The world was a different place in 1957, when seven young boys were tossed together on a four-square-mile island in the Pacific Ocean. They would soon experience all the emotions that life could provide for them.
Wake had been a battleground during the early days of World War II and the boys spent their free time exploring bunkers, trenches, and pillboxes seeking souvenirs of days past. They grew up finding their first loves and watching them depart as well. Every day and night was a new adventure. They learned about themselves and the safe island home. Along the way they laughed, cried, learned about life—sometimes the hard way and they found a happiness that no one could take away from them.
Join them as they grow into young teenagers and finally leave their little piece of heaven for a world far from the peace they had known on Wake Island.
– Excerpt from A Little Piece of Heaven –
The Mediterranean Map Incident
Life at school was always interesting. We had several teachers who were unique in many ways. Among them was the kindergarten teacher. She was a Hawaiian lady of a rather large size, but a kinder, nicer person you could never find. She played the piano and could she sing. During music period for the kindergarten, her voice would float to every classroom, oft times bringing the lesson in that class to a halt. It was not uncommon to find yourself humming or even singing along with the music that slowly floated into the room. Imagine seventh and eighth graders blasting out “On Top of Old Smoky” or “Row, Row, Row your boat” during a math class. Because of this we often found ourselves serving detentions because of our sheer joy of wanting to sing along.
Detentions at the Wake Island School were not writing sentences or cleaning the blackboards. Our detentions took us outside, where we picked up rocks from the playground. Wake Island was one big sand pile with the occasional boulder, which was broken up into small boulders, which were broken up into smaller ones. These are the ones we were forced to pile up. Now the piles, which didn’t seem to have any order to them, were placed all around the playground, which resulted in several cases of scraped knees or hands when a student was forced, by accident, into them during recess activities.
Principal Black assigned students detention duty on the rock piles, issuing sledgehammers. He made sure the ball and chains were securely in place, then marched us out to the assigned area to be cleaned. After telling us what to do, he went back to his office, which overlooked the playground. We would then begin work, toiling under the hot sun, sweat running down our faces while he sat in his air conditioned office laughing, or at least we thought he was laughing. Detentions lasted thirty minutes, and during that time we would talk, so as not to be heard about how we were going to get even with him, how we would destroy his life and make him an invalid at the old age of thirty-five.
That brings us to the Mediterranean Map Incident. Mr. Black was not only the principal; he also was the social studies/history teacher. He came up with this idea to make a relief map of the Mediterranean Sea area and all the history classes were to help create it. He began the project by bringing in a three-quarter inch, four by eight foot sheet of plywood and placing it on an old table. He also purchased maybe fifty or sixty pounds of clay. So far so good, but he forgot he was dealing with the guys and this is where the fun begins.
The clay had to be soaked in water to make it pliable and while it was soaking, several students drew the map on the plywood; no easy task as the plyboard had a very rough texture. That task finished, construction of the relief map began with students applying gobs of wet clay onto the plywood, making sure that each land mass began to take shape.
This project went on for some six to eight weeks, and as it neared completion, we began to see a wonderful map, which we had created. The mountains on the African coast, those in Spain and France, the Italian boot with its mountain chain running its full length filled us with elation. We allowed the clay to dry and then began to paint the various countries and seas, labeling each item on the four by eight map. It was at this point that someone noticed that the spelling of Mediterranean was missing an “r.”
There was only one thing to do and that was to correct it. The smallest kid in the class was J.T., who volunteered to make the correction. He jumped on a chair and leaped on the plyboard. The sound that echoed through the room began as a creek, moved to a moan and finished with a crash. All of this noise was followed by a howl like nothing we had ever heard before.
It seems that the weight of the clay, board and J.T. proved too much for the old table and all four legs collapsed at once. Everyone stood motionless, with jaws hanging to the floor. Amid the wreckage
J.T. was crying and rolling around between Africa and Italy holding his bleeding kneecap. The howling was coming from Mr. Black. The table had crushed his foot breaking it. He spent the next month on crutches. We had our revenge.