The Newnan Times-Herald


Big Mack

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jan. 10, 2018 - 7:09 AM

Big Mack

The Newnan Times-Herald

It’s a new year and I was reminiscing about 2017.

Then I started being nostalgic in general. So I pulled out my old high school yearbook and realized those are some of the most dim-witted times of our lives. The comments that people wrote in my 1971 high school album!

I went to elementary, middle and high school with Mack Neal. He lived in town next door to one of my favorite girlfriends. There were lots of kids on their street. This girlfriend and I were attached at the hip. She was either at my house or I was at hers as we swapped off sleepovers on Friday nights from elementary through high school. 

I liked her house better because her street had more kids to hang out with including her two-years-older sister and all her own friends. And the boys were cuter, too. We all met under the street lights until we were called in and in the summer that was way after dark.

This decade, the 1960s, was a more innocent time and we all could be trusted, except for Wayne, who was a hottie because he was really a year older but was held back a year in school so he was not only more physically built in 5th grade, he was knowledgeable, too, also because he had much-older brothers and sisters.

His reputation preceded him. But that’s another story.

One day in middle school, which we called Junior High then, our teacher was absent and a male adult substituted for her. That was unusual. We mostly had female substitutes. We were respectful. There was not any misbehavior like trying to trick the sub. He called the roll to see who was in attendance and when he rounded the alphabet at the M/N’s he called out Mack’s name.


Mack answered, “Present.” (Present? Really? That’s archaic. We used to say stuff like that.)

The man said, “And what is your first name?”

Mack answered, “Mack.”

The substituted responded, “What did you say? What is your first name?”

“My name is Mack Neal.”

“No, son, I have your last name. What is your first name?” the man asked.

And so it went a while longer until the old man got it straight.

Now this Mack Neal and I attended school together for 12 years, played as children under that lamp post in middle school, were in the same high school classes and clubs, and were forever entwined in our small town. When he signed my favorite and precious school yearbook for the last time, I thought he would be writing something so profound about all our years together. 

I thought he would bring up memories that I might have forgotten about in all our adventures. I thought he respected me so much that he would write a challenge for me to make something of myself in the years to come or how he expected me to excel in this or that in my future. 

That’s what I remember writing in his yearbook for the final time – words of wisdom, advice, some achievement in our youth that would prove that we would go far in life and make each other and our community proud.

I looked forward to seeing those sentimental and heartfelt words written only for each other in our last year of high school. It was going to be special just like we wrote to every other person in our graduating class like, “Good Luck!” or “Can’t wait to get out of this place!” or “Our math teacher can go to H***!”

And Mack’s message to me was memorable. While reading it, I saw all the effort and thought he put into those last words that he’d probably never pen to me again which said:

“It’s been real. Mack.”

Lee St. John, a retired Coweta County high school English teacher, is the author of five humorous books and two audio books.