On the first day of school that September, I learned that I had been assigned a new teacher for my homeroom class.
She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, a young blonde female in a school in which half of the teachers were nuns.
Really, really old nuns.
Our town was small and the kids in my seventh grade class were kids I had known since we’d started school. We had never had a teacher like Mrs. Winston – so young and so blonde.
It’s no surprise that the guys in our class took slack-jawed note of her, but so did the girls. She could have stepped from the glossy cover of a magazine.
She looked like the The Beach Boys’ California Girls sounds.
She’d wear a green sweater dress with knee-high, tan boots and little make-up.
She was a natural beauty.
I’m not sure where Mona was from, but, if I recall her voice, there was a slight drawl that makes me think Texas would be a good guess. And she was married to an attorney.
My male classmates and I were reaching an age at which hormones were taking the first hostages. Our locker room now sounded like a locker room.
The merits of the girls in our class were often discussed, but as most of us had no experience with those of the double-x chromosomes, much of the banter was merely speculative.
And though less-accessible women such as Cheryl Tiegs, the actresses on Three’s Company, or the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders might also enter into our conversations, Mona never did.
Maybe it was because she was so geniunely kind and, unlike most adults we knew, treated us kids as intelligent beings.
Maybe it was because she was so casual and real.
Though my classmates and I were well aware of Mona’s beauty, I don’t recall any of us viewing her with anything more than respectful awe.
But, for more than her aesthetic virtues, Mona was memorable for providing fuel for the small flicker of interest I had in music.
As September morphed into October, more and more recesses were spent stuck inside as a grey rain fell outside. Mona brought in a turntable and encouraged us to bring in our albums. So, as we were all scattered throughout the classroom during those rained-out recesses, there was constant jockeying to play DJ.
I owned little music at the time – a couple albums that had been gifts, maybe a dozen 45s – but as I played tabletop football with friends, I was hearing Queen’s The Game, AC/DC’s Back In Black, and The Cars’ Panorama.
Most of the albums played were current and most had a song or two that had been hits. Though I didn’t know much music, I wasn’t totally in the weeds.
Soon, being trapped indoors at lunch wasn’t such a bummer and, for the first time, I was actively listening to music.
By the time the school year ended, I was hooked.
Mona – her taste in music was light rock. So, here are a quartet of songs from some of the albums she brought in for those recess listening sessions from thirty autumns ago…
Christopher Cross – Sailing
from Christopher Cross
I don’t think I would take the plunge and – like some five million other people in the States – buy a copy of Christopher Cross until months later (perhaps with money received at Christmas), but Sailing had been the song of the summer and I couldn’t hear it enough.
Ride Like The The Wind, Sailing, and a couple more hits that I’d heard on the radio led me to purchase the cassette, but the fact that it was a favorite of Mona’s no doubt added to the album’s cachet for me.
Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
Although Kiss On My List wouldn’t become a hit (and a massive one at that) until the following spring, I recall that the song was the one that Mona referred to her as her favorite when she played it for us in the fall of ’80.
From the stutter-step opening, Kiss On My List hooks me when I hear it. It’s lighthearted, playful, and has a fantastic chorus.
Air Supply – Every Woman In The World
from Lost In Love
Like Christopher Cross, Australia’s Air Supply arrived on the scene in 1980 and had already notched a couple of huge radio hits with Lost In Love and All Out Of Love by the time we were closing in on autumn.
I liked the group. The songs were breezy and light and, at the age of twelve, I assumed that these Aussies had love figured out since it was the subject of every song. I’m sure that I surmised their music could offer me valuable insight into charming the ladies.
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
from Back In Black
On the other side of the Australian coin…Back In Black wasn’t an album that Mona brought in, but she didn’t keep us from playing it when one of my classmates dropped it onto the turntable.
I’m not so sure that she dug the album, but millions of the other humans did.
(and, like Air Supply, AC/DC had advice for us about the ladies)
Did people at the time realize what a perfect rock song that AC/DC had given the world with You Shook Me All Night Long? It’s still an arresting three and a half minutes of bravado, lust, and adrenaline.