Confessions of a Former World Record Holder

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

Home of the Oilers. the Tower still stands.

t was The Bicentennial Year: 1976 (and all that entails)! The Country was turning 200! Our school, Huntington Beach High School was turning 70! We were graduating! And we wanted to leave our mark on the world! What better way that to set a world recorded! Recorded for all eternity in THE Guinness Book of World Records!  

And so the launch to find a record to break began. As this was one of those last minute Brilliant Ideas, there were limitations to our record-breaking abilities. Any record we broke had to be:

  1. Easy
  2. Cheap
  3. Fast (It was the next-to-the-last, if not the last day of school)
This is not us, but this is what we did.

This is not us, but this is what we did.

We had one thing going for us: Bodies! Our graduating class of more than 1500, was one of the largest, if not the largest, in HBHS history.

It took some doing, but someone (s), somehow came up with a record to break: Lap Sitting

Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?

I haven't thought about that day for well, pert near 2 score years (2 score is so much less painful than the alternatives). And if not for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®  campaign featuring Not Norman, I probably wouldn't be confessing now. (BTW: If you haven’t signed up to read Not Norman on 10-22 please do. Everyone can. All you need to do is gather a group of folks to read to and register. Click over to www.readfortherecord.org for all the info.)

That day was hot, hot, HOT! (A rare occurrence in Huntington Beach, California, even in June). I remember me and my girlfriends—Valerie, Michelle, Theresa, Cathy, Lori, Myrna, —glossed up for the occasion (Bonnie Bell “Lip Smackers”) in hopes TV News camera really did come out for the event, and hope of hopes, snapped a photo of us!!!

In an effort to look like Farrah, I’d permed my hair. (We all wanted to look like Farrah…or Kate or Jaclyn, the other of Charlie’s Angels) Big mistake—judging from photos through the years, just the first of too many “hair disasters”—so instead looked more like Barbara.

Everyone gathered on the track to break the Lap-Sitting record.

The P.E. Coaches, whistles drawn, corralled us into one single file line winding around the track.Then came the question: How exactly are we supposed to achieve this Group Lap Sit?  (Remember this is way before the Internet; there were no How-To videos to Google)

What I recall were many hilarious starts to the Lap Sit which definitely resulted in sever leg muscle strain. In these early attempts “Starting Sitters” (I’ll call them, for lack of a better term) would hunker down then a classmate would sit on his/her lap. Another classmate would sit on that persons’ lap, and another on that persons, one-by-one-by one back up and sit.

By the time the 3rd person sat, the “Starting Sitters” legs were trembling. By the time the 4th or 5th person sat, the “Starter Sitter” would collapse and the “chair” would come tumbling down…Tumbling Tumbling

And in the midst of our “serious efforts” some boy would “just happen”  to sneak into line behind one of us so we ended up sitting—Cue the Squeal track—his lap!

Finally, someone devised a plan:  In all seriousness, we circled the track single file, spaced ourselves lap-distance apart (several test-sits were required to make sure each of us had the spacing correct, of course). Then, on the signal, with complete confidence and trust in the person behind us, we all sat down thus setting the 1976 world record for Lap Sitting!

Don't bother looking in the '76 edition. We're not in it. (I have a vague recollection that a day or so after we set the record, another group in Japan broke it. Still, for one brief shining moment, We were the champions, my friends! 

Confesstions of a World Record Holder Playlist:

Wanna keep in touch? Click on SUBSCRIBE  to receive email notification when entries are posted on Kelly's Fishbowl.

Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

Big wheel keeps on turning, churning up snippets so long forgotten they might not be rightfully considered mine anymore. (Reading over that line, I'm feeling a little too much like Miss Daisy...better get some of that there "blueing shampoo." 

A name, in author and VCFA faculty advisor, Sharon Darrow's Write at Your Own Risk post, "The Imagination Has Its Orders," prompted the stop and pried the cage open this go round. Bonnie Riedinger, not even the correct name--off by one letter--but close enough. Yep, like horseshoes and hand grenades, memory works that way. 

Halloween, Junior Year, my BF Valerie is Alice. Get what that leaves me? We were having too much fun to graduate!

Halloween, Junior Year, my BF Valerie is Alice. Get what that leaves me? We were having too much fun to graduate!

My senior year of high school, I only had to take two required classes, Government and Senior English. I didn't need to take either really, could actually have graduated early, but why? I had a good paying job--school hours only, weekends and holidays off--in the Career Guidance Center, (I would have had to quit if I graduated.) My friends were all still in school. I wasn't ready to be big.

Instead, I padded my schedule with Volleyball P.E. with a plan to slide through my senior year.

A certain Huntington Beach High School English teacher named Mrs. Riedlinger (note the "l") was my is responsible for turning my slider into a home run. 

People ask why I became a writer.  It took reading that one-letter-wrong name all these years later for me to come up with an answer: Mrs. Riedlinger.  I doubt she'd remember me (even a year later.)  I wasn't that kind of student. But Mrs. Riedlinger was that kind of teacher.

Going round and round and round in the circle game. . .
— Joni Mitchell

Here's what I remember from Mrs. Riedlinger's class: We read the Odyssey AND Travels with Charlie. She taught poetry, by way of the classics--AND Dylan AND Elton AND Mick. Unheard of! (This was 1975-76, back before the age of reason.)

She assigned 10 SAT words a week. "Define them and use them each in a sentence."  

That name stopped me. I Googled my teacher and 2 yearbook pages popped up. Judith Riedlinger,  teaching at HBHS in 1971-1985.

That name stopped me. I Googled my teacher and 2 yearbook pages popped up. Judith Riedlinger,  teaching at HBHS in 1971-1985.

I raised my hand. "Do we have to write one sentence each?" I asked. "Or can we use more than one word in a sentence."

(The smart girl in the class, Deirdre, who by the end was my friend and still is, thought up the question. She was a sophomore who'd already skipped a grade or two, and unlike me, had every intention of graduating early.)

"Use as many as you like per sentence. Use them all in one sentence if you can. But," Mrs. Riedlinger challenged. "If you want it to count, it had better be a proper sentence."

Each week of that semester Deirdre and I went for it. Doing so took much more time, no doubt, but we managed to cut our sentence production. And at least once we succeeded in correctly using all 10 of that week's words in one sentence. If memory serves, two of those were sagacious and parsimonious

My story, of a passionate teacher changing a student's life, isn't unique. Still, it's lovely to know it happens--can still happen--especially as this brand new school year begins. Here's hoping our students connect with their Mrs. Riedlinger!

To keep the feel good going, here are my top 5 Favorite Teachers in Movies: 

  1. Danny Divito as Bill Rago in Renaissance Man
  2. Sidney Poitier as Mr. Thackeray in To Sir With Love 
  3. Michael Cane and Julie Waters in Educating Rita (not sure who's the teacher?)
  4. Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society
  5. Peter O’Toole as Mr. Chipping in Goodbye Mr. Chips 

If that's not enough, here's a list of MORE inspiring Teacher/Student Movies.

This blog's playlist: 

--Thanks for reading! 

Click on SUBSCRIBE if you'd like to receive email notification when entries are posted on Kelly's Fishbowl.