Rickity in High School

Episode #789

March 16, 2024

Servite High School classes are divided by IQ potential.
At the top of the curriculum is the Honors class.


The other academic groups at Servite are Twos, Threes, Fours and Fives. The Fives group was created this year for the football team draftees imported from surrounding counties. I have always been an overachiever, but I do not test well. My entrance exam for Servite has placed me in the Fours group. I show up in my sharp new clothes and freshly trimmed flat top.

My good friend Limon Richy runs toward me, his hand aviating above the right side of his head. “Zooooom, zoom, zoooooom,” he says. His hand sweeps down onto the deck of my flat top haircut. “You’re an aircraft carrier,” he laughs. “Zoom, zoom.” Some of the other boys laugh. I give Limon a hard look and run into the building.

The barber I go to is old school. He does not know the current hair styles. My father has used him for years.
“Cut it off,” I instruct.
“How short? he asks.
“All of it.”

I have an unfair advantage in Spanish class. We are using the ALM (Audio Lingual Materials) Spanish text. This is the same textbook I used in Junior High School. My Junior High School teacher privately tutored me. I have memorized all the dialogues.
“…no te gusta helado. Pues a me si, dámelo.”

My friend Jim and I are standing in the hall at school looking up at the newly hung plaque for academic achievement. In the category of Spanish is my given name: “Ricki T. Thues.”
Jim reads my name: “Ricki T”
“You are Rickity,” he says.
We both laugh and the nickname sticks among my best friends.

I show up early for track tryouts. I already have the haircut. I place third in the 100-yard dash. Coach asks me if I have ever run hurdles. I have not but am willing to learn.

Servite does not have a track. As I walk up to the high hurdles set up on the grass field a tall kid puts out his hand.
“Hi, I’m Steve. I’m a sophomore hurdler. I run the 120 yard high hurdles.”
“I’m Rick. What can you show me?”

Steve is left-handed. He runs up to the first hurdle and launches from his right foot extending his left over the hurdle. Steve clears the bar easily landing on his left leg, takes three bounding strides and leaps from his right over the second hurdle. It is my turn. I run up to the hurdle, launch from my right foot and clear the bar.

I am short… always have been. I have just made my 10th run at the hurdles. My stride is just too short to launch over the second hurdle on my third step. Steve pulls me aside. “You have to take four steps and alternate your lead foot. The good news is that leading with your right should be easier for you. I didn’t want to tell you, but I taught you to hurdle southpaw.”

I charge at the first hurdle, leading with my left. The left foot strikes the ground, then stride right (1), left (2), right (3), left (4) launch, stretching my right leg over the hurdle. CLEAR! I did it.

For all of freshman year I alternated hurdling stride (four steps between the hurdles). I even won some races. It is now my sophomore year. I have grown 2”. Steve and I are on the field. I dash toward the first hurdle stretching out my stride with a perfectly timed left lead over the bar. My left foot strikes the ground crisply as I bound into my first stride. One step, two stride, right foot down and leap over the second hurdle. A three-step stride, southpaw.

This season I helped Servite into the CIF track semifinals, winning the Angelus league. My time improved because of the fewer steps between hurdles and my name went on another plaque, this time in the gym.

It is the beginning of sophomore year. Because of my GPA I am advanced to Threes group.
Junior year: I am advanced to Twos group.
Senior year: Administration will not advance me to Honors because I have not taken the senior honors prerequisites of Latin and Calculus.

I have befriended the Honors students. I sit on “the hill” to eat my lunch with them. “The hill” is a rise in the grass that has been commandeered by the Honors group at lunch time. Friends I have met here have opened doors to the Movie club and special access to the Science Seminar computer. They are interesting and thought-provoking people. Some will become lifelong friends.

I am a terrible speller. Tomorrow is the final exam in English class. The final, if failed will lower my class grade by a whole point. Half of the test is on vocabulary words from our text, “Building Better Word Power.” The second half is essay questions regarding other reading material from the semester. We are informed that every spelling error will reduce the final score by half a point. I meet with my teacher after class.
“I cannot pass this test,” I say.
“What is the problem?”
“As I think you know, I am a terrible speller. May I have a dictionary during the test?”
“You may not have a dictionary for the vocabulary section, but I will allow it for the essays.”
I am relieved, but then he continues: “If you make even one spelling error in the essay section, you will fail the test.” It is my only chance.

My English teacher is handing back the graded final test. I get an “A”.

My friend Don and I spend all day long shooting a stop action animation of two model cars being assembled, then fighting it out for underdog dominance. All pieces are moved slightly, three frames of super 8 film are exposed, repeat, repeat, repeat… Movie club is a wonderful vehicle of expression. Little do I know that my future as a videographer will build and expand on these 8 hours of tedious staging.

After school at Junior Achievement we are counting the ballots as we form our company. I am made VP of Sales and lead the company to a stunning profit selling beer can cigarette lighters. Honestly… we neither drank the beer nor used the lighters. 🙂

Mildred Roach is the History teacher for almost all the groups. She has a bad habit of teaching the same material year after year. Essays were a joke. Rumor was that Ms. Roach would throw the tests down a stairwell and give the ones that slide the farthest down the highest score. At lunch some kids from Honors said that, as a joke, they had asked 100 questions which were answered in their morning History class. I take this as a challenge and have organized my fellow Twos group to best their total.
We begin questioning after Ms. Roach’s greeting.
“I wonder Ms. Roach, when was Henry the Eighth King of England?”
“1491 to 1547,” she answers.
“Who was his first wife?”
“Catherine of Aragon.”
“His second?”
“Anne Boleyn.”
“Jane Seymour.”
And on and on and on. Amazingly, she answers 102 questions in our 45-minute class. We beat Honors.

Mr. Cotton teaches Religion to Juniors. He attended Cal Tech and also taught at MIT. Cotton treats religion more like philosophy. It is the final exam. There is only one word on the test sheet… “WHY?” I scratch my head and my minimalist mind says, “Why not?,” so I write it down. The potential of this test to affect my GPA is low. I am not concerned.

When we file into Cotton’s class the next day he passes back the graded test papers. There is much grumbling in the room. He says, “The highest score was given to the answer, ‘Because?’ The more words you wrote the lower your grade.” I look down at an A-minus and smile.

Striding along the hall in my paisley fabric Vans tennis shoes and brightly colored socks, a classmate calls out to me: “Hey socks, looking good!” I think that I am clever circumventing the Servite dress code. There is no rule against brightly colored shoes or socks. The bell for next class rings and I hurry toward my history class. I almost run into Father Gaglia. My bright shoes skid to a stop.

“Ricki, you are in violation of the dress code.” I look down at my shoes. He adds, “That Nehru shirt is not a shirt with a collar. I will see you after school in my lab for an hour of washing test tubes.”
I size up the priest, notice his Roman clerical collar, cock my head, point to his neck and say, “That isn’t a shirt with a collar either, is it?”
“That will be two hours of test tubes,” he snaps back with a grin.

I am scrubbing test tubes when Father Gaglia brings up college.
“You’re a good student, Ricki. Have you given any thought to college?”
“My family doctor has suggested USC premed. He says that a medical degree is a key to any career you might want.”
“Notre Dame University has an excellent premed program. Your chances of getting into USC medical school are better coming from ND than USC’s own premed.”
I ask Father to be my college counselor on the spot.

Aside from good grades and extracurricular activities, Notre Dame wants a recommendation from four people. They are a teacher, college counselor, priest and Notre Dame alum. Father Gaglia is my biology teacher, counselor, a priest and a Notre Dame alum. He is all four! He even gives me an application fee waiver to encourage me to apply. Wearing that Nehru shirt will change my life.

I am third in line for my diploma at the graduation ceremonies of Servite High School. I am not the Valedictorian or the Salutatorian, but I am summa cum laude. There is an acceptance letter from Notre Dame at home and a scholarship awarded because of my GPA and extracurricular activities.

I am on my way.


“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
For you Barnes and Noble Nook readers it is available for Nook. Click HERE.
The “Technically Human” ebook is also available on Apple Books . Click HERE.



One Response

  1. Danielle L BARLOW March 18, 2024

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