Chemistry Lab – 1964 & 1966

Chemistry lab from my box of Cleage photos.  No identifying information.

My chemistry career is hazy.  I took the required 1 year of classes in high school. I remember the periodic table on the wall, the bunsen burner and the smell of the room.  I don’t remember who my teachers were.  Maybe it was Mrs. Peterson for the second semester.  I know that she was my homeroom teacher for my senior year. We had home room at some point during the day, not at the beginning or the end because we all came to school and finished our day at different times, depending on our schedule.

That is me in the middle of the middle row.  This is a photo of the National Honor Society.  Mrs. Jones was our sponsor.

I didn’t like Ms. Peterson. I can’t remember what she looked like. When I try, I see Ms Jones in the photo above.  I didn’t like her either. At some point Peterson asked if she could call me “Kirsten” because she liked that better than “Kristin”. I said no, she could not.

Early in my senior year, I decided not to go to my graduation and not to get graduation pictures and therefore not to pay the senior fees. As the year ended, Peterson told me that if I didn’t pay the fees, she was going to put me out of her senior homeroom and I would have to go to the auditorium instead. For reasons I don’t remember, I must have cared because I paid the fee and went to my graduation. That made my Grandmother Cleage happy. It was past time for senior photos by then, but I was in the year book for a few group photos – the one above and another one for the Library staff.  I enjoyed my high school career  as much as I look like I did in this photo.

I took 1.5 quarters of chemistry in college. At the end of my freshman year, I decided to go into nursing so that I would always be able to find work in the far off places I was going to live in. Chemistry was a television class with a day or two of lab work a week.  My experiments never came out right. I worked in a hospital that summer and didn’t feel drawn to the medical field after all.  I started off the fall semester taking the second quarter of chemistry but the day of the mid-term, I dropped both chemistry and biology. Such a feeling of relief. I changed to liberal arts and decided to be totally impractically and major in art.

For more chemistry related photos or memories, click.

42 thoughts on “Chemistry Lab – 1964 & 1966

  1. What wonderful photos — and you look so pensive and beautiful in that group one. I, too, took one year of chemistry in high school but I never dared to take it in college!

    1. You were right to skip it in college. It was no fun. I do look a lot better than I thought of myself in those days.

  2. I liked chemistry in high school, but I had trouble with the college version. My father worked as a chemist before WWII–too bad I don’t have pictures of him then.

  3. I agree with Elizabeth about the group picture. The high school years were some of the longest years in my life, did not enjoy those years.

  4. Yes. It looks like at least a couple of you are not all that crazy about chemistry, but dang if you don’t look elegant and poised while doing so.

  5. yes. it looks like a couple of you aren’t crazy about chemistry but dang if you don’t look elegant and poised.

    1. We weren’t actually in Chemistry for this photo we were gathered together for a group photo of the Honor Society. I sure felt anything but elegant or poised.

  6. It’s amazing that in your stash of photos, you actually had one of a chemistry lab! I’m glad that despite your dislike of high school, you did decide to participate in the graduation and make your Grandma happy.

    1. I did skip my college graduation though. When my uncle Henry graduated from college he refused to go but his mother went anyway.

  7. I was lucky enough to have inspiring teachers at both physics and chemistry at school. The Organic Chemistry Prof at St Andrews had an international reputation – he also followed the University cricket team of which I was a member so I new him well. A great man.
    Your Mrs Petersen sounds a horror, not what you want at all.

    1. I think I might have liked chemistry if I had ever had a decent teacher. It wasn’t something I was already interested in.

  8. That 17-year you has an attitude, all right! Now if you’d only agreed to be known as Kirsten. . . 😉 I love your look, and the looks of the classmates right around you. I went to H.S. graduation for my parents (Though come to think of it I have absolutely no memory of it–so perhaps I skipped it, along with the prom. Silly, no doubt, but we thought of ourselves above “all that.”) On the night of the prom, my boyfriend, his best friend, and I went to a hill where we watched planes taking off. . .
    Lucky for us that you decided to be totally impractical and set your scientific mind to genealogy.

    1. First, though, I had six kids and goats. I didn’t go to my prom either. Unfortunately didn’t do something as fun as going watching planes take off. Was pretty much a recluse.

        1. We were living on 5 acres in rural Mississippi so it was ok. It would have been totally impractical if in the city. When I was growing up in Detroit I always wanted to have 6 children, raise goats and rabbits. At least when I didn’t want to leave the country and live some place else.

  9. No wonder you didn’t like Peterson. I do remember liking parts of high school Chemistry – I liked the puzzle solving part. But that’s why I like genealogy.

  10. Why on earth would you ask someone if you could call someone Kirsten when their name was Kristin???? Aren’t people odd??

  11. My high school chemistry teacher was one of the most popular teachers in school. He was fun and did a good job making me enjoy the class even if I didn’t like the course. He was a stickler on neatness. I remember keeping my lab notebook in pencil and then tracing over the pencil with either blue or red ink, depending on what was being reported. I don’t recall what had to blue and what had to be red. But I do recall that the lab notebook was IMPORTANT and the students would look at each other’s notebooks and admire how neat they were.

  12. You continue to amaze me with the photos that you have. Fantastic.

    I went to a country high school and I don’t remember that we had chemistry, only science and biology.

    Science was the only class that I ever wagged!

    1. I had to go look up wagged and found it’s skipping class. I was afraid you’d failed! I didn’t skip any classes in high school, although I did leave early one day without permission when I had a migrane headache.

  13. Ha! That was quite a story! I was better at chemistry than physics but it was biology that I really loved and I remember my biology teacher, Katie Bornn, fondly – my chemistry and physics teachers are fuzzy.

    1. I don’t remember learning anything, aside from some of the the periodic table, but I was never in danger of not passing.

  14. Well you had your opinions and were not shy of stating them; I went by Patty all through school and in high school my Latin teacher, determined that was unbecoming and called me “Patricia” without asking permission. Had not thought about that until I read your post. High school was and still is an accomplishment and it was good that you decided to pay up and be in the ceremonies, for your family too! Good photos and interesting memories.

    1. I never was shy of stating my opinions but not wanting to be called by a name totally unrelated to my actual name, that wasn’t an opinion. That was just wrong. In Spanish they might have called us all by Spanish versions of our names but that wasn’t the same as the nutty chemistry teacher.

      I felt so outside of my whole high school experience, I just wanted to be done with it. Get it behind me and move on with life. As far as I know, nobody was invested in my graduation, aside from my grandmother who wanted everybody to go to their graduation. I thought of it more as her quirk but perhaps my other grandparents cared too. I was, I’m afraid, a bit self focused in those days. One thing I know though is that nobody took any pictures of me in my cap and gown on that day. I don’t remember any special dinner or celebratory sort of stuff happening.

  15. A nice illustration of what high school is all about. Kristen. Discovering what you don’t like is just as important (maybe more) as learning what you do. And bad teachers, like good ones, leave an educational legacy too. The trick is to figure out what the lesson is.

  16. You always come up with the best photos for these prompts. I also like your header photo too! This was one of my fave classes too. WE had some excellent teachers.

    1. I found that one on It’s a photograph of the hall of my high school soon after it was built in 1911. It’s been torn down now and replaced by a much less impressive building which is going to be renamed and repurposed as public schools in Detroit seem to be disappearing at a rapid clip.

  17. What the heck? She wanted to change your name? When my daughter Kristin changed schools in 3rd grade, her teacher decided to change her name to her middle name, Danielle, because there were too many Kristin’s already.

    Great post, and I enjoyed your pics very much.

    Kathy M.

  18. I once worked with a lady called Marie-Antoinette, whom I immediately started calling Tony. She was fine with it, as long as I was the only one calling her that. I think she liked me. She was a sophisticated woman and her name was appropriate, but just too darn long for my taste…

    High school. From my last post, you know I didn’t enjoy it either. I went to Graduation as I felt I shouldn’t deny myself that. My Year Book went to the garbage pretty fast, and I didn’t go to my Prom, never wanting to socialize in any way with those dreadful kids. Never had any regrets about that decision.

    College though…
    I started in Business Administration and dropped out after a year.
    The career counselor had figured me wrong…
    Took a year sabbatical and then went back into Graphic Arts.
    I was older that the other “kids” and I was fine with that,
    maybe even a little smug about it. 😀
    I enjoyed those years.
    Even organized the Prom myself!!
    Sweet Revenge!!

    About that picture of you in that group photo,
    how could ever think of yourself as “unlovely”?!?
    You’re the prettiest thing there!!
    But then, I know, teen angst.
    We all seem to look at ourselves in a weird mirror at that age…
    I think that over time,
    we learn to look deeper and appreciate what we see.

  19. I enjoyed chemistry but wasn’t every very successful, either at the theory or in the practicals, with the result that at the end of first year uni, I was given a condoned pass, on the proviso that I dropped the subject. Unlike you, though, I have very vivid memories of the laboratories, the teachers and my fellow pupils.

    That was a bit cheeky, asking you if she could call you some other name – good to hear you set her straight 🙂

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