“or or this place!” – Murray Head
Spring of 1985 was the highlight of my 8th grade year. The reason? Three letters – S.O.D., aka “School Outdoors.” For one glorious week (four nights actually), the eldest class of Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma slept in cabins and spent days in outside classes (mostly) at the University of Oklahoma Lake Texoma Biological Station. The station, founded in 1949, sits on the north shore of Lake Texoma about two hours from Norman, and has indoor classrooms, a recreational room, a library, and a cafeteria onsite.
(If you’ve ever been there, then you remember the bell!)
The spring of 1985 was nearing the end of my first school year living in Norman, Oklahoma where my dad had been hired by Billy Tubbs the previous summer to be an assistant men’s basketball coach for the University of Oklahoma. The Sooners were led that year by three-time All-American Wayman Tisdale, who still holds the all-time scoring record for the Sooners. The season was not too far removed as the Sooners had been ousted in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that season. After a narrow two point win over Karl Malone and Louisiana Tech, the Sooners lost two days later to Keith Lee and Memphis State 63-61. That would ultimately be Wayman’s last game as a Sooner. Just a junior, Wayman would break Sooner hearts around the state a few weeks later and declare for the NBA draft.
“All change don’t you know that when you play at this level there’s no ordinary venue.”
I was moving on as well, preparing for high school. It was actually called a “mid-high” in Norman as 9th and 10th graders were separated into two mid-highs (West and Central) from the juniors and seniors at Norman High School. But before we ascended into high school and you became a jock or nerd or preppie or goth, the graduating 8th graders had one last middle school fling together surrounded by water and nature.
During that week, we had a security guard (Mr. Wagner) that would handcuff you to a tree if you attempted to cut in line during mealtime. This was a favorite risk that many of my classmates attempted through the week (including me unknowingly that first morning). There were skits to perform and spider sniffs and trust walks and a host of other activities intended to keep the adolescent minds of 8th graders attentive and engaged. We were also charged with journaling each day and eventually turning that into a project to be graded.
If you’re a friend or classmate that attended S.O.D., or you’re just curious about my journaling skills as an 8th grader in 1985, then may I present to you, straight out of my attic and back from 1985, my S.O.D. journal!
“Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town.”
Click on the various pictures to enlarge them…
“Time flies doesn’t seem a minute, since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it.”
“A little flesh, a little history, I can feel an angel sliding up to me.”
“Can’t be too careful with your company, I can feel the devil walking next to me.”
(I only received a 92 for this project. Apparently my artistic skills were lacking!)
“Bangkok, Oriental setting, and the city don’t know that the city is getting”
The peculiar career of Englishman Murray Head produced this lone top five U.S. hit in the spring of 1985. Peaking at #3, I learned this song was actually written and performed for the musical “Chess,” which depicts a cold war era chess tournament featuring grand masters from the U.S. and from Russia. Some of the lyrics actually started to make a little bit of sense when I learned that. The musical itself ran for three years in London’s West End between 1986-88 and then had a very short stay on Broadway in 1988.
A lyrically interesting song, it usually harbors enjoyment or deep dissent from the listener. Personally, I like it. And, it also serves as a reminder of the spring of ’85 and my time at S.O.D. Here is “One Night in Bangkok…”
“And thank God I’m only watching the game controlling it.”