The school year of 1963-1964 began typically enough for the Class of 1966. We were sophomores, the “wise fools” as the strict Latin translation proclaims. We entered our second year of study with confidence, perhaps not fully understanding how much we did not yet know. It was a year of change and those of us from the female side of the student body were excited about the new uniforms that appeared to be a tiny bit more fashionable than the dull brown pencil skirts that we had worn as freshmen. We arrived all decked out in our brown and white plaid pleated skirts, white blouses, and dark brown blazers. At least for a time we were glad for the opportunity to wear something different.
The Carmelite Fathers were celebrating their one hundredth year of service in America and it seemed fitting that we would rechristen our yearbook with the name, Zelo, alluding to the motto of the Order of Carmelites, Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum, “With Zeal I have been zealous.” We returned for our second year believing that we had the whole high school experience figured out. Gone were the fears that we might be unable to meet the demands of our teachers. We had formed strong friendships and alliances with one another and we felt ready for anything that might come our way.
We were admittedly a bit less interested in academics than in the social aspects of school but that is rather typical of sophomores. Our teenage years were in full bloom with many preparing to earn driver’s licenses and make the grand leap into more independent lifestyles. We tackled the logic and proofs of Geometry with Mr. Maroney and became ever more proficient in Latin with Sister Wanda. Father Donald led us through the fundamentals of Biology and taught us how to dissect a living breathing frog and keep its heart beating even as we opened its body for observations. I have long suspected that my ultimate reluctance to pursue a career in medicine began inside the Biology lab when I was certain that I was going to faint from the stench of formaldehyde and the sight of that tiny heart fighting for a survival that was doomed.
Once again I had an English class with Father Shane and just as with the previous year it would be the highlight of my day. My biggest surprise came from Speech and Debate. I was then as timid as a little mouse but I somehow discovered the bold nature of my personality when Mrs. Lamping taught us how to use not just our words, but also our voices to communicate with strength and determination. I soared under her direction and soon found myself competing in debates with my partner, Claudia. We would never find the momentum to have a consistently winning season but I would learn so much about people and my interests would begin to take form.
Our handsome and beloved President Kennedy was proving his own mettle in national affairs and becoming ever more popular. He had faced down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis and gained the respect of even his detractors. He was coming to Texas in the fall of our sophomore year with a short stop in Houston before traveling to Dallas. It was November and I had turned fifteen years old only days before. I remember sitting in English class when Sister Margit came to the door to announce that President Kennedy had been shot. She was always such a jokester that I at first thought that she had gone a bit too far with one of her impish pranks but the look on her ashen face told me that she was not attempting to fool us. Along with my classmates I felt as though someone had just punched me in the stomach. I remember sitting silently for hours waiting for the school day to end and wondering if the world as I had known it would ever be the same. This terrible day would become the defining moment of our sophomore year of high school, a turning point when everything that we had ever known seemed to suddenly change. I suppose that we all grew up just a bit on that day and lost the unfettered innocence that had once been ours.
We eventually carried on just as the country did. We relied on the rituals and routines of school to occupy our minds and our time. The newspaper and yearbook staffs preserved our memories, the sports teams represented us in combats with rival schools. I kept my membership in the Medical Careers Club even though I was beginning to doubt that I was suited for a life in medicine. I religiously attended the Saturday night dances where I enjoyed meeting up with my friends and watching the couples sway on the dance floor. My teachers and my classmates were feeling more and more like family and I found great comfort in being with them day after day.
It officially snowed in February and our teachers allowed us to run outdoors to catch snowflakes on our tongues. It was a rather pathetic but typical version of Houston snowfall but it got us temporarily out of our classes. Our basketball team celebrated its one hundredth victory that same month and I learned that the round ball was my favorite sport. There were spiritual retreats and Bunny Hops and more and more of my classmates driving to school for the very first time.
In the spring we had our annual fundraising drive. Each of us had to sell a case of World’s Finest Chocolate, a feat that was rather difficult given that most of the people in the neighborhood had children with their own cases of candy to sell. This meant that we had to use our salesmanship skills with strangers. My cousin, Ingrid, and I became a team, traveling with our moms to any place where we thought that potential customers might lurk. Our favorite spots were bowling alleys, ice houses, and trailer parks. We were thrown out of many establishments in our quest to sell our wares but usually not before we had managed to deplete our inventory just a bit more. Somehow we always managed to meet our quotas but it was difficult work. Mostly though it taught me that people are generous souls who are inclined to help even when they have little to give.
We ended our sophomore year far more knowledgeable and ready to become role models as upperclassmen. Many of us had moved up in the ranks of the various organizations and had made names for ourselves in academics and sports. We were halfway through our journey through high school but were yet to realize just how quickly time flies. We were anxious to move on and to be at the top of the pecking order. We had earned our places as school leaders and we felt more than ready to conquer the world.