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Header: Jess Anderson in Madison Wisconsin
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Peoria High School
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Louis was definitely going to go to Peoria High, whereas my sister had gone to Woodruff High. I could choose, but going where Louis went was the ticket, of course. So I did. And no studying Spanish, either, which his father had deemed not serious enough; it had to be German.

His dad was the head chemist at Hiram Walker Distillery (a very big job, I guess), and we were all destined for science careers when we were 13, so German it was. By this time we were inseparable pals, and remained so until the junior year, when he suddenly just utterly broke my heart, all at once.

We both did well academically, and he had insisted we take up tennis, which I did with a great passion. I was getting taller, although I was still only 5'7" when I was 17, according to an old insurance policy. I grew 5" before I was 19, though, and 3" more by the time I was 25. But the height really helped in tennis.

I wasn't completely without athletic ability. My mother was a very strong swimmer and had taught me to swim when I was about 5 (in Devil's Lake, about 40 miles north of Madison, as a matter of fact), one summer while we were visiting her sister in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Louis was a clumsy swimmer, but his enormous strength made up for his inelegance, so he could usually beat me. Not in the really long distances, however, where stamina and style paid off. All this sports stuff was for fun, anyway, despite the inherently competitive nature of our racing one another. Neither of us went out for sports in school.

Tennis filled the summer days. Peoria had good courts at the public parks, and at the ones where Lou and I played there was also a good tennis pro who minded the place. We were always the first ones there every morning, and Bob took the trouble to show us how to serve and how to develop solid forehand and backhand strokes. We did well. We entered the City championships, usually making it to the finals or semifinals before somebody who was really good would knock us off. Losing was no big deal. We'd just laugh and go have a milkshake.

Then came disaster. One day, Louis just threw me over, for no good reason. It was the first really hard knock of homophobia in my life. Hurt beyond enduring, I threw myself with all my heart into learning to play the piano. We were soon enough friendly again, but it was never the same, either, and in college we drifted apart.

Of course the whole high-school experience was considerably more than a love affair, though that did suffuse just about everything I did with a certain aura of transport.

I would have described myself as something of a shy, wallflower type all through grade school and about half way through high school. But somehow I blossomed socially at that point and suddenly became rather popular, not with the rich and famous, so to speak, but with the "out group" elements. To my surprise, some of my age-peers liked the fact that I was quick with words, knew my stuff, and was not at all snobbish.

I was very popular with the teachers, especially my German teacher, Fräulein Ziegler, since for four years in her class I did very well. Oddly enough -- in the fourth year it plagued me -- I never got 100% on an exam. I always did on homework, quizzes, translations, and recitations, but on exams I inevitably slipped up on one little thing. 96 was the lowest mark I got, I think. I was never big on getting high marks, except in that one class.

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