Editor’s note: In the Weekend edition, Lynn Walker Gendusa recalled her move to LaGrange as a high-school sophomore in 1962 and starting classes at LaGrange High School. Her story continues in the second part of this three-part column.
The next year Mom had again built her dream house. We moved from the country into town. Our new home was surrounded by folks with teenagers around my age, but they were all boys!
To the left was a vacant lot, in the back was Glen, who played basketball nonstop. Across the street were the Fackler brothers and that’s a whole other story.
Studious Jimmy was beside me, and around the corner was another group of four known as the Mahaffey brothers. I was surrounded with growing testosterone!
One afternoon I was taking a walk and heard a group of these guys playing basketball in the backyard of the Mahaffey’s. I stood and watched them a while and then boldly asked to shoot baskets with them.
Georgia did not know what girls basketball was in 1963. LaGrange High had no team, whereas Tennessee thought girls basketball was as important as the boys and drew as many crowds.
My mother was on the state championship team as center. She was the mid-state free throw champion in the 1930s! Well, the minute I asked this group to join, you would have thought I had asked them to put on dresses and dance a jig, they were so dumbfounded.
Richie Mahaffey closed his mouth first and handed me the ball. I took it in my hands determined to sink it. It was an outside shot and it banked and dropped through the net.
Thanks be to God! Richie became one of my friends forever right then, right there and right now. What none of them knew or understood was that I had been playing basketball since I was about 3, just like them.
My junior year, my friends became closer. We had shared the death of John Kennedy, we were driving, we were dating, we had some loses. One of the mothers died that summer tragically, and there was so much sadness in our little group I still get teary eyed all these years later.
Heartbreaking and breathtaking was the scene as people drifted on and off my friend’s porch to pay condolences. I learned about grief that summer and how only time can ease it.
I learned about faith when this little group gathered around the swing that held a mother’s daughter and we lifted her in prayer.
The fall brought football madness, homecoming dances, and drives around the Brazier Burger to see who was with whom on a Saturday night. It was the year I realized I needed to go to college and worried that I might not get in. Yikes!
I never thought of myself as smart. My mother’s IQ was in the stratosphere and mine was on some rural road in Nowhereville. She was valedictorian at 15 and my brother was as smart as she was.
I was from another planet where studying and making good grades were difficult. I would sit in the back of the class and pray the teacher wouldn’t call my name. I was a teacher’s nightmare, apathetic student.
One of my first classes at LHS had been biology. My teacher was Mrs. Smith and my biology partner was one of my closest friends.
I loved that class and the teacher and Sally helped carry me through. I made a B+, which enabled me not to have to take another science in high school since I had taken another in Tennessee.
Our senior year began in 1964 with registration in the front of the school. All of us gathered and went as a group to select our classes. My mother sent me to school with a list of the easiest classes I could take to bring up my GPA.
The teachers were registering us and when Mrs. Smith saw me she called me to her table. I liked Mrs. Smith so I gladly went and quickly handed her my mother’s list.
She inspected the list, looked up at me and asked, “ Lynn, why are you not taking my chemistry class this year?”
“Mrs. Smith, I don’t need it to graduate, and you know I can’t pass it!”
Everyone knew how hard Mrs. Smith’s chemistry was. It was a legend in its own right. Even the smartest of the smart smarted over that class.
Most of my friends had taken it our junior year and I heard horror stories. The horror would also make a nice movie if I took the class and my mother killed me!
“ No, Mrs. Smith, I can’t take that class!” And, with that, she tore up my mother’s note.
She enrolled me in every hard class she could think of, including that horror class, chemistry.
“ What are you doing?!” the panic in my voice rising as the bits of that note hit the trash.
“Lynn, I believe you can do things you don’t know you can. I am going to help you. You are to stay after class with me every day for six weeks. I am going to talk to your teachers and make them seat you in the front of their class. I will call your mother and tell her if this doesn’t work; I will take you out of these classes and put you in the classes she requested.”
At that point, I didn’t know who or what to be more scared of — my mother, Mrs. Smith’s chemistry class, economics, or myself!!!!!!
Mrs. Smith saw something in me from that little biology class that I did not see in myself. She believed in me when I didn’t, and she took me under her wing and I went from an average student to an A student.
I learned how to study, how to reason, how to listen and, even through design school and college, I never made another bad grade.
I became an interior designer for 41 years owning my own business. I raised my children and put them through college. I never looked back from that registration day in 1964 and sometimes when I think about it, I registered for life that day thanks to a teacher who loved her job and her students.
See an upcoming edition for the final part of this column.
Lynn Walker Gendusa is a graduate of the 1965 class or LaGrange High School who currently resides in Roswell.