Monday, February 18, 2019

1979: 6th Grade Memories: Judson or Foster?

Episode 19 - 6th grade Memories: Judson or Foster?

I’d met Keith Taylor during the summer prior to the beginning of the 6th grade. He and I took part in the Longview Public Library summer activities, and we’d become pretty good friends. He had already known he was going to be going to Judson, while I was sure I was going to Foster. He had told me, “You don’t want to go there- they have fights everyday, they break into your locker and steal all of your things, and they give out homework every single day!” I never did ask him how did he know that, but when we parted that summer, I was thinking I wouldn’t see him again for three years. Well, I wound up at Judson, and I was happy that at least I’d be attending school with Keith, even though we only had PE together. And I was happy I wasn’t going to the school where he said all of those terrible things happened.

Well, after school started and I’d been riding the bus for awhile, and after seeing all of the wonderful homework I was getting in almost every class except for PE and Choir, and after I’d had my locker broken into twice and lost two combination locks, I wondered whether or not I was at the right school- because it sure didn’t feel like it. If Foster was as bad as everyone claimed it to be, then Judson must’ve been just a step above hell in comparison. One thing that cannot be overstated and something I’ve thought about more and more as the years have gone by is the fact that a lot of black kids back then were ANGRY, with a capital A- angry because they had to switch schools for no reason other than integration and fixing the black-white ratio. What made it worse was that white kids were not having to move and switch schools, just black kids. White kids could go to whatever middle school they were close to, while black kids had to be bussed way across town, passing up two middle schools to get to the one farthest north and actually outside of the city limits. It meant having to get up earlier than normal, riding a bus not worth sitting in a junkyard, and going to a school where the majority of the faculty was probably not used to dealing with kids who lived on the southside of town. Then think about the 7th graders and 8th graders who’d been at Foster and/or Forest Park previously. Now they were being told they had to go to Judson. A lot of them were mad, and they basically took it out on everyone. The next year, some of the black kids were told that they would no longer be going to Judson- instead they’d be bussed to Forest Park. The majority of these kids lived on the eastside of Longview off Young Street and in that area, and I imagine that originally they weren’t too happy about that, but then at least, they’d be closer to home for what it was worth.

Starting out, it was a mess. Black kids were having fights everyday, with each other for the most part. I can recall a lot of them saying they were having fights just so they could be sent back to Foster. Which, of course, didn’t work and didn’t happen. A lot of these kids were older, 7th and 8th graders, who just did not want to be there. My classmates and I really weren’t into all that fighting too much, but many of us had best and good friends we’d been separated from in having to switch schools, and that and having to be punching bags for some of the more angrier ones made us not want to be there either. Judson, too, was looked upon as being the harder, tougher school when it came to academics, and the higher volume of homework and the strict grading policy gave evidence to that. Back then, it was possible to have homework in just about every class, and to have to carry three or four books home to do it. That also made a lot of us not like Judson very much.

But probably the biggest reason we hated going to Judson during our 6th grade year back then was its football team. The 8th grade team that year was HORRIBLE, they lost every single game that year. The 7th grade teams weren’t too much better, they might have won one game between them. But all of the teams were atrociously bad. Our first few pep rallies were memorable in the sense that many of the kids were cheering for and chanting for Foster instead of Judson. The funny part, if one could call it that, was that they were chanting for Foster no matter who we were playing that week, whether it was Forest Park, Marshall, or one of the Pine Tree teams. And the chants and cheers would be LOUD, meaning one could hear them very, very clearly. I remember the very first pep rally they made almost all of us 6th graders sit on the floor, and we showed our appreciation by chanting for Foster on almost every cheer. I also remember Mr. Gregory, the assistant principal, giving us such a dirty look, that if looks could kill, there would have been a mass murder that afternoon. I was chanting for Foster, too, at the time because I really didn’t want to be at Judson myself. And the football team wasn’t all that good anyway, so the purpose of a pep rally was being defeated in all the ways possible.

However, by the time football season ended, we (the 6th graders) had accepted Judson as our school and we were no longer cheering for Foster or wishing we were there. A lot of the 7th and 8th graders would continue to beat that drum into the ground, however, all the way into their 8th and 9th grade years respectively, but slowly but surely, a lot of them would change as well, and the school spirit became a lot stronger as a result. By the time I was in the 8th grade, we were all proud to be Blue Devils.