The Most Memorable Year of My Life

My Real Memoir

Not until my wedding, 21 years later, did I have another year that was so packed with personal memories. I’d fallen in love with music just as the Beatles and ensuing British Invasion hit, and started learning to play the guitar; installed myself as our junior high school’s prince of drama (and a more ill-suited royal you’ll never find); appeared in my first motion picture; kissed a girl; graduated from junior high school; met my first real girlfriend; gone on the most epically disastrous trip in human history; and said a fond farewell to my childhood.

And the year wasn’t even over yet!

I found my tribe (in current pop-speak) the day I started high school. La Mirada High was hubbed around a quad with offices on one side, an aggresively “efficient” cafetorium on another, then classrooms and atheletic fields, and finally a hexagonal library building, which included my new tribal home…

The Drama Room.

A piece of pie with its tip bitten off, The Drama Room had tiered seating on the “crust” side and a wedge-shaped stage at the other. It had been designed as a flexible theatre space. But the previous English-teacher-with-a-side-of-drama had used it only as a classroom, preferring to stage long, talky plays in the Cafetorium instead. While still in junior high, I’d seen two of these and been sorely disappointed. But by the time I arrived…

So had the new drama teacher.

Mr. Baker was a short, pudgy force of nature. Like my seventh-grade teacher Mr. Baxter, Mr. B 2.0 was a pro. He’d directed and acted professionally, and, like me, had even had a small role in a movie about juvenile delinquents; only, unlike me, Mr. B actually had lines, and unlike my long-forgotten Z-picture, that film The Blackboard Jungle (which introduced the world to Sydney Poitier) is considered a classic.

To promote drama, Mr. Baker created two tools: The first was Drama 64, a recurring guest speaker event featuring our teacher’s famous friends, including Academy Award-winner Alan Arkin and Mr. B’s old starving-actor-roommate-turned-Emmy-winner Robert Vaughan, star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Dr. Kildare-heartthrob Richard Chamberlain was also slated to appear but, afraid of being mobbed by teenage girls, chickened out. The other event, Noon Theatre, featured free lunchtime entertainment with, among other things, previews for our upcoming plays. It was a brilliant success:

Our first production, Out of the Frying Pan, a rom-com about a secret romance between co-ed Broadway-wannabes, sold out and had to be extended for a second weekend. And, in another unprecedented move, Mr. B. gave the comedy lead to a mere freshman (me). On opening night, I died and went to ham-heaven. The audience was starved for laughs, and I was the main dish!

Almost overnight, our high school productions became front page news, sometimes even crowding out the latest football game, and the wildly talented Doyle Baker became La Mirada’s resident celebrity. But he was more than that to me. He was the man who got me, who was me in many ways. He was my Mentor and friend. There would be dark days in the future (for both of us). But not that year. That year was…

The most memorable year of my life.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to The Most Memorable Year of My Life

  1. Pingback: I Forgive You for Not Being Perfect, Dad | Mitch Teemley

  2. The year I participated in drama in high school was the best year of my adolescence.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. marthadilo3 says:

    I was a theater kid. Still am! Such a great experience!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Audience of One says:

    What a fun time of life, Mitch! Enjoyed reading of your early drama days. And thank God for the Mr. Bakers of the world – people who get you, as you said – and who can be a positive force, especially for kids at that age.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Abe Austin says:

    “A piece of pie with its tip bitten off, The Drama Room had tiered seating on the ‘crust’ side and a wedge-shaped stage at the other.”

    What a great visual. I completely understood the layout of this room by that brief, but effective description.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow! What a year! I remember all those celebrities – You must have been star-struck. As a drama teacher, I can just picture you as the ham, the kind of student that makes teaching drama fun.
    A drama teacher I remember from my high school days was into the latest theater “techniques” – what I can only describe as “abstract improv.” One of my classmates had a blast doing a parody of him in our class play at the end of our senior year, which was a spoof of “The Wizard of Oz.” He was the “Warlock of the West.” (I was in his chorus of monkeys.)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Not sure if he ever saw it. We were still an all-girls’ school, and he taught at the boys’ school next door. We got together for drama club, but the senior class play was performed at the last chapel at the girls’ school. I’m sure he heard about it, but I never saw him after that. Good question, though. He seemed to take it all very seriously. Not sure he would have appreciated a kid like you. 😏😉🎭

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Absolutely LOVE that you “found your tribe” (look at you go, keeping up with the lingo!) and loved your description of your Drama teacher as “a short pudgy force of nature”. I might describe myself in the same ways! Hahahah! Mitch, you made my day. I love reading your memoir xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. murisopsis says:

    This was completely smile inducing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You must have been quite confident, and not the least bit self-conscious, to be a freshman and get the leading role in a high school play.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jane Lurie says:

    A good read, Mitch. All kids need positive mentors! I was on Stage Crew in HS..does that count? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The high point of high school for me was the drama club and performing plays. I’m a natural-born ham and gave my all in every roll I ever played. Probably the one that left the biggest impression on me was Our Town, but we had amazing fun with operettas such as HMS Pinafore.
    When I think of Alan Arkin I’m reminded of his chilling performance in Wait Until Dark; what a superb cast that was!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ah, Mitch… I wish I could’ve been there to see “Out of the Frying Pan”. I bet it was great. I always enjoy reading your memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. rwfrohlich says:

    Great memories. I would have loved to meet Allen Atkin. “The Russians Are Coming” is one of my favorite movies.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. revruss1220 says:

    What a fantastic story! I am sure that fire Mr. Baker lit inside you is one of the reasons teachers keep teaching… even with the long hours and low pay that go with the job. The work he did through you continues to bless countless others.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nancy Ruegg says:

    You weren’t kidding with the title! Mr. B certainly paved the way for some fabulous experiences. My drama teacher was also Mr. B–for Brackin. I too have wonderful memories of the plays we performed and the delightful camaraderie of cast and crew, when you spend so many hours together.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Teresa (Teri Page) Cooney says:

    Mitch,
    I still have occasional dreams of LMHS drama and Mt. Baker. Yes, a life changing experience for me. You were certainly someone I looked up to back then. Thank you for sharing and bringing a nice glow of wonderful memories to my day.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow. Your junior high year was a hard act to follow! Sans the crazy success,and early fame, I really relate to this. When I got cast into a musical in my sophomore year, I found my tribe for the first time ever. It was as so wonderful to work on something so exciting with people I clicked with! Thank God for drama teachers!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Teachers can play such a critical role in guiding children. I went on to a career writing advertising because of my high school English teacher. I was a floundering, average student and he saw something in me that I surely did not.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Letting My Geek Flag Fly | Mitch Teemley

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