By H. P. Oliver

Copyright 2022 HPO Productions
All Rights Reserved

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(Excerpted From)

Thursday — December 7, 1961 — 3:45 p.m.

I leaned against the rear fender of my '56 Chevy Bel Air in the Carlmont High student parking lot and looked cool, or at least I looked like what I thought cool should look like. I was watching a long line of yellow school buses heading out to deliver kids to various parts of San Carlos and Belmont. I'm not really a big fan of school busses, but I was stuck there waiting for Jimmy Hall and there wasn't much else to do in the parking lot, so I watched the busses.
Jimmy is always late because he spends too much time goofing around instead of getting where he was supposed to be. Still, Jimmy is the closest thing to a real friend I have at Carlmont, so I would wait as long as it took for Jimmy to get there.

I nodded and said hello to a few kids as they walked past my parking spot, but they weren't real friends because I knew if I didn't say hello, it wouldn't much matter to any of them one way or another. They reminded me of ants marching along to wherever ants are always going.

Then I spotted someone who isn't an ant, or if she is, she is definitely an ant of a different color. She is different because Ellie Jones is a Negro. That's unusual at Carlmont because as far as I knew, there were only three Negroes in the entire student body of more than three-thousand kids, and there couldn't be more than a dozen Negro families in all of San Carlos and Belmont put together. Adults call this part of the San Francisco Peninsula "lily-white."

Something else that makes Ellie different is she's pretty. In fact, Ellie is the only person of a different race I ever thought about enough to notice she's pretty. It isn't that I have anything in particular against people of other races, but it is hard for me to think of anyone so different in terms of anything but different.

Ellie is also friendly. Most of the pretty girls on campus are snooty, especially the cheerleaders. They act like they're better than everyone else. Instead, Ellie has a smile that almost makes you believe she is really glad to see you. In fact, she was smiling at me that very moment.

"Hi, Denny."

I smiled back and gave her a friendly nod because Ellie and I are in some of the same classes. According to the rules of such things as I understand them, a smile and a nod were as far as I dare go in greeting a Negro girl. Jimmy would have stood there and talked Ellie's leg off, and that was okay for Jimmy because nobody thinks he's cool, anyway. If I did it, I'd be called a dork. It was tough enough just being me; I didn't need that on top of everything else.

"Were you talking to Ellie?"

I turned quickly and saw Jimmy. "Hell, no, she said hello, so I sort of returned the greeting. Nothing more than that."

"Hey, relax, Denny. I wasn't accusing you of anything. In fact, I like Ellie. If I thought she would say yes, I'd ask her to a movie or something."

Shaking my head at Jimmy's uncoolness, I said, "I bet you would. C'mon, let's get out of here."
We passed Ellie as I drove out of the lot. She gave me another smile and I found myself wishing she wouldn't do that. When I glanced in the rear view mirror a second later, she was watching us drive away.

Jimmy fiddled with the radio until he found the KYA button. I usually had the radio on KEWB because they play better stuff, but Jimmy likes KYA. Since it doesn't matter that much to me, we listened to KYA. They were playing THE LION SLEEPS TONIGHT by the Tokens. Tom Donahue, KYA's afternoon guy said it was number three on KYA's Swingin' Sixties Survey.

Jimmy was singing along with the radio and he was really getting into it. He was goin', "Wee heeheehee weeoh aweem away . . . ." and butt-dancing on the seat with his arms in the air.
I said, "Jimmy, cool it. People can hear you a block away with the car windows up!"

He reached over and turned the radio down. Then Jimmy slumped back in the seat and said, "Geez, Denny, how come you're so crabby today?"