Intro for high school (BCSD project)

This chapter will follow the chapter on the jr/sr high, and subsequent middle school:

 

The United States saw a blossoming of suburban life after World War II.  The Town of Bethlehem was no exception.  By the late 1940s it was necessary for the use of double sessions at the junior/senior high school.  The community realized a new high school was needed and in 1951 they voted and approved plans and funding for a new school building.

 

An introduction in the 1955 Oriole Yearbook sums up the excitement for the new senior high school.  “…We will find a building functional in every detail.  We will see a structure that is beautiful in its own modern way.  We will discover gigantic windows, green blackboards, modern furniture, designed as is every part of the building, for comfort, health, utility, and pleasure.  We will examine a building that was planned to accommodate the needs and wishes of the students.  Because of this, the building may be said to be an inanimate manifestation of the students.”  The tenor of this statement embodies Hamilton Bookhout’s deep care for his students.

 

It must have been beyond exciting to behold a sprawling new school complete with a swimming pool.  The only school with a pool prior to BCHS was the Albany Academy.  Just as the building on Kenwood Avenue allowed for increased opportunities for students, so did the new building on Delaware Avenue.  There were larger and more complete recreational facilities, science labs, and library space.

 

This was the period of the Cold War and the United States was doing its best to keep in stride with the accomplishments of the Soviet Union.  To expand educational opportunities for students, teachers were offered prospects to enrich their professional skills.  Grants, fellowships, and exchange teaching were made available and many teachers availed themselves of these opportunities.  A school district with an already exemplary reputation became an even better institution of learning.

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Simpler times…

During this era of pandemic illness and isolation we have had a chance to get back to the basics a bit.  We’ve gone out far less, eaten more at home, and families are spending more time together than perhaps they ever have.  It takes getting used to because we have become a culture of constantly being on the move, tied to our electronic devices, and not really paying attention to what is taking place around us.

I’ve long been a consumer of words in all forms.  Recently a friend wrote, ” A time when people took time to meet on a sidewalk in town, a front porch or a park and sit a spell. To slow down, disconnect from the world and have a conversation. A real conversation that had substance and no filler. One that made you think about the world and your place in it or at least opened your thoughts up a bit.”  His words are in reference to the purposeful choice of old-time names for his dogs.  Never did I have an inkling, when we were teenagers, that this individual would think so deeply and our thoughts would connect on this level.  I’m sure he never had an inkling I was capable of philosophic thought.  That’s the beauty of maturity and wisdom.  Decades pass and people see each other for who they really are.

At any rate, his words got me thinking.  I think far too much, but I enjoy it.  Thinking and writing are as natural as breathing to me.  Just as my breathing has been compromised recently by severe anemia, so have my thought and writing processes.  Thanks to this  friend’s words, my process is again sputtering to life.

I’ve always loved to read.  I mean, I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to lose myself in a good book or short story.  Though I read poetry and studied it for my degree in English, I never imagined I would ever write it.  I have, and I do.  It’s mostly for my own consumption at this point.  Maybe someday I will publish a volume.  Stranger things have happened.

Though I have never considered myself to be a huge Science Fiction fan, I’ve read a fair amount throughout my life.  I studied some in high school, and college.  Then fate allowed me to teach an elective in high school about sci fi.  In order to teach most effectively, and this is my own theory, I felt I needed to find sci fi that I enjoyed reading in order to convey that positive attitude to the students.  Over the years, I used several short stories in the sci fi elective.

One of them leapt to mind in light of “A time when people took time to meet….”  It’s called “The Third Level,”  is written by Jack Finney, and first appeared in print in Collier’s magazine in 1950.   It was a nice story to teach because it is fairly brief in length but is rich with meaning and irony.  The basic premise is a man finds another level at Grand Central Station one day on his way home from work.  The train takes him back to the 1894 version of his hometown.  He returns to the present time but yearns for simpler times and is determined to make his way back to 1894 once again.  I won’t say much beyond that.  The story is available online.

Finney builds on a theme of wanting an escape from living in more complex times.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Were earlier times better?  It’s not for me to say.  Read the story and draw your own conclusions.  Science fiction grew largely out of the uneasiness of post- World War II America.  The decade of the 1950s was host to the fear of people unfamiliar to us (xenophobia), fear of the Cold War, etc.  The sci fi stories, novels, and films played on those fears and illuminated them in various ways.  Jack Finney wrote a novel in the early 1950s called Body Snatchers.  It became the basis for the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The idea of pods replacing people as emotionless beings is a thin shot at Communism being a bad thing because people would all be the same.  Again. this is a simplistic view.  If you’d taken my course, you would have had further discussion and study.

I do miss talking about literature, I really do.  But thankfully I have memories.  And I just love the thought of former classmates who are probably surprised that I’m capable of this type of  thought.  Just shows that it isn’t good to judge a book by its cover.  While we can’t go back to the way things once were, Jay Gatsby never learned that lesson, we can find ways to simplify and take some time to appreciate what really surrounds and sustains us.

1890 life

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Outside of the box works!

Life during a pandemic is challenging. While happy that I’m retired and was able to skip whatever the teachers have had to go through, I’ve felt a great sense of loss for the nation’s students. And I’ve watched as school districts have knocked it out of the park to give these kids a special graduation experience. But, I must admit, there are times when I think that these kids need to suck it up a bit and deal with these unprecedented situations. Many of the kids I see parading around town don’t wear masks nor do they social distance. This applies to all ages of kids. I’m not here to get on my soapbox about that. I’ve looked online at scads of photos posted by the local school district (where I taught for 25 years) of this year’s graduation(s), done in small groups of 40 students ( graduating class of 385), and couldn’t help but think it was a much more personal experience.

I attended and/or worked at more than half of the graduations during my teaching career. I was more and more disenchanted with graduation ceremonies as time passed on due to youthfully exuberant student activities like batting beach balls around, spraying silly string, use of squirt guns, etc. I guess I’m old fashioned and feel graduation is a milestone event and should be somewhat dignified. I stopped attending when a graduate’s grandmother came and yelled at me for confiscating a squirt gun (as was part of my responsibility). It was a super soaker, not just a tiny squirt gun. Another year found me telling a student to extinguish a cigarette and was told, “go the hell, we aren’t on school property.” Thankfully a male school administrator overheard and took care of the situation.

This year’s graduates showed me that it wasn’t all about them. They donated money saved for prom venue and activities to charity. They took all of this in stride and negotiated the last few months of the school year in isolation. Yes, they complained about missing out on the traditional activities but I think they will find it makes their graduation all the more meaningful for them. Maybe “traditional” graduation ceremonies need to be reconsidered. They seem to have lost their meaning. Schools had to think outside the box this year. My belief is they were very successful. I know there were many other activities that were related to honoring the seniors and they seemed great fun and momentous in their own way. Best of luck to all 2020 graduates, but especially to those of my home district.

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Missing, yet discovering…

These past few months have been challenging. That said, I speak those words as a fortunate individual. I’d never been much of a fan of the Governor of New York but he provided stable leadership through the pandemic with his use of facts. Did he make mistakes? Sure. But I feel confident in following his guidelines as it relates to the health crisis. It also helps that I don’t live in the hardest hit area of NYS.

I still carry angst over contracting this illness. It isn’t a hardship for me to stay home. I venture out to do some grocery shopping and to run the odd errand. I avail myself of takeout in order to support local eateries. But since I’m at a higher risk, and also interact with an elderly parent, I remain vigilant. I’m well aware this is no time to be complacent.

That doesn’t mean I don’t miss social interaction. Texting and phone conversations aren’t able to substitute for human contact. Now that the weather is nicer some of my neighbors and I sit outdoors at safe distances from one another and chat. That’s been a big boon for me. I was also able to have my hair cut the other day. And the big news yesterday is that the Governor gave approval for pools to open. I’ve been missing our neighborhood pool tremendously. Being in the water has always been a salvation for me.

And I miss sports. I’ve adjusted; luckily I have many other interests. But I miss the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Mostly I miss the ritual. My evenings were often taken up with the pre-game show and the game. I may not have always watched intently but it was always in the background.

Baseball, once our national pastime, has dimmed in popularity. I’ve always liked it because it appeals to the Romantic in me…and it harkens back to simpler times. While doing genealogical research, I learned more about my one relative who was a baseball player but never got beyond the minor leagues. He played for an assortment of teams throughout the 1890s and the decade after the turn of the century. One of his last stints was as a player/manager of the Albany Senators in that first decade of the 20th century. No one could know then that his niece would marry an Albanian and relocate from New Haven. It amazes me how far and wide players traveled each year just to play baseball. There were a tremendous number of leagues and teams. So many men were able to live out their childhood fantasies and feel the joy of being outdoors playing a game they loved.

Maybe my view is idealistic but it’s fun to think about. It distracts me from another pandemic consequence…wild and crazy dreams. Mine are plagued by a specific person. Last night the dream involved playing tennis. Now that, in and of itself, isn’t odd because so much of my earlier life was steeped in tennis. I remember in the dream I only had my old wooden racket (Wilson-Jack Kramer model) to use and one good tennis ball. The other tennis balls were either flat or ruptured. And the person on the other side of the net, that haunting individual, hit the ball everywhere but not to me. There was other stuff going on but it becomes tedious. At any rate, it was not a successful tennis outing. Plus those dreams lead me down the “I was once a proficient athlete, but let myself go” road. I’m tired of that journey.

And now I must stop procrastinating and finish a chapter of my book. One more after that and the writing will be done. It seems I will never get it completed. It’s too important not to get it done so I will keep inching my way forward.

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When right isn’t wrong…

It’s left.  Life is a conundrum for those of us who are left handed and even worse if one is marginally ambidextrous.  I’m one of the latter and often in a state of confusion.  As a child, my mom would put an eating utensil in the middle of the high chair tray to see what hand I used to grab for it.  I used my left.  Also as a child with a brother four years my senior, I watched and imitated.  Therefore, I played all sports right handed.  Pretty cut and dry, right?  Yeah, well, I can tell you there are large gray areas.

The first instrument of torture I encountered was an ordinary pair of scissors.  At the present time scissors are made for people of either hand to use with ease.  When I was a kid, 98% of scissors were for right-handed people.  The handles were designed to accept a right hand.  All well and good until one inserts a left hand.  The ridges designed to accommodate a right hand became painful iron bars that pressed into the tender skin of the thumb and forefinger.  Painful doesn’t begin to describe any experience involving scissors, even just cutting paper.  Deep furrows ringed my thumb and it took me three times longer than any other kid to cut anything.

Then came the day I brought home my kindergarten report card.  I failed cutting, maybe it was a “needs improvement” but I was mortified.  The teacher’s comment stated I needed practice in cutting.  My mother brought it to my teacher’s attention that I was left-handed.  Miracle of miracles, we were told there were left-handed scissors.  My mother bought me a pair.  They arrived and I noticed the word “lefty” was stamped on the outside of each small blade (student-sized scissors).  It was like being branded with scarlet scissors.  And the worst part is they did not work well.  It was like cutting with my right hand but not as painful.  To this day, I’m lousy with a pair of scissors.  During my era of sewing lessons, I’d cry in anticipation of cutting a pattern.  Horribly painful, horribly and raggedly cut.

Let’s move on to tools.  I’ve learned to approach a tool without thinking and pick it up with whichever arm heads toward it first.  It took me a long time to figure out how the screwdriver worked.  I had to do the opposite of what everyone else did.  Same with wrenches.  Such a pain.  Sometimes I switch hands multiple times because neither works well.  You laugh.  I’m not amused.  I can’t hammer to save my life.  Oh, thanks to 30 years as a tennis instructor, I can hit things very hard.  But I usually fail to hit the nail.

I’m as competitive as the next person.  If we happen to pitch horseshoes or beanbags or skee-ball, don’t be surprised if I switch hands on and off.  Same goes for ping pong, though I haven’t played that in years.  But don’t ask me to throw a ball, bat, wield a tennis racket, shoot a basketball or golf as a lefty.  I am unable.  Once while in the hospital, the IV line prohibited me from being able to clutch my toothbrush with my left hand.  Undaunted I switched it to my right and it felt weird.  I inserted the toothbrush, brushed a bit, the toothbrush slipped and I lacerated my gum.  From then on I was allowed to just swish with mouthwash.

It seems that activities requiring fine motor skills require use of my left hand—writing, eating, brushing my teeth.  Gross motor skills require my right hand—shucking corn, playing ball, tossing a frisbee, golfing, etc.  There are numerous things I do equally poorly with either hand—using scissors, ironing, utilizing tools.  And I cross stitch left handed but crochet and knit right handed.  Don’t even get me going about clothes and buttons.

The next time you worry about right being wrong, thank your lucky stars if you’re a righty.  For 10% of us, right is left.  And it’s very confusing.

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Solitude for $200, Alex…

I’m extremely thankful to be an individual who enjoys solitude.  I don’t shun social activity but I’m happy to be on my own.  During this unprecedented time, many of us find ourselves either alone or maybe spending too much time with loved ones.  Mostly, I hope anyone who reads this is healthy and safe.

Just because I enjoy solitude doesn’t mean our enforced situation isn’t stressful.  Having lived with an anxiety disorder for almost forty years, I’m very accomplished at being stressed.  What I’m thankful for, aside from my health, is the fact I have the tools I need to cope with the situation.

As a woman, I’m lamenting the state of my hair each time I brush or comb it.  My hair is not meant to be long.  The texture of my hair is fine so it just hangs limply if it’s allowed to grow to any length.  I’m used to having my hair cut every five weeks.  It’s one of my few vices.  I like a precise and professional cut, so I don’t stint.  I’d procrastinated and was overdue for a cut when the pandemic boom was lowered for those of us in NY State.  While it may look wild, rest assured it’s clean.

I live in a friendly neighborhood.  It’s the time of year when we are emerging from our hibernation, taking walks, puttering in the yard.  I’m used to popping over to people’s houses and chatting, especially with my next door neighbor and her adorable dog.  That isn’t happening and hasn’t for weeks.  If I’m out walking and encounter neighbors, we all stand about ten feet apart and chat.  It works.  It isn’t ideal, but nothing ever is.

I’ve chosen not to isolate myself from my only relative who lives around the corner from me.  I pop in on her at least once a day.  We have the hand-washing ritual down to a science and we keep a polite distance.  Sad to say, I haven’t kissed or hugged my mom in a month.  But if it minimizes our risk for illness, I will sacrifice.

I’m thankful for my love of reading and writing.  Each of these hobbies help me pass the time, alleviate anxiety, enrich my life.  Right now, I’m anticipating  the newest novel from Julia Spencer-Fleming and trying to resist the impulse to download it pronto.  I will wait until this evening.  I’ve enjoyed binge watching some of my favorite shows like “Maine Cabin Masters” and “Vera.”

Most days revolve around Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing.  Not usually a huge fan of our governor, I find I’m enjoying his calm and rational approach to our crisis.  I no longer watch the other daily “briefing” as it ramps up my anxiety and causes me to holler bad words at the television.  On a lighter note, check out Randy Rainbow’s video entitled “Andy.”  It will have you in stitches.  I’ve watched countless cute animal videos just to smile.

And the book I’m writing is moving along.  No excuses, right?  It’s not like I don’t have the time.  When I finish a chapter, my mom reads it and comments.  She is hinting about wanting to read more so after lunch I better work on it.  My neighbor and I are even writing a mystery via email.  She writes some, sends it, and then I write some and send it.  We don’t discuss the plot or characters, we just create.  C’est la vie.

I know this will pass.  I pray our country will be the better for it and I pray that I will be a better person.  My prayers for good health are offered constantly.  They’re sincere and I hope they help.  Find peace in solitude.  I have.

Lake-Solitude-Feature-image

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My changing channels…

I’ve heard a whole gamut of terms:  flighty, ditzy, “squirrel,””thinking while blonde,” scattered, distracted, daydreamer, unfocused, undisciplined, attention deficit.  And I’m proud to say I’ve displayed many of these qualities over the years.  I wear them as a badge of honor.  Say what you will, my thought process is challenging-even to me-but it’s mine and it enables me to feed my insatiable curiosity.

Since my thoughts change as rapidly as one changes television channels with a remote control, it feels as though my cognitive pistons are firing at a frantic rate most of the time.  My thinking ability does not run to the precise and tangible; math and science are not my bailiwick.  My head searches for language, history, facts, anecdotes.  It’s not easy for me to focus.  Deadlines are difficult.

This morning I was working on a chapter on the book I’m writing.  I have a self-imposed deadline.  After writing a page and a half, I threw my pen down in frustration and walked away.  Yes, I write in longhand first.  It works for me.  While I was composing that small bit of writing, I got up at least twice to retrieve two reference books, consulted an online source, looked out the kitchen window twice…you get the idea.  And what I did write was completely different than what I intended to write.  It is in line with the chapter topic but took on its own life as I looked up something and then started flipping through the book, following a parallel train of thought.  Instead of writing about the history of principals of one particular school, I wrote about an aspect of the character of the hamlet in which the school is located.  The writing is good, and interesting, but my brain was starting to entertain multiple tangents and was overheating like an old car radiator.  My version of unscrewing the radiator cap to release the pressure is to throw the pen down and walk away.

The idea is to sit down and try to soothe the fire in my head.  And then I pick up the iPad and start writing a blog post.  Talk about squirrel behavior!  I have to laugh.  It’s just the way it is.  Hard to manage but it’s what makes me unique.  So, the next time I see you maybe you’ll understand why our conversation may go in several different directions and why my gaze may drift away from yours from time to time.  Don’t take it personally.  I’m listening, truly.

 

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The Alone Girl babysits, reluctantly…

Babysitting was a major source of income for pre-teens and teens in the 1960s and 70s. It seemed most girls were expected to babysit. The Alone Girl fell into that trap. Mainly, babysitting was about having some disposable income. There were girls who were enthused about babysitting and thought it was wonderful. The Alone Girl did not share that mindset.

To the Alone Girl, it was a necessary evil. Living as a “have not” in a society of “haves,” the money earned from babysitting allowed the Alone Girl a very, very modest way to try to keep up with the “haves.” Back in her day, the girl earned fifty cents per hour for babysitting. She could buy a pair of Levi’s (all the rage then) for under $10 so a handful of nights spent babysitting meant a new pair of pants.

To her relief, the girl never had to babysit any diaper-clad children. Since she was tremendously sensitive to some obnoxious odors (think of poop, vomit), this made the task a little less onerous. Four families utilized the Alone Girl as a babysitter. The Alone Girl was mature for her age. She was dependable, honest, polite, athletic, and no nonsense. The girl followed all rules dictated by parents. Though curious by nature, she was not one to peer into drawers, closets, or cupboards. She happily looked at any photos displayed and read anything stuck on the refrigerator. When left some food and/or soda, the girl ate one serving and drank one soda. She never had visitors over nor did she talk on the phone.

The Alone Girl was always somewhat disappointed she never got to babysit kids like her and her brother. The girl had happy memories of her own babysitters who played games with them inside and out. She enjoyed being active. The Alone Girl’s babysitting charges were kind of odd kids. Odd to her, anyway. The little girls always wanted to play dolls or dress up. The little boys always wanted to participate in what their sisters wanted to do. The Alone Girl read many, many stories to children over the years. This was a pleasant activity as the girl was a voracious reader all on her own. With time and experience, the girl learned to develop an array of voices to match the characters in the stories. The kids always wanted more. But for the day the Alone Girl was implored to read “The Nutcracker” nine times, it was mostly okay.

Babysitting was often done on a Saturday night. There were not many choices for television viewing in those days. Kids went to bed at 7. From 7-8, the most watchable program was “Hee Haw.” The girl learned a great deal about country music from watching that show. On rare occasions, the girl worked on homework, did some reading for English classes, or read a book she’d brought with her. For the most part, the Alone Girl didn’t mind sitting in the quiet for hours though the darkness outside often made her anxious. Two of the families lived far enough from the girl’s house that the father would drive her home. This always made her nervous, she had reason not to be trusting. Small talk with almost-strangers was not her forte.

It wasn’t all a drag. There were humorous moments. Two little boys who lived down the girl’s block were a handful to babysit. Their behavior was unpredictable. There was a weird kind of rush in babysitting these kids because the girl never knew what would happen next. She had to be on her toes. Plus they had a habit of disappearing. One summer afternoon the girl head them squabbling in the backyard. As she headed in that direction, they came charging around to the front of the house. One was aiming a brick at the other. The girl acted fast and said, “give that to me.” Sure enough, the kid threw it at her. Lesson learned: be very specific with instructions. Luckily the Alone Girl was a tomboy and could catch just about anything thrown her way. Injury avoided.

Another day with these two resulted in food preparation experiments. They told the girl they would make individual pizzas for lunch and then peanut butter cookies. Sounded good. The girl thought of the English muffin pizzas her mother sometimes prepared. That’s not what came out on the plate. A piece of white bread, smothered in ketchup, with a slice of American cheese on top had been rushed through the broiler at warp speed. The girl laughed and ate it because she was hungry. It was disgusting but the aroma of peanut butter gave her hope. Several minutes later, a tan hockey puck was delivered to the girl. Hot from the oven, it was as solid as petrified wood but smelled a whole lot better. Inedible, but amusing. This is why the Alone Girl preferred evening babysitting. Kids were sleeping and she had quiet time.

As with most things one doesn’t enjoy doing, the girl learned from her experiences despite herself. It furthered her ability to be responsible and independent. It allowed her not to have to ask her mother for spending money because the girl knew money was tight. It gave her a sense of worth because she knew she did a good job and the parents liked her. Teenaged trials and tribulations were not a waste of time, however unpleasant they seemed in the moment.

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Eyes on the prize…

imageWhatever that means.  Ok, I’m well aware what it means.  Though I’m not a Happy New Year Scrooge, I also don’t embrace the whole start over and make a resolution thing.  On the way home from an errand recently, I experienced a prophetic moment.  “Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors came on the radio.  As I slapped my thigh in rhythm, the lyrics took on a new meaning for me.

“Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”  Well, duh.  But at that moment I thought it was brilliant.  I wasn’t making a resolution, I was singing a song.  It’s important for me right now to focus.  My current writing project is at the stage that it has become a bit of a chore.

It pains me to admit that it’s tedious.  A non-fiction project, the fun for me has been gathering the research.  Poring over hundreds of old newspaper articles is fun for me.  Tracking down elusive reference sources is like solving a mystery.  Putting the information together in my head is enjoyable.  It’s the translation to the page that is lackluster.

My method of writing is old-school.  I write best in longhand.  That’s how I learned.  Pushing a pen across the paper is comforting to me.  And yes, that means I have the extra work of typing it in.  I loathe typing.  I’m not kidding.  It’s just so god-awful boring.  As soon as I begin to feel a tad bored, my focus dissipates and my mind wanders.  It snaps back quickly as I challenge myself to edit as I type.  For me, it makes my writing better.

But I challenged myself to type this chapter directly into the computer.  Bad move.  I estimate it’s taking 2-3x longer for me to complete this chapter.  Live and learn.  From now on, when my mind starts to wander I will channel the Doors.

 

 

 

 

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Memories from lunch tables past…

I never know where my mind is headed.  After seeing some posts from former colleagues on Facebook recently, I was reminded of the fun we had at the lunch table.  As a high school teacher, the lunch period was truly an oasis in my day.  It was one moment in the day when I could relax.  For the bulk of my twenty five years, I was happy to sit at one of the tables in the faculty room.

Students are under the false impression that faculty rooms are magical places.  They aren’t.  A few old, donated refrigerators held a myriad of lunches, some months old.  The decor in the faculty room is early institution.  Aside from several round tables, complete with mismatched chairs, a bank of wooden cubbyholes that served as our individual mailboxes, a very large coffee machine, two dilapidated microwaves, and a toaster oven that had been home to more fires than a home fireplace, the most important part of the faculty room was housed in a small side room.  That small room contained two copy machines.  Those poor copy machines were sadly mistreated and overused.

Anyway, I digress.  The round lunch table is conducive to conversation.  A comfortable cadre of six lunch goers would probably be the ideal lunch table.  Nope.  Didn’t happen that way.  Lunch wasn’t fun until we had ten plus eaters around the table.  This is not good if one is into some personal space.  However, it is optimal for diversity of conversation and lunches.  I was always curious to see what others brought for lunch.  It’s the grass is always greener concept.  Anyone else’s lunch always looked better than mine…oh, except for that leftover fish that was reheated in the microwave leaving a smell that permeated the room for days and gave me the dry heaves.  That individual didn’t give a fig that the odor bothered us, believe me, we were quick to complain.  She basically conveyed that it was her lunch and tough sh*t, we could leave if we didn’t like it.

Some years I had the opportunity to experience the first lunch period, our school had four lunch periods.  One day I was warming up some leftover pork chop mess in the microwave when I chanced to look at the clock.  It was 10:22.  A.M.  It didn’t seem right to be eating a pork chop that early in the day but, hey, I had arisen at 5:30 and I was hungry.  Never again was I bothered with the time of first lunch…until it got to be around 1 pm and I was positively ravenous.  One afternoon my stomach growled during class.  A student looked at me and said, “Do you have first lunch?”  I smiled and nodded.  “That sucks,” he said.  I smiled and nodded again.

Conversations around a crowded lunch table were often fast and furious.  I have an innate ability to follow many conversations at once, even at adjoining tables.  It was a gift that came in handy as a teacher.  But it was the gift that kept giving over and over in the faculty room.  I heard a lot.  A whole lot.  And plenty I didn’t want to hear.  Mostly the conversation was mundane…people chatting about families, their kids, their vacations, their kids, their planned trips, their kids.  You get it.  All well and good for those who were married and had kids.  I never minded hearing the kid stories but sometimes it got old, especially since I didn’t have kids and couldn’t participate.  But, for the most part, conversations were congenial.  Except for one colleague who was hell bent on getting married and worked hard to attain that goal.  A little more than twenty, yes 2-0, years later it happened.

Many years ago, before each classroom had a phone, the faculty room was one of the few places that had a phone.  One of our colleagues taught in the room next door and she had some very challenging students.  There had been a fight in her classroom the week before and she had sent a kid next door to have one of us phone the office.  The following week we had heard a commotion and then heard banging on the large bank of windows that faced a courtyard.  It was a kid hollering for us to call the office for another fight.  When asked why she hadn’t come to the door, the student explained the fight had broken out in front of the classroom door and no one could get out.

Fire drills during one’s lunch period were a bummer, especially if unplanned.  Everyone had to leave the building, even if it was lunch time.  Sometimes it cut some serious time from the lunch period.  For the most part it was an enjoyable time of the day.  Oh, except for when one or two colleagues would whip out the dental floss and have it while still seated.  I mean, gag a maggot.  That also gave me the dry heaves.

As I became older and was juggling some health issues, I no longer enjoyed mashing in at the lunch table.  I needed space and so sat at a mostly unpopulated table.  This of course caused teasing and smart remarks.  No worries, I’m pretty good at snappy comebacks.  Plus as time went along, people retired and that changed the personality of the lunch table.  Still and all, lots of good times were shared in close proximity, dental flossing aside.

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