Dawn Reader

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

All those files ... why?

We've got way too many file cabinets and drawers, each of which bulges and resists new immigrants. Cabinets stand in my study downstairs, in Joyce's study upstairs, out on the screened porch, which, one day (soon?), we hope to convert to a bedroom.

In my memoir Schoolboy (2012--which deals, mostly, with my early teaching career), I write about the feeling when I first arrived in my first classroom, #116, in what's now called Craddock School but in the fall of 1966 was the Aurora Middle School. Here's what I wrote in that text (available on Amazon--Kindle Direct):

A long green chalkboard ran almost the entire length of the front of the room. Hanging like window shades at the top of the board were some U. S. maps and a projection screen, all of which I could raise and lower. In the chalk tray lay a long wooden pointer with a rubber tip.  Above the board in an aluminum holder was a small American flag on a stick. Something to salute. In a back corner stood a single gray four-drawer file cabinet.  Empty.  High on another wall, a wooden P.A. speaker.

The operative word there is empty. There was nothing in that file cabinet--nothing there for me to use in class. And so I spent much of my career filling that cabinet (and many others like it). When Joyce and I joined forces in late 1969, she commenced her additions.

So what's in those drawers?

Teaching materials. Myriads of files about writers and their works. (Shakespeare has three drawers!) Files about historical and cultural events. Throughout my career I would clip from newspapers and magazines any items that related to whatever I was teaching--or might teach. File them.

And so we have quite a treasure, don't we? But who, now, is it for? Joyce is still teaching an occasional course at Hiram College (where she still has a file cabinet), but I haven't taught since the spring of 2011 and will certainly not teach again. Oh sure, I occasionally (often?) go to those drawers to check information for something I'm writing. The files are priceless in that regard.

Example: Not long ago, posting something on Facebook about writer Russell Banks, I went to my Banks file and found the program for his appearance at Western Reserve Academy on May 9, 2000 ... useful, eh?

But now ...

Now I'm retired. I don't teach. But still ... just about every day I clip something from the New York Times, from a magazine--or I print something from the Internet. And, about once a week, I go out to the screen porch and file the clippings. I can almost hear the cabinets cry, Why?!!?!?

I remember the files of my mother, also an English teacher. One thing I recall: She had the LIFE magazine that included the full text of The Old Man and the Sea (Sept. 1, 1952). It's going for a chunk of change on eBay. But Mom tossed it all during one of her final moves. Sigh. (Link to the eBay listings.)

The pictures below show the dimensions of my/our problem (and there's not a photo of Joyce's files upstairs--she's working--mustn't interrupt!).

We've talked in a desultory way about what to do with all of it. Donate to one of the English Departments where we've taught? Give it to a promising young colleague?

After all, there's nothing quite so so daunting as beginning your career with emptiness.

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