In September when school started, Vancouver High School was another totally new experience for an old country boy. Shumway Junior High went through the ninth grade so VHS had the sophomore, junior, and senior classes and there was upward of three hundred students in each class.
Vancouver High was a large red brick building on the corner of 29th and Main Streets which meant that we had to walk about sixteen blocks to and from school. We thought nothing of that, however, after years of walking a mile and a quarter to Bona School.
Part of the newness, other than size, was that I found that I could choose some of my courses besides the basics that were required for graduation. We were each assigned a faculty advisor who could help lay out our courses. I was delighted because I had been mulling over a plan all summer off and on—I wanted to go to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
I made an appointment with my advisor, Mr. Louis Barter who taught history and economics, and explained what I wanted to do. He said that he did not think I would have a chance of getting a senatorial appointment to Annapolis because they were limited and were usually filled two or three years in advance, often by politicians’ sons. He pointed out, however, that eighty men a year were taken from the enlisted ranks in the Navy by competitive examination and based on their records in high school.
Together, Mr. Barter and I laid out my courses for my junior and senior years so that I would have all the prerequisites for the Annapolis examination, should the time ever come. I was pleased when it turned out that, if I skipped a foreign language, I could still have an elective course each year. I would also have plenty of time for extra-curricular school activities.
After tossing that football around half the summer with Rex Lester, I decided to turn out for football with the Vancouver Trappers. That was a mistake because I weighed all of 135 pounds. I insisted to Mr. Gustafson, the assistant football coach that I could play end (we did not have “wide receivers” in those days) and he agreed to give me a chance on the scrub team. Coach “Dutch” Shields took one look at my skinny frame and just shook his head.
My high school football “career” came to an abrupt end on the occasion of our first scrimmage with the varsity. I had made a favorable impression on Gustafson by demonstrating pretty good speed and the ability to leap and catch the football form just about any angle. That first scrimmage game in pads with the varsity was something else however. The varsity players averaged around 165 to 170 pounds so I was outweighed about thirty pounds per man.
I did my share of blocking for the halfback and fullback then Gustafson called a pass play to me. I streaked out into the flat and leaped high into the air for the ball. I caught it but when I hit the ground it felt as if a truck had hit me. A 175-pound tackle brought me down and then it seemed as if the whole varsity piled on. There were no face masks then and my face was buried into the sod until I thought my nose was broken. The wind was knocked out of me and it took me two or three minutes to get up off the ground after Gustafson came out and made sure that nothing was busted. I turned in my suit and helmet and, from then on, my participation in football was confined to rooting and once in a while acting as spotter for the announcer at games.