High School

Sidney Lanier High School was not named after Napoleon Bonaparte. A piece of information that floated around the school was that Sidney Lanier (a renowned poet) had ordered the first shot to be fired at Fort Sumter that started the Civil War. We took pride in that. I don’t know why.
Sidney Lanier was a great deal different from my previous four years of school. There wasn’t that strict attitude—and there were lots of pretty girls. Barnes’ and Starke’s had been for boys only.

I don’t remember much about high school, I was so absorbed with playing golf at that time. I played after school, weekends, and of course summer vacations. But I remember a few things. My grades were average. The only course I remember was one I flunked. It was first-year Latin. I’d flunked it at Starke’s, and I flunked it again at Lanier. The third time I took no chances. I studied hard—carried Miss Caldwell’s tray at lunch—and passed.

Any possibility that I might have had a singing career came to an end at Lanier. I was singing in a large group. The teacher stopped us and said, “Dreyfus, you’re off key.” (My voice was changing and I didn’t realize it.) Several of the students who knew my singing background said, “Mrs. Simpson, Jack’s a wonderful singer.” Mrs. Simpson was not impressed. She insisted I was doing the music no good. Since that put-down I’ve never sung, except to mumble “Happy Birthday.” Mrs. Simpson may have cost us another Elvis, or even an Enrico Caruso.

At school there was a big, quiet boy named Johnny Caine. He played on the football team, later went to the University of Alabama and made All American. He was extraordinary on kickoff, could consistently kick the ball out of the end zone. Wallace Wade, coach at Alabama, made a profit on this. He had Johnny line up on the right side of the field, and angle the ball to the opposite corner. Often the other team was stopped on the five- or ten-yard line. I’m still proud of Johnny.

I was shy with the girls at school. I didn’t realize how shy—you don’t know how other people are. But I got objective evidence. In my senior year I sat across the aisle from a pretty girl named Jurelle. She sometimes sat with her dress a little above her rolled stockings. I noticed, but never when she was looking. A few years later I met Jurelle. She told me that in our senior year she had bet three girls, twenty-five cents each, she could get me to look at her—and lost the bet. Imagine how shy I must have been for four girls to bet on the subject?

After high school comes college, for some people. As I’ve said, my grades were average, and colleges were not vying for my attendance.

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