Saturday, June 16, 2007

Time travel in a box...

Digging through my boxes of stuff recently...I was playing hookey from PackRats Anonymous...I stumbled upon a most fascinating artifact: The ELC Free Press newsletter from Miles Exploratory Learning Center, March 1976, with art on top by legendary Tucson artist Ted De Grazia.

Miles at that time was a freewheeling, wild hippie school of sorts...no structured classes, a place called "The Sleeping Room"...we called teachers by the first names...and generally enjoyed ourselves to high heaven. I was painfully shy back then (I attended in 1st and 2nd grade, from fall of 1975 to spring 1977 I would reckon) and having been raised under a correspondingly laissez-faire style of parenting, didn't know how to read yet. I recall running out in the field with one of the teachers, who sat me in an abandoned tire and taught me to read. He gave me a couple of bucks to go to the 7-11 and buy whatever comics I wanted; I chose Tarzan and he taught me how to read them; or he read to me; I don't exactly remember. All I know is at some point it came together; eventually I would graduate with high honors in English from Boston University and write, edit, and publish a thing or two of note.

Other idyllic memories include days spent launching rockets on the basketball courts, the micro-economy and auction set up in one of the "communities" (a.k.a. classrooms) where I felt way over my head compared to pros like the charismatic Lamar Stewart (still I walked away with a wonderfully colorful poster of Marvel comics characters). Miles had its comical and more dubious if not darker sides, as well: I recall cutting out with my friend Archer Belford (where is he now?) to go to the 7-11 in broad day light during school hours, and on the way back mock-uniformed school kids with orange stripes across their chests apprehended us and made us spread 'em against the front of the school wall, took us into the principal's office, explained what went down, and then the principal summarily dismissed us: "Ok, that's cool...don't do it again, you kids can go now," or something like that. Once my brother Joel, who is now a blackblelt and instructor in Aikido, was duking it out with some other kid on the front lawn, and a male teacher looked out on them after being informed of the brawl and said, "Aww, that's all right...let 'em go at it, they're just dancin'." This laissez-faire attitude may have contributed to the day that one kid wandered off to the 7-11 probably, east down Broadway, and when crossing the road was killed by a vehicle. A harsh and bracing introduction to mortality.

All in all, those were fond memories though...later, when moving with my family "back east" to Connecticut, I would discover the strictures of a "real school" at Salisbury Central School in Lakeville, Connecticut, and adjust or rebel accordingly as my irrepressible nature dictated. And when we moved to Millerton, New York and I attended Webutuck Elementary School, I really learned what a pack of vicious jackals and hyennas school kids can be (the handful of decent kids I met at the time notwithstanding). I often was no angel myself...especially in future years...but I still look back on that misty era at Miles...a somewhat benighted but still innocent time, before the advent of PCs and the wired world, before the son of George H.W. Bush and his discontents and the spectre of terrorism; the increased threat of global warming and climate change; and the ever-increasing hostility of America's Culture Wars would discolor and further fragment our world. So here is my posting to help preserve a bit of that vanished era, in the hopes that bygone classmates might add a post or two of their own memories.

Thodal Steven Minton
Tucson, Arizona

3 comments:

GA said...

OMG!! Me and my brothers also attended Miles back in the late 70's and early 80's :-D (I think from 1979 to 1982)

Archer said...

You found Archer Belford. Now Archer Ives. I ended up going to Robinson before moving to Grass Valley, CA. Which you probably visited during your stint with the Grateful Dead (Nevada County Fair Grounds). I have since spent time in New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Missouri again.

Shellysart said...

Wow, how cool to find some others from that time. When I look back-and share with others my experience there, it seems like a weird dream! Is there a facebook page or some other way to connect with those folks? What a cool part of my life and kudos to my hippie parents for sending me there.

Ended up at "Cherryfield High School" as well, which does not exist anymore.

Shelly Coker Gordon
Now in the Seattle area