In 1960, William and I entered 10th grade at Springfield High School. With students coming from five different junior highs, Springfield High had an enrollment of over 2500. An additional high school was projected to be completed on the north side of town by fall of 1961, when students would be divided to attend either school.
As 10th graders, it was both exciting and intimidating to be a student at such a large school. Basically we were familiar with only 1/5 of the students in our grades. In my Latin class I met Sandy Barrett a student who sat in front of me since we were assigned seats alphabetically. Sandy was a genuinely nice person: smart, gentle, kind, very pretty and impeccably dressed. But most importantly, Sandy was always diligently prepared with all her home work every day. Ms. Fritz, our Latin teacher, was a terror of an instructor! She would randomly go around the room and ask us students to read (out loud in Latin) ‘All Gaul Is Divided into Three Parts.’ If we stuttered or stumbled, she would scold us and rage on for minutes. At this point, I had barely mastered reading English out loud; reading Latin, certainly to Ms. Fritz’s standards, was particularly challenging. Fortunately, once a student was selected to read, Ms. Fritz’s pattern was to continue down the seating alphabet. Sandy was a good Latin reader with exceptional emphasis and expression in her delivery. Ms. Fritz would tell the class that we should all read like Sandy. Thus, Sandy and I developed a secret plan. Whenever the chance to read came down our row, Sandy would stand and read like an expert, completing whole passages without stopping, thus preventing me from being called on to read. She read so well that Ms. Fritz seldom stopped her. After Sandy read, I would volunteer to diagram the sentence structures that she read, thus fulfilling my turn. Sandy and I both did well in this Latin class. I seldom had to depend on anyone in school for help, but I deeply owe Sandy my gratitude for my success in Latin class.
With the addition of a new high school in 1961, Springfield High was split into North and South High. William and I attended the new Springfield North High School our 11th and 12th grades. Between homework and part-time work at the grocery stores, we did not participate in much of the school programs available to us, although I was in the choir and afterschool science clubs.
Although William and I did not participate in any North High team sports, we did gather friends to play games such as football, baseball at Snyder Park. I recall one incident that happened while Wendell Lutz and other neighborhood boys were playing football with William and me. Of course we did not have any protective gears but we were supposed to be playing flag football. Wendell was able to throw the football fairly accurately over 70 yards. One time he threw a pass deep down the field and William caught it; I chased him and he fell hard on the ground, dislocating his left elbow. William’s forearm was dangling and he was in severe pain. Everyone huddled together in total fear. I remember seeing a doctor at the City Hospital yanking a forearm hard, ‘popping’ the joint back in position. That seemed rather simple so I had William lay flat on the ground; Wendell held his arm straight and I jerked as hard as I could. ‘Glory be,’ the forearm snapped back in place. Though still painful, the arm no longer dangled. We got hold of our parents and William was taken to the hospital. Thankfully the X-ray showed that I did not do William any damage. This was my first experience of practicing medicine.
Tom Hall, another North High classmate held a Ping Pong tournament using the “round robin” format in his basement every year and he expected to be the winner each time. Somehow, the word was out that I played a little and he really wanted to beat me. (I think it was Wendell who asked that I be invited to his tournament.) Since no one at school had ever seen me play, people were surprised that I won the 1961 Tom Hall championship trophy. The next year Tom invited me again because he wanted revenge; I asked if my younger brother Danny could also play. Tom willingly welcomed the idea and accepted the extra entry fee. Although he was 15, Danny was a better Ping Pong and tennis player than most of us. Of course Danny won the 1962 championship trophy. The Chu brothers upheld the Chinese reputation for this traditional sport. Tom Hall was not happy!!
After William and I learned to drive in 1959, we bought a 1950 Chevy from our Uncle David for $50. We also obtained a same model junk car and used it to merge all the good parts, including the seats. William also worked at an auto body shop the summer of 1960 and was able to get the body of the car repaired and painted. Our Aunt from New York came for a visit and was impressed with what we’d done to refurbish the old car; she noted that the seats in the front and back were of clashing and different colors so she gave us $50 to pay for new seat covers to match the newly painted light blue color of the body. To pay for our gas money we transported 3 classmates each day to and from high school, charging each one 10 cent per trip. We just didn’t think of calling our service “Uber”!!! We were able to maintain and use this car through college.
In 11th grade, I became acquainted with another female classmate, Linda Swisher. Her Mom and Grandmother shopped at Fulmer’s Grocery where I worked after school. They would often ask me to take their purchases to their car, not that they needed any help, but more for allowing me a break. For a science project in 11th grade, Linda submitted the DNA model of Watson and Crick. I had barely any notion of what DNA and genes were about and here she was already making models of how the alpha helix, spiraling like a coil, can make replicates and protein chains. I was really in awe.
Sadly, and suddenly, Linda lost her mother on Easter Sunday, 1961. I wanted to be there for her so I reached out and we became good friends. Although I was aware that she had a boyfriend, a nice classmate, John Day, I wanted to go out with Linda on at least one date before graduation. While externally, I appeared very sure and confident, internally I also realized that as a Chinese, asking out Linda, a popular, scholarly white girl, may not be the ‘acceptable norm.’
Anyway, I mustered my courage and called Linda to invite her to a movie at Melody drive-in after work one Saturday night. As a real true friend, she accepted my invitation. I believe we had fast food there and a large drink. I placed the speakers on the back window and my Coca Cola in a carrier in the front window. I don’t remember the movie, but I thought it was supposed to be a thriller which would keep my interest. Unfortunately, I was so tired, I felt fast asleep shortly after the movie started, and slept through the entire show. (I regard it a talent to be able to shut off my ‘computer’ and fall asleep immediately.) I probably snored so loudly that Linda didn’t have any chance of watching the movie, either. Anyway, after the show ended, she woke me, and in a fog, I disconnected the back speakers and closed the back window. I picked up my Coca Cola and proceeded to dump it out the front window. The simple problem was the front window was also closed. The full container of drink splashed all over both of us and the front of the car! Of course I apologized profusely and Linda and I remained friends.
While my commitment and dedication to work hard both in school and in employment, my opportunity of a typical teenage social life was compromised. I was blessed, however, with excellent health. Another undisclosed fact and consequently unknown to most of my classmates is that from 7th grade through 12th grade, I held perfect attendance in classes and at work. If I’d had a ‘cold’ or minor illness, it always seemed to occur on days off or vacations. I feel especially proud of this achievement.