Saltonstall School in Salem Massachusetts was located (and still is) on Lafayette Street, one of the main thoroughfares leading south out of the center of town.
Though it may have been the very symbol of a prison to some of my classmates, it wasn’t to me. I had no animus against school, I just wouldn’t ever voice that opinion in front of any of my classmates who were JDs. Like Lon.
Lon was the tough guy in the schoolyard. He was also one of the shortest guys in the same. And because I was one of the tallest (and a newcomer and wore glasses), I was a target for his Napoleonic complex.
There were never any overt threats, no lunch money stolen (I always had a sack lunch anyway), no fisticuffs, just the hint that it was possible. I believe that for Lon it was an issue of respect, for that is what I earned from him one winter in the schoolyard.
The schoolyard immediately behind Saltonstall was an asphalt immensity, flat as a pancake except for the hillside to the right, also macadamized. Only in winter did it lose its austere aspect, when the snow blanketed the yard. Our knees were in danger otherwise, and the clothes that covered them. (Speaking of which I resisted all efforts to make me dress for the weather. I didn’t bundle up with a winter coat or gloves, and I absolutely abhorred wearing a hat or more particularly in this instance a woolen cap. Vanity thy name is Ralph.)
Well, being warned off the obvious snow ball fight, creativity sought another outlet. I made my way up that little hillside, took a run to gain some momentum and slid down the hill standing. This was in my dress shoes, for I wouldn’t wear boots either. Soon others, including Lon, were doing the same, in the same spot, and then all along the whole length of that hillside.
Repeated runs down the hill compressed the snow more and more. And each time the hill became slicker and slicker. And we were all going faster and faster as the compacted snow changed to sheer ice. I was the only one who always kept his feet beneath him. Others had their feet swept out from under them or wiped out in some other way.
By the end of the day I had earned the respect of many, but especially from Lon.