Three of a Kind…Saving the Worst for Last

A friend said, after reading my first two posts, “Remind me never to marry and divorce you.” It was a funny comment, but spoke to something that I’m afraid will come across in this three-parter that I don’t want to convey. As will become apparent after reading the full post here, I’ve made terrible choices about relationships. It can be argued my judgement was greatly influenced by circumstances in my young life, but that happens to everyone. I’m not a victim. I’m not out for revenge. I need to unburden myself. That’s what I want to make clear.

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For the 16 year-old girl who faced the large group of her “friends” standing in the band hall door one afternoon after school as she walked out to the parking lot, the humiliation was stunning. One by one they began to applaud as the girl made her way to a familiar vehicle, one the group hadn’t seen on campus for a few days. With the clapping came whistles and whoops and mean, ugly words thrown at her as she got into the driver’s seat and slammed the door on the noise. They wouldn’t see the tears that were stinging her eyes or know of the pain their actions that day caused her if there was any way to avoid it.

It had started innocently enough, even if she was his student. He spent extra time helping her learn marching steps for the halftime shows and chose her for his office assistant. She was a good student, and competent, so she did a great job helping to keep the music library in order and organize school papers for him. There were always at least a couple of girls appointed each year to do these type of tasks for the band directors.

The girl had come into this school district two years previously from a larger district in an adjacent big city. It was tough to start high school as the new kid, but being in band helped break the ice. Lots of time was spent together during the summer learning marching drills and practicing music for halftime shows. Still, most of the other kids had come up through elementary and middle school together and had been friends for years. The girl felt left out sometimes.

The Fall of 1980 was the girl’s junior year of high school. She was unhappy at home for lots of reasons. Her mother, a stern and unloving person, had just remarried again. The girl’s father had died of very aggressive cancer when she was only eight years-old. Shortly after, her mother forced the girl and her older sister to start attending an evangelical church, which the girl hated. It wasn’t because she hated church, it was because the lessons they taught about God there were so scary and unloving. Her mother made sure they went to church twice on Sundays and every Wednesday and any other time the door was open. The mother met two of her future husbands at the church, too. Generally, the girl had a very miserable home life.

As his office helper, the girl saw him every morning before school to help get ready for band rehearsal. She was allowed a place in one of his office filing cabinet drawers to put her things for safe keeping while working. One day in her drawer, she found a greeting card with her name on it and recognized the handwriting to be his. It crossed her mind that it was odd, but it was exciting, too. Opening it, she found a “Thank You” card for doing some big filing job in the music library the week before and also a coupon for a free something at a local burger place. The weird thing was, though, there were other people who helped with the project in the music library and they didn’t get anything. She felt very special for being singled out.

As the weeks and months went on, more cards and notes showed up in the girl’s drawer, and small gifts, too. She started writing back to answer his questions and comments, always being careful to not let anyone see her leave anything for him. Anytime they could hang around together at a band event, they would. He often drove one of the buses on football game trips and she’d always sign up to sit right behind the driver’s seat. He’d talk in his notes about the “precious cargo” he was hauling on the bus. It again made the girl feel really special that she was important to someone. The other kids teased her about being his pet and the girl tried to ignore them.

In their writing to each other, the girl learned that he was unhappy at home, too. He was married and had two kids. His wife was also a teacher, but she wasn’t a very kind or thoughtful person according to him, and didn’t love him as a wife should. The girl was very naive about adult relationships, but she thought she knew what he was talking about. She thought his wife must not be a loving person, because he was certainly very nice to the girl.

In September of 1981, Barry Manilow played at Reunion Arena in Dallas. Several of the girl’s friends had decided to go and arranged to carpool to the concert. He was also going, but alone. He suggested the girl go over to Dallas with one of her friends, but come back to Ft. Worth with him. She knew this was a big step, the first time they would be alone together. She had lots of worries, but she agreed to the plan. She trusted him to keep her safe. She was honest with her friends at the concert about who was driving her home, but she didn’t tell her mother.

Going straight home was not his plan. They sat in the parking lot at Reunion for a while and he pulled out a cooler with Cokes and a bottle of rum and two plastic cups. The girl was trying to be so cool about the whole thing because she didn’t want her nerves to show. The thrill of being alone with him and having alcohol for the first time was all so risky, but really exciting. After drinking and talking a while, he kissed her on the mouth. The girl had previously had such limited tactile affection in her life that any touch made her so greedy for more. They made out and drank for a while longer. Of course, the girl became drunk. Of course, he was ready to take advantage of that.

The room was as cheap as a Motel 6 can be and so was Larry Harrison. When he went to the front desk to rent the room, he parked the car around the corner from the office so the clerk couldn’t see me in the car. He wanted to only pay the single room rate, but the clerk followed him out and caught him in his lie and he had to go back and pay for a double. At least he didn’t go cheap on the condoms. Larry Harrison, assistant band director at Castleberry High School in River Oaks, Texas, repeatedly raped Carol Porter, a 17 year-old student of his, in a cheap motel after getting her drunk.

The plan was to take me back to the band hall that night to pick up my car which had been left there when I met my friends to go to the concert. However, when we got there my car was gone. Larry Harrison drove me home instead. When we got to my house, all the lights were out, my car was locked inside the garage, and all my clothes and other belongings were strewn across the front lawn. No one would answer the door when I knocked. The screen door was locked, so I couldn’t use my key to get in. I had been kicked out of my house by my mother.

We gathered my stuff from the lawn and put it in the back seat of his car. Knowing I couldn’t go home with him because of his family, he took me to a motel and rented a room for me and then he went home. I was so scared and alone. He went home to try to figure out what to do and make it look like nothing had happened. Larry Harrison didn’t tell his wife that he had just raped a student. He didn’t tell her that the girl’s mother knew what happened. He didn’t tell her that friends of the girl knew she had been with him. He didn’t tell her that her world was about to explode.

Larry Harrison went to his job as assistant band director of Castleberry High School the next day for the last time. By the time he showed up for work, my mother had been in the principal’s office for an hour already. W.O. Barnes was respected by everyone in the district for his leadership, but my principal failed me and the children who would later be under Larry Harrison‘s supervision in band halls across Texas. He was allowed to quit his job with no mention of the crime he committed involving me on his employment record. He was allowed to quietly pack is office and disappear without anyone knowing the truth. He was allowed to keep his teaching credentials so that he would continue to teach band class to other under-age girls and boys who might also become his prey.

For the girl walking to the familiar car in the high school parking lot a few days afterward, the world had turned upside down. I was still staying in the motel, but now Larry Harrison had moved in there, too, because his wife had kicked him out of their home. I had been planning to graduate early, in January 1982, so that I could start  working full-time and take classes at the local junior college. To do that, however, I had to get back to school and finish. Since I didn’t have my own car to drive, I had to drive his. Even though I parked it in an inconspicuous place, it stood out to those who knew it to be his.

Word had spread through the band that it was my fault Larry Harrison was no longer there. Before long, everybody in the school seemed to know what had happened. Kids can be really cruel if peer pressure is strong and their conscience isn’t stronger. I was unmercifully ridiculed, teased, bullied, threatened and tormented.

Some might wonder where my mother was throughout this time. When she had come to see the principal, she wasn’t just there to accuse Larry Harrison of an improper relationship with me. She also accused me of encouraging him. It was a month before I was allowed to return home and only then with the understanding that I would be expected to move out permanently on my 18th birthday in January. I’m sure this was because she knew she’d be breaking the law to turn out a minor. I wasn’t allowed to eat any meals with her and her husband-at-the-time. I was never to step foot in her church again (which was certainly fine by me). Money I needed for clothing or anything other than food at home had to be earned by me at my part-time job at Stripling & Cox department store.

There’s more to the story. Ultimately, though, the bloom fell off the rose and I was dumped by Larry Harrison. He went to Vegas to try to be a great trumpet player in a casino band and failed. He then came back to Texas and started working for the Fort Worth ISD, eventually becoming the band director at Paschal High School.

I went to college and never fully dealt with the shame and remorse the scandal had caused me. I’ve lived with those feelings my entire life until this day because I’ve never told the story or named my rapist. Perhaps the women recently coming forward to share their experiences with a beloved Hollywood celebrity helped get me to this place. I only hope my previous inability to name Larry Harrison as my rapist didn’t allow him to prey upon any other young, naive and trusting students.

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