Rambling, Riffling, Reminiscing

Coole Park, County Galway, Ireland

This is the first day of autumn weather wise, the turning of yet another page in the annals of my accumulated seasons, dating all the way back to 1952 when I was born just two weeks shy of the winter solecist.

Autumn was my mother’s favorite season, my late wife Judy’s favorite season, and my beloved Caroline’s favorite season. However, I always associated autumn with the beginning of school, which for me was always a sad occasion.[1] Despite the scorching heat, the subcontinental humidity, I always hated for to summer end.

Back when I attended elementary school, male teachers were as rare as white non-segregationists.[2] Rummaging through the cob-webbed bric-a-brac filled attic of my ever-dimming memory, I’m trying to come up with my first male teacher’s name.

A line of white-haired ghosts files past – Miss Marion, Mrs. Wiggins, Mrs. Jordon, Mrs. Montz, Mrs. Stall, Miss McCue, Mrs. Altman. Nope, no males in elementary school; even the principal Mrs. Muckenfuss was female.

In junior high, we had male PE teachers and a male principal whom I once saw knock two students’ heads together Three Stooges style, an act that today would no doubt land him before a judge.

Ah, those were the days. It was from him I received my first paddling, three sharp thwacks upon the tiny target my thirteen-year-old butt. I had Coach Blanton for PE, one of my mother’s good friends from high school, but I can’t think of a junior high academic male teacher.

As it turns out, I can’t remember all my teachers’ names, in fact, only a handful. There was Miss Shirley, a seventh grade Spanish teacher. I think I remember Mrs. Euler taught science, Mrs. Morgan English, Mrs. Meyers Algebra, and Mrs. Waltrip seventh grade math. I can’t for the life of me remember who taught me history, my favorite subject back then. And, oh yeah, Reid Charpia was another male PE teacher I had.

Okay, let’s try high school. One of my homeroom teachers was male, but I didn’t have him in class.

Eureka! It’s finally come to me finally. Captain House was my first male teacher, a WWII navy veteran, a colorful character who led this cheer at pep rallies:

Give ’em the ax,

Give ’em the ax,

Give ’em the ax.

Which side?

Which side?

Which side?

The cutting side!

The cutting side!

The cutting side.

Indeed, Captain House was the inspiration for a cheer I tried to install in Porter-Gaud’s collection of cheers, one I adapted from Alston High School, the African American high school in the “separate-but-equal” days.

Whup ’em, Cyclones, whup ’em.

Whup ’em, Cyclones, whup ’em.

Whup ’em, Cyclones, whup ’em, Cyclones, whup ’em, Cyclones,

Whup ’em!

I reckoned the primitive guttural chant would be a more effective motivator than the sing-songy cheers Porter-Gaud employed.

Victory, Victory, is our cry:

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.

Will we win it?

You doggone right.

Porter-Gaud, Porter-Gaud, fight, fight, fight!

The irony is that I-and-I, a hater of school, ended up a teacher, did 34 years, as the ex-cons say. But now that’s over, I can fully embrace the pleasures of autumn, the crisp air, the turning of the leaves, college football, the MLB playoffs, etc. as I shuffle off towards my eventual exit.

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry,

Under the October twilight the water

Mirrors a still sky;

Upon the brimming water among the stones

Are nine-and-fifty swans.

*

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me

Since I first made my count;

I saw, before I had well finished,

All suddenly mount

And scatter wheeling in great broken rings

Upon their clamorous wings.

*

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,

And now my heart is sore.

All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,

The first time on this shore,

The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Trod with a lighter tread.

*

Unwearied still, lover by lover,

They paddle in the cold

Companionable streams or climb the air;

Their hearts have not grown old;

Passion or conquest, wander where they will,

Attend upon them still.

*

But now they drift on the still water,

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake’s edge or pool

Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day

To find they have flown away?

WB Yeats


[1] I did enjoy buying back-to-school supplies, book bags and spiral notebooks. I can almost still smell the army surplus backpacks that Mama bought. However, all too soon those notebooks would be filled with my chicken scratch scrawl and the backpack with cheese cracker crumbs.

[2] How’s that for a jarring transition?

One thought on “Rambling, Riffling, Reminiscing

  1. Everyone does gravitate to male teachers. Grade school is tricky, particularly the latter years. Not everyone is confident enough to talk to an accomplished woman at that age, so the boys tend to cower. And a lot of girls struggle to become these women who are put together and professional, so they may feel defeated. A man, though, can waltz in and become the voice of reason for the “middle of the road” types. The ones I had seemed to provide the desperately needed comedic relief. I guess they kind of sensed it because they were in the same place at one point.

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