1963 to 1967 proved to be an exciting adventure in my young life. We had lived up and down the Tennessee River in southern USA my whole life. Now we were in a foreign tropical land. I spent the four years of high school living in Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone. There are floods of memories about those four years. Everything was exciting and new. Our family explored our surroundings and loved it. I loved high school, and finally, I felt like I belonged again. I put those two years in Johnson City out of my mind and it was like having my friends from grade school in Benton! I was involved in every production of the Cristobal High School Thespian Society. I was on the yearbook staff. I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor after school. I had good friends. It was ALMOST perfect.
Unfortunately, my parents and I were not always on the same track. They were going through major spiritual changes in their own lives. Chinky had been a totally compliant child......I was living up to my early entry into the world....a bit chaotic, marching to my own drummer, and wanting to experience everything out there. Thank heavens drugs were virtually an unknown at that time in history!
The biggest problem was church. We grew up in a Baptist church. I was there for everything, Sunday School, Sunbeams, Girls Auxilliary, Wednesday night, Training Union....you name it, the Acuff family was involved and I was a happy participant. During my sophomore year in high school our parents became disenchanted with the church and we were unchurched for a few months. I sought out the Union Church. It was a non denomonational church where most "Zonians" attended. It was big for Canal Zone standards....maybe 300 members. They even had a youth pastor and most of my friends went there. I loved it.
Eventually Mom and Dad discovered the Nazarene Church......actually it was more of a mission. Most of the congregation of about 30 were Panamanians, not Americans. There was one girl there my age. She was from West Indies. No youth program to say the least! Mom and Dad decided I was not getting the spiritual training I needed at the Union Church so I was required to attend the Nazarene Church. I disliked it a lot. I dreamed up every possible illness to get out of going to church. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't! I missed the youth program at the Union Church.
Eventually I moved from dislike to total hate and disdain. I was not allowed to go to school dances, wear make up, and many other "normal" teen things. I learned to lie. I attended parties where alcohol was snuck in the back door, snuck around to teen club activities, and put my make up on when I got to school. Naturally I eventually got caught at all of my devious activities, but it did not deter me, I just found new ways to be what I thought was "normal."
I decided that I would never go to church again once I left home. Afterall, none of it made sense. There was a silly Bible verse about God is love and that was obviously a lie. Nobody who loved me would have put me through all this pain and misery when all I wanted was to live a normal teen life.
Actually, my idea of a normal teen life was not so off base. I did go to parties where there was drinking, but I was still very aware of moral values which must have been instilled deep inside of me earlier in life. I was probably one of a handful of virgins who ever graduated from that high school!
Our family moved to Jasper, Texas in July after I graduated from high school. I entered a deep dark depression, gained enormous amounts of weight and had no idea where my future should lead.
I had planned to attend the University of Tennessee and study design. I wanted to make fiber arts, pottery, and more in a plan to be an interior decorator. Since we had moved back to the U. S. our family no longer held residency in Tennessee. We had not lived in Texas long enough to have residency. We could not afford out of state tuition so my future was up in the air. At that time there was little in the way of school loans and what was out there we didn't know about. Eventually, for reasons I do not even remember, I went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to a secretarial school. I only stayed there six months. It was going to be a serious financial strain to go back to school. Besides, I didn't really like it.
I moved to Atlanta, lived with My Aunt Rea and Uncle Snook and worked as a secretary. I didn't really like that either, but I didn't know much else to do. I miandered around between Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, working as a secretary until 1969.
Mom and Dad had moved back to my beloved Benton, Kentucky. In November 1969, I packed everything I owned into my orange Kharman Ghia car and drove from Fort Lauderdale to Benton. By the fall of 1970 I was enrolled full time at Murray State University, working part time at the Murray Hospital Business Office. By December 1973 I had a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice.
I don't know exactly how I ended up majoring in Criminal Justice, but it served me well over the remainder of my life. I don't know why I did not major in interior design since that was my life's dream; but the artistic side of me continues to be there and provide me with lots of joy and entertainment.