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Chapter 5: High School Daze(1989-1994)


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High School Daze

Four years I love to look back at

Many people look back on their high school careers in one of two basic ways, heaven or hell. I, however, look back on them like a patch of road I often travel between Agua Dulce and Kingsville, Texas. The road seems long, sometimes empty and full of potholes, but it also saves time, runs through peaceful fields and has a quality about it that makes me look back and say "I'm glad I went through here." I attended the Premont High School from 1989 to 1994, the year I graduated. It was there that I was introduced to the world of speech and debate and where I further developed many of my musical skills.

My high school years were spent on the road, traveling to Speech tournaments, band contests, and Mariachi Contests. This was a life that made me both well traveled and well informed of locations. I had been to places with my family, namely Dallas and Houston. My high school travels took me to all the places in-between. I knew I could never get lost in South Texas because, if I was lost, it wouldn’t be long before I made my way to some place I knew.

High school in Premont is a small two-story brown brick building connected by cement walkways. Built in 1971, I always suspected that our school might have been built as a sample of a new design by some construction company. It had what it needed to be a high school, but on the smallest possible scale. Compared to the mammoth schools we visited, our school looked microscopic. Nevertheless, before I was in high school it seemed so big. I once went with my Grandfather, Catarino Saenz, to clean the school when I was in 6th or 7th grade. My grandfather was a janitor at the high school from 1986 to 1998. I remember exploring all the places that I would not see again for three years. I also remember it looking much bigger.

My first day of High school is, alas, lost to my memories. I remember only being dropped off and waiting in what is called the “Milling Area” for people I knew. The first person I remember seeing was my friend, Jimmy Salazar. Jimmy, as when we were in junior high, rode the La Gloria buss and sometimes arrived either very early or very late. The last person I saw before the bell rang was my friend Albert Rios. After that, I remember nothing about that fist day of my freshman year.

Although I don't remember my first day of high school with any degree of worth, I do remember when procedures and general events that marked those days. My freshman year, our school population was large enough to divide the lunch period into two groups. I was in "first lunch," which I remember having after Mr. David Garza's Art I class. That year's art class is very vivid in my mind. The projects we worked on survive to this day somewhere in my storage closet.

Mr. Garza began his class with a lesson on how to perceive art and how to take ordinary objects and portray them in a medium. It's a shame to me that people don't take these art classes seriously. Older people who claim that they "can't draw" or that they are "un-artistic" are probably the people who "mess around" and don't pay attention in art class. Even people who already know how to draw should listen to the lectures and stories of famous painters. Maybe then these good "drawers" could go one to be true "artists" instead of gas station attendants.

I remember the class was made up of some of Premont's future people of popularity. Anna Guerra was in that class, later she would go on to be Mrs. Alfaro, a teacher. Jason Underbrink, Cody Paul and Hunter Hornsby were also in that class. I will always remember the art antics of my friend Felix Chong. Felix would forever try to be Mr. Garza's foil. Felix would always take the art projects to "the next level." Our first project was to draw several parrots in a jungle, Mr. Garza said for us to take our time. He meant a week; Felix dragged it out to three weeks. Mr. Garza got his revenge in the form grades.

In addition, we did a "toothpick sculpture;" this is where you draw a pattern on wax paper and trace it with took picks. This is done twice forming two exact duplicates, which will become sides. These two "sides" are then connected by toothpicks making the apparatus a three demensional "sculpture" of your design. Most people chose to do their name. I did "JOEELY" and Felix did "FELIX." The last step of the project is to cover your sculpture in paper mache. Felix finished his project by the end of the week, and was quite proud of it. We went home for the weekend and when we came back; rats that inhabit the school had eaten most of Felix's project.

Felix then employed me to help him rectify the situation. Knowing that the rats would try that again; we theorized that the use ingredients along with just flour and water would keep all rats away from the projects. We began mixing all manners of chemicals that were present in the Art room. These new ingredients included: "Ajax," "Windex," "Liquid Plumber and Crystal Drain-o," various toxic paints and soap from Mexico called "Don Maximo." The rats never again destroyed any of our projects.

My freshman year was also the year I met Corina Moreno, an English teacher. Her classes were prime examples of how an English class should be run. I can remember almost every selection we read. "Leiningen versus the Ants" and "The Lady or the Tiger." We also did "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. I remember we had to make newspapers depicting the events from the text. Albert Rios was in that class and his newspaper was to be called the "London Liar," he mistakenly titled it the "London Lair." That was not an "Honors English Class." The year before it had been determined that I did not posses the mental skills to survive in an "honors" class. I don't know what forces conspired to put be down by making me out to be an idiot, but I did know that, Mexican-American or not, I would not allow it to stop me from doing what I knew was best for me. Mrs. Moreno saw to it that I would be placed in Honors English Class from 10th grade on.

I received five gold medals at the U.I.L. District Speech and Literary Meet my senior year.

1993 & 1994 were critical musical years for me. First I played with the St. Teresa's Catholic Church Spanish Choir in 1993 and remained with them until late in 1994. I considered this to be the inspirational formative years that shaped my life as a musician. I love my Grandfather, and owe him all the musical success I have achieved. The Choir years insured that, as I took my first musical steps, I would always walk a strait line. I refined my abilities to play by ear literally in front of God. I would follow the choir's singers and began to arrange songs. We played at the 9:00 am Spanish Mass, from where I would then go to CCD classes. We also played several times for His Excellency the Most Reverend Bishop Rene H. Gracida, the then Bishop of Corpus Christi and for the Virgin Mary at 5:00 am on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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