Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (62)

As kids banged and bumped into one another in the hall, I was afraid that Gil would fall. I grabbed his arm. He looked, tried to shake me off. But couldn’t. Once he realized I wasn’t going to let go, he relaxed while I half-guided him to his locker and stood there while he opened it.
“Didn’t know I needed a guide dog,” he snapped at me.
“Woof, woof.”
He looked at me quickly. Saw my smile. And couldn’t keep his own smile from spreading across his face.
“It’s hard to win with you,” he said.
“I know. It’s one of my most annoying qualities.”
“Among many.”
But he was still smiling.
I waited until he had the books he needed, then watched him shuffle off down the hall to first period while I hurried to my own locker. He reached an arm behind him, gave me a weak wave.

In science class that day—the last one before our trip, of course—Mr. Gisborne was full or reminders and warnings. He passed out copies of a seating chart for the bus, and I was relieved to see that Gil and I were seat partners—with Harriet in the seat ahead. Eddie Peacock would not be going on the trip—part of his punishment for “The Goop Incident” at the science fair. His parents, I’d heard, had gone to the School Board to protest, but the Board had supported the school’s decision. And Eddie’s parents promptly pulled Eddie from school and took him to the Bahamas for a month. Great punishment for his goopy behavior. He came back tanned and full of I-don’t care-about-anything. For a few days, whenever he passed me in the hall, he snarled—as if I’d done something wrong. Yes, he snarled, but he never bit. And his snarls didn’t bother me. He was a coward, and I knew it. And he knew it, too.
But there was a surprise on the bus list, too: Mr. Leon was going. Just as I was wondering what that was all about, Mr. Gisborne said, “You’ll notice that we have Mr. Leon along on the trip. He’s a great mechanic, so if anything goes wrong with the bus …”
“Hey,” cried one kid, “we can throw trash in the aisles now! We got the custodian with us!”
Everyone laughed—including Mr. Gisborne. But I didn’t see one thing funny about it.

Father had a talk with me during and after supper that night. I understood. It was the first time he and I had ever been separated like this. “I’m going to worry about you all the time,” he said.
“I know.”
“Be sure to get some good pictures,” he said. “We’ll put some in the paper.”
“I’ll try.”
“And, you know, if you take some notes for me, we can get a good story out of the whole thing, too.”
“Yes, a good story.”
He chewed awhile. Then looked up. “You know, Vickie, I really will miss you.” I looked over at him. “You’re all I have.”

I knew that, and I wanted to say something. But I realized that if I opened my mouth, I would cry. And so I settled for sort of a half-smile. And that would have to do.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, HWL! (Part 1)

Longfellow School,
Enid, Okla.
Writer's Almanac reminded me this morning that it's the birthday of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), once America's most popular poet. I think if you had approached a stranger in the street at any time up into the 1950s and said, "Quick. Name an American poet," Longfellow's name would have been the usual reply. (I'm guessing "Frost" would win now?) Well into my lifetime, communities were still naming schools for him. In Enid, Okla., where I grew up (as I've noted here before), the two junior high schools in town were named for Emerson and Longfellow. We left Enid just before I reached the junior high, but my older brother, Richard, attended Longfellow--and he can still reel off the opening lines from Longfellow's Evangeline that his English teacher made him memorize:

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean        5
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.

(Just checked the Enid Schools site: It's now Longfellow Middle School. Is nothing sacred?)

At Enid's Adams Elementary School we read Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" and memorized its opening lines:

LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.        5
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;        10
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.’
Both my mother and father could still say the opening lines from his "The Village Blacksmith," a poem they'd had to learn in school.

UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
  The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
  With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms         5
  Are strong as iron bands.

By the time I was in college, though (1962-1966), Longfellow was "out." His sing-songy lines, his often un-PC poems (The Song of Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish), the perception of him as a "lightweight"--all contributed to his disappearance from the canon. Yes, his name still came up; he was still an important figure in the literary history of the mid- to late 19th century. (He was friends with the Greats--e.g., Emerson, Holmes, Hawthorne, etc.) But he was no longer a great poet. Or even a good one. He was, well, a hack. A doggerelist, even.

As a consequence, I didn't use much/any Longfellow early in my teaching career--didn't teach him. I think my students still read "Paul Revere's Ride," though, in elementary school. For sometimes those famous lines would come up. But I had standards! So ... no Longfellow.

(I just checked the three of the "readers" and anthologies I used in my middle school career--1966-1997--and found: (1) no Longfellow in Doorways to Discovery (1960); (2) in Exploring Literature (which I used from 1983-1991 or so) I found "Paul Revere's Ride" and "A Psalm of Life" (didn't teach either one); (3) in Explorations in Literature (1991-97) is "The Wreck of the Hesperus" (didn't teach it).)

Decades passed. And Longfellow began inching his way back into my syllabus--and into the university curriculum. Mind you, I don't think he will ever return to the lofty status he once had (nor does his work merit such a place), but when I began reading about him--and reading his work--I found there is much more to the man (and to the writer) than I'd ever thought.

In ensuing posts I'm going to tell you some stories about Longfellow--some things that really surprised me when I learned them. So maybe they'll surprise you as well. And maybe, in some cases, you'll find yourselves doing what I did at the time: weeping.


Note: I know that I now have several posts that have ended with To be continued--one about my boyhood dog, Sooner; another about my adolescent crush on actress Valerie French; and now ... Longfellow. Trust me: I'll get to all of them!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (61)

The chartered bus was scheduled to leave from the school parking lot early on Friday morning, May 17. That week had been kind of tough for me. The Sunday before—May 12—was Mother’s Day, which in some ways was the hardest holiday of the entire year for me. It was the day that reminded me, for twenty-four hours—and for days before that, actually, with all the advertising from florists and others—that I had no mother now. And that I’d never known the mother I did have—at all—because she’d died immediately after childbirth. I lived. Mother died. Simple. Horrible.
That Sunday afternoon, Harriet had called. After our usual greetings and silliness came this …
“This is always a rough day for you, Vickie.”
It was not a question. She knew.
“And next month is a rough one for you,” I said.
Vickie’s father—as you know—had left the family the year before, had conducted awful experiments on living creatures—including humans—and was now a fugitive. Every now and then we would see a story about him on the local news. About how the FBI and others were still searching for him. The previous summer he had nearly killed Harriet and me—more than once.[i] And she and I talked now and then about our worries. Will he come back?
“Yeah,” said Harriet, “I don’t really enjoy Father’s Day too much.”
“So you guys are coming over later?” she asked.
“After four, right?”
That was right. It had been our recent custom—going to each other’s house on Mother’s and Father’s Day. I had a great father; she had a great mother. Both Harriet and I had thought for a while that they might … get together. But something had changed their relationship. They still seemed friendly—very friendly—and our families still got together, all the time, but when we did, the skies were clear. None of the electricity that used to crackle in the air … before last summer.

Gil was absent every day the week of the trip—every day but Thursday, the day before. He knew the school rule: You couldn’t participate in an after-school event if you weren’t in school. And in this case, that meant the day before. When I saw Gil in the cafeteria before Mr. Leon, the custodian, unlocked the doors to the academic area, I could hardly believe he was still on his feet. He looked terrible. He almost glowed white, and his clothes hung so loosely on him that he resembled some sort of little kid dressing up in his big brother’s clothes.
I worked my way through the crowd to be with him.
“I’m glad to see you,” I said. “I was starting to wonder if—”
“I would never miss this trip,” he said. “How could I?” He coughed deeply.
“You sound good.” A pale ironic joke.
“About as good as I look,” he said.
“I’ve always liked the way you look.” And I meant it.
He stared at me. “Oh, now you tell me,” he said.
“Some things are never too late to learn.”
Just then I felt the crowd surge toward the doors. Gil and I joined the flow. As we slowed near the entrance (a human traffic jam), Mr. Leon, holding one of the doors open, touched Gil on the shoulder as we passed. I looked over at the custodian. His eyes were red and wet. “Help him,” he muttered as I passed him.
“I will,” I whispered. And I realized how a whisper could be a promise.

[i] See these episodes in the first volume of Vickie’s papers.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Early Adolescent (Movie) Crush, Part I

Almost two years ago (April 28, 2012) I was posting here about my long, long fascination with the movies. (Link to that post.) And I ... mentioned ... that when I was a boy I had a crush on a movie star, Mona Freeman, whose definitive performance in The Lady from Texas, 1951, had stolen my seven-year-old heart. (Or six-year-old heart. I didn't turn seven until mid-November). Here she is, adorning the cover of Coronet magazine in May 1944, six months before I was born. So, yes, she was an "older woman." I didn't care. My seven-year-old heart started going pitter-patter when I saw her in Lady, and, at the time, I didn't know what that feeling even was. But I found out.

I just checked: Mona Freeman, born in 1926, is still alive! She is only seven years younger than my mom (there's that number seven again!), a datum that would probably have destroyed me in 1951--a datum that kind of destroys me right now, if I'm being honest.

Anyway, I saw a few more Mona Freeman movies back in the day, but then she drifted off my radar to be replaced, as I said in that 2012 post, by ... Tinker Bell.  Yes, I fell for a cartoon character. But be understanding: I was only nine (or eight, depending on when I saw that 1953 film). I hadn't yet fully comprehended the notion that cartoon characters weren't, you know, actual. They seemed real enough to me--Bugs and Woody Woodpecker and the D. Ducks (Daffy and Donald), et al. And Tinker Bell.

I watched the old Disney cartoon again recently, and Tink is ... hot. Sorry. Sounds a bit sick, I know. But I still think she was hot HOT HOT!  It was not just the skimpy costume. She was ... well ...  This is getting embarrassing. She was also ... saucy. Passionate. And as a kid I just didn't see a lot of those qualities in my classmates, none of whom, I imagine, wanted to grow up to be Tinker Bell. And I don't imagine any of them did,either.

Anyway, as the years rolled along--upper elementary, junior high--I found myself staring more and more at the actresses and worrying less and less about which cowboys got shot.

And then ... one junior high school night ... my younger brother, Dave, and I watched a late movie called Jubal, 1956, a Western starring Glenn Ford. And Ernest Borgnine. And Rod Steiger.

And ...

... Valerie French. (Look closely at the poster: Her name's toward the bottom.)

And I was smitten!

TO BE CONTINUED ... BTW: I wrote about Valerie French and this obsession, a little bit ... okay, a whole chapter ... in my memoir Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books, Libraries, and Loss (Kindle Direct). But I'm now going to give you the Full Meal Deal in the next few weeks. (Link to that Kindle book.) You won't believe ...

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (60)

Part Two: Spring 


In southern Ohio, spring comes fairly early. So by mid-May—the time for the Niagara Falls trip—the weather was often fairly balmy and pleasant … when it wasn’t pouring rain.
Not much worth writing about had really happened in the months since the science fair back in late November. I went to school, did my homework quickly, read as much as I could (I was nearing the end of the complete works of Mary Shelley), spent lots of hours in my basement laboratory, talked with Gil and Harriet on the phone—or at school. Had quiet meals with Father. Worried constantly.
About Gil, of course.
He was missing school more and more often, and when he did come, it was almost as if I could see his decline. He was changing, almost daily. He was thinner, whiter. His eyes seemed like small black stones on a bright white page.
Of course, no one else really noticed these changes—no one other than Harriet, who knew how I felt about him and was incredibly compassionate during this period. Otherwise, though, Gil was just not on other kids’ radar, not at all. In fact, after the science fair, some had even asked me who that Gil kid was. That’s how unnoticeable he was.

And as for that panicky sixth grade girl who had run into the gym and screamed Her homework ate my dog!
Well, she was right, kind of.
Her project had been to bake and decorate cookies in the shapes of familiar southern Ohio mammals. She had actually done a pretty good job—I mean, there aren’t many cookie-cutters in the shape of a possum. So she (and her parents?) had made their own cutters. Had done all the baking and decorating.
Well, what had happened is this: After the parents and guests had finished touring the exhibits and were assembling in the gym for the awards, Eddie Peacock had sneaked back to our display, stolen some of our refrigerator goop, and put some on other kids’ projects, including the head of a little dog that sixth grade girl had baked—a cute little terrier that had curlicues of cocoanut shavings sprinkled around to serve as the fur. I found out later that the little girl actually owned a dog that looked like that, so what happened with the goop was even more traumatic for her.
Still, the dog-cookie looked pretty good. But the nasty goop had eaten a hole in its head. So it looked like a cute dog with a gross head. Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis’ faces melted? Sort of the same thing. But with a cute little dog.
Anyway, no one believed that Gil and I had been stupid enough to sabotage other kids’ projects—especially ones that weren’t any threat to us. And Eddie was a terrible liar, so as soon as Mr. Gisborne asked him about it, he turned bright red and said it hadn’t been his idea. But since he was the only one who’d done it, that excuse didn’t seem too sturdy.
Eddie Peacock spent three days at home as a result—a punishment which I think he kind of liked. And although his accusation had ruined the excitement of our winning the science fair prize that night, the word of our innocence spread quickly. Though no one really cared. In fact, I think Gil and I would have been celebrated more if we really had messed up that girl’s cookies. So our victory remained among those achievements that earn no one any celebrity. When I walked down the halls in the days afterwards, no one said a thing to me about it. And if you ever look in your school’s trophy case, you won’t see a lot of science fair trophies I bet.

Which was fine with me, really. I didn’t want the honor, the celebration. I wanted Gil Bysshe to be able to see Niagara Falls. And that was it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


As I've written here before, I have been a fan of Norman Mailer's writing for a long, long time. I didn't always agree with him--or "enjoy" his books in the sense that they were fun to read--but I learned a lot from him, admired his tenacity and even his self-confidence. He made Muhammad Ali look humble.

I started reading him in the mid-1960s and pretty much didn't stop until he died (Nov. 10, 2007, a day before my birthday). His last couple of books (On God, 2007; The Castle in the Forest, also 2007, a novel about the young Hitler) lay on one of my piles-to-be-read for quite a few years--five or six in fact. I think I didn't want to read them, not because the subjects didn't interest me (they did) but because once I'd read them, there'd be no more Mailer to read. And that was just too grim a thought to deal with.

But then I accepted an assignment from the Cleveland Plain Dealer to review Michael Lennon's new biography (2013), and I knew it was time to let Mailer rest. And I read his two final books before reading Lennon's long and richly detailed book about his friend.

Mailer had also fancied himself a filmmaker and had shot several in sort of an ad hoc way--Wild 90 and Beyond the Law in 1968, Maidstone in 1970, and Tough Guys Don't Dance in 1987. After I read and reviewed Lennon's book, I decided I'd take a look at one of the films, and last week Tough Guys showed up from Netflix. And the other night (Friday) Joyce and slipped the DVD into the player and watched.

Interlude: I'd read Tough Guys Don't Dance, source of Mailer's screenplay, back when he published the novel in 1984. (In the New York Times reviewer Dennis Donoghue wrote about the book's "wretched inadequacy.") I just had to dig it out of a massive pile of other books ...  My little note in the front shows that I read it in Aug. 1984. Inside the front cover I find a folded article from People, 5 October 1987, a piece by Alan Richman called "No Longer Such a Tough Guy, Norman Mailer Frets Over His Shaky Career as a Filmmaker." I find no marginalia, but that's no surprise: I'd stopped writing in books that I thought might one day be worth something. And Mailer, I think, is pretty collectible. I just checked ABE: unsigned 1st printings in good shape (of Tough Guys) are worth about $70--not a fortune, but the cover price is $16.95, so that's not bad. Looking at the novel, I see the ending is a bit different from the film's ...

Anyway, as I said, on Friday night we watched the film ...

All 110 awful minutes of it. I stayed with it only because it was Mailer, only because of my gratitude for his.
books and essays. If the film had been by Mailer Norman, I would have shut it down in the first ten minutes and streamed an episode of Doc Martin instead. The star was Ryan O'Neal (yes, he of Love Story, etc.), and he was ... awful. Mailer must not have had anyone working continuity, for O'Neal kept looking like a different person. (Yes, the time periods were different--but I'm talking about within time periods.) The women, also generally terrible, though Isabella Rossellini (his love interest from long ago--and in the present) had her moments. The two other principal women--Debra Stipe and Frances Fisher--were very bad--although, to be fair, Mailer did not exactly have a "way with women." He married multiple times, was a serial adulterer, stabbed one of his wives (not fatally). And his portrayal of women in this film is beyond retro all the way to prehistoric--a term many feminists during his lifetime used for Mailer, as well.

The only character I found mildly convincing was Wings Hauser, who played a corrupt local cop with gleeful menace.

Mailer has some lovely footage of Provincetown, MA, where much (all) was filmed (it's where he lived), but he couldn't seem to let the camera alone. It behaved like a spoiled brat who wants always to be noticed--even when whatever it is is not about him/her. (Ever write a sentence with is, is ... first time for me, I think). The camera was like some narcissistic dork swooping around at someone else's wedding reception taking selfies. Mailer's camera moving in, out, side to side, finding angles that say Look at me! Notice me!

So ... Norman Mailer. Fine writer. Sucky filmmaker. I wish he'd written a few more books, to tell you the truth. You and I could make better films ... Below, some scenes from Tough Guys Don't Dance.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"I Have Often Walked down This Street Before ..."

As you probably know, Google has embarked on a project of photographing streets and houses in the country--and elsewhere? The other day (why? I don't know) I started checking on the streets and houses where I lived as a boy ...  In some cases the Google photographer did a good job; in others ... not so much.

The first place we lived was 1609 1/2 E. Broadway Ave.; Enid, Oklahoma, the apartment above the home of my maternal grandparents, Edwin and Alma Osborn. Google's photo doesn't show the place too well. You can barely see the house behind the trees. We lived there until about 1948? 1949? (or so), when, after Dad returned from WW II, we moved to Norman, OK, where he spent his year in residency as he worked on his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. I cannot find out the address of that place--cannot remember much about it (I was not yet five years old--I have a vague memory of getting sick after eating green apricots I stole from the neighbors' tree--and a kid named David Lampton pistol-whipped my older brother, Richard--just a cap gun! still ... blood and stitches).

1609 E. Broadway Ave.; Enid, OK
When we returned to Enid from our year of exile, we rented this place at 1709 East Broadway, just a block from my grandparents' place and only a few blocks from Phillips University (now defunct) where dad was on the faculty (as was my grandfather)--convenient for all. My memory is that the parts of the house that are yellow in the photograph were red or rust colored when we were living there. My little bro, Edward Davis Dyer, was born (1948) while we were living there, and I remember him in his crib--and I remember some ... envy ... for the attention he was receiving. I remember, too, that he didn't open his eyes for the longest time, and my parents--especially my mother (as I recall)--feared he was going to be blind. He isn't.
1709 E. Broadway Ave.; Enid, OK
When the Korean War arrived, the Air Force called Dad back to active duty and sent him (us) to Amarillo Air Force Base (Texas). We lived at 4242 West 13th Street. This picture doesn't show our house, which is on the right (I think), a little brick ranch where we lived for a year and a half (I did 2nd grade at Amarillo's Avondale Elementary--and part of 3rd).

Near 4242 W. 13th St.; Amarillo, TX
After the Korean War, it was back to Enid in 1953, and there we bought our first house, 1706 E. Elm Ave., only a few blocks from my grandparents' place. Ours is the white house on the right. On the left lived Johnny Collins, a good friend. The house colors appear to be the same, though Mom, back in the mid-1950s, painted the front door pink. Dad's study was in the room above the garage--I thought it was the coolest place on earth. The room I shared with brother Dave is upstairs, far right. Reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, I fantasized about sneaking out of that window at night--but was too chicken to do so. We lived there until August 1956, when Dad sold the house ($14,750) and took a job at Hiram College, where he would stay for ten years. Mom had been teaching English at Enid's Emerson Junior High (I think I've mentioned earlier in these posts that Enid's two junior highs were named for Emerson and Longfellow!), and in Ohio she would teach for ten years at Garrettsville's James A. Garfield High--and would complete her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh. In the summer of 1966, the year I graduated from Hiram College, they both joined the faculty of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. By then, Little Bro had graduated from high school and was off to Harvard, where older brother Richard was in grad school ... and I went off to teach at Aurora Middle School ...

1706 E. Elm Ave.; Enid, OK

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (59):

We had brought some of our actual refrigerator goop to show the visitors and the judges, but we had to keep it in a picnic cooler, sitting on a layer of ice. Foolishly, we’d left it there, unattended on our display table, between the end of school and the evening event, and when I looked in it, I noticed immediately that some of the especially gross goop was gone. I decided not to tell Gil—he was already worn out and worried. He didn’t need one more thing.
As I was arranging our table that evening, Eddie Peacock drifted over.
“Getting ready?” he asked.
“Anything missing?”
On his face was a look so obviously guilty that I almost laughed.
“Why would there be?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe somebody wanted to play a little joke.”
“Maybe somebody with a bird’s name.” I smiled, showing lots of teeth.
“How did you know?” He looked horribly disappointed.
“Oh, it took me the longest time to figure it out,” I said.
“No one’s going to blame me, though,” he said.
“And why not?”
And he answered with a string of questions that weren’t questions. “Because I, you know, took some of your goop? And maybe I’ll put it on some other kids’ projects later? And they’ll know that goop is yours? So they’ll blame you? And you won’t get to go to see the Falls?” His smile displayed two jagged rows of yellow corn.
I almost laughed again. Sabotage at a Science Fair! Sounded like an idea for a children’s book.
“We’ll see, Eddie. We’ll see.” And I turned my back to him to finish getting ready for the flow of parents and family.

The hour-long evening “viewing” went quickly, and then we were all sitting in the auditorium with our parents, listening to the short speeches, waiting for the news. I looked over toward Harriet. Eddie was not sitting with her. Gee, I thought, I wonder what he’s doing?
The principal spoke first—and praised all the students for their efforts, comparing this year’s “great fair” to last year’s “dismal performance.” Parents clapped. He added some comment about how “not everyone can be a winner,” and the parents clapped at that, too—although many of them would not be clapping after they announced the winners.
The principal turned it over to Mr. Gisborne, who seemed very, very nervous about what he had to do.
“I’ve never talked to a crowd this large,” he said awkwardly. “Usually it’s just a bunch of sweaty guys in the locker room. You know, at half-time. Of a football game or something.”
The audience laughed.
“But, anyway, here’s what you’ve been waiting for … the results of the judging.” He looked out over the crowd. “I just want to say that all the judges’ decisions are final and that no one here at Franconia Middle School was a judge … so you can’t blame us.”
Nervous laughter from the crowd.
And then he did something really cruel, I thought: He read aloud of the names of kids who had not received Superiors. The lowest ranking was Good, then Excellent, then Superior.  He actually stood there and read all the names of the kids who got Good and Excellent—in other words, the names of just about the entire student body.
As he read, stumbling over every name that wasn’t Smith or Jones, there was lots of groaning from disappointed kids and their parents, and many of them just got up and left as soon as they heard the bad news. One family kicked and elbowed its way down our row, stepping on feet, bumping into knees. I looked at the father as he passed me. His face was dark with anger. The mother’s face, if possible, was even darker. The kid—a popular boy named Tommy Hogg[i]—had tears in his eyes and was saying, over and over and over again: “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”
As soon as they were by us, I looked over at Harriet and saw that Eddie Peacock had returned. He flashed his yellow fangs at me again. I smothered another laugh … a peacock with fangs!
By the time the last Excellent certificate was announced, the once-crowded auditorium was only about one-fourth full.
“And now,” said Mr. Gisborne, “the names of the students who got a Superior—and will be going on the trip to Niagara Falls.”
Well, at that moment there was all kinds of cheering, foot-stomping, whistling, and shouting, for all of us knew—all of us who were left—that we were the winners. Regardless, Mr. Gisborne slowly read the names, although not many of us could actually hear them. We were all marching down to the gym floor and forming a line with our parents. Mr. Gisborne never looked up.
I glanced down the row and spotted Harriet: A huge silly smile separated her face into two happy halves.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see Gil. Tears were streaming down his ghost-white cheeks. And for the first time, I saw what must have been his mother and father. They were as short as Gil, and—if you can imagine—they both looked just like him. Triplets, separated by decades and gender. If anything, they were crying even harder than Gil. And I knew why.
“We did it!” Gil said in a breaking voice. “We did it!”
“We did it,” I repeated quietly.
“And I’m going to get to see the falls,” he went on. “I’m really going to get to see Niagara Falls.”
“Just don’t get so happy that you fall in,” I joked.
I couldn’t hear Gil’s reply because Mr. Gisborne was trying to call the crowd—what was left to it—back to order. “People!” he was shouting into the microphone, his “P” making a popping sound in the amplifier. “People!” The noise diminished a little. “I have one more announcement here.” He waited another moment, then must have figured it would never get more quiet that it was right then, and began to speak:
“We have one final prize,” he declared, “the Best of the Fair award. The one project that stood out above all the others. And the winner is …” He tore open an envelope, just as they do the night of the Academy Awards. “I should say, ‘The winners are’ … Gil Bysshe and Vickie Stone. Their project …”
I was so happy for Gil that I nearly started crying myself. Father and I and Gil and his parents moved toward the microphone to get the award. “I’m so proud of you, Vickie,” Father was saying. When we reached the podium, he hugged me hard. He released me and turned to Gil. “And you must be Gil?” he asked, as if he didn’t know. “And these are your parents?”
Father stuck out his hand. “Congratulations, young man,” he said. “You must be very proud of yourself.” He looked at Gil’s parents. “And you must be so proud of your son.” But they were too emotional even to reply. Again, watching them, I had the eerie sensation of looking at three crying Gils.
Gil shook his hand briefly, blushed a fiery red, and decided, I guess, that right then was a great time to stare at the auditorium floor.
And Mr. Gisborne was saying, “Congratulations to both of you—and to your parents.
But no sooner had those words erupted from the microphone than a little sixth-grade girl sprinted into the gym, ran right up to me, pointed right in my face, and cried aloud:
“Her homework ate my dog!”

[i] Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792–1862) was a college classmate and friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary’s husband. He published a biography of Bysshe in 1858.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Yesterday, I reached for the dictionary. A real one. It's the Random House College Dictionary, 1975, which I bought that very year--when our son was three years old. I've kept it on or near my various desks since then--in Kent, O,.; Lake Forest, Ill.; Hudson, O.; Aurora, O.; Hudson, O.  I remember having some snippy arguments with my old WRA colleague and friend Jim McClelland ("Mac") about which was better--the Random House or the American Heritage. Mac and Joyce and I often met at Saywell's Drug Store in Hudson (with soda fountain) for coffee--and we engaged in so many word-debates (logomachy: a dispute about or concerning words) that the Saywell's folks kept behind the counter an old unabridged dictionary that I had stored down there to use as the final arbiter in our logomachies.

My Random House copy looks a lot like the picture at the top of the page--though the cover has come loose, and I need to get some book tape to fix it. I like it there, right beside my desk, although I do find myself clicking on dictionary.com or the OED's website more often now. I don't think it's any quicker, but ...
technology seduces.

I should have written down yesterday the word I was looking up, but I was sure I'd remember--a certainty, of course, that assures I will not remember it the next day (or even next hour). Sometimes, I get up and look at the unabridged Webster's on the stand behind me--or I consult the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. In my study I also have bi-language dictionaries--Latin, French, Italian, Spanish. I don't use them too often--but I'm glad they're handy when I need them. I have some specialty dictionaries, too. American slang, English slang, brand names, architecture, geography--that sort of thing. Oh, and upstairs is that complete OED that's microprinted and compressed into two volumes and boxed with its own magnifying glass. And an American Heritage, which Joyce uses a lot.

I've loved dictionaries since elementary school when, in third or fourth grade, the school required that we buy that little blue A Dictionary for Boys and Girls by Webster's. I still have mine, copyright 1950. I especially liked the full-color pages--National Flags, Fruits of America, Precious and Semiprecious Stones, etc. Insects of America, I think, was my favorite page. The word bastard is not there, but hell is ("The abode of the dead or of the wicked after death"). Excrement is there ("Waste material discharged from the body") as is sex--but only in its definitions dealing with gender. Damn, damnable, and damnation are all there--probably as a warning to little ones about looking up too many naughty words.

Okay, some "cultured" words: Hamlet ("The title and hero of a tragedy by Shakespeare")--on the facing page is hari-kiri ("In Japan, suicide by ripping out one's bowels"--yikes!); Shakespeare is present, as is Dickens, Charles--but not Jane Austen or either Shelley.

In the "New Words" section: atomic bombbaby-sitterbebop, bobby-soxer, DDT, disk jockey, dust bowl, freezer, hamburger, helicopter, iron lung, juke box, motel, newscaster, nuclear, penicillin, radar, soap opera, sun lamp, televise, T shirt, V-J Day, World War II. Yes, that's how old I am!

In the Hiram Schools there was an unabridged Webster's (2nd ed.) on a stand up at the front of the study hall. If you looked up dirty words (there were a few), you had to make sure you flipped the pages elsewhere when you were finished--just in case. In those days I wasn't too curious about (clean) words. I remember only one teacher, Mr. Brunelle (whom we had for English II and III), who gave us vocabulary lists to learn. I already knew some big words because my older brother, Richard, had/has an enormous vocabulary and liked to use them on me. I would look them up before I decided how angry I should be.

In college, though, I started getting more curious, especially when my favorite professor, Dr. Ravitz, would use words I didn't know--lycanthropy, apotheosis, and proem are a few I remember. I would go back to my room and look them up--then use them when the (rare) occasion arose.

When I started grad school (summer of 1968) I became a Word Freak. When I came across a word I didn't know, which was often, I eschewed (like that word?) my default response in junior high and high school (figure out from context--or skip over it) and began keeping lists in little notebooks. Later, I began teaching vocab in my classes (sometimes learning words along with the kids), and now--still--when I come across a word I don't know (which happens a lot, even now), I look it up, try to use it. Remember it.

Thus ... all the dictionaries around the house.

I still think it's oddly wonderful that I can sit in Starbucks and via iPhone or iPad consult the OED online--all twenty volumes of it. A little easier than carrying the set in my backpack.

Still, I wish to hell I could remember that word from yesterday that made me reach for the Random House College Dictionary. It wouldn't have been for a spelling (spell-checkers are much quicker)--so it was a word whose definition I wanted to learn/verify. Maybe it was dotage?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (58)

The idea I gave Harriet was based on experiments done by the Italian scientists Luigi Galvani (1737–1798) and Allesandro Volta (1745–1827). In their separate laboratories, Galvani and Volta demonstrated that electricity could stimulate the muscles of the legs of dead frogs and other creatures.[i]  
So Harriet’s experiment was gross—but also effective. She showed how electricity from a large battery could move the parts of various creatures she and Eddie had found dead along the country roads near Franconia—a possum, a raccoon, a woodchuck, some birds. Mr. Gisborne had showed her how to preserve the parts so they wouldn’t … stink. And I’ll have to admit that Harriet’s table was one of the most popular of all: Everyone loved to see the quivering body parts of dead animals. Claws grasping, tails twitching, wings winging.
From her area we could hear, all afternoon, Ewwww, gross! Which, for Harriet, was the happiest human sound there is.
And, to be honest, people also loved to see Harriet, who had gotten so beautiful that even some of the fathers of the other kids hung around her table a little longer than they should have, pretending to be interested in science. She was really becoming a Man Magnet—and she was also becoming quite an expert on getting men and boys to do what she wanted. I loved Harriet; otherwise, I would have hated her.

I said hello to her when I saw her moving behind her table that evening.
“Oh, Vickie,” she said, hurrying over to me, hugging me. “Thanks so much for your help with our project,” she whispered in my ear. She stepped back. “Because of you, I really think we have a chance for a Superior.”
“I hope so.” And I did. I really did hope so. It would be fun to have her along on the trip.
I was not too worried about our own score. With my computer, I’d made great labels for each of the foods we’d let spoil in the refrigerator. Gil and I had made posters with time-lapse photographs of the foods. And—just for extra measure—I’d drawn very realistic enlargements of the molds that had grown on them—based on what they looked like under a microscope.[ii] The drawings were a little too good, though, and that afternoon I’d had a little trouble …
The judge was frowning at me. And I immediately knew why: She thought someone else had done the drawings for us. “Those posters are quite … remarkable,” she said finally.
“Thank you,” said Gil. “Vickie drew them.”
“Oh really?” sniffed the judge. Her glasses were perched on the very end of her very long nose. She looked at me over the tops of the thick lenses. “I don’t remember ever seeing a seventh grader draw so well.”
“I worked on them a long time,” I lied. It had not taken me long at all.
The judge pulled a piece of paper from one of her folders. “I’d love to have a copy of that one,” she said, pointing to one of the molds I’d drawn.
Only an idiot would not know what she was up to. She didn’t really want one of my drawings. She was trying to find out—in a way not so very subtle—if I’d done the drawings myself. This was a test.
“I don’t have my colored pencils with me,” I said, “but I’ll try.”
I took the sheet of paper, grabbed a pencil and a notebook that were lying on the table, sat on a stool, and turned away so that my back was to her.
I sketched quickly—from memory, never once looking back at my subject.
In only a moment or two, I turned back around and handed the sheet to the judge. “I hope that will do,” I said.
The judge was smiling. She could see right away that it wasn’t what she asked for, but when she turned it right side up and saw what it was, she broke into a toothy smile and laughed explosively. “Why, that’s amazing,” she snorted. “Truly amazing.”
“Let me see,” said Gil.
She handed him the paper—and he laughed, too.
Here’s what it showed: The judge, her glasses perched on her nose, leaning over and examining the drawing of a mold on one of my posters. (You could see the mold well—it looked just like the real drawing, only not in color.) I’d drawn the judge’s clipboard at an angle so that you could see her rating sheet. I’d put big check marks next to SUPERIOR for each category.
Gil handed it back to her.
“You’re quite talented, young lady,” said the judge. “Really. Very talented.”
“Thank you,” I said.
She started to move away … then stepped back and leaned over to me. As she whispered, I could smell the cigarettes and coffee on her breath. “I wouldn’t be surprised to learn,” she was saying, “that your drawing is accurate … in every way.” She stood back up, smiled broadly, and moved to the next table.
Gil was staring at me, his pale eyes unblinking.
“What?” I said.
“I didn’t know you could draw so”—he searched for a word—“so … quickly,” he said finally.
“It’s one of my secret talents,” I whispered in a mysterious voice, then laughed.
“I’ll bet it is,” replied Gil seriously. “I’ll just bet it is.”

[i] Mary Shelley knew the work of these scientists; it influenced her ideas about Frankenstein.
[ii] Readers will remember that Vickie Stone was a terrific artist, able to draw with extraordinary clarity and beauty—and swiftness.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Some Years Without ...

The other day I was thinking (I've had more time to do that now that I'm retired), and I realized that it's been a long time since I taught in a classroom--since Thursday, May 19, 2011, to be precise. That was the day I taught my last classes at Western Reserve Academy before I retired (for the second time--I'd retired from Harmon Middle School in January 1997). There were still some events to attend to (final exams, the senior celebration (what they used to call baccalaureate), commencement, the end-of-the-year all-school picnic), but the teaching part was over.

That final day, we were finishing up Huckleberry Finn and some stories by Flannery O'Connor (my students' "outside reading" for the final marking period). Here's a little of what I wrote in my journal later that day ...

... growing more and more emotional; kids had put up banners bidding me farewell: one on the glass doors leading into the English Wing, one on my [classroom] TV, another on the pull-down screen (one I did not discover until I … pulled down the screen); we talked about the exam, about Flannery O’Connor (with PowerPoint) and then about some Huck Finn sequels and transformations (including Big River); for my first class—[colleague] Walter Klyce was there (he’d played Huck in a Harvard production of the show, so he talked about it); at the end, I tried to recite “Our revels now are ended” from The Tempest, but managed only about five words before I dissolved; listening to Jim’s song in Big River (“Free at Last”) had devastated me, and I was just plain incapable of going on; walked home for lunch, sobbing all the way, where Joyce greeted me—as she has for 42 years—with deep affection, understanding, and—today—some tears; what a gift she is; drove back up for two afternoon classes, which I handled better (though I didn’t dare try the Shakespeare again); the last period—they’d brought a cake that had on it my picture from the 1995 Wild edition + the pic with [visiting writer] Dan Chaon; they also had exploding party favors that they fired off when I ended class; sitting in: one of my finest students ever, Jessie Wilson, whom I’d taught last year; she said she had to be there for the last one; I wept again; many hugs and farewells afterwards; cleaned my room a little and headed home, where the love of my life awaited ...

So, anyway, nearly three years have gone by. The only students at WRA who know who I am now are the seniors, who were freshmen during my final year; I did not teach any freshmen, though I knew some of them for various other reasons. A small handful still say hello when they see me on the street--or in Starbucks--but next year ... no one.

If you think your influence is lasting, listen to this story. One year during my Harmon School career I took a sabbatical leave. A friend of mine back at school was doing a play production and asked me if I'd come up some afternoon and help the kids learn some of the technical things about our stage (a very simple set of things). Sure, I said. Remember ... I had been gone less than a year.

While I was standing backstage, I noticed that the young girl who was working the curtain was not pulling hand-over-hand and, as a result, was getting herky-jerky movements from the curtain. I went over and showed her the hand-over-hand, and she smiled in thanks. But as I walked away, I heard her ask another tech kid, "Who was that man?" Humility is good for the soul.

Anyway, I realized the other day that this is the longest I've gone without teaching since I began in 1966. I had some leaves-of-absence and some sabbaticals in my career, but between August 1966 and May 2011, I had never gone anywhere near this long without being in a classroom.

It's an odd feeling. When I see former students--or parents of former students--around town, they sometimes ask if I miss it.

Of course I do. I miss the intimacies of the classroom, the relationships with the kids, the laughter, the tears, the friendships with colleagues, the literature I loved to teach. (You can imagine the things I don't miss: paper-grading, committee meetings, hassles of various sorts, etc.)

In other years--during a leave or sabbatical--I always knew that I would be back. And even when I retired from Aurora, I was only 52 years old; I knew that if I wanted to--wanted to--I could go back and teach for a while longer--which, of course, I did, both at Hiram's Weekend College and WRA.

But now? I can't. My heart may scream "Yes!" now and then, but my body has both other opinions and the veto power. The cancer drug coursing through my system delights in taking about half my energy, and a teacher without energy just doesn't have much of a chance of being any good.

And so I read and write and travel and spend time with family. Take naps. And then more naps.  And how about this? I'm still cutting out of the newspapers those articles that I'm going to take into class--the class I don't have--to show and talk about with students--the students I don't have. Seems pointless. But if I don't do it? Don't do the clippings? The thinking about what would be fun to teach? The planning for writing assignments I'll never give? Well, that, my friends, would be a first step--a big step--toward the cemetery.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Papers of Victoria Frankenstein, Part II (57)

Gil and I had worked hard on our project—and I’d been working especially hard to make sure that we were on that bus, to make sure that Gil would get to see Niagara Falls before … I didn't even want to write the words. Putting those … words (words—too nice a name for the horror it conveys) … on paper somehow made Gil’s mortality far too real. And I didn't want it to be real.
One day while Gil was at my house after school, we were doing the daily photographs of the items we’d left to sour in my refrigerator. I was putting my digital camera on a tripod so that the image would be perfectly still and stable when I felt rather than heard Gil’s silence. I looked up at him.
He was staring at me. I stared back. And in the river of emotion that flowed between us I could see, floating on the surface, the certain knowledge that Gil knew. I thought I’d been so clever—so careful—not to reveal myself, but I’d failed. I was certain of it.
He finally spoke. “You’re not an unattractive girl,” he said.
“You’re not ugly either,” I said.
More silence.
“And,” Gil said, “you’ve been … nicer … to me lately.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t intend to be.” This, of course, was true. “I’ll try to be meaner in the future.”
“That’s nice,” said Gil. “Otherwise, I’ll thinking something’s wrong.”
Nothing’s wrong, I thought. Nothing. Is. Wrong.

When I got to our display area (one of the classrooms), I saw Gil wasn’t there yet. And I wasn’t surprised. During the afternoon he’d seemed very tired, standing all that time by our project, explaining to the judges what we’d done (we took turns), answering questions. I’d found a chair for him, but it didn’t seem to help all that much. By the end of the day he was very pale; beads of sweat had formed on his upper lip; his eyes were colorless.
Harriet’s table was right next to us. She had let Eddie Peacock do the explanation of their project, and she had answered the all the judges’ questions. “That’s the only way,” she’d whispered to me. “He doesn’t understand a thing about what we’ve done, but he can memorize his lines!”
Their project was quite interesting—and I’m going to take a little credit for it, too. The night after Harriet had been so excited about their idea for a project (an idea, remember, she’d discussed with me earlier that day), she’d called me at home.
“I decided I don’t want to do a solar hot-dog cooker.”
“Then don’t.”
“Why don’t you?” I asked.
“It’s not gross enough,” she said.
“I mean,” she went on, “the best thing about science is when it’s gross, right?”
I couldn’t disagree.
“The dissections, the skeletons, the smells, the goo—I mean,” she said, “without all of that, I would just go to sleep in Gisborne’s class.”
“You do go to sleep in his class.”
“Well, I’d sleep longer,” she said.
“So,” she said, “any gross ideas for me?”
I had a few … hundred. But I gave her one.
“I love it!” she said.
“And I love you, too, Vickie.” And she hung up before I could reply.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Finding Elmer (Part 2)

As I wrote yesterday, I found and bought an old issue of Boys' Life (March 1959) that contained a story about a wise worm named Elmer, a story I remembered reading back in 1959. Yesterday, I wrote a bit about my search--and about the magazine itself, which arrived from an eBay seller just a couple of days ago.

And now ... a little about the Elmer story itself. Oh, first--I was unable on Google to learn anything else about writer Ned Ellis, author of the four Elmer tales in Boys' Life. More assiduous work might reveal something, and maybe one day I'll be in a more assiduous mood and will do some more assiduous ... digging (appropriate choice of words in a story about a worm!).

As you can tell from the picture at the top of the page, this Elmer story is the origin story (Elmer had appeared a few years earlier in a Christmas story). The first-person narrator, Stu, is an eighth grader (odd: I spent most of my career teaching that species). He begins by telling us he's digging for worms because he's planning to go fishing. To keep his crop he has "one of those old flat tobacco cans" (14). Then he notices that one of the worms has drawn an SOS in the dirt. He notices, too, that this particular worm is warm, not cold.

He goes fishing but decides to keep this warm worm, whom he names Elmer when he sees, back in his room, that the worm has spelled that name in some spilled dirt from the tobacco can. He decides to house Elmer in that tobacco can.

Then ... Stu discovers that Elmer can communicate with him--telepathically. "I have the highest brain-wave output in the worm world," he says, "and you have the lowest resistance to brain-wave input in the human world. You have a very soft head" (14). Nice compliment.

Elmer and Stu reach a deal: Stu will keep the worm alive, and Elmer will help Stu with his homework. "I'll tune in on the teacher's thoughts and relay the answers," he says (14).

Cheating, in other words. There's no real censure for this in the story. As we'll see, there are some consequences, but the cheating goes on all year, and Stu emerges as the class academic star. He fools his mother by taking his books home every night (though he doesn't use them), and he scores the highest grade ever on his final exams.

On the last day of school, the teacher asks to hear jokes from the class, and Elmer gives Stu one that's insulting about teachers--about how teachers are like windmills because they both run on hot air. His classmates love it, but the joke hurts his teacher's feelings. Stu worries she will call his parents, and he will get a "licking" (15). (For those of you who are chronologically challenged, a "licking" was a whupping.)

At graduation, he will give the speech--the speech both his mother and Elmer helped him compose. But when he stands up to deliver it, here's how it starts: "This place smells like an old tobacco can. Why don't you change the dirt in here once in a while. Do you want me to suffocate?" (28). He runs out, puts Elmer in his gym locker, then returns to do his speech. "Several people said I was a genius," he notes--because they'd praised him for such an unexpected introduction.

Later, Elmer admits he has grand plans for Stu--including becoming the President of the United States. Alarmed, Stu takes him outside and dumps him in the dirt.

Next morning--full of regret--he goes to look for Elmer. No luck.


I wasn't much older than Stu when I read this story, and its appeal is obvious. I, like Stu, hated homework (didn't do it all that often--so how could I hate it?), and I thought having a worm in my pocket to give me all the answers would be awesome. It's kind of the American Dream, isn't it (or, at least, one version of it): Having knowledge without really doing too much to acquire it? (Sci fi is full of such stories--brain infusions, smart-pills, that sort of thing.) We are the species--at times--that likes not to learn things but to have learned them. The Lotto Mentality: I'll get rich by scratching a card instead of ....

The cautionary aspects of "Elmer the Worm" are slight. Yes, surrendering yourself to an apparently beneficent authority can get you in trouble--but, it seems, people are so dense that they don't really care. In fact, that "trouble" can sometimes confer upon you some sort of celebrity. And cheating, for many, is all right--if they get away with it. (Again: We are generally sorry only after we've been caught.)

And I just realized that Elmer is still around. In fact, he's everywhere--present in many kids' pockets. I'm referring, of course, to smart-phones, devices that are so ubiquitous that circumspect teachers must assume that Elmer is nearby, whispering answers if not knowledge.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Finding Elmer (Part 1)

That's right--Elmer, not Elmo.

The other day--for what reason I cannot imagine--I remembered, years ago, that I'd read some stories in Boys' Life about a worm named Elmer. This was a wise worm. A kid (whose name I couldn't
recall) kept him in a tobacco tin (remember those? my father had some around the house). From that tin, Elmer was somehow able to help him with his homework and other odious tasks. That's all I could remember ...

So, I decided to find Elmer, a task that Google accomplished for me in seconds. It seems there were four of those stories, all written for Boys' Life by Ned Ellis. Here's the list Google found for me:

A bit of this was a little alarming. I don't think I would/could have read the two stories from 1966. By October of that year I was teaching at Aurora Middle School; the previous April, I was finishing my senior year at Hiram College. Don't think I was perusing pages of Boys' Life in those days.

But 1956? 1959? Definitely. I was in junior high and high school then--and although by 1959 I would not have been carrying Boys' Life around with me, I think I was still subscribing to it, still reading and browsing when I didn't feel like doing my homework--which was most of the time.

As I looked at the list of Ellis' "Elmer" stories, I didn't remember the one about Santa Claus, so I got on eBay and ordered the March 1959 issue of Boys' Life, the issue pictured at the top of this page. (I was unable to locate a digital version of it online.) When it arrived the other day, I promptly read the "Elmer," realized that, yes, this was what I remembered (sort of), and then spent some time flipping other pages ... remembering.

In March 1959 I was fourteen years old (would not be fifteen until November) and was in ninth grade. That seems a little bit too old for Boys' Life, but I was, let's say, slow to blossom? I was an immature ninth grader (just as I am now an immature Senior Citizen), so I was still reading Boys' Life at home (if we indeed still subscribed to it)--or in the Hiram High School Library, which sat up in front of our large study hall in the top floor of our long-ago-razed Hiram High building. This picture from an old yearbook gives just a hint of the arrangement. You can see a few of the reference books in the front of the room; magazines--including Boys' Life--were in racks whose backs appear to form a wall at the front of the room. That area up there was our entire junior high and high school library.

There were ads all through the March '59 issue for Scouting equipment: tents, lamps, hatchets, knives. There was an ad for Spalding (sporting goods) that featured a picture of Yankee catcher Yogi Berra (my hero at the time--I was the catcher on the Hiram Huskies' team). There were feature stories--about architecture, blimps, knot-tying. Ads for .22 rifles, flutes and piccolos (by Armstrong of Elkhart, Ind.), a running comic strip I'd forgotten called "The Tracy Twins," by Dik Browne, artist for "Hi and Lois." Goodyear Tires, Passover and Easter, a cartoon called "Rocky Stoneaxe," a feature on kite-flying, an ad for Wilson baseball gloves, for pimple treatments. A feature on hula-hooping, stamp-collecting, fishing, climbing a rope ladder, a big ad from Clearasil called "What Girls Think about Boys Who Have Pimples," supposedly written by Kay Rogers, "popular student at Harding High School" in Oklahoma City. (Popular Kay Rogers liked boys who didn't obsess about their pimples but who did something to deal with them--like apply Clearasil, a substance, by the way, which never worked for me; only Time did.) And much more.

I'd forgotten a continuing feature--"Think and Grin"--appearing on the final page. Jokes sent in by readers. And "daffynishions"--e.g., "Permanent wave--a girl making a career of the navy."  Here's one of the jokes:

New Husband: My wife treats me like a Greek God. At every meal I get a burnt offering.

And another ...

Teacher: Give me a sentence with an object in it.
Pupil: You are very beautiful, teacher.
Teacher: What is the object?
Pupil: A good grade.

And, of course, the Elmer story ...