A Difficult Fit:
Eighth-Grade Memories of Susan Jane Noxon

Photo courtesy of California Historical Society

I was in Susan Jane Noxon’s class in the eighth grade in Indianapolis during the school year of 1958-59. Susan Jane – she insisted on being called Susan Jane – didn’t fit in well with her classmates. She was tall and stocky, easily the heaviest student in our section, male or female. The summer after the eighth grade, some of her classmates started referring to the cannonball dive as the Susy Jane.

She was plain featured, didn’t wear make-up, wore metal framed glasses before those were stylish, and had a sober but not unpleasant disposition. She had vocal qualities that even eighth graders recognized as sounding much like the speech pattern and tone of Eleanor Roosevelt. Another classmate remembers her as have a flat affect, which probably contributed to her ability to interact socially. At the time, most girls going to school or walking between classes carried books and notebooks in both arms, hugging them to their chests; Susan Jane toted a large men’s briefcase.

Of the nine sections in our eighth grade, ours was the tops in academics. There were about 45 or so of us, 70% of whom were girls. We didn’t know each other’s grades, but Susan Jane never made the honor roll. Students didn’t openly bully her but no one to my knowledge reached out to befriend her. As I recall, she had no friends among her classmates.

In English class the teacher had a five-minute sharing period each day. Usually the same students told or read jokes. Susan once described in some detail her interest in the plight of Native Americans. I only remember this, because shortly after that in music class, many of the girls were dancing.  Susan Jane joined in with what to us looked like a war dance.

She was an only child with parents who looked a bit older than mine. The three members of the Noxon family regularly attended the Methodist Church that I belonged, but Susan Jane didn’t go to Sunday School or to the Sunday Evening youth group.
I knew Susan Jane for only the one year, before she transferred into a different school district.

(Richard Morrow is an emeritus faculty member at Drake University. He can be reached at richard.morrow@drake.edu.)