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Darrell Huckaby - 07/29/09

Well it's time for back-to-school shopping. Tax free weekend, too. I wonder why we can afford a tax free weekend when we can't afford to pay our state employees? At any rate, from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light mamas and daddies will be out in force taking advantage of the bargains. OK. Mostly mamas.

I can't wait to see what the styles are this year. They change pretty rapidly, you know, and most of the kids I know try to stay on the cutting edge. When I first started teaching, a hundred or so years ago, it was the age of big hair - and I mean on everybody. The girls in my first classes had big poofey hairdos with Farah Fawcett-style wings in front. I bet hair spray stock was sky high back in the late '70s. Come to think of it, a lot of the boys had similar hairstyles.

The black kids all had Afros, of course. I mean great big Afros. I can still see Wallace Roseberry in my mind's eye - sitting in the back of my science class. Wallace was one of my favorite students ever and served as a manager for my football and basketball teams for three or four years. In the seventh grade, when I first met him, Wallace was about 4 feet high and had an Afro that was about 4 feet wide.

I don't remember what the clothing styles for the students were in those days. I think most kids simply wore blue jeans and T-shirts - but I do recall that leisure suits were a big deal for men during my early days in the classroom. I had one that was powder blue and another one that was lime green. My word, I must have looked ridiculous in those things!

Not as ridiculous as I must have looked on my first day of school in the ninth grade, though.

My mama had taken me to White's - on the Square in Covington - to do my back-to-school shopping. I think nowadays you can buy an overpriced pastrami sandwich where I used to buy my back-to-school clothes.

Mama wanted me to buy a couple of pairs of trousers and a shirt or two, but I fell in love with a pair of brushed denim jeans - the first time I had ever paid good money for clothes that looked old - and a matching denim shirt. But get this. The shirt had a big collar and rawhide laces where the buttons should have been.

To this day I don't know why Tommie Huckaby spent her hard-earned money on that outfit, but she did. And to this day I don't know why I put that outfit on and wore it to Newton County High School on the first day of ninth grade, but I did. I had almost lived it down by Christmas.

Almost.

Miniskirts made it to Georgia when I was a senior in high school. I will be forever grateful, but must admit that as hemlines rose my grades went down in direct proportion. Like Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

For the past few years we have had to deal with busting slack, of course, among male students. That's when guys wear slacks that are so baggy they have to hold them up with one hand when they walk down the hall. School administrators from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo have tried to fight the Battle of the Baggy Pants. Some even claim to have found solutions, but I take most of those claims with a grain of salt because I know human nature and have been a keen observer of adolescent behavior for decades.

For a while young ladies wanted to wear hip hugger pants to school with short-midriff shirts - and never the twain would meet. At other times low-cut blouses were in. And skirt lengths have fallen and risen like the stock market on steroids.

But despite the varying fashion trends, most students on most days show up at school in T-shirts and jeans - just like they have for most of my life. Of course, T-shirts present a brand new problem for educators nowadays because they come with such interesting designs. And sometimes it is hard to determine what is appropriate and what is inappropriate - or what is benign and what is inflammatory. After all, there is no accounting for taste and one person's goose is another person's gander - or something like that.

Oh, well. Whether the pants are down below the hips or up under the armpits, kids have to be taught and whatever the fad happens to be this year, it won't last long.

Whenever I get too upset about what kids are wearing I take a look at an old picture of myself at a Three Dog Night concert. I had on orange-striped bell bottoms, a brown Banlon shirt and blue suede platform shoes - and my hair was almost to my shoulders. I turned out OK, for the most part.

But, if I see a kid get off the bus Monday with brushed denim pants and a matching shirt with rawhide ties, I might have to have a long talk with that particular person.

Darrell Huckaby