Sunday, February 20, 2022

Idyllic Life

I graduated high school in 1975, in a very liberal town and a loose and free high school.  We had the usual cliques: the athletes, the cheerleaders, and the hippies.  We also had cowboys, who came from the valley near the town and grew up on ranches, riding horses.  We had the uber wealthy who grew up in Pebble Beach and were given Mercedes cars for their 16th birthday.  My first day at this school was my sophomore year and I was hanging out on the stone steps that led to the gym and athletic fields.  A friend whom I had known all my life, scooped me up and ushered me to the main patio, telling me those steps were for "the cowboys."  

I came from Southern California at that point, where the girls dressed like fashion models just to go to school.  It was high stakes.  When we moved to Carmel the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, it was this same friend who looked through my clothes and told me they were completely unsuitable.  She schooled me in hippie chic and got me to trade in my nylon stockings for opaque tights.  Polyester dresses and shirts for cotton, Indian print blouses and skirts.  She pierced my ears (much to my mother's chagrin) and had me wearing hoop earrings.

These fashion choices set the stage for my high school life.  

I hung out with the hippies.  I burned incense in my bedroom.  I did this in order to fit in to my odd little crowd, but I also had friends from athletics, the marching band, the drama folks and the preppies.  In 1974, a group of students and educators approached the school board and asked permission to start an "alternative" high school.  This was the time of the 'back to the land' movement in the U.S. and all things that deviated from the norm.  Amazingly we were granted permission on a trial basis.  We were required to take regular classes in the morning, and the afternoons became an independent study where we could earn equivalent credits for courses in history, biology, etc.  Of course we thought it would be a free for all, which we adored, but it did turn out to be a rigorous course of study that, with our teachers, we designed for ourselves.  In the photos above, I'm there playing my guitar, and the other two images are from our biology class with our teacher Mr. Ralph Kahl walking us through the dissection of a pregnant deer.  Ralph (as we called him) has permission from the park service to retrieve road kill that he found on his way to work. He was quite a character, ala Hunter S. Thompson.  Instead of frogs, we dissected animals he found dead on the road on his drive from Big Sur to Carmel to teach.

There are many good Ralph stories, which I may write about at a later date.  Let's just say, if a teacher today did some of the things he did, they would be fired on the spot.  It was a wild time, and teachers in my high school felt free to be themselves.  They fraternized with students outside of school and they made a point of being our "friend" as well as a teacher.  Many of them helped me immensely when I was depressed and thinking of dropping out.  Carmel had a reputation for celebrating bohemian life and artists, and this continued through my high school days.

I continue to have friends in Carmel and the valley.  It's a unique place that draws many tourists and has become sort of a Disneyland.  I enjoy visiting there very much, but doubt I would ever live there again. But I love to visit, and reminisce, about the very privileged life I led there.



  1. How very different from my high school in England which, on the surface at least, was like something out of the Victorian era. It was always summed up for me by a lyric from the Incredible String Band "Down gallons of glandular corridors of the dark castle the pompous old bellman is ringing his bell"! All the masters (teachers) had been through WWII and it left its mark on them - some were determined to enforce army discipline, some had sought refuge in the bottle but were tolerated because everyone knew what they had been through, and a few were determined that there should never be another war and taught us about Allen Ginsberg, Salvador Dali and satirical comedy. Strange days indeed.

  2. It is wonderful to attend a school where one feels they can express and be who they are becoming. I wish that for all children. I didn't know you played the guitar!

    1. I did play, but stopped decades ago. Partially because of carpal tunnel but also I just ran out of steam. Many of my then fellow musicians have gone on to have wonderful careers and I envy that. BUT, it is a lot of work, and I don't envy that.


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