I can’t remember whether I chose Rock Glen or if Rock Glen chose me but I can honestly say that the two years that I spent at the school out on the edge of Baltimore City was a pretty rough experience, all things considered. Transitioning from Betsy Ross Elementary to Rock Glen Junior High was anything but a walk in the park for this shy, insecure boy of twelve. I went from being in school with kids that I grew up with as neighbors to being placed in a school where most of my classmates were from other neighborhoods, total strangers I tell ya! Another factor that made matters worse was that the racial aspect was much more prominent in junior high than what it was in elementary school. If you were a loner like myself, you were an easy target for a gang of four or five that happened to come upon you at your locker or on the steps, with a “you got a knuckle”? There was also one particular bully that was about five years older than anyone else and belonged in high school as opposed to junior high. He intimidated several of the younger and smaller kids such as myself with the threat of an ass beating and although I never got one, the threat was always there. It wasn’t all bad however, as I remember some teachers that really provided some poignant memories.
We had a French teacher, she was a young woman of about 25, thick curly Brown hair and thick glasses to match. She taught French, and would always start the class in a mild manner, trying to teach us some French but with only a couple of kids paying attention, the class would inevitably evolve into a free for all with kids talking, throwing stuff at each other and other such things. Well as the class went on, the teacher would become more agitated and enraged and by the end of the class she would be standing at the head of the class, leaning forward, her face would be blood red and she would be literally spitting and screaming at us, calling us ‘stupid SOB’s’ and other such stuff, she didn’t hold back. Some of the kids were probably taking bets as to how long it would take for her to go off the deep end. This went on for just about every class that she taught.
There was another teacher, I believe he taught English, but in any event this teacher was about 6 foot 6 and I recall that he always wore the same jacket with patches on the elbows and the same curdoroy pants. For some reason, he had a ‘jones’ against one boy in the class named Andy Leibowitz. He always seemed to give Andy a hard time, and one day he actually pushed Andy over a desk. I don’t recall what happened to the teacher if anything. Perhaps he had a thing against jews since Andy was Jewish, but he just didn’t like the boy.
There was also a teacher named Mr. Jenkins, who was my homeroom teacher. Mr. Jenkins was one of the coolest teachers, always funny and down to earth, and from what I hear, he was also a great teacher. I’m pretty sure he taught History and he had a passion for it. Mr. Jenkins also must have been short on funds or had a falling out with his wife because I remember one of the kids saying to me, “hey check out Mr. Jenkins car”. In his car, he had blankets in the back seat along with an alarm clock in the front. I guess he wanted to make sure he was on time for class.
In retrospect, over time we’re often able to look back and understand what we couldn’t begin to understand when we were younger. I would like to think that I would have handled the situation with the Canadians and the bully much differently today, but that was a different time and a different me back then. As it turned out, I had to leave Rock Glen after a couple of years, as things got so bad that I flunked a couple of courses and had to attend summer school at Southern High. As Pat Brooks and I were the only two palefaces in the class, and no air conditioning, that didn’t last very long either. Well, it all worked out in the end, but two years spent at Rock Glen were definitely not my finest moments.
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