GUNS IN SCHOOL CIRCA 1972
When bringing a gun to school meant you’d get a warning
Close to 20 years ago when the Manteca Unified School District board was debating whether to allow school resource officers on campus, trustee Evelyn Moore was hesitant. It wasn’t that she was against the idea. It’s just that the retired teacher wasn’t keen about the idea of allowing guns on a school campus even if they are carried by a law enforcement officer.
Now we are having a national conversation about whether we should allow teachers to be armed with guns.
The concepts of having armed police officers on campus or arming teachers with guns probably would have seemed absurd to Bob Elkus who was principal at Lincoln High in Lincoln Placer County when I was a freshman and sophomore in 1971 and 1972.
It’s not that he didn’t have to deal with guns on campus. Twice my freshman year senior class students got called into his office for bringing a gun on campus. In each case they were shotguns they had left on the gun racks of their pickups after getting up before the crack of dawn to go dove or duck hunting before heading to school.
The police were not called. In each case the student was given a warning not to do it again.
Many would argue — or reminiscent — that they were simpler times 47 years ago or even two decades ago when the Manteca Unified board was weighing whether to deploy school resource officers.
I disagree. They were just different times. The big thing back in 1972 was being able to have a wristwatch. For those who learned how to use an Apple about the same time they were able to bit into an apple, wristwatches were primitive versions of smart watches that only told time and you had to wind unless your parents indulged you and bought one that operated on batteries. And, yes, they had moving hands although the fancy ones you could keep track of the date with a separate dial.
The year 1972 saw Hamilton Watch Company roll out the world’s first digital watch dubbed the Pulsar Time Computer. It had a $2,100 price tag — more than the cost of a new 1972 Ford Pinto and twice the price of an iPhone X. All it did was tell time, albeit digitally, but that was it.
Wristwatches were the bane of Kathy Lund, the Lincoln High librarian.
By the time 1972 rolled around and more of Lincoln’s blue collar families could afford to be extravagant and buy their kids watches when they were still in school instead of as a gift for graduating high school, Mrs. Lund was beside herself.
The reason: Watch bands were scratching tables in the library.
Mrs. Lund imposed a rule requiring every student entering the library to take off their watch and put it in their pocket.
She was such a stickler for treating a library as a holy temple of knowledge where one went to absorb and not talk that if she was forced to be armed with a gun she’d demand to be issued a silencer.
As for sagging pants on guys that started spreading to high schools in the early 1990s prompting more “open minded” adults to dismiss criticism of taking the mystery out of whether a teen boy wore briefs or boxers as just being a passing trend, they’re still passing.
Monday as I was waiting at the light behind were the crosswalk on Powers at Yosemite, two boys walking —actually more like waddling — on their way home from Manteca High with their pants south of their rump held in place by a cinched belt and a unnatural stride. Then I noticed — and realized — that teen girls seem to have a much better understanding of the concept of what pants are supposed to cover up. Not only do you not see them exposing their underpants but if you ask most will tell you they think drooping pants look stupid on guys. Of course, most teen boys will tell you girls think the look is cool.
Sagging pants weren’t a problem at Lincoln High. Boys’ hair touching the collar was. If you got sent the office for being shaggy, a counselor would whip out a ruler and if standing straight with head level your hair wasn’t an inch off the collar you got sent home. This is at the same time if you brought a loaded gun to school you got pulled out of class, got a warning, and were sent back to class and got the gun back at the end of the school day.
You might think that was a messed up time but I’d honestly prefer having the gun debate being centered on safe use and the proper place to carry them and have to suffer what I thought was the indignation of an overbearing dress code put in place to maintain a sense of order than worrying about whether students will be sitting ducks in a school turned into a shooting gallery.
School trustees in Lincoln did worry about gun safety. In the mid-1950s when a new high school gym was built two-inch steel plates were placed in the wall separating the northern basket from the boys’ locker room. That was to allow the potential use of the gym as an indoor rifle range given teaching kids how to shoot and take gun safety courses was all the rage at the time.
Now the big push is making schools defensible against a gun attack.
It begs the question: Are we losing it as a society?