Bates began turning the football program topsy-turvy, just like the town’s school sites. We, and by “we” I mean we managers, a group headed up by Berry and me, had to play a major role in moving the football field house from the west end (SW end) of the field to the space beneath the north (NW) bleachers of the community gym; our backs were among many “sorely” asking “Why?” The old field house became the new visitor’s dressing room — an exact switch of team facilities. It began to look like changes were being made for the sake of change, as well for necessity. Consequently, as the team’s “washerwoman,” I had to transport back-and-forth all the laundry from the new field house to the old, where the washer and dryer remained unmoved!

And, as if that was not enough, the school had a new superintendent in T. M. Roach, who seemed as determined to put a “new stamp” on the district as much as Coach Bates. Emphasis was placed upon the building of the new schools, the new high school and the new junior high school, de-emphasizing the “hard luck” that had become the fate of we Seniors 1964.

As President of the student body, of the Student Council, I became the face, along with that of the President of the Senior class, Berry’s face, of student leadership to try to do what we could to make what we knew to be a junior high into a high school. It was maddening and difficult, but we tried. Black and gold (the school’s colors) wooden letters spelling out “CISCO HIGH SCHOOL” were cut and painted in my back yard and nailed atop the flat roof of the “high school” walkways and hallways facing Avenue H. The Student Council ordered all kinds of baubles and trinkets, in addition to the football spirit ribbons, to promote school spirit, like pens, buttons, and a Lobo decal I designed. (I caught a lot of artistic criticism over my lobo being too lean and skinny, instead of being “fluffy.”)

The school was reluctant to let us do more, so we took matters into our own hands just as school was starting. Adling, Berry, Lee, and I tried to start a fraternity-like service organization among the leading guys of the school, calling ourselves the “Shahzadas,” but our only official action was placing apples with a welcome tag on the desks of the teachers. Because the Shahzadas were not officially sanctioned (We had not asked for permission.) and because the start of the year was so time-consuming for all of us, interest in our “fraternity” faded exponentially. In reaction to our not being able to have a Senior trip, Berry headed up a group of Seniors, with some non-school-sanctioned parental support, to form a “Senior Club,” a group intending to sponsor dances to raise money so that the class could go on its own private Senior Trip (Adling, not a socialite or a dancer, called the Senior Club “Berry’s Club.”) — again, a non-school sanctioned act frowned upon by both the new coaching staff and by the new district administration. Though the Senior Club’s dances would not interfere with the Student Council’s “official” dances, many thought this might be a “rift” between Berry and me, especially given the fact I never danced at even the dances I helped sponsor and set up (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012]). On the contrary, I thought the Senior Club idea was a good one; I was present at its organization at Berry’s house, though I never participated in its events, except to help Berry and his “staff” clean up after the dances on late Saturday nights.

With the football season underway, a distasteful political scene began to take place, drawing Berry and me to come to each other’s support. Berry (one of two Senior managers for Coach Bates) was under fire from the school’s administration over the Senior Club, especially from Coach Bates, who claimed the dances encouraged his football players to break curfew; rumors of under-aged drinking at the Senior Club’s dances began to circulate. Coach Bates began pressuring me to change the Student Council dances from after every home game to only games that we won, calling them “Victory Dances.” Backed by Council sponsor Mr. Roy Hathaway (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]), I, who was Coach Bates’ Senior head football manager, remember, reminded Coach Bates that the dances had to be set up well before kick-off; and to have to “strike the dance” if we lost the game would be a waste of time and money. I soon realized I was the messenger between Hathaway and Bates, between whom a gap of disagreement grew. I felt like a ping-pong ball going back-and-forth, and I did not like them using me to speak for either of them; those two needed to have a “meet Jesus” meeting and leave me out of it!

This was the school year to which our class had looked forward? No new high school building. No old high school building. Forced to attend a “pretend” high school building. No Senior Trip. No Senior Play. An inconvenient field house location. A new, strong-willed head coach committed to change. A new, strong-willed superintendent committed to change in disregard to school traditions. Pressure to dissolve an attempt to raise money on our own. Pressure to jeopardize school dances.

Circumstances never before seen in Cisco schools focused upon us Seniors 1964 and upon the three other classes. We understood that flux, change over time, was necessary under these circumstances, but we never thought that our response at school’s start as part of that flux would be resisted; it was disappointing and frustrating that our attempts to change adversity into an opportunity, to put as positive a spin on a difficult and challenging situation as we could, were being stone-walled by an adult mix that was not going well for the student body.

In our few collective moments of paranoia, there was a feeling among the Seniors 1964 that the effects upon our class of the coming new school facilities, the “temporary fixes,” if you please, were becoming the excuses of the new administration and coaching staff for dealing “carte blanche” change without regard to what it meant to our last year of high school. We were, it seemed, being ignored and marginalized, as if we were “also-rans” in a race pushed aside and foul-riddled by the winners of the race, who were leaning toward the finish line (the new school being built) much too prematurely. Many in the faculty, the administration, and the coaching staff seemed to be dealing us “busy work” instead of opportunities to involve us toward solving the special problems of this special school year. It was as if the school and, indeed, a lot of the town, were over-anxious to get the school year 1963-1964 out-of-the-way and done-with — all with a disregard of what they were ignoring and pushing aside — namely, our class.


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