I only recall Mike Sites from seventh grade. Where he was before that, I have no idea, but when we started seventh grade, there was Mike—although he may have been around before that, as I have a very vague recollection that he was not unknown to me before then.
I don’t recall him after seventh grade either. As it turned out he was held back a grade, so when my other classmates and I started eighth grade in the newly built Elco High School (Eastern Lebanon County), he was repeating seventh. Elco was a relatively largish school (compared to our Richland School anyway), maybe about 1,100, so it might not be surprising that I never ran into him again, or at least have no memories of doing so. I can find him in the yearbooks for 1963 (seventh grade) and 1964 (eighth) but not after that.
When I searched the net earlier today, I discovered he was the son of Miriam Zimmerman Sites, which meant that he was the grandson of Pauline and George Zimmerman, who owned and operated the Skippys Restaurant in Richland (which was ground zero plus ten feet for one of the biggest stories to hit Richland during my time there—see future blog post). That means he was also the brother of Eddie Sites, who was in my sister’s high school class, and (even more intriguingly) since Pauline’s maiden name was Sheetz, as was My Favorite Aunt’s (that would be Joan Sheetz Zellers), it’s possible that Mike and I were distantly related, at least by marriage.
Sadly, during my net search, I found that Mike Sites died in November, 2004 at age 56, and his brother Eddie had died the previous year at 49.
I remember Mike Sites as a troublemaker.
And I’ll hasten to add, he was not a hardcore troublemaker, more like a happy-go-lucky class clown kind of troublemaker. He always seemed to have a devilish grin on his face. I have no recollection that he was ever in any really serious trouble.
There is one time that I recall quite clearly, however, when he got me into trouble.
We were in class with Mr. Henry. Now Mr. Henry was our seventh grade math teacher, and I think we were also in his homeroom. On this occasion Mr. Henry was a bit perturbed about something, what it was I no longer recall. I don’t even recall if this was during a math class or perhaps a homeroom or study session. In any case Mr. Henry had just issued some sort of threat along the lines of “Class, you better settle down and shape up, or else!”
And then he gave us a short break, and he left the room. I thought he was going out for a smoke. A few of the kids followed him out.
While he was out of the room, I remember myself saying with the false bravado of youth, “Aw, Henry doesn’t scare me!”
Now this was unwise for two reasons. One: I was sitting next to the door; and two: Mr. Henry hadn’t gone for a smoke, just out in the hall to get a drink of water—so he was right outside in the hall, and he could hear every word I said.
No one could have been more surprised (or shocked, even) when upon uttering those fateful words, I saw Mr. Henry walk back into the room, and he was headed straight for me.
“So you aren’t afraid of me, are you?” he began.
I must have said something but whatever it was has not been recorded, probably just a lot of stuttering and stammering.
But Mr. Henry didn’t seem angry at me; he had a twinkle in his eyes and looked like he was just somewhat amused.
And there the matter might have rested—
—except Mike Sites picked that moment to walk back into the room. And apparently he had heard our little exchange, because as he walked past us, he exclaimed:
Well, that did it. Mr. Henry must have felt he needed to maintain some sort of discipline because he dragged both Mike and me to the front of the room and inflicted what was known as corporal punishment on us.
Luckily, the only paddle he had available was one of those little paddles from a Paddle Ball set. But it stung enough.
I think I might have learned a lesson, but I’m not sure if Mike did.