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Sing-along with Louie

Louis Hauser, Sunrise Park Junior High, 1976
–In honor of my teacher Louis Hauser, who died earlier this month

At Sunrise Junior High, we were on modular scheduling. Of course we were. It was the 1970s; everything was mod. Instead of hours, our school day was divided into 23-minute units called “mods.” A class might be two mods, a lab might be three. Lunch was one. During a free mod or two between classes, you might go to study hall. But more likely, you went to sing-along.

Sunrise was a low, flat building, and the choir room was in the southeast corner, past the gym and the locker rooms, the girls’ and boys’ showers: a safe haven. The choir teacher, Louie Hauser, presided over sing-along with his colleague Mr. Adams. It was difficult even then to refer to the former as “Mr. Hauser.” He was “Louie Hauser,” a dark-haired, mustachioed man who conducted us with great energy and enthusiasm, nodding at each of us as we picked up a binder of song lyrics before taking a seat on metal folding chairs in the choir bleachers.

Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end. We’d sing and dance, forever and a day. We’d live the life we choose. We’d fight and never lose. Those were the days. Oh, yes, those were the days.

There might be 30 or 40 of us in attendance during any particular mod. We’d grab a songbook and sit down, Louie Hauser and Larry Adams (also mustachioed, but with a mighty fortress of a forehead) at the front of the room, taking turns at the piano. For the next 23 or 46 minutes, we’d call out songs and sing them. Choir heads. Band heads. Jocks. Burn outs (already, there were burn outs, although at that point they were barely singed). Girl Scouts. Hippie wannabes. Cliques were erased as a kid from one faction called out a song that the rest of us would also enjoy singing. Between tunes, unlikely friendships, or at least acquaintances, were formed. “You look like a girl I know named Mindy,” someone I barely knew once said to me between songs, causing me to imagine myself as a Mindy for a second. It wasn’t unpleasant. I was just glad to be noticed, honestly.

I think that’s where I developed my capacity for remembering lyrics: “House of the Rising Sun,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I’ve got all of Simon and Garfunkel locked in. Oh my God, "American Tune"?

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower. We come on the ship that sailed the moon. We come in the age’s most uncertain hour, and sing an American tune…

We might as well have been in history class, or music history. But now that I look back almost 40 years, I realize it was so much more than learning the words to great songs. Although I’m now “Facebook friends” with many of the kids I went to school with, when we were in junior high, socially we were separated by enormous divides of cliques and the adolescent algorithm of social status. We were already in our little boxes (all made of ticky-tacky and they all looked just the same). What Louie Hauser and Mr. Adams accomplished was amazing. In 23-minute units of time, they brought us all together. And not once did we sing “Kumbayah.” Ok, maybe once, but this was the 1970s. It was a different time.
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