Joe Dillon’s early History: First Half Senior Year

June 3, 2024

First Half Senior Year title graphic

A New Breakfast

I had a good summer teaching swimming. I saved some money and bought myself a car: a used 1956 VW bug for $600. I now had some semblance of independence.

Looking forward to this year’s swimming season, I was running nearly every day, lifting weights in my room and doing sit-ups. I was still drinking the reconstituted non-fat milk powder. But I had a new breakfast.  I made myself a protein shake. Bear in mind, this was the fall of 1961. Given what was available in those primitive times, this was my breakfast shake: one can of Minute Maid frozen orange juice plus 4 cans of water; 3 raw eggs, and a package of Knox Gelatin – the only form of concentrated protein at the time. Whipped up in a blender, it tasted like an Orange Julius. I took a One-A-Day multi-vitamin and a 500 mg tablet of Vitamin C. My parents just thought that whatever I was doing was weird.

Minute Maid OJ, eggs, gelatine

Opening My Eyes to Literature

This first semester I actually had a class I enjoyed: Honors English. The teacher Mr. Thornton opened my eyes to a whole new world of literature. To name only a few, we read  and analyzed “The Hollow Men” by T. S. Eliot – maybe the greatest poet of the 20th century; the novella “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and “Apology for Bad Dreams Part 1” by Robinson Jeffers – the great American poet who celebrated the savage, magnificent beauty of the Big Sur coast of California. In fact, Robinson Jeffers built a home all out of native stone on the Monterey coast overlooking the crashing waves. I have been there. Tor House is a magnificent experience.

TS Eliot quote, The Metamorphosis, Tor House book covers

In the ever-expanding world of start of my senior year in high school, I also had a steady girl friend Pam Mallory. I had known Pam since second grade. But one day early in my senior year I suddenly noticed Pam was not only nice looking but had a very sexy body with gorgeous breasts.

With a whole new level of confidence arising from my 6-foot 2-inch 180-pound six-pack ab body, I asked Pam out. I loved having a girlfriend, especially a girlfriend as hot as Pam.

Football victoryNow, at school. I hung-out with either Pam and/or the group of varsity athletes who had invited me into their Hi-Y group. The “in” girls like the cheerleaders and the pom-pom girls belonged to their own Tri-Y group.  We hung out together and partied together.  For the first time in my life, I was part of a popular group. It was fun and I liked it. We had parties at the weekends at different people’s houses where we listened to music, danced and made-out.

Coach Vermeil

As the semester progressed, it became clear that football coach Dick Vermeil had built a powerhouse championship team. Led by 2 All Americans senior guard Chris Christopherson who was in my Honors English class and junior halfback Don Leydig. The starting tight end Mike Abbott was also in my Honors English class. Mike was probably my best friend my senior year. Mike ended up Valedictorian and went to Stanford University. He later went to UCLA law school and had a very successful career as an attorney in Los Angeles.

Coach Vermeil’s team was so strong, they went undefeated. A preview of Coach Vermeil’s amazing career including winning the 2000 Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams and Vermeil getting NFL Coach-of-the-Year. We have been good friends since our 2 years together at Hillsdale high school. We talked on the phone just a couple of weeks ago. But I am getting ahead of myself.

And when the Christmas Formal came round toward the end of the semester, Pam and I went together. At the dance, we hung out with the “in” crowd of the varsity athletes including all the football heroes of their undefeated championship season and the football cheerleaders and pom-pom girls.

The Stranger by Albert CamusBlack boxOne of my best friends, my senior year Lance Fenske wrote about sports in the school newspaper. Like me, Lance was a reader. He introduced me to a mind-blowing book “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. French, Camus later won the Nobel Prize.  An existentialist, Camus wrote some of the more significant novels, short stories, and philosophical essays of the 20th century. “The Stranger” was his breakthrough book right after World War 2. Camus had been part of the French Resistance against the Nazis in Paris. Camus’s take on life shook me to my core.

Through the reading for Mr. Thornton’s class and my outside reading in books referred to me by friends like Lance, I was getting a peek outside the Black Box of Conventional Wisdom. It was a hint of phenomenology: we do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. Conventional Wisdom is one very limited, very rigid way of seeing the world.  But I was learning, there are a myriad of ways of seeing the world. I was getting intimations of a much bigger, far more complex and interesting world, and I was motivated to see and experience as much of it as I could.

Thank you for listening.

As always, I wish you and your family the very best of health.
Joe