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  • *With apologies and a deep bow to George Orwell

    Shortly after the film “Rocky” came out, Sylvester Stallone told interviewers that he had attended my alma mater, Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia, roughly the same years I did (he dropped out in 11th grade to attend a private school in Switzerland). My friends and I discussed the matter and none of us could ever remember him. There are two possible reasons for that: a) we had a very large student population, the senior class alone numbering almost 1000 souls and b) everybody in my school – teachers and girls included – looked and talked exactly like Sylvester Stallone: “Yo, you! Get-ovah-heeere!”

    It was not a school for the timid. There was a designated area in the back of the building for student smoking. Boys only, of course. The only thing my male classmates wanted to liberate women from during those benighted days was their innocence.

    The smoking area was also where we staged our own version of the Fight Club. Each encounter followed a strict protocol, rather like Kabuki drama. The combatants would be encircled by a jeering crowd. One fellow would insult the other’s mother, while the spectators shouted, “Oooooooo!” The second boy would have to raise the ante and issue an even harsher maternal rebuke. The “Oooooooo’s” grew higher in pitch. The pugilists’ honor would usually be satisfied after a few rounds of this, but the onlookers wouldn’t let them leave the circle until fists were thrown and the rent-a-cops arrived to restore order

    As you might imagine, this was not a hothouse for serious learning. The few of us who cared about a world beyond cars and drive-in movies would gather in the school newspaper office between classes. We would pound out our stories and talk about Life in oh-so-knowing tones. Our classmates weren’t quite sure what happened in that room but suspected it was unclean. They eyed us suspiciously, while we huddled together and spun our dreams and plotted our futures, praying, much like our cave-dwelling ancestors, that the saber-tooth tigers outside would let us live another day.

    Despite all the compelling reasons not to, I loved my high school days. The building that housed us from 1960-65 has since been torn down and a new one erected beside the vacant site . Sometimes even if you wanted to go home again, you won’t be able to find it.

    Such, such were the joys…

    Image courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln High School Alumni Association
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