One of the best things about
that you can look for out of print titles and if they are
available buy them and be reading them in no time.
In the old days, you might have had to go
to a used book store and browse the stacks for hours to find a
(Reminds me of the argument in
Strawberry Statement, Notes of A College Revolutionary by James
Simon Kunen - where he passes a Hard-To-Find-Records store and
argues that if the record is in the store then it can't be too
hard to find. But I digress.)
One of those lost treasures I recovered
recently was a copy of a book I lost in 1971 or so right in
front of my house while I was playing street hockey.
I had laid the book -
Our Time is Now;
Notes From the High School Underground, edited by John
Birmingham - down with my school books and later when I got
inside it had gone missing.
I can remember a lot of things about that
book. One thing was the phrase Institutional Green and Johnny
Potseed and the kissy girl with the bad breath on the long bus
ride. Institutional green refered to the room paint in the sc
hools. Johnny Potseed was a how-to article and the girl on the
bus, I'll get to that shortly.
Of course they were stories, you know, just
a lot of words I read almost 40 years ago but they left some
sort of impression on me.
Between Kunen's book and Birmningham's
collection of writings from the underground student newspapers,
oh, and probably the full side of Dylan songs on The Concert For
Bangla Desh, in that whirlwind forcefield I decided to become a
In the old days, before the Internet, when
computers were as big as classrooms and programmed in FORTRAN
with keypunch cards, the only way to publish alternative
information was with a printing press of some kind and lots of
Published in 1970, OUR TIME is a collection
of writings from high school student published underground
newspapers from the late sixties. The papers had names like
SMUFF, LINKS, SANSCULOTTES, T.R.I.P., COMMON SENSE, THE
OBSERVED, FREETHINKER, MINSTREL, WEAKLY READER, and, of course,
my favorite, INSTITUTIONAL GREEN.
When I finally connected with my
replacement copy, I opened the familiar brown cover with its
clenched red, white and blue painted fist, and began thumbing
Within a ten page spread of the back of the
book, on page 264, I found the passage I remember about
INSTITUTIONAL GREEN and the girl with bad breath riding on a
The unsigned story from INSTITUTIONAL
GREEN, New York, is titled BATHROOMS, and as well as I
remembered it, when I reread it, it all came back to me.
The author was trying to describe the smell
of the school bathrooms. Ultimately, the smell takes him back to
when he was 12 and rode on a long bus trip. A girl sat in his
lap and they started making out.
The girl, it turned out, as you already
know, had bad breath. Says the author, "Well, that's what the
bathrooms in this school remind me of. Don't tell me I'm a kook,
because I'll be sorry I told you."
Students in the underground newspapers then
fought for girls to attend boys' schools (Page 139 - GIRL IN
STUYVESANT? - Weakly Reader No. 10.
In ATTENTION ALL TEACHERS! - MINE, No. 8,
Tucson, Ariz., the underground newspaper refers to the biology
text: "in about one year, you (the students) will have forgotten
about 85 percent of the facts you learned in biology and that
the purpose of the course was not to have you memorize facts,
but to put you in a frame of thinking, in this case scientific."
Larry Siegal writes of JOHNNY POTSEED in
SANSCULOTTES No. 30, NY, on Page 246. Just a few pages later
Lenny Lubart writes WNEW-FM: A NEW VOICE IS HEARD in THE FORUM,
VOL. I, No. 5, Paramus, N.J.
Birmingham, the editor of OUR TIME, began
his underground newspaper career at the school newspaper in
Hackensack, N.J. He was graduated Hackensack in 1969 and went on
to attend New York University.
OUR TIME carries an introduction by Kurt
Vonnegut, Jr. How cool is that!
1970 was the year the seniors nailed my
English literature book to the shop class table with a 10-penny
nail. I needed a crowbar to pry it off the workbench and the a
hammer to pound the nail back out. We had the world by the balls
and none of us knew it.
1970, it was the last time I wanted to be
an astronaut. Or a fireman.
Back then the moon was made of green cheese
and Pluto was still a planet (was the planet named after the
cartoon character, or was the cartoon dog named after the
planet? And why does Goofy talk but Pluto doesn’t? And what
about Belushi’s character in Animal House? What was his name?)
In our health class we had to struggle to
find ten songs with drug references in them (Lucy in the Sky
with Diamonds, was one.) Vietnam was a dirty little war and most
of the kids in my high school couldn't tell you the name of one
kid from our town who had died over there. Neither could I tell
you one of them was my cousin.
The school newspaper was called
Spotlight. [I was on the newspaper's staff - see photo -
but we never published a single issue all year.]
A few years later, when I was a senior, I
got on the student newspaper. We never managed to publish one
issue of the student paper.
We did, however, have a page to run stuff
in the Belleville Times. Those were my very first bylines. You
can look them up if you don't have anything better to do.
But be careful, something you may read just
might stick in the back of your head for the next 40 years.
© 2006 by Anthony Buccino
First published on
Uncle Tonoose the blog.
Back To School!
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