With the schools closed and students having online instruction and the Covid-19 virus causing so much schedule disruption I naturally turned my thoughts to the last time I was involved in something of such epic proportions, the 1974 tornado that ripped through Xenia and changed the town forever.
We had bought a new second car that day and Wayne had left work early to pick it up. The children, Mike 6 years old and Chris, only three months, were out looking at the new purchase when we looked up and saw what appeared to be a giant black cloud approaching our home off of Rte 42 from the direction of downtown. The difference was there were things roiling around in this cloud and some of them seemed to be rather large. We decided we had better go in the house.
After we sat out the dreadful storm, which damaged but did not destroy our house, we went out to look at the carnage, which was unbelievable. It was an awful time, without cell phones or regular phones since the poles had been snapped, you could not communicate. They read lists of people missing over the radio, many of them the families of my students or friends or colleagues, most of whom, thankfully, turned out to be okay.
After some variety of order was restored weeks later the schools finished the term in the evenings at schools in neighboring towns. The following year the only surviving secondary building, Warner, was repaired enough, along with some portable modules—trailer like things, for us to hold classes. The high school went in the morning until midday and the Jr. Hi classes from both Jr, Hi buildings, now with their student bodies combined, would be in the afternoon.
I taught 9th grade French and Civics at Warner so I was a Jr Hi teacher. We had a fairly good time as a faculty, held bowling leagues in the mornings, went out to lunch together before school, but the students were having an even better time. Turns out there were evidently some epic parties being thrown both before school by the Jr Hi kids and after school by the high school students. One student’s party was so raucous that a couple of his guests ended up driving a car into a house after the party. As one of my students, a passenger in the vehicle, told me earnestly the next Monday, “ Mrs. Newsom, we were riding down the street and all of a sudden I was watching some woman’s tv in her living room through the windshield. The kids who attended that party had tee shirts printed up that read “ I survived Blanks Party!”
After smelling alcohol on the breath too often of one student we called his mother in to have a parent/teacher conference. The other kids had told us that George was basically running a party house before school. At the meeting we were trying to tactfully clue his mother in that she needed to pay a bit more attention to what was going on in her house. She was very pleasant but did not seem to be getting the message. I finally bit the bullet and asked her point blank if she ever looked in his room, which is where we had been told he kept his store of hooch and other party supplies. She looked at me and replied wide-eyed, “ Oh I can’t go in his room, he has a No Trespassing sign on his door. “ I got up and left the conference.
So I am sending my best wishes to the parents who now have teenaged children home alone all day. May the Luck of the Irish be with you.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.