At the age of seven, I started the Çizmeci Primary School in Ankara. Our kind-hearted and patient teacher Mrs. Münevver taught us tirelessly from first to fifth grade. When the weather got warmer in the spring, she took us to the valleys around the school for a picnic.
Sometimes my grandma picked me up from school and fed me a snack consisting of a sandwich and an apple or pear she brought from our garden. Then she would take me to a “day visit” with her to meet other old ladies and have tea, coffee, cakes, and read religious-spiritual prayers. There, poor me, sitting in a corner with a Tommiks kid cowboy comic book in my hand, I used to listen to the aunts’ prayers…
I attended Hüseyin Güllüoğlu secondary school in Keçiören. I remember we had a funny old gentleman as principal but a tough vice-principal, old maid lady Mrs. Sacide hanım. My music teacher gave me a low grade and I failed when I was in grade 7. I had to study musical notes during the summer holiday and take a make-up exam in August.
My close friends in the class were Süleyman Çele, the son of the pastry shop from the Black Sea coast Sabiha teacher’s son Ercü Gürsoytrak and Yavuz. We had a few Armenian classmates named Boghos, Silva, and Vahram in the class. I became aware of, and interested in beautiful girls around me in grade eight.
I recognized a charming but slightly chubby girl Ayşe from Yakacık sometimes looking into my eyes! I was interested in a blonde girl named Sevgi in the neighboring class, but she didn’t seem to be interested in me at all! After a year had passed, and when I started high school, I met my old classmate Miss Filiz who was mostly hanging out with Sevgi and explained to her my feelings for Sevgi.
She was very kind and listened to me patiently and said: If you want I can talk to Sevgi when I see her and tell her you would like to be her boyfriend. Let’s hope she has the same feelings as you… I met Filiz a week later and she said sorry, Sevgi said she likes you as a friend and that’s all!
Months later I accidentally met Sevgi in Kızılay and said hello. She told me: Erdinç, I would not expect this from you! You sent me a friendship offer with the girl who is in love with you, it’s a shame for you! I was so surprised!
So fifty years ago, there were several secret “platonic” love affairs, unaware of each other. That is life!
I usually took the bus to Dışkapı and walked to school on foot. Sometimes I stepped on the stones over the Çubuk river below our house, and after walking in one hour to school passing through the Subayevleri where a prime minister had a residence after 40 years…
Yıldırım Beyazıt Lisesi was not known for its academic successes but rather as a Champion of the High School Football Tournament of Turkey.
Our principal, a science teacher called Kasap, butcher due to his white coat was a football freak! He transferred several young star football players to our school. On the days of the match, the Kasap hired private buses to transport the students from the school to Ankaragücü stadion next to the main train station.
We finally became the champion of Turkey High School Football! We all were glad but also saddened by our Turkish literature teacher, who lost her child recently then. When I finished high school, everyone parted ways and I, unfortunately, lost contact with my classmates from that time.
I do have a sad memory from high school: My handsome classmate Haluk used to come to school sometimes on his Jawa motorcycle. One day he took me on his motorcycle and drove very fast to Çankaya. I was trembling with cold and fear when I got off the motorcycle. Years later, I heard that my friend Haluk crashed into a car standing on the road on a motorcycle, was thrown into the air, and lost his life. I was very sad to hear this!
When I finished high school in 1968, I was targeting to study as a medical doctor. I had the University Entrance Exam at the Beşevler Pharmacy Faculty. When my grades were not enough for acceptance into medical school, I started studying in the Biology department of Hacettepe University. My goal was to attend the University Entrance Exam again next year and try to the medical school of Ankara University, Hacettepe, or the newly founded Gevher Nesibe Faculty of Medicine in Kayseri. Doing this would open the possibility to transfer to Medical school later.
We studied English prep class at Hacettepe University for a year. Our young and handsome American teacher, John Peterson from Idaho, was good-natured and worked hard with us. He said, “My goal is to teach you English, not to take an exam!”. But we terrible 17-18-year-old students did not take him seriously in the beginning and we played funny jokes and disturbed his lectures. He did not give up anyway! After two semesters, we could all read and speak English pretty well!
My aunt Yurdagül’s husband, uncle Kazim warned, “Beware, boys, that gentleman is highly educated and handsome like a film star; I wonder why such a gentleman came to Turkey as an English teacher? He looks like a suspicious person, could he be a spy?”.
John the teacher looked like movie stars John Wayne’s or Richard Widmark’s little brother from cowboy movies. The girls of the class, especially pretty girls like Hacer and İlknur, were watching him carefully. One day, John teacher said to me, “Can I talk to you privately?”. I wondered what the teacher would say now!
He said: his fiancé Cathy (Keti) from Seattle would come soon to visit him in Turkey and wanted to know, what are the best places to visit and see? I naturally recommended him the sandy beaches of Abana, Kastamonu on the Black Sea coast, and the famous seaside town of Kuşadası, near Ephesus antique city.
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