by Michael Corcoran
I didn’t know that my mother kept everything I wrote since I started in 1963 at age 7. I first got attention for my writing in the fourth grade in Mountain Home, Idaho, when I penned a poem that included the names of all my classmates. It was pretty crude stuff- “Victor Franz went to the dance and forgot to wear pants/ Manuela Carr should learn the guitar if she wants to go far.” The teacher, Mr. Howard, read it to the class and my face burned, but the kids all laughed, teaching me a couple things. 1) People love attention and 2) Keep it local for most direct response.
My mother died of cancer in 1974, when I was 18. Twenty-five years later, my father’s second wife was cleaning out the storage and sent me a shoebox full of all my stuff- report
cards, church announcements, a clipping from the 12-0 shutout I pitched in Little League baseball and everything I ever wrote, including my very first poem “The Year I Learned Baseball 1963.”
I started writing for the school paper in seventh grade, when I moved over to Air Base Junior High. Poems again, mostly with socially conscious themes (“The Ghetto,” “The Rumble,” “The Death of a Criminal.”) I had an admirer in Carla Dyvad, an eighth grader, who I considered my first girlfriend, though we didn’t really do anything but ride bikes together and talk about books we read.
Went to four different schools for high school. Ninth grade at ABJH, tenth grade at Mountain Home High in town, then the move to Hawaii for Aiea High in eleventh grade and Radford High in senior year, 1973. In Idaho, I was known as the kid who writes, working as the sports editor of “Tiger Tales” in the 10th grade, plus I also wrote a Top Ten parody. Basically, I took the hits of the day and had them describe an aspect of the high school. For instance “Close To You” by the P.E. Locker Room and “Ball of Confusion” by the Drill Team were on the charts one month. That latter joke hurt some feelings and I got called into the adviser’s office for a lesson in compassion. Next month the “Top Ten” idea was retired when I submitted a first draft that credited “Magic Carpet Ride” to a teacher whose ancestors were from Saudi Arabia.
I went from being something of a star writer, a bad boy, in Idaho to completely invisible in Aiea, which is near Pearl Harbor. I signed up for the school paper and since they already had a sports editor and writers, I was assigned to the editorial section. Didn’t get a byline all year. A sample assignment was to write about how North Vietnam should do a better job seeing that POWs received letters that were sent from home. My lead was something like “It’s got to be a strange time to be a Hanoi mailman.”
The last day of school in Oahu was designated “Kill Haole Day,” where white students attended under the threat of getting beat up. My parents insisted I go to school that day and even drove me. But as soon as the car disappeared, I headed off-campus to the Aiea Shopping Center, where I would hang out until school was over and I would run home. There was a shop named Mabel’s Crackseed, which sold those horrible, sour local snacks, but they carried all sorts of magazines and I spent the day reading many of them. It was my first exposure to National Lampoon, Creem and Rolling Stone- three magazines that would pretty much rule my life the next few years. Eventually I would write for all three, though in the cases of the Lampoon and Creem, my contributions were after the glory years.