My Favorite “C” Class in Junior High

I suppose my reference to “junior high” would reveal my age, even if I didn’t freely admit I’m sixty-nine and will turn seventy in September. Middle schools hadn’t been thought up yet when I was young.

I don’t recall much about my junior high school other than the fact it was a quick bike ride from home. In fact, I’m afraid to guess at its name now.

I do recall a few of my teachers, though. Mr. Slaughter taught phys. ed.; he threw a basketball (hard!) at anyone talking out of turn. Mrs. Alexander was a witch, or so it seemed. Mr. Garrison taught what I think was called “core classes,” which meant I had him for three subjects that year.

One of my most memorable teachers was Miss Smith, who came to our house every day after school while I was recovering from the encephalitis which could have killed me or left me barely more than a vegetable. Thanks to her I made it through that first year of algebra.

But my favorite subject was actually something I wasn’t that good at: industrial arts, otherwise known as “shop.” Although I did make a wrought iron wall lamp for my parents–they used it for a number of years–most of my shop projects were wooden.

A lot of the guys–I don’t recall any girls being in my shop class–made wooden bowls by gluing wood together to get the right thickness and then scooping the insides out. That idea never appealed to me, though.

I had a real fascination with guns in those days, though, and I received a lot of attention with the halfway realistic-looking musket I made. Too bad I didn’t do any research first and make it completely realistic.

I also made a few little wooden cars.

My biggest shop project–biggest in terms of usefulness–was an end table I can still picture sitting beside my mother’s chair for a number of years. As I think back on it, no one would’ve accused a skilled carpenter of  making it, but at least it was functional. And my parents appreciated it just as much as if it had looked more professional.

As much as I enjoyed shop, you’d think my grades would’ve been higher. But, no. I couldn’t do any better than a C. I mentioned my lack of research regarding the musket? That lack of attention to detail typified all of my shop work. Whether I lacked the skill or simply the patience, I couldn’t say. Or perhaps the encephalitis affected my ability to do things like that.

No matter what the reason for my lack of expertness, small projects as an adult haven’t been much better. Perhaps I should simply be satisfied that they’re functional.

And I should thank Mr. Spencer posthumously–he’s surely been dead for many years now–for instilling the love of creation in me, even if he failed in his best efforts to teach me the skills.

Do you thoroughly enjoy doing something you’re not very good at? Like singing or playing an instrument? I’d love to hear about it, if you’d leave a comment.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

Memories of my Maternal Grandparents

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may be surprised at the subject of today’s post. Especially if you recall that I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood. My theory about forgotten memories is that the encephalitis that almost killed me at age fifteen probably did a number on the part of the brain that housed memories prior to my near-fatal illness.

But for some reason–totally unknown–I’ve been having random thoughts the past few days about my maternal grandparents. And memories I’m certain haven’t come to mind in years.

My mother was a Williford. She grew up in a tiny town in North Carolina, Aulander, the only daughter of Bob and Virgie. Miss Virgie was a home maker, the most common thing for a woman to be in those days. She also wrote poetry, however, some of which was published in the local newspaper.

Captain Bob–I’ll probably never know why people referred to him that way–worked at a brick mill for a number of years. I believe he retired because of an on-the-job injury that affected the use of one hand.

The Williford family lived in what to a small child seemed like a pretty good sized house with a wrap-around front porch and a huge magnolia tree out front that was perfect for throwing darts and pocket knives at. The living room had a space heater that–at times–seemed to take up half the room. But it was the only heat in the house.

I sometimes had to sleep in an upstairs bedroom. On a good night, I got to use the one directly over the living room, which had a vent in the floor that let heat rise from the room below–until time came to cut it off for the night.

The refrigerator was on the screened in back porch. I couldn’t tell you what else was there, but it was a lengthy porch that was parallel to the kitchen on one side and the bathroom on the other. But, like the rest of the house, it seemed pretty old.

The kitchen had a wood stove. We ate in the dining room, which was adjacent to the kitchen. I have vague memories of fried chicken that was wonderful, corn bread I wasn’t especially fond of, and chocolate cake I could never get enough of. Strangely enough, one of my dining room memories is of a cloth being laid over the table after the mid-day meal to keep the flies off the food rather than the leftovers being refrigerated.

Captain Bob also did some farming. In the backyard was a smokehouse, although I don’t recall seeing any meat hanging there. The backyard also had a small fenced in area. For dogs or children? I never knew. There were a number of stray cats around, but I never saw any dogs.

A long dirt lane ran beside the house from the main road all the way past whatever crops Captain Bob was growing. How many times did I walk that often muddy lane to the very end to watch him slop the hogs? Perhaps not an appealing thought to me as an adult, but it was fascinating as a child.

My mother had brothers. I can’t recall now how many. At last count, all but one of them had died. Captain Bob was a smoker, and I believe all of the boys did, too. All except for one. My mother never smoked. But the second-hand smoke she was exposed to during her growing up years led to emphysema and other heart-related illnesses.

And how could I ever forget Miss Minnie? She lived in a little shack on the Williford property and helped with the cooking and cleaning. She was undoubtedly considered a maid in the old fashioned sense of the word. A wonderful black lady the whole family loved and depended on.

By the time Miss Virgie and Captain Bob died, I was no longer very close to them. In fact, I was not taken to North Carolina for their funerals. Sometimes I regret that. Not so much missing the funerals, but the fact of not so much missing them.

That’s about all I remember, but I’m thankful that those things have come to mind. Sometimes my lack of memories about the past, the kind of things everyone else remembers in detail, almost makes me feel that I have no past. Too often my past begins with my encephalitis.

Thank You, Lord, for bringing these things to mind. And for reminding me that my present and my future are–like my past–in Your hands.

Do you have anything to say about memories in general, about your past, or about specific things you recall better than you do others? How about leaving a comment?


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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,