The Rocket

“The Boys”

“The Boys” is a short, humorous piece that appeared in Pynchon’s high school newspaper, the Oyster Bay High School Purple and Gold, in 1953, a few months before Pynchon graduated at the age of 16. “The Boys” is what Pynchon called his group of friends and fellow members of the school Math Club (of which Pynchon was a founding member, it seems). The following piece relates the story of how the shadowy, secret group was finally outed, when a photo of them was published in the high school yearbook.
The text is taken from Clifford Mead’s Thomas Pynchon: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials (Elmwood, IL: The Dalkey Archive Press, 1989), and according to both Mead and our own investigation these stories are in the public domain. Meads book also reproduces a number of photos from Pynchons yearbook, and the only group photo that Pynchon smiles in is, sure enough, the Math Club.

By Thomas Pynchon

Purple and Gold, 19 March 1953, 8. “The Boys”

 In the past few weeks at O. B. H. S. there has arisen a newer, brighter star in the already brilliant constellation of our extracurricular activities. This organization evolved slowly and painfully; many factors contributed to its maturity (for lack of a better word). One has been the natural psychological manic phase prevalent in most seniors coupled with a compulsive-obsessive complex to apathy concerning schoolwork; in other words, goofing off and fooling around. Another has been a certain series of articles in the P. & G. which has fired the imagination of the group of students comprising this society.
“The Boys,” for so this group is called, had heretofore been working in the shadow of anonymous immunity, and their names and faces were unknown save to their own compact enclave. But now the secret is out, for “The Boys” have finally reached a peak: they have gotten their pictures taken for the yearbook of ‘53.
This singular event took place at the beginning of sixth period on Thursday, February 26. This date is significant; it marks the beginning of a new era of student-teacher relations. Quietly, efficiently, a few couriers infiltrated the halls and classrooms. A whispered sentence, a tap on the shoulder, and another silently left class. Finally, the entire organization was assembled on the front steps of the school, the camera set up, the picture ready to be snapped. But wait! No Mr. X! (Mr. X, of course, being the math teacher). Shouting enthusiastically, “The Boys” gathered under his classroom window, and began chanting, “We want X! We want X!”
Slowly, Mr. X approached the window, peered out through his horn-rimmed glasses and retreated hastily. The shouts grew louder; finally, timidly, Mr. X raised his hand, and said, “All right, all right. I’m coming.” A roar went up, as “The Boys” cheered en masse, and finally Mr. X appeared, resplendent in bow tie and bop cardigan. The picture was snapped, and history was made.

–Thomas Pynchon