Sunday, March 1, 2009

School Experiences

Reminiscing somewhat, I’ve been thinking about some of the experiences I’ve had in School - both 1 through 8, and 9 through 12 - “grades”, that is.

At school, I started out as a First Grader.

Outrageous redundant assertion, right? Well, no more than Bill Cosby’s expression that, “I started out as a child”, actually. Actually also, he got a lot of laughs out of that statement. Why aren’t you laughing at my statement?

Because, I’m neither Bill Cosby, nor a comedian, actually.

My first recollection of First Grade was Joan Ropp. “Whoa“, you say, “Were you a wolf, or even a ‘con man’ then too?”

Neither, actually. I was just using the God-given talent I was “given”, by being interested in the opposite sex. Why do we say, “Opposite sex”, as opposed to “the fairer sex”, or even “the other sex.” Or, why use the word “sex” at all? Why not “the other gender”.

Though I may have thought I had a “girl friend” before the First Grade, so far, I can’t remember one back then.

Interestingly enough, Joan Ropp was seated right next to me. Or, probably, I was seated right next to her. By the way, her name was pronounced “Joe Ann”, not “Jone” as many are today. Also, there was another “Joan” in that class. Joan Robinson. (Also pronounced “Joe Ann.)

But then, I wasn’t seated next to JR # 2, but beside JR # 1.

Our teacher was Miss Ruth Crowl, an unusually kind teacher. At any rate, in later years she became Ruth Fudger - having married Donald Fudger of Mechanicsburg. Later, after Donald died, she married Charles Neer. So she was now Ruth Neer. My son Jim just told me that he knew her as Ruth Fudger Neer. So that part is right.

I’m trying to remember some of the lessons we had in First Grade, but we must have had some listening while the Teacher read stories (no doubt about Dick and Jane), as well as learning how not to talk unless the Teacher said we could. I think I learned about “Recess” (I’ve always said, “It was my favorite subject.”), too.

There were boys in the class too, I remember. (Are you surprised that I mentioned the boys?) Bob Holman was maybe the longest standing friend starting in the First Grade. Vincent Hunter was another, and Donald Williams was a third. Dick Anderson (our later High School Quarterback) was in my class in later years, but I think during First Grade, he was still in Chicago. Bill Pletcher was there, also a long standing friend (who, in High School, was the First String Fullback).

My second grade teacher was Miss Blanche Messick. She was also a kindly teacher - though she was unusually short, for some reason. Some of us came pretty high on her physical profile.

All of my teachers were soft spoken - at least those I’ve mentioned so far. I may remember some “bombastic” ones later.

Third and Fourth Grades are a blur to me. Right now, I can’t remember either teacher.

My Fifth Grade Teacher was Miss Ann Dorsey. She had a rather loud voice, rather deep and melodious, I think. She was the first that I remember who used discipline, of any sort. Some of the others did too, I’m sure. But, Miss Dorsey would walk around the room, while we were reading, or perish the thought, “studying”, and if she saw or heard any “talking” or “tomfoolery”, she would walk up behind the person and “thump” him on the head with her finger. She didn’t say much, but we “got the message”. I could be wrong, and just plain “sexist”, but I really don’t remember her “thumping” girls on the head.

In the Sixth Grade, I had the great joy to have as my teacher, Miss Ada Longbrake. What a wonderful teacher. As an added blessing, she and her likewise “old maid” sister, Dolly, lived directly across the street from us. A good chance for “favoritism”, right? WRONG! No special treatment - at least not positively anyway. I’d known Miss Longbrake all my life.

That, it seemed to me, “gave her an edge” over me. You know, like, “Oh Mae, you know, Myron kind of acted up today at school.” (I have no actual knowledge of that happening, but I THOUGHT about it, at least.)

She was rather short as well. Not skinny, but short. She had a commanding voice, but not threatening. When she said something, she meant to say just that. No gettin’ around it.

Most, if not all, of you folk reading my “blog” know of me as outspoken, as well as opinionated. I don’t think I had developed much of that yet in the Sixth Grade. But Ada Longbrake might dispute that, after what I’m just going to tell you happened.

For some reason, Miss Longbrake was showing us a portrait of the “Mona Lisa”. Maybe one of the best known paintings extant at that time. She told us about the painting, how it was done, and then made what to me was a “startling statement”.

She said, “The Mona Lisa, is well known for the fact that unlike most paintings, the subject’s eyes tend to follow you around the room as you look at it (and walk around, of course). No other portrait is known to have that quality.”

Are you ready for this?

I stuck up my hand, and after being acknowledged by the Teacher, I said, “We have a picture like that in our living room, and it’s not Mona Lisa.”

I could almost hear a “drum roll”, or a blast of a trumpet midst the silence.

Very shortly, Miss Longbrake said, “Now Myron, that is not true, and it’s rather impertinent of you to say so. That’ll be enough of that.”

“But, Miss Lonbrake, (put a lid on it, Myron) the picture we have is of my mother and dad on their wedding day, and their eyes follow you around the room.” (Shoulda stopped when I was almost ahead.)

“That is just about all you are going to say, Myron. Class dismissed”, or something like that.

I don’t remember the exact repercussions of that “rejoinder” or maybe “repartee”, but I DID hear about it that night at home. I don’t know how she got to tell my mother about it, but SHE KNEW!

Now, I’ll bet you’re just “dying” to know what happened, and if the “paddle” hurt, but, actually, I don’t remember anything, except that I went right home after school and re-looked at that photograph. I walked around on both sides of it, and sure enough, the eyes DID follow me!

An aside: I’m sure a psychologist could explain the reason for my memory loss. Was it too hurtful an occasion for me to WANT to remember it? I don’t know. But it’s a blank.

I DO know, that in later years, I could explain the different views, and how we BOTH were right. She was talking about a “painting”. I was talking about a “photograph”. When photographic subjects look “directly” into the camera, sure enough, their eyes DO follow you around the room. Try it sometime - both with a photograph, and with the Mona Lisa! The one who painted that portrait had an unusual talent for making the eyes “real”.

Oh Boy! I’m only as far as the Sixth Grade. Drat! I may have to continue this later - if I STILL feel I should “spill my guts”.


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