18th Serialized Excerpt: Vol. II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

Vol. II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, The Spanners Series, by Sally Ember, Ed.D.

final cover - digital and web

Cover and logo art by Willowraven.

18th Serialized Excerpt, 4/12/14


Snapshots of Clara’s Daily Life: Fourteen Octobers, 1963 – 2017

October, 1968

    Age and Living Circumstances/Location:

9th-grader in Roanne Junior High School, Missouri; living in Bayonne, suburb of large city in family home with her: father, Isaac; mother, Rose; older brother, Thomas; and, two younger sisters, Cassie, 8, and Violet, 3; and, a dog.

One boyfriend, ongoing since beginning of 8th grade, and many local friends from school, Camp Cedar and same Sunday School as earlier.


stories, articles, songs, poetry (poem selected as winner and published in Missouri’s Youth Writes).


Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke; More than Human, Theodore Sturgeon; Pilgrimmage: The Book of the People, Zenna Henderson; Sword of Aldones, Marion Zimmer Bradley; The Time Machine, Jules Verne.

    Music on the Radio:

“Hey, Jude,” The Beatles; “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding; “Bend Me, Shape Me,” The American Breed; “Born to be Wild,” Steppenworlf; “Build Ne Up, Buttercup,” The Foundation; “Can’t Take My Eyes off You,” Andy Williams; “Chain of Fools,” Aretha Franklin; “Do You Know the Way to San José,” Dionne Warwick; “Hello, I Love You,” The Doors; “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly; “MacArthur Park,” Richard Harris; “Mrs. Robinson,” and the Bookends album, Simon & Garfunkle; Piece of My Heart,” Big Brother & The Holding Company (Janis Joplin); “Stoned Soul Picnic,” The Fifth Dimension; “Sunshine of Your Love,” Cream (Eric Clapton); “The Weight,” The Band (Bob Dylan); “Young Girl,” Gary Puckett and The Union Gap; Bonnie Raitt; Linda Rondstadt; Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul & Mary; Little Stevie Wonder.

    Popular Songs in Sheet Music:

“I’ve Gotta Be Me,” (sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.); “The Look of Love,” Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66; “Eli’s Coming,” Laura Nyro; “For The Good Times,” Kris Kristofferson (sung by Rita Coolidge); “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” Burt Bacharach & Hal David (sung by Dionne Warwick)’ music from Cabaret (Kander & Ebb), Hair! (Jerome Ragni, James Rado), Man of La Mancha ( Joel Darion, Dale Wasserman); Yellow Submarine (The Beatles).


► Taking Honors classes, including Spanish
► Cheerleader
► Member of chorus and selected for performance ensemble
► Taking weekly piano lessons; wins 2nd place at regional classical piano competition for ages 12 – 14.
► Attending Jewish religious classes every Sunday morning (Sunday School) (under duress); wins engraved Bible in essay competition
► Playing outdoors, tennis, softball, soccer, field hockey
► Indoors, competing on balance beam/gymnastics
► In summers, bike riding; waterskiing, canoeing, Israeli folk dancing, swimming at Camp Cedar (Jewish residential camp, Lake of the Ozarks) and local outdoor pool

ESPE: For junior high school, Clara tells me, her 7th-grade year is pretty awful. She has braces on her teeth, her hair is curly when having straight hair is fashionable, she is slightly overweight, she has no boyfriend, she is in all Honors classes with almost none of her former friends. This school serves students from five other elementary schools, so it is quite large and most of the people and the entire set up are unfamiliar to Clara.

Each student is assigned a 9th-grader as a “Big Sister/Brother” for the first month or so. Clara gets one of the cheerleaders as her Big Sister. One Friday, which are “game days” for football in the fall, Clara immediately timults herself as a cheerleader: she sees herself walking down the hall, laughing and talking with her friends while wearing her uniform, just as she sees her Big Sister, Cindy, doing on that Friday between classes. It is the first time Clara is aware of timulting something about her “future” which turns out to occur.

After losing the extra weight during 7th grade and having a very successful summer at Camp Cedar, Clara is set for a change. At the beginning of 8th grade, Clara gets the braces off, she learns to straighten her hair, makes some new friends. Her social life changes to the point that she becomes “popular” and a leader, again.

Clara says she gets a “great” boyfriend with whom she “goes steady” through all of 8th and half of 9th grade, when they break up amicably because they’re “both tired of each other,” she tells me.

Near the end of 8th grade, Clara practices for months so that she and nineteen other girls are nominated by adults (from “try-outs” of over fifty girls) to be voted on as cheerleaders in the election for class officers and other positions.

Clara, with seven others, is elected to be a cheerleader. As one of the leaders of her class, Clara also ran for “Pep Club” President. Clara cultivates many friends in order to get selected by the committee to be a finalist and elected by the students.

Her popularity ensures that she is elected to both positions. However, the Principal makes her choose between these rather than allowing her to be both.

Viewing being a cheerleader as the pinnacle of female achievement for that era and since she already timults that outcome two years before this, Clara chooses to be a 9th-grade cheerleader. Bonus: one of her friends, her “opponent,” becomes Pep Club President.

However, Clara tells me, “After learning all the cheers and being so excited to be elected, turns out that being a cheerleader is usually quite boring for me because I don’t actually like or care about team sports. Joke is on me.”

“I continue to want the status and there are not many routes to status for girls in 1968 in Missouri public schools. We aren’t allowed to run for President of the Student Council or our Class. Secretary; for ‘higher office,’ is the top slot we can run for, and only Pep Club is considered appropriate for a girl to lead. But, Pep Club is hardly the same thing as those other two, which actually have governing functions. Plus, sitting around in meetings seems much less interesting than going on buses with the team and being the center of attention as a cheerleader. I am a Leo, after all! These experiences help build up the feminist in me, as they do for Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and many other second-wave feminists, all cheerleaders!”

What happens when Clara gets to high school?

Clara explains: “Although the entire squad of us tries out for the sophomore squad, which is to be at the high school in which we will be combined with the other junior high school for tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades, only one of our school’s squad (not I) along with seven out of the eight cheerleaders of the other junior high school’s squad become the cheerleaders selected by the panel of adults. There is no election since the two 9th-grades’ students don’t know each other, yet.”

“Patently unfair,” Clara says to me, “but, not being selected to continue being a cheerleader is the best thing that ever happens to my personal development. I become more involved in debate, chess, theater, music, books and writing. These are much better choices for me. I become a ‘hippie-intellectual’ instead of a ‘jockette.’ Since I am very good in school, this is a more comfortable role. I can get excellent grades and make a better, more suitable group of friends in my honors classes than I can ‘on the field,’ so that is what I do in high school.”

Here is a poem Clara writes (after studying Julius Caesar in English class) about her feelings and experiences during and after this social transition. Clara goes from occupying the “popular” slot due to being a cheerleader to becoming involved in “cool stuff” due to her other (forced) choices. The “insider” becomes a different kind of “insider,” almost an “outsider,” but this time, mostly by choice.

Clara wants me to remind everyone that she makes no claims to being a great poet. However, it is significant to note that this and another poem she writes in 10th grade are submitted by her English teacher to a state contest. The other poem wins the Missouri’s Youth Writes competition and is published in the state students’ literary magazine in 1970, which is Clara’s first publishing credit.

Clara says: “It’s quite funny to me that I am first published as a poet, since I think my poetry is mostly mediocre to horrible.”

The poem is written on blue, lined spiral notebook paper (the left edge where it is removed from the notebook is ripped in spots) in cursive writing.


by Clara Ackerman, 11/11/69, age 15

Walking on my road

the way is easily seen.

Around the bend, the light


and is gone.

Continue to walk, though

the way grows steep and feels


yet exciting.

Forge on through the dark,

stumbling over rocks and into


and potholes; what

is that swaying sensation?

Ah! The light returns,

only to show the way

already traveled to have been a


smoking to ashes as I watch.

The light again dims,

but remains a dusk-glow,

enough to show me the


free will and decisive action

really are.

What else about your junior high years do you want people to know?

“I experience more misogyny, more restrictions, more unfairness due to gender than in grade school. I have two years of male science teachers and all three years of male math teachers who despise girls, even or especially those of us in Honors classes,” Clara complains.

“Furthermore,” Clara remembers, getting somewhat agitated in the remembering, “our 9th-grade biology teacher is so mean to the only three girls in a class of twenty-four boys that we generate ‘solidarity,’ which is great. We stick together even though we’re not previously close friends. Those girls and I create an informal support group, my first one.”

Also, Clara reminds me, there are more clothing issues; again, only for girls.


Stay tuned on Sally’s blogs on WordPress (which has all links) and Tumblr, and on The Spanners Series‘ pages on Facebook and Google+, for each of the upcoming Excerpts from Volume II from March 16 – April 18, about one/day.

4/18/14, Volume II becomes available for Pre-orders via Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks and nook for half-price: @$1.99, through June 8, 2014.

On 6/9/14, Vol. II goes LIVE everywhere ebooks are sold for $3.99.