Schools, Part 3: Chagrin Falls High School

Chagrin Falls High School: Junior – ’90-91, Senior -’91-92

For as much as going from a Catholic grade school to a public high school was a culture shock, moving from the suburbs of Buffalo, New York to the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio in between my Sophomore and Junior years of high school was equally, if not more, jarring.

First is that Chagrin Falls is sparse, full of lots of country roads that lead to a picturesque small town. The second was that many of the residents of Chagrin Falls were wealthy, not top 1% rich, but being upper-middle class was something I was now apart of but not at all familiar with.

My Junior year was, when you get right down to it, a disaster. The first week I nearly got into a fight with a Senior in gym class during a game of flag football. I had a hard time making friends and would avoid going to the cafeteria by eating my lunch in the library, ducking into a desk cubby and reading the USA Today. Now, it didn’t help that as soon as I joined the school newspaper I managed within a month to get most of the school to hate me. Lemme explain.

I started writing for the Chagrin Fall High School newspaper in October of 1990. My first column, entitled “New York State of Mind,” was meant to provide a newcomers perspective to the town and school. The first article was me interviewing me. Kinda clever. The second column I wrote started with this sentence:

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed at Chagrin Falls High School which was the same at my old high school is that kids think that for some reason drinking beer is cool and driving around drunk is perfectly acceptable.

That’s a stellar way to make new friends. I wrote some more columns, stuff about raising the speed limit, the need for a national energy policy and some sports articles about the Browns, World League of American Football and escalating baseball salaries. My Senior year I was made co-Sports Editor, but still cranked out opinion pieces that include deft commentary such as “LA Riots Must Not Happen Again.” My true piss ’em off piece came in November of 1991: “Pumpkin Roll Changes Needed.” Essentially, the “Pumpkin Roll” is when all the high school kids acquire (legally and illegally) pumpkins from around town and then on a selected evening late in the night, like 3am, dump the pumpkins down the large hill in downtown Chagrin and, after downing lots of alcohol, slide down the hill on the pumpkins innards. It’s a tradition. It’s a past time. And I, the outsider, attacked it. I’ve rarely, if ever, feared for my life. The death stares I got after that one, well, it got real chilly.

Somehow, I managed to overcome this transgression and ingratiated myself back into the good graces of my classmates by the time Spring semester rolled around, to the point where I was even comfortable hanging out in the “Senior Lounge” in the cafeteria that featured a ping-pong table. It might have helped that ping-pong was kind of competitive, and I was nerdy enough to start keeping track of win/loss records to the point where I was able to keep up an updated ranking of players. This nerdiness even got mentioned during our graduation ceremony, the same ceremony my Dad was stung in the eye by a bee and had to be rushed to the hospital. Yeah, that’s how Chagrin Falls ended for me, kind of appropriate when I think about.

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