Reception

I was unaware of the problem until it was too late.

After flunking out of the University of Colorado twice in Chemical Engineerung,

I went on to Colorado State where I didn’t get into Vet school due to poor chemistry grades.

As children began to arrive in my family, I sought a new major that would count my science background, physical science, with emphasis on physics and math, and chemistry.

When I checked at the placement office I found the only job for that major was the FBI!

So I went into education and became a great chemistry teacher.

What had made me a poor chemistry student (slow thinking) made me a great chemistry teacher,

Which leads me back to reception.

When teaching I could take all the time I wanted for chemistry instruction; no need to quickly recall chemistry names and reactions and products.

This type of slow instruction was aided by writing on the (green) blackboard.

Writing on the blackboard provided time…

Time for feedback and consideration based on perceived reception by the students of what I was trying to teach them.

As I monitored their receptivity to my teaching,  I adjusted my teaching strategies accordingly.

Occasionally I got it wrong, as when my sixth period chem class at Jefferson High in Portland, OR began throwing spit wads at the blackboard when my back was turned.
I stormed at them only to find that they just were trying to make me smile.

Sixth period became my favorite period after that.

Just so in conversation or public speaking I monitor and adjust (as my friend LuAnn taught me).

I’m thinking while you’re talking.

According to my listening coach (see Contribution) this is a no-no.

Don’t think, just listen.

This is hard for me, but necessary, I guess, to hear you, Yes?

Do you find it difficult to talk to someone on the phone? Where you can’t see their reaction? Or texting.?

I think people who text (my children) don’t want to know how you are receiving their message.

I think we are passive receptors to messages all day (MSNBC and CNN).

I go back to my previous statement:

That conversation requires at least two participants.

If we are all to listen it’s like traffic at the stoplight that comes to a standstill as two people wait to make a left turn, neither trusting the other, waiting for a clear and signal that they truly mean to turn left, sometimes requiring two or more left turners to pass before you feel you can process.

See what I mean? Are you getting this? Am I saying it right?

We’ll see how you do on the pop quiz.

– Small town boy

Respite

“There’s no rest for the wicked,

And the righteous don’t need any.” Said a cook at the  Rawah Dude Ranch where I was working for the summer in 1963; she was from Omaha, Nebraska.

Respite in my world means giving someone a break in their lives when adversity strikes.

We adopted three grandchildren in 1992 in Portland, and our friends provided respite.

Kara babysat so we could go out.

Jerome and Mary babysat so we could go out. 

Trudy babysat so that we could take a break from our chosen children.

thank you. I love you still.

Now we have three great grandchildren living with us here in Corvallis.

The mother of two of them is in Portland trying to put her life together.

The new mother of the 1 month old, and the father,

Are upstairs in the bedroom with our new greatgrandson, Ja’niyus..

We are happy for them.

Although we promised not to take on ‘greats’ after adopting ‘grands,’ the children were irresistible.

And someone needed to intercede on behalf of their schooling, and they are  doing so well, learning Spanish, anatomy, reading, math, and becoming socialized with the other students. They in in school at this moment while I write and my wife makes soup.

Now, there is little respite.

Oh wait, yes, we do have respite. Respite by a new neighbor!

When Gretchen moved into our neighborhood in Willamette Landing subdivision, from Colorado Springs,

With her two children who were the same age as ours,

She was a blessing from God, no shit.

She is someone for my wife to talk to, she takes our kids and  we take hers. She drops by for coffee or to talk about gardening.  We love Gretchen.

My wife went to the doctor complaining about lack of energy, lack of sleep, and lack of time.

The doctor proscribed more Zoloft, a one hour nap each day, and three days at the beach.

We have a good doctor.

When we adopted the three grandchildren, it was tough.

I said if what your doing isn’t difficult, you are not doing it right.

I still say so.

We thought we were  old then. We are older now.

It is in God’s hands.

I’m neither wicked nor righteous, so

I think I’ll go lie down.

thanks for listening, I love you.

– Small town boy


– 

Play ball

Neither of my great grandchildren, nor my grandchildren for that matter, know much about baseball.

I tell them we went out every recess to play ‘workup’, the game that allows you to workup from outfield to infield, pitcher to catcher, to become the batter.

And we played with a baseball and brought our own baseball mitts. No protective gear. On the playground. With girls. And after school too. And on weekends.

So when the world series was on everyone listened, asking those near a radio to tell the score.

We didn’t have caps or teeshirts or other memorabilia.

We had bubblegum trading cards. Baseball players in bubblegum, with stats, which we collected and traded.

We went to the movies to see the game, in the newsreel at the beginning before the cartoon and the movie.

What I’m saying is that we didn’t have teams, nor little league, nor Babe Ruth; we had workup, where everyone got to play every position. It was egalitarian.

We didn’t chew and spit or grab our crotches. Well, we chewed bubble gum, for the baseball player cards.

And everyone could play, every position;  everyone, anyone, who showed up.

And we all showed up.

– Small town boy

Oh, Shoot!

Another gun spree,

More dead and dying,

Community in crisis,

Nation stunned,

Again.

Who knew?

What happened?

Ban guns?

Or everyone armed?

Bang, bang, bang!

Bullets blazing.

Innocents dying,

Mothers crying.

Politicians posturing.

NRA denying.

Bang, bang, bang!

When will it end?

When we decide to stop the killing.

Now would be a good time.

Would you use a sidearm to shoot to kill?

Bang, bang, bang!

Someone did today.

And the 10 policemen shot him.

Bang, bang, bang!

Stop! Stop! Stop!

Your arguments are killing children.

What the fuck do you need?

Bang, bang, bang!

Shoot the innocent.

Shoot the shooter.

Shoot, shoot, shoot!

When will it end?

Whenever we want it to.


-Small Town Boy

Men in my life who made a difference

I lost my father when I was nine. He committed suicide.

My mother, when I was still young, sought out men who could become surrogates.

Here are the ones I can remember:

Chuck Hagemeister was a mentor in acolytes and Boy Scouts, probably my first adult male friend, one with whom I shared a bond of friendship.

Mr Pitkin, I think his name was. He was a teacher during the year but he ran a crafts class outside the library across the street where we made plastic bracelets, among other things.

Mr Van Arsdale(?) my junior high science teacher who pointed me toward science Ed though I didn’t know it at the time.

Jerry DeFreise, high school chemistry teacher who definitely pushed me into chemistry and my unsuccessful attempt at Chem engineering .

Ed and Don Pomranka who owned Fred and Fred’s grocery and took me in when I was a teen and taught me about the world of work.

Fr. Alexander Balfour Patterson III campus chaplain at University of Colorado and Francis Wolle, deacon. Fr. Wolle taught me how to be a lay reader and Fr Pat told me to go make myself useful when I flunked out.

John Gibbons, former Sea Bee in the Pacific, a contractor in Boulder who I worked for after flunking out of CU who taught me how to be a laborer, a hod carrier, a carpenter, a cement mason, a tiler, and an adult.

A neighbor in Fort Collins who collected and sold things others didn’t want. We would call him a recycler now. He told me if I ever fell on hard times to acquire a magnet and anything that would stick to it could be sold for money.

Dr Louis R Weber, chair of the physics department at Colorado State University, who taught me to rely on myself, seek others to partner with, and the love of teaching physics . (And to not fall asleep in class)

Gerald ??? My science Ed professor who turned me into a science teacher. He taught me to gather resources and helped me learn to be at the front of the science classroom.

Jack Sheehy, science department chair at Roosevelt where I started teaching. His kind, quiet support removed the frustration and anxiety of my first real job.

George Flitte, head of College Exploration school at Adams High. Jerry Hagan, counselor and Ed Basaraba, my team leader. These three men and Henry Pond, vice principal, made a challenging teaching assignment doable.

6 men in ABOGIK, a men’s group. It stood for A Bunch Of Guys I Know. They taught me how to love men and that they could love me.

Elliot Geller and Thomas Fisher, two counsellors who helped me come to grips with my father and my relationship with men and women.

Chuck Kuzminski, Bob Dahlman, Clark Peters, uniserv staff for OEA PAT NEA. Who helped me grow into leadership.

Gerry Moreford, who bargained on the board’s side of the table who helped learn how to bargain for the best in the teacher’s contract.

Gene Douthie ( now Jean Valjean) And Larry Ayers, Admin at Jefferson, who led me to team leader and ultimately my PhD.  

Bob Williams, head of data processingAnd Ed Schneider, head of the Curriculum department, who showed me the ropes of school support that eventually led to private consulting and teacher training and my PhD.

Colin Karr-Morse who rescued me when my tech job in the curriculum dept dissolved, got me lots of Macs to teach physical science with, and said I was one of the finest teachers in Portland, upon my retirement.

Tom Nelson who taught me all he knew about birding and took me twice to Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary in southeastern Oregon at times of migration.

The eight men I interviewed for a series called Cronies’ Tales.

Cold as Hell

Coleridge, 1948
Outside the Coleridge school there was a blizzard, a blizzard so difficult to see in that an emergency was declared and means to move the students to safety were implemented.
It had been colder than Hell that morning as we waddled to school in our snow suits and galloshes (we called them overshoes). Although I would not have thought to use that word to describe the storm, it was evident that the wind and low visibility due to the snow storm was something out of the ordinary, even in Northeastern Nebraska.

I was in Miss Klandred’s 2nd grade classroom working on my Dick and Jane or my math worksheet.  The school was a 1-12 grade small town school and there was no way we were going to our own homes after school.

Word came that we were to get our winter coats, scarves, and boots on.  Our closet was a long narrow room with hooks on each side for coats, hats and scarves.  Boots sat on the floor under each students coat.  Girls were to dress first and then form a line in the big hallway/foyer for the school.  The girls would go to one house nearby and the boys another.

Each of the girls was blindfolded with their scarf and connected with the other girls to make a long line, a train of girls, to be led to my house, a few blocks away, by one of the teachers.  The front door opened to the howling wind and a curtain of dry snow flakes that blew in and covered the floor near the door. The teacher led the girls out the door to disappear into the wind and snow that made up the blizzard. I would later in my life learn about ‘white-out’ when trying to climb Mt Hood in Oregon and being defeated and so returning to TimberlineLodge. But this was the same white wall of invisibility with  the same  threat of getting lost in the storm. The girls would not be defeated though, and each girl held on to the girl before and behind to get to a safe place to spend the night. 

Now it was the boys turn.  We re-garbed redressing in each component of our winter outerwear and then stood in a line in the hall. Each of us blindfolded like the girls for the trek to the principals house next door. Out the door we went, passed the patch of ice on the playground where I had learned not to be the last person on Crack-the-whip (gaining an egg sized lump on my forehead).  We went past the  swing set where I had stuck my tongue the winter before and had to pull it loose. But today we saw none of  these things as we were blindfolded, listening and feeling the wind, icy cold, and snow as we completed the short walk to the house next door.

I don’t remember much about that night except for 8 boys per room and Bonnie.  You may know Bonnie (a Scottish girl?) as in “My Bonnie lies over the ocean….” But we sang a little different version that night, in the storm, with a houseful of boys, an early version of a ‘sleep-over.’

My Bonnie has tuberculosis.

My Bonnie has only one lung.

My Bonnie spits blood in a bucket

and dries it and chews it for gum

So bring Back, bring back
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me, to me.

So bring Back, bring back

Oh bring back my Bonnie to me [Refrain]

My Bonnie lies over the mattress.
My Bonnie lies over the bed.

My Bonnie stuck her feet out the window, and

The next morning the neighbors were dead.

[Refrain]
There was another stanza. Something about Bonnie an empty gas tank and  a match, but I’ve forgotten it.  S
However since I slept next to the window, I dreamt of Bonnie’s feet and the dead neighbors all night.

The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and went home. When we got outside the house there was nothing left, i.e. no large drifts of snow or deep snow or soft snow or any remainder of the blizzard, except 2 – 4″ of crust.  The blizzard blew so hard that it left only a hard crust of snow and not very much of it.  You could walk on it. The sky was clear and the morning brisk. I hurried home to see what the girls had been up to at our house.

  
– Small Town Boys, Lloyd, Ron, and Don

Center

Fort Collins High School, 1955.

I liked to play football. I had played it at the city park when I was in 8th grade last year and I knew what position I wanted to play: center. I remember fighting for it then.  It was a popular  position.  I viewed it like the quarterback in esteem and rank among the positions on the team.

When I went out for football the next fall, my freshman year at FCHS I told them I wanted to play center.  THey said Okay and gave me my first real football stuff.  I had shoulder pads, helmet, shoes, pants with thigh protectors and… No wait, I had to get my ‘cup’ from the store.  My first athletic protector, ‘jock strap’ came as much a surprise to me as most boys facing a similar introduction to high school sports. Unlike other jock straps I had  worn this had a hard shell cup that fit in it where it neede ot be to protect my privates.  I was ready to go.

When we practiced Coach always had me tackling Bud Buderas, the biggest, meanest farm boy on our team.  He was huge and I was not.  Maybe 130 lbs soaking wet. I tried and tried but I could not tackle him.  I was happy to return to scrimmage where I could hike the ball, what I felt was my job on the team, like the punter Diva who  comes on, kicks, and exits till mext time.  Athough I knewfootball was a contact sport, I didn’t think I had to contact anyone or vice versa.  Even during scrimmage I avoided anyone wishing to contact me or simply brushed them off and waited till the play was over.

Looking back on this now, it seems a lot like my daughter Ashley’s first soccer game.  She liked the uniform, and kicking the ball, but she didn’t like that the other girls wouldn’t get out of the way when it was her turn or that they were continually trying to take the ball away from her.  Ashley, I totally understand now.

So I didn’t play much football.  I only remember one game, against Loveland, the next town over.  I didn’t get to play until late in the game.  When the coach pointed to me and sent me out I was ready.I dont remember if the quarterback was always back from the line of scrimmage or just to punt, but anyway he was back there now.  I hiked the ball …. right over his head.

Now I have had years to review this moment.  Where others who live in the past reprize their award winning performance at some critical juncture of a championship game, I review that hike, over the quarterback’s head.  The best I can do to explain my perception about the center as the hiker of the football is that I had little understanding ot the game, the positions, and the responsibilities.  Now I understand those BIG centers are a part of the line of tackles and guards who must create holes, protect the passer, or just hit the shit out of the guy standing opposite you.  (In my defense, there was often no guy standing opposite me on the line of scrimmage.)

So I wasn’t the best center on the Lambkin team, nor the second best, nor the third.  I was fourth string center on the freshman football team.

So when my sons faced the decision to play football, they demured.  John played soccer his senior year and lettered in it at Jefferson High in Portland where I taught.  Jim went to the TV production magnet program at Jefferson and did not participate in sports till he got interested in cycling. Jacquari went out for track and went out for long jump, triple jump and high jump.  He was so good the coach would call other coaches over to show him off.  Teddy played soccer where he was full of endurance he gained playing basketball for Salvation Army where the coach spent most of the time running the players from one end of the court to the other.

I am so happy my inability to perform as center didn’t wear off on my children.

When I became an Indian

In 1956, after a summer of Encephalitis, we moved from Fort Collins to Loveland, Colorado where my mother taught Home Economics. Then the school seen here was half jr high and half sr high.

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I was a new Sophomore and a new Loveland High School Indian. I had been a Fort Collins High School Lambkin before.

One of the first things I did was to get into a fight in English with a student who was to become my friend and ally. I don’t remember what it was about but I still see the setting, Ken, and I still feel the heat of the moment.

That year I took Biology, typing, geometry, wood shop and English from Ms. Whitehouse. Each of these courses and teachers would affect me significantly and left memories I can still recall today, 58 years later.

The Biology class was the scene of great nee understandings of live things, and a weekly binder that was turned in with notes and drawings. but what I remember most was the day a student brought his .45 revolver to class. Though now we panic if a gun is brought to school, this was just a curiosity and part of his ‘Rag Day’ costume.Nevertheless…

‘Rag Day’ was a tradition born out of the second world war by returning soldiers who found themselves returning to high school. Everyone dressed in costume and any were part of the Talent show. A parade was held afterwards for the townspeople to see our costumes.

This was where I learned that it was easier to be funny off-the-cuff than on purpose from a script. I tried out for the talent show with a funny soliloquy about a house husband. It fell flat and I didn’t get in the talent show. Lesson learned (and validated later in Toastmasters when I tried to give a humorous speech.)

In the typing class (where I was doing poorly in spite of the vocational test I took with washers on posts saying I could do anything with my long fingers) I remember the teacher saying, “Quiet. All I should be hearing is your chair scooting up to your desk.” Whereupon all the students noisily scooted their chairs, of course).

Oh,I also remember most of the junior and senior boys being hauled out of typing class by the police when they busted a gas stealing group who were syphoning gas from tractors in the field. The police found this out because one boy got his car stuck and called the them to report it stolen.

The Geometry class taught me about proofs and the trick previously told in this Blog about the metal sheet. I loved the axioms and the triangles and theorems.

In wood shop I built a shoeshine box, a bike stand, and a platter for my mother. Later when I worked as a custodian I would empty the sawdust into the trash burner in back of the school and watch the fire reach the sky, and sometimes burn off my eyebrows.

And finally in English I learned that any job worth doing is worth doing well. Ms. Whitehouse told me this after I got the job cleaning the high school as a janitor. As a direct result of this admonition I continued janitoring to pay for my college education, sometimes holding down four different janitor jobs as once.

I loved Loveland High School.

Oh yes and I first kissed Shirley Findling, walking her home from a movie.