Steve's Welding Class
As a senior in high school, my best friend was Steve McLeod. He was everything a dedicated high-school slacker like myself could want in a best friend: He had a car, a decent-paying after-school job, and he lived just a half-mile from the school. His dad worked all day and his mom was dead, so we would have the place all to ourselves while skipping out of school. Which we did a lot. We were both taking the minimum number of classes, plus I had wisely talked my mom into writing me a note that gave me permission to leave campus at any time. Steve had already turned 18, so he could write his own notes ("I have a hangover and won't be able to attend my first three classes this morning. Signed, Steve").
Not only did Steve have all this going for him, but he looked old enough to buy beer at certain convenience stores around town. And he had a ping-pong table in his garage. Though completely lacking in academic ambition, we became world-class table-tennis players that year.
The classes we did take weren't much. I needed four credits, so I took second-year electronics class (which I generally slept through, and it was two periods and two credits), electronics assistant (in which I handed out test leads, or "roachclips" as we called them for some reason, to underclassmen), and the only mandatory class, "Contemporary World Problems" (I demanded to have the teacher who was the football coach and never gave out homework).
Steve had a similar class-load, but the only one I can recall would be his Welding class. Now, although our school had an industrial-arts building, it never had a Welding lab. So the entire class (about 4 or 5 guys) would be bussed over to another local high school three days a week.
To say that the Welding class was loosely run would be a major understatement. The main reason for this would be the teacher, whose name escapes me, but it hardly matters since nobody called him by his name anyway. He was a large, terminally unaware man with the emotions of a fish. He had a severe speech impediment and drooled heavily out both sides of his mouth as he talked. This made his daily mumbled instructions to the future boilermakers completely incomprehensible. It also earned him the nickname Jollie Ollie Orange.
Some of you may not be familiar with the Goofy Grape line of juvenile beverage mixes, which were marketed mainly in the sixties. They were just like Kool-Aid, only each flavor was represented by a different character, such as "Rootin'-Tootin' Raspberry". The strangest of theses characters was certainly Jollie Ollie Orange, whose Crazy Guggenheim-like voice, bad teeth and Jughead-type hat would certainly have rendered him a social outcast were it not for his popular and sunny flavor. So the welding teacher's nickname was well-placed.
Due to Jollie Ollie's inattentiveness during lab time, young welders would often turn to grab their slag hammer from behind them, only to find it had been welded to their bench by a mischievous classmate. Such as Mark.
Mark lived not far from me and we attended school together since Kindergarten. The most remarkable thing about Mark was his incredible resemblance to the flying monkeys in The Wizard Of Oz. Actually, his features were even a little more Lucifer-like than the flying monkeys, but the similarity was such that everybody called him "flying monkey", even his closest friends.
Mark and Steve were both aboard the bus the day when Welding-class discipline became so lax that the anarchy actually spread to the bus driver. A young girl, she announced to the Welding-lab bound students that she had forgotten something at home, so she would be driving the bus to her house on the way to Welding. Once parked in her driveway, she invited the students to come on in for a second. Inside, they met her roommate, who offered bong-hits and liquor, which were well-received by the young future welding professionals. After getting back on the way to welding class, the driver said she would blame their tardiness on mechanical problems with the bus. I don't know what happened to the other Welding students beside Steve and Mark, but I suspect some of them found work in Detroit.
You probably already know what happened to STEVE.
MARK joined the army and died while paratrooping off the coast of England.