Lee Simon – Social Studies Teacher – Alexander Hamilton High School – Los Angeles – 1968 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Still going on today probably, just like it has since the original concept of school actually began. The one teacher who stuck out in your mind as the one who had the answers – not to where the Tigris and Euphrates were but what-was-this-life-all-about-anyway burning questions you had when you were sixteen and life was the enormous puzzle and complicated minefield.
If you lived in L.A.,lived on the West Side and went to Alexander Hamilton High School, chances are you had Simon for your Social Studies teacher. He didn’t look like the rest of the faculty, didn’t act like the rest of the faculty and had ideas not shared by the majority of the faculty. He had opinions and at the time a lot of them weren’t popular, except with us. He was something of a link between two enemy camps; the rebellious bunch of kids who were joiners, loners and “freaks” in the Frank Zappa sense of the word in one camp, and the starched-and-ironed/quasi-authoritarian parental figures who just didn’t “get” what was going on in the other – and all the variations in between. Not all parents were of the same mindset, nor were the kids as many an after-school fight would attest.
It was a confusing and contentious set of times – and as teenagers, we were trying on a lot of different uniforms and sampling a lot of different thoughts, trying to figure out what made the most sense in this passing stretch of time called life. We were taking cues from figures we idolized, people we read about and music we wrapped ourselves up in. We joined groups known only by the letters they represented; BSU, JDL, SDS and had sets of ideas of their own and contributions that became part of the conversation we heard, embraced or said “thanks, but no thanks” to. Everything was on the table and we needed guides to help sort it all out.
So people like Lee Simon and as I said, there were no doubt hundreds, if not thousands of other teachers who did exactly the same thing in high schools all over America, who were just as much a part of growing up in the 1960s as the music and radio and words-of-mouth were, did their best to make sense out of the world that was going through big changes and the loud growing pains that went with them.
I’m not sure how I wound up with this tape, but this was typical of the lectures and impromptu forums we heard between the years 1966 and 1969. From what I heard, Simon was at Hamilton between 1965 and 1970 before going on to other places, doing different things.
The words and sentiments are no doubt familiar if you were in high school during those years – perhaps they sound the same now – and those of us of a certain age may be the ones considered “the enemy” by those stuck in the minefield of changes being faced in 2022.
It IS the big circle, you know. Always has been and probably always will be.
Here’s a sample of what it sounded like in 1968.
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