The beginning of school year at Antioch Junior High in the fall of 1972 held in store many changes, physical and emotional. Kimball’s Elementary School “grads” were being thrown in with three other elementary schools: Bidwell, Fremont and Turner, plus a handful of Holy Rosary students who decided (for one reason or another) to discontinue their studies at the Catholic school and join up with us in our 7th grade year.
After seven years at the same school, it was a combination of intimidating, exhilarating and surreal to be in this new environment. I would be riding the bus to and from school; there were more classes, each with a different teacher; lunch was different in that you could pick whatever you wanted to eat, and pay accordingly; gym involved having to take showers in front of your female classmates (are you kidding me?!). It was all so overwhelming, but after an awkward start, I became pretty acclimated in the first few weeks.
Julie was in my first period Drama class and a couple other classes later in the day. There was a handful of other kids from Kimball in that class, and we had Mrs. Wilkinson as our teacher. Julie and I had both had Mrs. Wilkinson’s husband, Mr. Wilkinson in 4th grade.
Since Drama class had no seating assignments like most of our other classes, it was natural for kids to gravitate toward any friends they had from their respective elementary schools. That was probably one of the factors that sort of threw Julie and me together. The other factor was, although Julie and I weren’t exactly neighbors, we did live in the same housing tract and took the same bus to and from school.
From our 1973 yearbook. I defaced my picture
by coloring my hair with a yellow highlighter pen.
(I was odd.)
It was funny how something as mundane as a 20-minute bus ride to school with a bunch of other sullen kids could suddenly transform into borderline euphoric if the right song came on the radio. I remember hearing the keyboard intro to King Harvest’s Dancing in the Moonlight and looking over my shoulder and seeing Julie sitting in the back of the bus with the biggest, sweetest smile on her face, and it was like an unspoken language that this Top 40 hit was a mutual favorite. (One-hit wonder artists, take solace in that your songs still have the ability to transport.)
Julie also liked David Essex’s Rock On, which became a hit later in our school year. She was singing it one time at lunch, lowering her voice when she came to the “James Dean” part. I thought it was so funny, coming from such a petite, pretty girl; after that, anytime that song came on the radio on the bus I would look at her and smile at that part of the song. James Dean. I was so silly and somewhat dorky, and she’d get a little embarrassed and then start laughing.
As much as Julie had her favorites, there was one song she detested: The Cisco Kid, by War. She made the mistake of announcing this one day in earshot of Frank Christie, so from then on he referred to her as “Cisco.”
(My last name being Hendrix, he referred to me as Jimi)
During our second semester of 7th Grade we had Art class instead of Drama. One morning while making papier-mâché masks out of newspaper shreds and homemade glue I thought it would be funny to take a strip of newspaper, dab some glue in the middle of it and pin it under Julie’s and my mutual friend Cozette Bouslog’s nose. I told Julie my plan and she looked kind of doubtful, but still remained close by to see what would transpire.
“Hey, Cozette,” I leaned in to our friend, and when Cozette turned my way, I said, “Have a mustache,” and attempted to pin the paper above her lip. I basically missed, instead getting some of the mixture in her mouth.
Talk about coming unglued, Cozette snarled, “Darn you, Kelly Hendrix, that’s not funny!” She then marched over to a small bucket of the glue, cupped some in her bare hand and headed back toward me at a pace where I didn’t even have time to run. The whole class let out a collaborative gasp in anticipation, and as the dollop of glue came hurling, hitting my upper body, the class in unison all exclaimed “Oooooh!,” with Frank Christie’s bass tone coming across the loudest.
The male teacher we had for that class was real big on calisthenics for discipline, giving you a choice of 100 push-ups, jumping jacks or touching your toes. Cozette and I were directed toward the back of the room for our punishment, and Julie, who was considered an accomplice, was ordered to join us. Push-ups being too unsanitary (touching the floor and all), and jumping jacks causing pubescent anxiety (jiggling in front of classmates), we opted for toe-touches. One problem: Julie was wearing a dress, so she basically stooped down, bending at the knee to do her share.
Fortunately the three of us remained friends after that ordeal, and we managed to stay out of trouble for the time being.
We like our fun and we never fight
You can’t dance and stay uptight….
My life changed forever April 27th of that year when my father was killed in a truck accident. My mom didn’t want to be at the house, so we stayed at my Aunt Berniece’s in Brentwood. Although I missed school for a week, I didn’t miss any assignments, as Julie was kind enough to make the rounds to my various classes and collect them, then have them delivered to our mutual family friends, the Cottiers (Bill Cottier worked with Julie’s dad), who delivered them to me. School work also helped me stay preoccupied, providing the distraction I needed from my shock and grief.
Such a thoughtful and simple gesture on Julie’s part helped to advance our friendship, which would provide me with just the support I needed to get me through such a difficult time.
Julie’s yearbook photo and signature.
To be continued.