Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My High School Dreams

A visit to my old home town, Amarillo, Texas for my wife's class reunion kindled some old memories, and while she visited with her classmates, I had a chance to track down something I remembered from 42 years ago.

In 1968, five high school seniors won National Merit Scholarships, myself included.  The local newspaper, the Globe Times, sent reporters out to get a human interest article on the winners.  I remembered that interview, and had a vague memory of the newspaper article and also a TV studio visit.  I knew that the newspaper reporter had been interested in my writing and had taken a picture of me hunched over my desk, but no copy of that article remained in my files.  So, like everything else, I began my search online.  The Globe News site mentioned that their archives older than a decade or so could be located at the city library.  The reference librarian said, "Good news.  We have an index for 1968."  She handed me the two large tomes and I began hunting.  "Henry Melton"-no.  "Students"-no.  "Awards"-no.  "High School"-no.  Eventually, as I was losing hope, there was "Scholarships - National Merit" and several references.  That led to a couple of spools of microfilm and three different articles.  I found what I had remembered, and it was fascinating reading.

Reading about myself as a high school student brought back many related memories.  Yes, I didn't study.  I never learned to 'take notes' in class like the good students, and it definitely hurt my grades. And, oh yes, I was constantly experimenting with my own home-grown gunpowder and blowing things up.  This was good clean fun at the time.

I was also a writer back then.  I told fantastic stories to my neighbors as far back as grade school, and eventually graduated to writing them down, although perhaps the idea of being a novelist wasn't quite fully formed.  I was a short story writer at the beginning, and stayed that way for decades.  But I wanted to be in print, to get my stories out there were people could read them, and I have to wonder if my early part-time job running the printing press gave that a push. Reading this article, I realized I had been impressed by a couple of great science teachers and I really wanted to be the cool teacher who set things on fire and blew things up in class and inspired students to be more than just note-taking machines who just were there for the grade.

The memory of being an editor of the "Hot Line" had been lost over the years.  Only now, after reading this, can I vaguely remember it.  It makes sense, and I seem to remember working with the youth group adult leaders on this, but boy, that was a long time ago.

That student in the articles, the one who blew off studying to read and blow up things and write stories feels a lot like me today.  The tinkerer who learned how to make metal offset masters and to correct errors on the light table with dabs of paint is the same guy who experiments with layout using InDesign today.  The editor of the "Hot Line" is now the editor of "Wire Rim Books".

Some dreams were set aside, for good reasons.  My plan to get a teacher's certificate didn't survive past my first exposure to the reality of education classes.  My idea to be a chemist didn't survive my color blindness.  The University of Texas bumped out Abilene Christian when my wife-to-be planned to attend UT.

But I was a writer, from the beginning.  My high school dreams were vague and only partly formed back then, as is common at that age, but the important ones survived.  I am a writer.  I edit and produce my books, many people read them, and some have won awards.  I've also had opportunities come visit schools and be a guest teacher. I enjoy that and I'll do it again at the slightest invitation.

High school dreams can come true.  They did for me.


2 comments:

Linda said...

I enjoyed reading this post and finding out about your National Merit awards and high school activities. And what a great reminder that dreams do come true.
Linda Gregersen

Henry Melton said...

It's also a reminder that while dreams can come true, they do so on their own timetable. I'm still waiting for some of them, but just because they're slow doesn't mean I'm any less hopeful.