H. B. Plant High School Class of 1954

Panther Tracks Archive - September, 2008

The posting by Clarinel a couple of months ago reminded me of things I hadn’t thought about in decades. My hope is that my recollections will stimulate others from the class of ‘54 to contribute theirs. Thanks for allowing me to be part of the 50th reunion – see you at the 60th

Clarinel Wolfgang. A name from the distant past. I met her when we were eleven or twelve. When was that, sixty years ago? Sixty-one? Memories from those times are not always reliable, but I’m pretty sure this one is solid. The time is easy to place, because that’s when my paper route doubled in size and extended up north closer to Palma Ceia, where the kids went to a different school.

Her house was at the bend of a street with a long-forgotten name. Just west of MacDill and on the south side of the curve. Neat house, facing west, well cared for. Probably her family didn’t take the Tampa Times, because I don’t remember going to the door every Saturday for the thirty-five cents. More likely I was trying to sell new subscriptions when I rang the bell that day. She opened the door and smiled that Clarinel smile, and a boy who was trying to decide whether he could ever really like girls didn’t wonder as much after that. The subscription form remained unsigned, but her name and her face were etched. She would be outside once in a while when I pedaled by, and I would wave and she would smile. I can still see it.

I didn’t see Clarinel for a long time, and decided that my girlfriend was Barbara McCartney, a rival for first chair clarinet in the Ballast Point School band. We spent a lot of time discussing important things and were good buddies. Smooth-talking Tommy McAfee might have been in the picture somewhere, even though she was my girlfriend. That eighth grade class from BPS went over to Wilson Junior High for ninth grade, but I went away to work on the chicken farm in Pasco County, so I didn’t see any of my friends the year we were fourteen. But I digress.

When I went back to Tampa for tenth grade at H.B. Plant, it was clear at a glance that all of the girls had grown up. Clarinel and Barbara had become young ladies, quite sophisticated, while I had been busy candling eggs and plucking feathers -- skills I can always fall back on if times get tough. But at Plant I never worked up the courage to approach either of these terrific girls for a date; maybe it would have happened had I been less clumsy. The fear of rejection is powerful at fifteen and sixteen. One day, when I talked with Clarinel in the hall down by the water fountain near the cafeteria, there was no smile for me. Funny how small things can make big differences in life. Is that true for you too?

I never got to be a sophisticated senior -- left town again on my seventeenth birthday – but that’s another story for another time. Today’s story is about that wonderful Clarinel smile, and how it lingers in the memory.

Ken Olson



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