School days

I paid Ted Spaulding a visit this past Saturday, May 29. It’s not uncommon for one of us to mention a person or event from the past that gets the other to thinking. I’ll say to Ted, “Do you remember so-and-so doing such and such?”

Ted thinks a bit and says, “Yes, you’re right.” Sometimes I get Ted to recalling things he hasn’t thought of in 80 years. Occasionally, Ted learns something from me.

This past Saturday, I was telling Ted about teachers I had in elementary school. My two all-time favorite teachers were Miss Pickard and Mr. Fish. Both were sixth grade teachers at Chester Elementary School.

Dooley Merrick, Bud Nadeau, Ron Patch and Steve Bowler
Dooley Merrick, Bud Nadeau, Ron Patch and Steve Bowler. Photo provided

Miss Pickard

I asked Ted if he knew Miss Pickard. “Yes, she lived in Cavendish.”

Miss Pickard recognized my love of the natural world and encouraged me to pursue my interests. Miss Pickard knew I liked snakes. One time she knew of someone who had a python they wanted rid of. She asked if I wanted it.

“Yes! But my mother will have something to say about it.” Well, June wanted no part of a python living in our house.

Another time Miss Pickard, knowing I liked flowers, gave me some poppy plants. I planted them out back of the house. “Look at my poppies!” I said to my mother when they bloomed. Well, Arnold mowed over them and that was that.

That fall Miss Pickard asked me if I could get her some acorns. She wanted to plant some oak trees on her property in Cavendish. I knew where to find acorns and soon filled a three-gallon milk pail for her. Those trees would be large today.

Mr. Fish

Mr. Fish taught history and geography. I credit him for developing my interest in history. We were studying World War II at the time. We had a pull down wall map of the world on the wall. I remember Mr. Fish pointing to Japan on the map. I said to Mr. Fish, “That little island caused us so many problems in World War II?”

Looking at the world map and comparing Japan to the size of America to a 12 year old seemed unimaginable.

Mr. Fish asked me to stay after class. He gave me a history book to read about Japan in World War II. I took to it well. Sometimes I stayed after class to discuss what I was learning and why it was important.

One day Mr. Fish had a question for us. He had an immediate family member who somehow became disabled. I don’t remember now who or how. Anyway, Mr. Fish asked us kids if we had any suggestions for what a disabled person might do to keep busy with his hands. At this time my mother, June, was braiding rugs to sell. June used what were known as braid-aids for making braids.

Braid-aids were a metal thingamajig. You used three at a time. One strip of wool passed through each braid-aid. These braid-aids neatly folded the edges of each strip of wool so that you ended up with a braided rug that was reversible. Reversible rugs were something rug braiders had strived for forever. My mother gave me braid-aids to give Mr. Fish. I don’t remember now how it worked out.

Larry Howe

Larry was a friend and classmate of mine. Larry was a bright kid but couldn’t spell worth a hill of beans. Larry would often ask the teacher how to spell a word. One day, Larry asked Mr. Fish how to spell a word. Mr. Fish spelled “D-i-c-t-i-o-n-a-r-y,” as Larry wrote down each letter. Larry looked up when he realized what he had just written and grinned in his boyish smile. Larry lives in California today.

Mr. Naylor

Some will remember Mr. Naylor, our high school English teacher. English was my worst subject. I remember having to listen to Simon & Garfunkel’s, “I am a Rock, I am an Island” in Naylor’s class. We listened to this song attempting to interpret its meaning in 1968-1969. Poetry never made sense to me. Of all the English teachers I had, Naylor is the only one I remember today. History teachers including Mr. Collins I do remember.

The photo with this article was taken at my place about 12 years ago. Dooley Merrick, Bud Nadeau, Steve Bowler, and I got together for a barbecue. We were all elementary school kids together. Dooley lives out Seattle way and Steve lives in Montana. It was a great reunion.

This week’s old saying: “I feel more like I do now than I did before.”

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