Upper Merion HS (UMHS) Class of 1969 Alumni List

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Class Memories From 1969

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When I came across the "Memories of Bullies" section on the UpperMerion.net website, I was flabbergasted. It struck a very deep chord within me and although I had originally planned to go right to bed I couldn't sleep for hours, thinking about what I was going to write here and how the mention of the subject was just too surprising.

During all of my time in school, bullying was something that was never discussed. It was pushed under the rug. If you felt like it happened to you, in fact, it never really happened and if you did feel that you were the victim of bullying then something was wrong with you.

From elementary school on I had always been told that bullies were something easily dealt with. You only had to stand up to them, all the authority figures told me. What I didn't realize as a child was that the only place in the adult world that this advice applied to was prison. Looking back I realize that no typical adult would stand for, say Mike Tyson, walking down the street, pummeling people at random while police and other authority figures looked the other way.

We boys were made to feel that if we were the victims of boys stronger, older, more experienced at fighting, or just more aggressive or meaner than ourselves we were somehow inadequate. Since school officials or parents or any other authority figure did not take the issue seriously, the bully was, in effect, given an exalted position in the hierarchy of the student social structure. Victims, when they weren't fantasizing about revenge scenarios, which at their most extreme resembled Columbine, wanted to be bullies themselves or at least liked and left alone by the bullies.

Prior to Columbine there were no anti-bullying programs. After Columbine, however, when the nation saw how bullying could unhinge the adolescent mind and what terrible havoc that could lead to, the nation decided to take the issue seriously. Those of us who had been victims of bullying, previously had tried to push our memories under the rug. Yet like everything else that gets pushed under the rug, things seem to pop through at inopportune times.

If anti-bullying programs had existed at the time I went to school, I would have at least realized that what had happened to me was not right, that no bully has the right to assault another student (or anyone else for that matter), just because he might be physically tougher, a more experienced fighter, more aggressive, older, bigger or whatever. Not being privy to that perspective led to things like depression (the suicides caused by bullying did not prompt the anti-bullying program until Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold decided to take some people with them), a sense of inadequacy, an inability to concentrate on studies, a compulsion to remove oneself from the school environment resulting in everything from avoiding extracirricular activities even to the point of dropping out and an extreme shyness with girls because I did not see myself as worthy of their attentions.

I think I probably suffered more bullying in my school career than most due to the fact that my father's career in aerospace spawned a large number of moves. Born in Wisconsin, I started pre-school in New Hampshire and Kansas, before going back to Wisconsin. I began grade school in Arvada, Colorado before going through 5th and 6th grade in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of the 7th grade and the first half of the 8th I spent in Rialto, California prior to returning to Phoenix for the last half of the 8th grade prior to the move east that summer. Always being the new kid on the block I usually got beat up within a few days of the moves to Arvada, Phoenix and Rialto. Fortunately for me, however, in Arvada and Phoenix the strategy of just standing up to bullies worked after a while. By the time of my last years at both schools and fights too numerous to mention I was respected at least to a moderate extent by everyone and bullies there eventually left me alone. Eisenhower Junior High School in Rialto, California was a significantly larger school, however, and I was relieved when we moved back to Phoenix.

That all changed, however, when I started 9th grade at Upper Merion Junior High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. That summer we moved to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. My father, who was an aerospace engineer for General Electric had been transferred to the GE plant at Valley Forge. Perhaps because of the way that engineers dressed over at GE, he decided that for my first day of school at Upper Merion I should get rid of the jeans I had worn in Phoenix and carry a briefcase and wear white socks. That, combined with the fact that I now wore glasses meant I might as well have painted a target on my back.

Those of you in the class of 1969, who remember how mandatory it was that boys wear black socks and NOT carry briefcases, probably cannot help but get a chuckle out of imagining that scenario. Of course, the first fight I was in broke my glasses so I now had glasses taped in the middle to complete the "hit me" look that I had unwittingly perfected. Needless to say 9th grade was a nightmare.

At first, things seemed to improve in High School, 10th grade and beyond, until one day in shop class a bully sucker punched me in the testicles, apparently for no other reason than his amusement. One of the braver kids verbally protested the completely unprovoked assault but the bully suffered no sanction from the shop teacher. I don't know if the teacher was aware of the assault because I was busy writhing in pain on the floor at the time.

I sometimes wonder if any of this might have contributed to my becoming one of the first four "hippies" at Upper Merion. Certainly I can see the case for my general rejection of a social order that elevated bullies and stood hypocrisy, as well as a desire for psychedelic escapism. My then very militant anti Vietnam war stance might also have been a perception of American bullying of little Vietnam.

Being one of the first "hippies" at Upper Merion meant that I was now, more than ever, the target of assaults. Now, however, I could more readily accept the attacks because they were for a cause larger than myself. Although my politics have become more conservative, especially since 9/11, as I have grown older, it is still interesting that an analysis of "New Left" leaders conducted at the time stated that the typical "New Left" leader had moved several times in his childhood. Apparently, I was not unique.

Writing all of this has been quite therapeutic for me, even some 40 years later. I hope that if others read this they will realize the importance of anti-bullying programs, even if they are derided as ineffective due to the code of silence that kids adhere to.
Bullies Posted: 12/14/2009

Reunions and Upper Merion High School News

Reunion Date: 2014-10-11
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The Class of 1969 will hold its 45th reunion on Saturday, Oct. 11, at the Greco Roman Restaurant in West Norriton. Please send your contact info to *****@gmail.com to get on the master list for updates.
Posted: 05/01/2014

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