Eileen McCauley began her career as a French teacher at Canton High School in Canton, MA.
I had her for two years of French in my freshman and sophomore years. I loved her class.
She had a great influence on me, like most good teachers, in awakening and fostering in me a love for learning languages, for the languages themselves. It got me started on a lifelong course of language study which has been pure joy.
No high tech audio or language lab back then. I would monologue and recite the French passages in my French textbook over and over again while doing my homework. I would assiduously apply myself to memorizing the vocabulary list at the end of each chapter.
I once said to my older brother, who also took French: when I recited “le train” out loud, it seemed different to me than the English “train.”
This story was told to me by my older brother. We both had the same outstanding English teacher in high school.
There was a student in our school, Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts, named Kim Hubbard. His mother, known to us kids as Mrs. Hubbard, was the kindly and perpetually cheerful librarian at the circulation desk at the local library. She seemed to always accidentally on purpose not take note of the fact that a fine was required when a book was overdue.
Her son Kim was a student for a couple of years at a prep school before transferring to Canton High. He was in the graduating class one year ahead of my brother. I vaguely remember him as a high spirited, intelligent kid known for his sense of humor and penchant for acting zany to get a laugh.
For his first assignment in English class — as the story goes — Kim turned in a paper from his sophomore year at the prep school. I recall that my brother said that he got a C.
“This paper is rather sophomoric,” the teacher, Mr. Tighe, said.
In my senior year, a neighbor and fellow student, Dave Freiday, told me after school one day: You wouldn’t believe what Mr. Kidd said about you today. Dave had been in the locker room after school, probably as a member of the track team. Paraphrasing what Dave told me (I remember it very well), Mr. Kidd had said to him: Look at Roger Smith. It’s incredible. He was the most uncoordinated kid you could imagine and now he has developed into a good athlete and always goes out for sports.
He didn’t mean that I was an outstanding athlete, but that it was wonderful how I had gone from being hopelessly inept to a student-athlete.
What nice words! Would that all coaches have such interest in and appreciation for the development of the boys in their domain.
To backtrack, my first experience of Mr. Kidd was in the eighth grade. After a workout, we boys were seated in a circle either on the ground outside or on the floor of the gymnasium.
Everyone looked up to Mr. Kidd. He was handsome, had a muscular physique. He spoke well and with sincerity. He chose his words well; was forceful, clear, and direct.
He delivered a de facto sermon.
We were about to enter high school. Mr. Kidd told us, “If you go out for football, it will make you a man.”
“I’m not saying you can’t become a man if you don’t play football, “he continued, “but if you do, I guarantee you will become a man.”
Wanting very much to become a man. I took this seriously and went out for football in my freshman year in high school,
Mr. Kidd talked about himself by way of example. This was the most memorable part of his talk. He told us boys, you can make something of yourself (as he had done) regardless of your circumstances. He told us that he had had a summer job as a moving man when he was in college. “I was in some of the worst slums in Boston.” he said. In some of the apartments, he said, everything was neat and orderly. “It was so clean you could eat off the floor.”
Try to grow up for once and for all. … [Y]ou, who forever holds grudges even against childhood teachers and coaches, are totally unable to forgive or forget any perceived slights against you.
— email from a close relative, July 18, 2018
This essay is concerned with the need we all feel sometimes to overcome ill effects and resentments from long past experiences.
One example may serve to illustrate what I am thinking about: my lingering resentment and anger towards my high school Phys Ed teacher and baseball coach, Robert C. (Bob) Gibson.
Mr. Gibson was the chairman of the Physical Education Department at Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts. He was a very popular teacher and coach, but I can’t forgive him for the way he treated me when I went out for baseball in my junior year. He didn’t want me on the team and let me know it. It was really unfair.
I think he thought I was a scholar who had no aptitude for baseball, and maybe the fact that I wore thick glasses had something to do with it. But at least one teammate, my classmate Warren Kelson, did wear glasses, and that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Gibson.
He kicked me off the varsity team. I was deeply hurt but was resolved not to show it.
I can never forgive or forget the way he treated me. I never got over it.
My older brother (not the same person as the relative quoted above) has commented on this and similar resentments I have from the past. He feels that I should be able to leave them in the past and move beyond them.
I am of two minds about holding past grudges.
By remembering past slights, I believe, and refusing to forget out about them, by stubbornly holding on to them, one is, in a way, protecting oneself against the possibility of future hurt. I am convinced that my good memory, if I may compliment myself on having one, comes from a strong desire to not forget what has happened to me, both good and bad, so that I can defend myself in the future against further hurt and emotional pain.
On the other hand, there does seem to be validity to what some mental health experts seem to say about trauma, that you need to be able to overcome it and let go, put it in the past.
I have recently read two books: Getting Unstuck: Unraveling the Knot of Depression, Attention, and Trauma by Dr. Don Kerson; and Walking Your Blues Away: How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann.
Neither book is the sort that I would ordinarily take interest in. But I finished both.
Both authors make good points and also lapse, in parts of their books, into New Age psychobabble. But, some of the stuff they say seems to have validity. They talk about the need to be able to overcome the effects of trauma. Apparently, a lot of people don’t even know that it is something one has to learn to deal with.
Apparently, it’s a left brain-right brain sort of thing. You have to be able to call up the painful memories, get them out of your left brain, which is critical and unforgiving, and from there into your right brain — sort of upload and dump them there — which can deal with them emotionally, and then be able to let go, become whole and healed once again.
Something like that.
These things don’t exactly work for me, and I feel that I never want to let go of my anger at Coach Gibson. But I can see the validity of the point that these writers make: about getting over the ill effects of past mistreatment and saying, that was long ago, it’s time to move on, to move beyond them.
I will probably — undoubtedly? — be accused of overstatement, but consider the cases of child abuse that surface years later. For example, the scandal of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. And similar case of abuse.
For years, I kind of buried any thoughts of Coach Gibson’s treatment of me. The memory was painful. My immediate reaction, such as it was — when it occurred during my adolescence — was embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy.
I never could understand why Mr. Gibson did not want me on the team. It certainly wasn’t because of any misbehavior or non-compliance with protocol or rules on my part. My best guess is that he thought I wasn’t an athlete or was a pointy-headed nerd not suited for the baseball team — I was usually thought of as the bookish, scholarly type. But I had been on sports teams throughout high school. I was not a good baseball player, but I had been on a Little League team and was always playing ball with my friends.
Regardless of such considerations, what he did was a clear injustice and sheer negligence on his part. A teacher, coach, or recreation or youth group leader is supposed to encourage participation in sports and diverse activities by young people. To encourage them to join and participate, and certainly not the opposite — and under no circumstances to denigrate them for incompetence. Not everyone can be a first stringer or starter (I wasn’t expecting that) or the lead in the school play. That goes without saying. I would have been happy to be able to practice with the team and to sit on the bench as an onlooker and vicarious participant in games.
We were encouraged in high school to participate in sports, because it would supposedly make us well rounded (and also, looked good on college applications). It was believed that sports contributed to psychological health and mental acuity. (Mens sana in corpore sano.)
My insensitive relatives can’t see that this supposedly petty grudge of mine arose from what was patently abusive behavior towards me by an authority figure who shouldn’t have been employed to work with adolescents, and that the problem lay with Coach Gibson, not me.
I was thinking today, for no particular reason, about this post, and I feel that I never should forget or forgive my coach’s treatment of me.
To others, the incident may seem negligible. To me, it wasn’t. Some hurts are shrugged off. Others, occurring at a particular time — say, in one’s youth, when one can be particularly vulnerable — can’t be. Persons lacking empathy (such as the relative quoted above) can’t see how a seemingly trivial thing can be a big deal, psychologically speaking.
And, of course, some major abuses or atrocities inflicted upon groups of people should not be forgotten and should be preserved in their collective consciousness.
A distant relative of mine posted a comment about this post on Facebook. His comment and my response are below.
Sometimes the best way to leave resentment behind is to realize that the offender is dead and no one else remembers the incident(s).
Roger’s Smith’s reply:
But, your “offender is dead” point seems beside the point.
Does this mean that all past offenses committed in human history and experienced in one’s personal life get wiped off the slate after — and by virtue of — the fact that the “offender” has died?
Secondly, you make the point that “no one else remembers”? The incident I wrote about would, naturally, be remembered by hardly anyone besides me. Again, this is beside the point. It was a minor incident in the grand scale of things, but I was deeply hurt by it.
I told almost no one, besides confiding it to my older brother years later. (I did so because he and I were talking about the coach, whom we both knew from high school.)
Have not you suffered hurts and indignities in your own life that have festered but which you may have rarely talked with others about, which you perhaps had a hard time dealing with, and which linger?
My high school English teacher, Robert W. Tighe, was, for some reason I never knew, a New York Yankees fan.
This, despite the fact that, as far as I knew, he was raised in Massachusetts.
He used to argue, for the fun of it, with my older brother, who also had him for a teacher, about all sorts of things, such as baseball, religion, and the Civil War.
He told my brother, who was a Red Sox fan (as was I) and was sympathetic to the South, that he was “the patron of lost causes.” (Mr. Tighe had a mordant wit. He also prided himself on being able to see things clearly through the fog of idealism, much like one of his intellectual heroes, Samuel Johnson.)
He was at a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park. I think he said Red Ruffing was pitching for the Yankees.
One of the pitchers may have been pitching a no hitter. I don’t remember exactly what our teacher was said to have said. But, anyway, the game was tied at 0-0 through around six innings, and suspense was mounting. It was a true pitcher’s battle.
In the middle of the game, a woman who had arrived very late made her way to her seat. Everyone had to stand up in the middle of the inning to let her pass.
Thanks, and a tip of the hat — with a nod to the late American cartoonist Jimmy (“a Tip of the Hatlo hat”) Hatlo — to my brother A. W. (Pete) Smith, Jr. for relating this story to me. I wonder if he recalls telling me it!
I had an outstanding high school English teacher, Robert W. Tighe, who was full of worldly wisdom as well as being erudite. He was a World War II veteran and was a man of few illusions.
He told a story once – I think it was about the Kennedy-Nixon election in 1960.
Mr. Tighe said that on the day after the election, the teaching staff were in the teachers’ room (no doubt, smoking furiously, as was the custom then) and were discussing the election. He said about half of them were happy and the other half were extremely depressed, rueful, with their heads in their hands; gnashing their teeth, so to speak.
The teachers on the “losing” side were beside themselves with despair. “The country is going to the dogs,” they said.
“The situation wasn’t really that bad,” Mr. Tighe, told us. “Nothing really changed.”
In your Facebook post of March 23, 2016, you said, regarding your father: “[his] chosen occupation aligned with his passions, in his case for learning, and sharing his love of learning with others, as well as for language and the role language plays in shaping our understanding of the human experience throughout history and the role it plays in the present as a tool for influencing the thoughts and actions of others.”
Very true, I believe.
From my experience of your father as a teacher, I would say that some things that drove him were:
a love of books, reading, and language;
hatred (if one can use such a strong term) of pomposity and obfuscation in writing and in written and oral expression in general; an abhorrence of cant.
It seemed that this would cause him at times to be impatient and to be a harsh critic.
He was no phony or fake and he didn’t like it when others “put on airs,” so to speak, when writing, declaiming, or participating in a conversation or class discussion; when someone would try to conceal their lack of knowledge, or grasp and penetration of issues, behind a “smokescreen” of bad writing.
He had no use for mawkish, flowery, or overblown language when used to impress the reader or show off.
He was constantly inveighing against excess verbiage and wasted words. His summum bonum was clarity.
I had a close friend from another town in New England. His father was chairman of the English department in the local high school. Once, when I was visiting, my friend took me upstairs and showed me some of his father’s students’ papers. There was an A paper by a star student, a girl. My friend’s father had written comments praising it highly. I read some of the paper and, being a student of Mr. Tighe, immediately realized that it was a God awful paper. It was insipid, mushy writing of the kind your father would have detested.
A few additional comments.
Your father loved Samuel Johnson. I was told by someone that he had read Bowell’s Life of Johnson something like nine times. One can see why this affinity existed. Samuel Johnson hated cant and hypocrisy, and would skewer with verbal repartee — with his (Johnson’s) legendary wit and sarcasm — anyone who engaged in it.
Your father taught me to read poetry. Sort of. Which is to say that I never really had an ear for poetry or much of an ability to understated it. But, your father would have us reading John Donne, William Blake, or T. S. Eliot and understanding it, getting to the heart of the poem, and, once I could manage to do this, loving the poetry for its ingenuity and beauty.
When I was around 13 and still in junior high school, we had a discussion at the dinner table in our home in Massachusetts one Sunday afternoon that was intellectually stimulating, as was often the case.
My older brother was telling us an anecdote about Mr. Tighe, his English teacher at Canton High School.
A girl student had written a paper for Mr. Tighe in which she used the archaic word yclept, meaning named or called. It was used by Chaucer and Milton.
Mr. Tighe ridiculed her for this. He observed that the simplest and clearest word was always desirable.
Being only 13 and not savvy, I was quite surprised to hear this. I spoke up at the dinner table, and said, “I thought that writers were supposed to use big words.”
“Oh no,” my father, Alan W. Smith — who, besides being a musician, was superbly articulate — said, “you should always use the plainest, simplest word.”
I never forgot this discussion and remark. It was a revelation to me, the start of learning how to write well.
When you go to this page, the book will display. It may seem a little hard to navigate at first. But I found that if you simply left click once on the mouse, each time you left click, the book will advance one more page (will advance to and open up the next two-page spread).
When you do this left clicking thing, your pointer has to be on top of the image of the book.
If you left click on a RIGHT HAND page, the book will advance one page. If you left click on a LEFT HAND page, the book will go back one page.
Your pointer has to be in the page when you click on it, in the middle, so to speak. If you click on the margin, it will advance a lot of pages forward or back.
On page 14 is the English Department. Seated in the bottom photo is the department chairman, Mr. Tighe. I had him in my junior and senior years, and his influence on me was immense: the development of writing and critical reading skills. especially the former.
On page 15 is the Social Studies Department. Seated in front is the chairman, Paul Tedesco, a dynamic young teacher and recent Harvard graduate. He liked me and promoted me with respect to getting a scholarship for excellence in American history. I had him in my junior and senior years for American and European history. Somehow, he burned out or didn’t get along with the administration or other faculty members and he did not last long at the school, which was unfortunate.
The Mathematics Department is shown on page 16. The chairman, shown in two of the photos, was Mr. Badoian. He was an outstanding teacher. See
I had four years of math with Mr. Badoian: Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry and Advanced Mathematics. I was by no means his best student, but I did work very hard and did very well. It was of great value to me in future studies and endeavors.
On page 18 is the Foreign Language Department. I took four years of French and two years of Latin. Sadly, my favorite French teacher, Miss McCauley, was gone by my junior and senior years. But Miss Bertrand, the elderly department chairman, was still there. She is shown in a photo at the bottom of the page with language lab headphones. She liked my older brother and me. I took Latin and French with her. She was very nice.
The Guidance Department is shown opposite the Foreign Language Department on page 19. Miss Perlmutter, in the top photo, was an attractive woman who was very nice to me once in my senior year when we had a discussion in which I confided to her that I was overly anxious about my schoolwork. She was very understanding and tried to help me relax a bit.
On page 20, at the top, is the librarian, Mrs. Haines. She had a husband who was a popular history teacher. She was quite attractive for a middle aged woman. She was very nice. I had extensive library privileges because of my good academic standing. I could go to the library whenever I liked during free periods. Mrs. Haines had an attractive daughter, Linda Haines, who was in our class.
At the bottom of page 20 is shown the speech teacher, Mrs. Fertman, with whom I took an extra credit course in my sophomore year.
There is a story about Mrs. Fertman. She was very young, seemed quite motivated, seemed kind of insecure. A fellow student, John Bosanquet (who died tragically in his sophomore year; see below), played some sort of prank on her, put something over on her in class.\
Mrs. Fertman approached me later and asked me about it. I don’t recall exactly what she asked me, something like who did it or what was up? I said I didn’t know, which was not true, because I did.
A little while later, Mrs. Fertman encountered me on the stairs. She was crying and very upset. She had found out the truth and that a prank had been played on her. She said something to the effect that she had thought she could trust me, of all students, and now I had let her down, and she was completely shattered, and had given up all her faith and belief in teaching. I didn’t know what to say. I still feel bad about this incident. The reason I didn’t tell her anything was because I had been taught by my parents to never squeal on anyone and therefore felt I had to keep silent although I felt really bad for her.
As far as I know, Mrs. Fertman did not quit, fortunately.
On page 21 at the top is a photo of Mr. Judge, chairman of the Music Department, who was an extremely nice person. I took some kind of art course with him.
The Physical Education Department is on page 23. Mr. King and Mr. Kidd are shown in a photo on the bottom left. Mr. King was my track coach. He was very dedicated and a good coach. He was sort of reserved, wasn’t the easiest person in the world to get to know.
Mr. King once threw me a desperation pass, which was way off target, when we were playing touch football during gym class. Somehow, I managed to catch it at my sneaker tops. I don’t think he thought I ever would.
Mr. Kidd was the hockey team coach. He had grown up poor and made something out of himself. He inspired me and a lot of other kids in junior high where I had him for phys ed.
Mr. Gibson, the chairman of the Physical Education Department, is shown in the bottom center of page 23. He was an intelligent, well spoken guy and occasionally taught other subjects like English. He had been a star college athlete at Boston University, had been signed by a professional baseball team, and briefly played in the minor leagues.
Mr. Gibson was the baseball coach. He was very popular, but I can never forgive him for the way he treated me when I went out for baseball in my junior year. He didn’t want me on the team and let me know it. It was really unfair. I think he thought I was a scholar who had no aptitude for baseball, and maybe the fact that I wore thick glasses had something to do with it. But at least one teammate did wear glasses, Warren Kelson (who I learned at our 50th reunion is deceased, sadly), and that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Gibson.
I can never forgive or forget the way he treated me. I was deeply hurt but was resolved not to show it or quit.
My photo, etc. is on page 62 amidst the senior class profiles.
On page 52 is the football team co-captain Russell Minkwitz, the classmate of mine who recently died, tragically.
Page 68 is headed “In Memoriam” and is dedicated to our former classmate John Bosanquet. John Bosanquet was my friend. He died in our sophomore year in an accident; he was hit by a truck while on a newspaper route early in the morning before school. John and I had shared this paper route for a while.
John was in a coma for a day or two before he died. It was my first experience with death. I was a pallbearer at his funeral.
On page 77 is a photo of me with Jean Moore, daughter of the Science Department chairman, Mr. Moore. She and I were voted Most Likely to Succeed.
On page 81, there are photos of the staff of the yearbook, The Echo. One of the photos shows my classmate Russ Minkwitz again. Next to Russ is Robert Seavey, now living in Tennessee, who recently informed me of Russ’s death.
At the bottom of page 81, in the lower right hand corner, there is a photo of (1) Mr. Morrison, an English teacher who was yearbook advisor; (2) Carol Soule, my classmate, who was assistant editor; (3) myself (the yearbook editor); and (4) Jim Russell (business manager of the yearbook), an all around student who was class salutatorian (and a fine athlete).
Carol Soule, the assistant editor, married Russell Minkwitz, the classmate of ours who died on September 15, 2015 of ALS.
Carol was an honor student. She worked very hard on the yearbook and did a lot of the grunt work. At the end of the year, she became annoyed because she felt I was not on top of things and was falling behind deadline. She told me about a week or so before the deadline that she was not going to do any more work on the yearbook and was basically quitting. I had some bad feelings about this, but we have since met at high school reunions and the hard feelings are a thing of the past.
Mr. Morrison, the yearbook faculty advisor, was a good guy. He buttonholed me in the corridor early in my senior year and told me that I had to become his yearbook editor, there was no other choice. I was already overloaded with classes, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Page 103 of the yearbook is devoted to the National Honor Society, of which I was president. I am shown standing on the left of the photo at the bottom of the page. To my right is the vice president, Jim Russell, the class salutatorian, mentioned above.
Click on Browse. Then you will see icons (boxes) that let you click on and proceed to Next Page, Previous Page, as desired. (It’s slow. Each page has to load.) But you also have a Go To option at the top where you can indicate a desired page to be taken to.
On page 106, there is a section on the Debating Club with a photo of a debate at the top. The student with a tie standing in the middle and making a point in the debate is none other than myself. I do recall that I was on the debate team, for three years, but I remember practically nothing about any debates that I competed in. Almost nothing. Yet here I am in this photo, shown as your prototypical debate team member.
At the bottom of page 106 there is a photo of the debate team with our advisor, Mrs. Fertman (the speech teacher who got so upset in the incident I described above). I am in the front row, second from the right.
To my right in the front row is Priscilla Marotta. I have had some contact with Priscilla in recent years. She wrote me some very nice emails when I was depressed. I forget just how or why we happened to get in touch, but I think she contacted me. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in Florida and has written in a book. On April 30, 2009, she wrote me “I remember your keen intelligence…even at an early age.” In another email from the same time, she wrote, “I have fond memories of an intelligent young man who was not aware of his charm.” Very nice words indeed.
On page 108, there is a photo of the staff of the school newspaper, The Mirror. I am the third from the left, standing, in the back row.
I served in various capacities on the paper. I once wrote an editorial critical of our principal, Mr. Alvino, which I think did not go over well with the administration, although no one actually said anything about it.
A lot the faculty didn’t like Mr. Alvino. The school newspaper advisor, a female teacher whose name I forget, encouraged me to submit the editorial. It was brief but punchy and well written. It took issue with some remarks Mr. Alvino had made in an assembly prior to the Thanksgiving Day football game against our archrival, Stoughton.
There is a magnifying glass icon which appears on the screen which allows you to search inside the book. If you enter the search term “Roger,” you will get a few hits. One — the second of 4 hits which appear near the bottom of the screen as small yellow “buttons” — will take you to a page with a photo of the sophomore class officers. I am on the left. I was Class President that year. For some reason, I took off my glasses for the photo.
The fourth of the four hits (small yellow buttons), if you click on it, will take you to a page with photos of the Student Council. In the bottom of two photos on that page, I am the third from the left in the middle row. Again, I took of my glasses for the photo. You know, I wasn’t that bad looking! And, I thought I was definitely not good looking and was very worried about being so homely (as I perceived it).
One further note: I was elected class president in my sophomore year, 1961-62 (as noted above). I was a popular candidate and I think I won in a landslide. I won because a classmate whom I didn’t know well, Janet Schermerhorn, decided I should be elected and campaigned vigorously for me. She came up with the campaign slogan, “vote the Jolly Roger” and put up signs all around the school.
Janet had a crush on my older brother and that got transformed into befriending me or at least taking up my cause. I was drafted to run by Janet. My brother, who was a senior, was still there. The election for sophomore class officers took place at the end of our freshman year (spring 1961).
Janet Schermehorn from that point on had no further relationship with or interest in me.
As I indicated above, the 1964 Canton High School yearbook is viewable online at
Page 9 shows the Assistant Superintendent, John O’Connell. I have a story about Mr. O’Connell.
John O’Connell, Assistant Superintendent
He was a very decent man and apparently a good administrator. He had a son a year or so behind me in our school.
I had very good attendance, almost perfect, and regarded the infraction of skipping school with something akin to horror. When kids got detention for doing this, I thought they were like criminals.
But once, in my senior year, I deliberately skipped school to participate in a sort of protest, a Civil Rights thing, in Roxbury, MA. There was some sort of “freedom school” that day along with protest activity.
I recall very little about that day. I do know that it mostly involved attending the “freedom school.” Most of the students were younger than me, and, of course, the blacks far outnumbered the whites.
I was sitting in the rear of the classroom. That evening, I caught a glimpse of myself (or at least who I thought was me) in the classroom in grainy black and white footage on the local news.
Anyway, a day or two afterwards, I was summoned, which I had not anticipated, to see the Assistant Superintendent, Mr. O’Connell. I recall that he was offsite, i.e., not in our school proper.
My meeting with Mr. O’Connell lasted longer than I would have expected. He didn’t come right out and say what he wanted to see me about. He was low key, but he obviously wanted to know the reasons behind my infraction of deliberately skipping school.
He asked me about my support for the Civil Rights movement. I answered him adequately. He had little to say, but I think he respected my idealism and sincerity. He did not make an issue out of my non-attendance and let the matter lie. I think he handled it wisely and very well.
Page 10 shows the principal, Daniel Alvino (nicknamed Brillo by the students because of the style of his hair).
I have recounted how I wrote an editorial in the school paper, The Mirror, critical of Mr. Alvino — critical, that is, of remarks he had made at an assembly. This was in my sophomore year.
When I look back on it, I feel that the editorial viewpoint of mine was reasonable, but that my overall attitude toward Mr. Alvino was not quite justifiable, perhaps. His big claim to fame seemed to be that he was a football star in his schoolboy days, and somehow I took this as evidence that he was an airhead. I knew or suspected that some of the faculty seemed to regard him with contempt or derision. So I looked down on him. He actually seemed to be a very hard working, dedicated administrator, always there and vigilant. I consider my view of him, in retrospect, to have been unfounded or at least a little unfair. It was prompted by snobbery on my part.
Page 12 shows the School Committee. Seated at the table in the right front of the photo is Dr. Erwin Gaines.
Dr. Gaines had been a high ranking librarian in the Minneapolis library system. He then came to Boston and held a similar post there. He was very respected for his erudition. He and his family lived about two blocks away from us on the same street, Chapman Street, the nicest street in town.
Dr. Gaines instituted something that was called Gaines Night. It was an extra-curricular reading group for high school students. I don’t know how they figured out whom to ask, but the participants were the smartest and most motivated kids in town. For the group, we read excellent literature and were able to read books that might be prohibited in the public schools. An example would be Orwell’s Nineteen Eighthy-Four. I don’t know if we actually read this book for Dr. Gaines’s group, but it was banned in our high school because of one sex scene in it, and I read it somewhere.
Dr. Gaines was very much the Sixties style academic. He would sit there smoking his pipe. He was low key and not overbearing; he would make comments at the end of the discussion. The discussions were always lively, and the books were very enjoyable. Dr. Gaines’s wife would take part eagerly (sitting with her knees curled up at the edge of a couch on the floor) and would serve refreshments afterward.
Page 15 shows the Social Studies Department. Second from the right in the top photo is a social studies teacher and coach, Warren Bowyer.
Mr. Bowyer was, with the possible exception of my sophomore English teacher Miss Roach, the worst teacher I ever had. No, I believe for certain that he was even worse than Miss Roach. I had him for Civics in my sophomore year, and from him I received my first ever B grade.
We began the year by learning, supposedly, about state government. We had a textbook which explained the Massachusetts legislative system and so forth. Then, we studied the federal system. We read the Constitution. Mr. Bowyer told us, stupidly, that we should memorize the Constitution. I took this literally and actually tried to do it over a weekend.
Mr. Bowyer didn’t teach. He would sit on his desk at the front of the class and ramble on about this and that. I believe he moonlighted and had no time to prepare, plus no motivation.
Mr. Bowyer coached freshman and junior varsity basketball and baseball. He was a horrible coach.
I was on the freshman basketball team coached by him. Why I went out for basketball I’ll never know. I was a big fan of the Boston Celtics, but I was a horrible basketball player with no experience or aptitude for the game. In fact, in most respects, I was completely unsuited for basketball.
Anyway, I sat on the bench, as did practically everybody else except for the starters.
In the very last game of the season, Mr. Bowyer decided to make the grand gesture of letting the bench warmers get into the game near the end as substitutes. I don’t recall, but we were probably losing. There were exactly 22 seconds left on the clock! I was so nervous that when the whistle blew and there was a tipoff, I ran the wrong way. But the game ended and no one seemed to notice.
I was on the junior varsity baseball team in my freshman and junior years. The team was coached by none other than Mr. Bowyer. During practice, he used to waste a lot of time having himself pitched to. During game, I sat on the bench; he never let us substitutes play.
Before the last game of the season in my junior year — we did not have a good team — Mr. Bowyer pledged that he would let us substitutes start the game. It seemed implicit that this meant we would play the entire game. I started the game at third base and got to bat two times. I also was involved in a couple of plays in the field. But in the middle innings, we were doing well, and it seemed like we and our team might actually win a game.
Coach Bowyer smelled victory. He took all of us bench warmer starters out of the game and put the regulars back in. I felt betrayed, angry, and frustrated.
If you use the magnifying glass search option and search for “foreign languages,” the first hit you get will be for the Foreign Languages Department. In the top photo on that page the department is shown. The first department member on the left — of the three standing behind the chairperson (Miss Bertrand) — is Eileen McCauley. She was my French teacher in my freshman and sophomore years, and I absolutely loved her class.
Miss McCauley was a demanding teacher.
I worked very hard at French and found that I had an aptitude for foreign languages. Besides being demanding, she was enthusiastic and nice (besides being attractive).
One day during class, Miss McCauley noticed with surprise that I was sitting there with a broad smile on my face. I was smiling back at her. She was momentarily dumbstruck and commented on what she observed to the class. “Roger, you’re smiling at me!” she said (or words to that effect). I knew it was a little absurd for me to be smiling like that, like a simpleton, but I did it to convey to her, nonverbally, that I was enjoying the class. I more or less didn’t care whether she thought me a fool or not. I wanted her to know how happy I was in her classroom.
My family had a big Irish setter named Rob who used to wander all around town and was known to the townspeople as Big Red. (Rob used to run on the field sometimes during football games and disrupt the game.) Rob used to get into the school sometimes and follow me in the corridor between class periods.
Once, during French period, Rob, who was outside, started barking at the shadow of a waving flag on a flagpole. Miss McCauley noticed it, stuck her head out of the window, and amused everyone by shouting at Rob in French to stop barking and shut up.
I took four years of French and was very disappointed when I found, in my junior year, that Miss McCauley had departed. I don’t know where or to what job she went.
On the left hand page, on this same two-page spread (the one with the Foreign Language Department on the right), the Science Department is shown. The bottom photo on this page shows Mr. Moore, the department chairman, at the blackboard.
Mr. Moore had a bright daughter, Jean Moore, who was in my class. His wife, as I discovered later, worked in a science lab at Brandeis University, which I attended.
I had Mr. Moore in my freshman year for general science. I had no aptitude for science and found it boring; nevertheless, I got an A.
We had Mr. Moore right after lunch and I always seemed to fall asleep midway through the class. He was low key and would drone on in a monotone. I would fight to stay awake to no avail. (For lunch in high school, I always had exactly the same thing for four straight years: two strawberry jam sandwiches on white bread that I made by myself in the mornings, plus two milks.)
If you search for “english department” in this yearbook, the first hit will take you to a photo of the department which is on page 13. Standing in the back, behind the chairman, Mr. Tighe’s, desk, on the second from the left, is Miss Clare Roach, a longtime English teacher. Next to her (to the right) is Mrs. Lowry. And, Mr. Tighe, the chairman, appears in both of the photos on this page. I have spoken of Mr. Tighe in a previous post
I had Mrs. Lowry for English in freshman year. The class wasn’t great. Mrs. Lowry was a conventional, uninspiring teacher.
What I most remember was reading Dickens’s Great Expectations. It was in a drastically abridged version and the plot seemed kind of ridiculous to me, plus you didn’t get many of Dickens’s master stokes of characterization. Only in my thirties, when I reread the novel, did I realize what a great book it is. I have read it around three or four times (at least twice in audiobook versions).
We also read Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, a standard high school book for those times. I remember exactly two lines from the poem:
But, unrequited Love! thy dart
Plunged deepest its envenomed smart,
As far as the overall story was concerned, I didn’t know what was going on.
I had Miss Roach in sophomore year. Next to Mr. Bowyer, she was just about the worst teacher I ever had. Because she was lazy and apparently didn’t want to be bothered with reading and correcting papers, we hardly ever did any writing under her.
I did practically no writing in high school until I had Mr. Tighe.