Journalism was my life in high school. The staffs of The Elevator my junior and senior years were the smartest, most talented, funniest, best read, most informed, and most bawdy group of people I have ever met.
Everything was cut and paste with the newspaper, and with the rest of our lives, too. If that doesn’t make any sense, then you never cut and paste putting anything together. It is a skill I still use in the digital age.
There was nothing like the feeling of the paper coming out and watching teachers and students read it around campus. Reading you! Nothing!
I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein and expose corruption, muckrake with gusto, tear down the false football gods. Savage. That was the word we always used, straight from Hunter S. Thompson, whom we all had read. There was a writer who wanted to be Hunter and ingested mescaline, walked down the halls during passing periods, and wrote a column about it called “Justin Buffalo and the Cows.”
There was the phrase “making an ad run,” which was code for driving off closed campus to get stoned, park, and make out with the females on staff. There were political debates that rivaled Buckley versus Vidal. I would regularly write seven or eight articles an issue, news, sports, movie reviews, features and editorials. Yes, those scathing editorials ripping everything in sight: jocks, teachers, Republicans and Ronald Reagan, always Reagan.
From my senior year journal:
I can’t stand to look at Reagan’s face. There is no one on earth I hate. He is one. His policies, his family, his asshole face. I can’t stand the man! How could he get elected?!! The American population could not possibly elect this kind of man. I don’t wish him ill— only that bastard would fade away— for good.
A couple editorials landed me in the Principal or Vice Principal’s office, but nothing ever happened. I got straight A’s, had perfect attendance, and didn’t do drugs. But it was a brush with censorship, THE MAN, and I sort of liked going up against…whatever it was.
One time I wrote a satire from the perspective of a cheerleader, as if she were keeping a diary and was a secret, repressed intellectual. I commissioned illustrations to accompany the piece. Something happened when that paper hit campus. A couple cheerleaders came looking for me. I liked that, too.
There was often a lot of downtime in journalism, so to waste away the hours, we held spitting contests out the third floor window of the old building, staged races with rolling chairs, played Vietnam War on the IBM Selectrics, and wrote low-grade Penthouse forums and read them aloud. For some reason, there were dozens of Sears catalogs from the 70s in the room, and one staff member routinely perused the ladies underwear and bra sections and made collages with the photographs, illustrations and text, and gave them away as gifts.
Another staff member was a boy, who was easily the best writer, and read nothing but read Zane Grey and Louie L’Amour novels—during class, in all his classes. He never did a lick of schoolwork except his newspaper articles, and scored a perfect score on his SAT. I have wondered for decades what became of him.
We probably drove our adviser to a nervous breakdown of some kind. She despised us. She was in over her head with this crew. We were grade-A assholes and wielded words like machetes.
Many years later, I became a high school newspaper advisor and never let students pull the kind of shit we pulled. Quite possibly because no one tried or even conceived of trying! It just wasn’t in them anymore. Rebellious minds had been directed elsewhere. They weren’t angry with the political system. They found niches within popular culture that served their rebellious needs. Perhaps that was a good thing. Or maybe it wasn’t.
As for Oregon City High School’s newspaper today…The Elevator is gone….print there is dead, and that breaks my heart.
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