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High school cliques were common — and insufferable

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2007 10:00 pm

Back in high school, there were cliques, and they could be (and often were) insufferable. The one I belonged to did a lot of entertaining since we were the people who ran for offices, put on the plays, the pep rallies and a lot of other useless stuff.

With the other members of the clique, we wrote and acted in many goofy skits, were instrumental in staging the plays and only engaged in sports that were pretty well guaranteed to not mess up one's knees. My dad was a chiropractor and he simply would not countenance his sons playing football - the favorite sport in the heart of every red-blooded American boy - but it could be murder on a kid's knee ligaments. Yeah, I know baseball was the All-American sport, but I couldn't hit a baseball if it was lying on the ground, much less if it was thrown in my direction at 90 miles an hour.

One of the ways we resembled the brats of today was the time we talked the whole student body into reacting to the fact that our drama teacher was being fired. It happened on the day of the class play. The horrible part of it was that I was home faking a stomach ache when some of the kids got wind of the action of the school board and decided the whole school should go on strike in spite of the fact the teacher only had a small number of students immediately affected by his forthcoming departure. I arose from my "bed of pain," hustled over to the school and got in on the negotiations with the dean, Robert Trumbly.

By that time, a couple of the more reactionary types had organized a snake dance through all the classrooms in an effort to get an additional number of reactionary students to join in and waltz out into the halls. The whole thing was pretty similar to the demonstrations held on the streets these days, except nobody shot anyone; the kids had no idea what the main complaint was anyway and all they really wanted was to get outa school to goof off and buy a soda.

Well, the play went off without a hitch and afterward there were tears and recriminations, but in the words of that Shakespeare fellow, all's well that ends well. Our teacher got a better job at a bigger school in the Bay Area and we ended up having done all those machinations for nothing. There was another little incident after the play that still scares me.

The cast went up to Mel's Drive-In in Sacramento for burgers in a big DeSoto Suburban, about a 1948 model. It was a nine-passenger vehicle and the son of the owner let one of the boys in the cast drive home. While some of us sat way in back and sang and played ukuleles, the driver set a land speed record heading back to Lodi, and I remember him saying that we just went under the railroad overpass up there north of Galt at "100 miles an hour."

In that very car, a couple of months later, we lost our classmate in an accident on the night of the senior prom.

Forty-five years after we graduated, I was asked to look at a car a friend of mine bought in Germany to sell here. I stopped at the lot where the consigned vehicle sat and was basically unimpressed. It was a Mercedes, but it was a car more at home under the control of a person a lot older and more female than I, so I apparently didn't disguise my disappointment in the car when the dealer asked me what I thought about the car and I told him it wasn't what I expected.

He introduced himself and I said, "Now I remember you. Where did we meet?"

"In high school," he said wryly, "It's OK, you didn't know me then either."

I left the lot feeling pretty small. In fact, I walked under the car we were looking at and I did it standing straight up. Damn cliques!

Bob Bader is a Lodi chiropractor, writer and bon vivant with but little bon. You can reach him at

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