I was in the seventh grade this fall at the Van Cleve Prep School in Troy, Ohio. It is not as glamorous as it sounds. Van Cleve was the old Troy High School, and it had been turned into a junior high, consisting of the seventh and eighth grades.

The building is still in use (as solely a consolidated sixth grade now), and I hope they have strengthened the old wooden floors, for in those days the hallways somewhat undulated as students streamed up and down them at class change time. There were some serious structural problems.

The move to Van Cleve was accomplished by all rising seventh-graders from the several elementary schools around town. I had gone to Kyle Elementary, starting in kindergarten, so this was the first school move I had made.

At Van Cleve, we moved from room to room depending on class, but we moved as a group. It wasn’t a situation where each student had their own schedule as one finds in high school. We had all been tested in the sixth grade and were clumped together as students of similar aptitude.

Our ranking as a result of the testing was supposed to be a secret and not something we or our parents knew, and we were cautioned that the designation we carried as a group was not a ranking but a random assignation. I hope that was true, because our group was known as “4A.”

Pride dictates that I would hope I was ranked a bit higher than this (the group names went from “1A” to “4B”). There were about 35 students in each group, eight groups in total, for about 280 students in the seventh grade.

As I started to school that fall (my, the girls had grown up over the summer!), and was introduced to a much larger student body, little did I know that by the end of January, I would be at Marshall under the tutelage of Mr. Wisecup, where the seventh and eighth grades would be in the same room.

Actually, I think the move to Marshall saved my sanity. I was not dealing well with the large student body at Van Cleve.

By the way, back in the day, there were no school buses within the city limits. I had walked seven blocks each way by myself to Kyle School, starting in kindergarten. Van Cleve was further. It was 12 blocks each way. Book bags had not been invented yet, so the days I had to take my trumpet as well as my books, I had a juggling mess all the way.

Rain and snow added complications of their own. Although we did not have uniforms, we did have a dress code. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses and boys were required to wear slacks. No one was allowed to wear jeans or T-shirts to school.

All of this aside, there was one event that fall which eclipsed all others. It was the day Mr. Routson, my home room, math and science teacher, showed up with a small transistor radio. It was in October. This new radio was kept on all the time at low volume, tuned to a specific station. Every teacher had one.

It appeared at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was to serve as an early warning system should the nukes start flying. Also, at that time, we started “duck and cover” exercises. The school principal would sound an alarm over the PA system and we scrambled as fast as we could to get under our desks.

After all, we were only about 20 miles (as the crow flies) from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which everyone knew was a big target. The rest of that fall we had “duck and cover” random drills, at least until Thanksgiving, perhaps longer.

Of course, we knew, even then, that these feeble attempts at protection were not going to save us from a good roasting. Yet, we all went along, for there was really no other ideas as to what to do – in the event of a nuclear attack – available from anyone.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.