Phil Friedman en Communications and journalism, beBee in English, English Writer/Editor | Marketer | Ghost Writer | Marine Industry and Small-Business Consultant • Port Royal Group 4/11/2016 · 5 min de lectura · 2,2K

Wake Up Little Susie

Wake Up Little Susie


Preface:  This post contains language that is not today considered politically correct. I do not use these epithets and have not done so since I entered adulthood. They were, however, in common use where and when I grew up in inner-city Chicago, and their use is necessary here in order to convey a sense of the times and the background of this story. If you will be offended by their use in this context, please feel free to turn the page, and read no further.

Chicago is less than 100 miles from Milwaukee, and high school life in the Chicago inner-city was pretty much as depicted in the TV series Happy Days, except... where I went to school, everybody was a scruffy version of the Fonz, and clean-cut kids were seen only in television sitcoms.

My first three years of high school were spent at Chicago Vocational School, where there were 6,000 students housed at a "campus" so large, you couldn't possibly get between classes in the time allotted if the two classrooms involved were at opposite ends of the facility.

The facility had actually for several years during WWII been an aircraft manufacturing plant. And when the war ended, the plant (which had originally been built to be a school) including millions of dollars in manufacturing machinery, was turned over to the Chicago School Board.

CVS, as it was known, was one of two "wide-area" high schools in Chicago, the other being Tilden Technical High School . CVS accepted students from anywhere in the city south of Madison street, while Tilden Tech accepted students who lived north of Madison.

Both high schools focused on technical and vocational training, with CVS heavily emphasizing the vocational end of things, auto repair, machining, welding, electrical, plumbing,and carpentry shops, with additional serious training in both architectural and machine drafting. 

Wake Up Little Susie

I had ended up there on the recommendation of a well-meaning, but ultimately far less-than-competent guidance counselor at the primary school I attended. For I wanted to be an automotive engineer, and she, not knowing any better, had advised me to go CVS, in preference to the college-bound district high school I was originally headed for. More on that story at a later date.

In some ways,  those were good years. I saw Bill Haley and the Comets live on stage at the Chicago Theater, as Rock and Roll really started to take off.The Everly Brothers had just hit it big with their first #1 single, "Wake Up Little Susie" --- which I could sing in my sleep since it played endlessly on the jukebox in the small diner across 87th street from CVS, where we sat when cutting classes and gobbling up french fries doused in brown gravy.

Wake Up Little Susie

Do idyllic images pop to mind? Especially when coupled with those TV images of "Happy Days"? Not on your life.

Chicago Vocational High School was a genuinely tough place. Not quite like a prison, but not too far off.

I remember clearly that during the first-week orientation, my freshman class of about 1,500 was sitting on bleachers in the gymnasium, whilst the assistant principal laid out for us the school rules of conduct. About half way through his talk, there was a small pop sound, and one of the students in the bleachers to my right fell over forward, accidentally shot in the back by a fellow student who had been fooling around with a zip gun --- a small 0.22 caliber homemade gun that was essentially a piece of pipe with a nail for a firing pin.

Luckily the victim wasn't critically wounded. But besides being arrested, the shooter was socially ostracized. Not so much because he had wounded another student, but because his zip gun was so crude. At CVS, with its legion of South Bend machine lathes, milling machines, and boring tools, it was considered particularly gauche to build such a crude zip gun.

Wake Up Little Susie

As I said, CVS had just about 6,000 students. The student body was composed in the main of ethnic Italians, Irishmen, Poles, Puerto Ricans, and a small population (about 15%) of African Americans. Or as they were known respectively, albeit not respectfully, in those days, Dagos, Micks, Polaks, Spics, and Spades.

Then there were three Jews: me, one other boy, and one girl. Three total out of 6,000 students.

I didn't really know them because when I was a freshman, they were sophomores. And we weren't from the same neighborhood. But no matter. Three in a pool of 6,000 did not amount to spit.

Almost every day of my freshman year, some tough guy or other would decide to pick on the "Jewboy." Because not only did my ethnic background make me a target for anti-Semites, my relatively small size and light weight in those days made me an obviously easy target for would-be bullies. And had it not been for a couple of genuinely tough guys with whom I became friends early on, I probably would not have lasted the year at school, perhaps even not lasted at all.

I remember quite clearly one time when I was trapped in one of the Boys bathrooms by three simian miscreants intent on showing me how to wash my head in a toilet. Things were touch and go, until a truly big and really tough Polak, Keith K., who had appointed himself my personal bodyguard, came in.

Keith introduced the group leader's gonads to Keith's steel-toed shoe and the nose of one of the henchmen to Keith's forearm. Following which the group decided that maybe it wasn't such a good idea, after all, to turn me into a toilet scrub brush.

After that, when Keith or one of my other self-appointed guardians was around, I was more often than not let alone. Although not entirely, ever --- and rarely when I was alone.

However, a real breakthrough came in machine shop class one day not too long before the end of that first high school year.

In Machine Shop, one of my classmates was a Mick who, for whatever reason, had taken it as his personal mission to make the life of the "Christ-killer" particularly difficult every day that school was in session. So he messed with the lunch I brought with me. Or hid my books. Or took my tools. Or sometimes just threatened me --- endlessly. Always with a smile, as though he were only innocently "joshing" with me. But also always with a menacing undertone and whispered "Kike bastard" that let me know he was serious.

I tried for months to just ignore the harassment. I tried laughing it off. I tried sharing my lunch with the guy. I tried talking to him about getting along. All to absolutely no avail. The bullying continued relentlessly.

Finally, I had enough of trying to go along in order to get along. One morning, in the midst of him bothering me in some particularly irksome way, I picked up a tailstock wrench --- which weighs about four pounds --- from the Southbend lathe I was running at the time, and with a shout flung it hard at his head. It missed him by about a foot, but he nevertheless started to retreat.

I suppose I could have stopped. However, by then, I was pumped so full of adrenaline, I wasn't stopping. No way.

I grabbed the tailstock wrench from the lathe next to my station and began chasing him, yelling like a madman --- or mad-kid --- that I was going to smash his fucking Mick skull like a watermelon.

It turned out he was more bully than genuine tough, and he decided it was safer to run than fight. I continued to scream wildly and chase him around the shop for what seemed at the time to be forever but really was only three or four minutes,  until the shop teacher broke it up.

Still, that was long enough for my tormentor and the exuberant crowd of onlookers to conclude that I was seriously out of control. And, moreover, long enough to spread the word it was safer to leave "that fucking crazy Jewboy" alone.

Wake Up Little Susie

If there is a moral to this story, I am not sure I know what it is. Perhaps, that sometimes bullies just won't stop until you chase them with a hard, heavy implement in your hand. --- Phil Friedman

Author's Notes:   If you found this post interesting and worthwhile, and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Should you be curious about some of my previous postings about social media, you're invited to take a look at some of the following:

"On Trees, Trolls, Trust and Truth"

"Social Media Is a Highway, Not a Destination"

"Do Not Mistake What Is for What Should Be"

"Finding Your Way Past Self-Reflection to Action"

As well, feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other articles — whether on beBee, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post.

About me, Phil FriedmanWith 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.

In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.

The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.

Wake Up Little Susie

To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email: I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Wake Up Little Susie           

Image Credits:  Phil Friedman, Google Images

Wake Up Little Susie

del me 19/7/2017 · #27

#26 My grandpa was also Romanian. That's funny... My friend Mazel says a curse in Hebrew and spits when she says something bad. Too funny.

Phil Friedman 19/7/2017 · #26

#25 Try my grandmother's Yiddish Romanian curse, "zer kann liegen mit dein kopf in drerd via a tzibilla". (You should lie with your head in the ground like an onion.)

+1 +1
del me 19/7/2017 · #25

Trying to think of something insulting to say about your tormentors in Yiddish. Either way that's fuckacht.

Jim Murray 6/11/2016 · #24

Outstanding blast from the past. Quite vivid and Phil-like. Fort Erie Secondary School, where I did my time, was diverse in the fact that you were simply either Italian or something white. But we all got along. It's was more about personalities than ethnicity. But this was Canada in the sixties, after all... the white bread capital of the world. PS: My nickname back then was Bird, which was short for Birddog, as in 'Hey birddog stay away from my quail...' (Everly Brothers). The only fights I ever got into were over females.

+3 +3
Praveen Raj Gullepalli 5/11/2016 · #23

#22 Agree Phil. Discussion is good. Reasoning is a beautiful process. Taking offence in a discussion is immature and so is denigrating a participant with offensive words and labels however presumptuous a pov. Truth should prevail and one must accept gracefully if one is wrong or does not have the proof to conclude a hypothesis. It doesn't belittle one's standing, for we are always learning! And there is always time to buikd one's argument. A discussion should drive one to seek more knowledge and not some kind of revenge. We have many beautiful minds and hearts right here Phil. And that is a rare thing indeed.

+3 +3
Phil Friedman 5/11/2016 · #22

#20 Praveen. I never considered myself a victim of bullying, because I always knew it was within my power to act to stop the attempted bullying.

I agree with you, though, that people who are bullied often become bullies when they feel the touch of power. But that said, I think we must distinguish between tenacity in discussion and bullying. In intellectual circles, it is not bullying to argue in defense of one's views, as long as one does not resort to sophistry and ad hominem attack. Cheers,

+3 +3
Paul Walters 5/11/2016 · #21

@Phil Friedman Oh the bullies , those with so many mental problems. We are witnessing one striding the world stage in one Donald J Trump. Hillary. little 'crooked' Hillary hopefully will deliver a knockout blow on Tuesday . As for prejudice , I have no tolerance for that. Whatever your race, or creed I personally really dont care, its whether you are a good person that counts

+3 +3
Praveen Raj Gullepalli 5/11/2016 · #20

That is a real walk down memory lane dear Phil. And must have been like livin on the edge! Yup one always gets a guardian angel somehow! By grand design? You have got everyone talking about bullies now, even me, see? :) I had my share too at school...cos i was a quiet, shy, books-obsessed kid...things got bad...and finally one day, at break point i let loose... a single punch on the forehead of one that brought us both to the ground (chap still carries a bump on his forehead that somehow never went away even after 35 years!)..and a stinging slap that happened faster than I/eye could see or follow in the second instance..settled both bullying pains for good. In both cases l was actually getting bullied for being protective of someone else! :) Bitter past experiences can make bullies of the bullied once they grow into independence and some authority. On, it is far more easier to be a bully if one is armed with enough words and corporate jargon! But thankfully we have dear Kev to protect us if we are bullied! ;) I raise my hand if a BBC (Bully Bashers Commune) is being formed ever! Am so in.

+3 +3