Johnny’s Essay

Every teacher’s best reward is knowing they made a difference. With the school year about to close, Johnny’s Essay is my sweet reminder:

Oconomowoc, Wi September, 1962

 

SEVENTH GRADE

You could get a paper route when you were twelve On August 22, 1962, I was twelve years old On August 22, 1962 I got a paper route  You got Esther Schroeder in the deal On September 4, 1962 I went to Junior High I became a thing, in the name of my school, for the first time Like all my classmates from sixth grade, became a Lincoln Bulldog

It was a huge transition. In the very building where I had spent K-3 The building, where, in the corner room on the first floor Next to the office of Principal Don Kramer Where only a few short years ago I had earnestly tried to convince the testy Mrs. Voight that my father had played with Blackhawk as a child

There was not just one teacher to win over, as there had been every school year prior to this There was one for History -love history, but…Miss Neuman was an acquired taste There was one for Math – hated math, but Mr. Geraghty-ya gotta’ love him There was one for Science, Mr. Merrill – he seemed so young to have his pants hitched up so high

There was art and music and gym and health A different teacher for all of them There was Gus. Gus the janitor that all the staff tried to get the kids to call Mr. Vogt But he was Gus. Sat by the boiler. And chewed and spit Cleaned floors, windows and bathrooms And chewed and spit

Then there was English. And Homeroom You went there to get your marching orders for the day The announcements. No one listened. For everything else you were in the cautious, caring hands of a teacher For homeroom, though, they all turned into wardens They kept the peace-most of the time Mrs. Kroseberg -Homeroom Warden Where had this one come from? I knew most of the teachers-My mother was The School Cook I had big brothers. Lots of them. I knew things

IMG_1203

Quality was the Sixty Three (yes, sixty THREE) It was a Ford Galaxie 500 XL convertible that THAT guy used to pick her up after school It could have been a commercial for Ford. It was the car they used to get you into the dealership so they could sell you the Country Squire. But you could still think about the Ford Galaxie 500 XL. With bucket seats. Blue interior and the girl, with the dark hair, and the flashing dark eyes.

Later in the day, she turned up in my English class or I in hers. From my usual place in the back of the room over days and weeks, I migrated. To the center row and then to the front of the center row – something about talking out of turn, not paying attention, dark hair, the same flashing eyes – she could put you in your place without a word, but when words did come – Hell was never so hot. She was different. She didn’t tell me to stop doodling. She asked me to draw for the school paper.

She asked me one day if I was the Journal boy for Wisconsin Avenue, you can just put it on the stairs. And so I did. And Christmas came. You never quit your Journal route before you collected your Christmas tips. The first year it was more money than I had ever seen. I had forty three customers when I started my route. By Christmas I had fifty six. When Christmas was over I had $212 and a foil package with a beautiful ribbon and instructions that I could not open it until Christmas Guess who?

I don’t know why she did that. Made me wait and fantasize the contents of the box – two weeks at least It was a comb and brush It was not something cool but it said you have potential kid, use these. For me, it was a good Christmas. Pair of pants, a “school shirt” a Kodak Instamatic from my brother and sister and a comb and brush with a big doubloon on the brush. The comb was gone early, broken teeth and being kept in my pocket. The brush stayed around. Twenty years or more, as I recall. Took me awhile to understand the message.

It was the school year I never wanted to see end. No one had ever taken an interest in me like this one. I felt good about myself. MY cartoons were in the Bulldog Bulletin. MY poems got into some book and it was okay for a guy to write poetry. Susie said so

After the school year was over, there was still the paper route. I got to walk Nokes, the Labrador. I mowed the neighbors lawn. She said that since the school year was over, I could call her Susie – and I still do. She seems to think that gave her license to call me Johnny. Forever. And that’s okay.

Epilogue

I continued to teach and smoke in the boiler room with Gus for two years, until our first child was on the way. I loved the old building with its creaky, glossy wood floors that smelled like fresh wax, and the ditto machines that sent me home with purple hands. I remember having to tell my class that the President had been assassinated. One of the few sad days I had there. The old school was razed years ago to become a parking lot, and many residents are unaware that it ever existed – I still drive the same road, and have happy memories of that time. When I retired from teaching in 2004, Johnny’s Essay was my favorite gift.

John Lindsay  graduated from college where his punctuation improved; he married a tall beautiful girl who is a teacher, and they raised three very bright, pretty young women. He is now a good grampa. He was our insurance agent until he retired to his well equipped wood working shop to handcraft heirlooms. We still keep in touch  –   and I don’t think he allows anyone else to call him Johnny…

Advertisements

Reading in Bed

Some things about a book I never paid attention to:

Chris Hilton ~ Writer

“Those of you who have seen my book, whatever you may think of its contents, will probably agree that it is a beautiful object.  And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the eBook, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.”

From Julian Barnes’s acceptance speech at the 2011 Booker Ceremony, on winning with his novel, The Sense of an Ending.

A Guardian article states at length how the book buying public are now being seduced by a book’s appearance as well as its content, how more care is being taken in the production and appearance of books. Generally, I don’t believe this is true.

The Sense of an Ending is a physically beautiful object; a compact hardback with dust wrapper containing a nice but simple design, all put together with good quality material.  I think…

View original post 984 more words

A Tragic Loss

Tomorrow my niece will greet friends and family at the funeral home with a broken heart and a brave face following the death of her only child days before. He died of a heroin overdose at 26 years old, and, the baby boy he was so proud of will not grow up with the father who loved him. I was at the hospital the afternoon the decision was made to remove his life support, and the finality of that took away all hope, even though it was inevitable.

The obituary in the paper just above his, details the death of a  20 year old, who also died of an overdose, and Ive since learned of three others, all in one week. There is a purveyor of death nearby, and if that person can be found and proven responsible for selling the stuff, the charges should include homicide. Apparently easy to find and affordable, it is becoming a frightening epidemic in our area. I pray that the loss of these young lives will stir an awareness in people.

Tomorrow there will be kind words and condolences from those who genuinely loved him, and that will be some comfort to my niece – but the loss of her son will be with her forever. It shouldn’t have happened.

 

Last But Not Least – My Dad

The best acceptance speech I ever witnessed occurred on October 11,1974, delivered by my Dad as he was inducted into Carroll College’s Hall of Fame. And I quote:

“Being escorted up here tonight reminds me of back in 1927 when I was escorted from the University of Wisconsin where I was enrolled, by none other than Cliff Goerke, Les Smith, Kook Smith, Bud Sivage and Jake Supeda – to Carroll. When I enrolled at Carroll, I don’t know how many of you will remember,  Bible was a required freshman subject, but those same Sparta buddies told me that if I enrolled as a Catholic, I wouldn’t have to take Bible. It was not long after that I became interested in a Presbyterian minister’s daughter, and soon has a seat in Zach Davie’s Bible class’ I have always been grateful to my friends for escorting me to Carroll. I managed to pass my Bible class – married the minister’s daughter – later returned to Carroll to coach and teach, and have been a business man in this community ever since. I am very proud to have been chosen to be a member of Carroll’s Hall of Fame, and appreciative of this honor.” IMG_1230My sisters and I are also grateful that Dad’s friends abducted him from Madison on that fateful day!

This is NOT a Hurry Cane

This relates to a recent Daily Post topic, Pride and Joy, and this is one of mine. My grand old cane has frequently  become my inanimate companion.  I found it in an antique shop, actually years before I even needed it. It felt good in my hand. I loved the intricacies of the carving, and I wondered for whom, by whom, when and where it had been made? Questions I have that just add to its charm.

IMG_1211

Well, now I need it as a result of a replaced right knee (which is great), and a bum left knee that isn’t. At 75, my balance on uneven terrain, and the challenge of certain steps has prompted me to take it wherever I go. It makes a terrible racket when it falls on a hard surface, I have to look for a place to put it in a restaurant and I’ve left it in numerous grocery carts – but it’s like a boomerang. it always comes back to hold me up and steady my course.

Unlike the well advertised miracle cane, mine does not fold up in my bag; I can’t magically flip it out as I exit a booth and it doesn’t have a three pronged flexible base. The one attribute of the Hurry Cane that I covet is its ability to stand alone while I shop.

My beautiful old cane has gone to some amazing places with me: great hockey games, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and my nephew Matt’s graduation from West Point. It’s served me well and receives many compliments on the way –  though hurry, it does NOT.

But neither do I so it suits me just fine.