Fresh out of R.A. Mitchell elementary school I was transferred to serve three years (71-74) of my public education sentence at General Forrest Junior High School. Junior high was a traumatic difference from being a little kid in elementary school. It was living in the seventies and I was no longer in my Leave It To Beaver world I knew on Lookout Mountain. Sure my school experience wasn't great at Mitchell, but someone had turned the Hades heat up to 11 during the time I arrived at Forrest.
The world was no longer an innocent place. The junior high world was determined that I not leave that place an innocent. It was Junior High school that I learned that the world wasn't a safe place. Down the mountain most teachers didn't seem to care if a student passed or failed. In junior high students were expected and treated as the herd we were supposed to be.
We were also herded through the time of Desegregation and a lot of blacks were pretty vicious toward whites in our school. There were a lot of whites that didn't like blacks. There were fights and rumors of fights. We heard stories that the tension was worse in the high schools (Emma Sansom and Gadsden High) at that time. There were reports of racial fights - stabbings and such. Knowing that gave me something to look forward to. Crazy times.
Another thing that seemed strange was all the talk of drugs. I heard that there were people in our town that got something called 'high' on drugs. I remember from time to time being herded into dark classrooms to be shown old movies from the 60's about the dangers of drugs. The educational films were supposed to scare the heck out of youngsters like myself. Most of these films had lots of hippies and funky rock music. I don't know if those films scared kids or made us more curious about the subject.
Usually the anti-dope film would be hosted on screen by a clean cut square looking guy who would point out all the different kinds of drugs, uppers, downers and in between - details regarding shapes and colors names and the various slang street names of all the dope. Almost every film had dramatizations with young people getting high and always doing something really stupid in the end like walking off a high rise saying something like, "Look at me baby, I can fly!" After the inevitable shocking senseless death scene at end of each film, it would cut back to the host who would say something somber to the viewers about how foolish, pointless and dangerous it is to do dope.
I don't know where they shot those films. I could only guess that they were produced in California in the land of the hippies. I couldn't relate to the whole scene man. Even by that time, the rags those hippie dudes were wearing were way-outdated. I grew up in Alabama and we didn't have many hippies in our neck of the woods even in the 60's. When I did see a hippie, it was a rarity. The films seemed to be directed to another audiences - another time and another place.
I only saw drugs passing hands once and that was in high school...in art class. I knew the smell of pot from going to concerts on into the seventies. It smells like somebody learned how to burn poop. I guess it's where they got the name. Most of the kids that I knew who got into drugs in their formative years lived through their stupidity. I can hear Jack Webb reply in the back of my mind, "Yeah, and you know some that didn't!" That's right Jack. That's right.
To this day I don't know if those old propaganda films helped or hurt my generation. I imagine that those films unintentionally introduce many innocents into that culture.