Category Archives: Canton High School, Canton, MA

a baseball story

 

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.)

 

 

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Mr. Tighe was an avid baseball fan.

He told my brother a story.

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.

She asked someone what was the score.

“Nothing to nothing,” they replied.

“Oh, good, I haven’t missed anything,” she said.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    January 2008

 

 

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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!

“it all depends on where you draw the line”

 

 

 

My high school English teacher, Robert W. Tighe, was a wonderful teacher and a learned man in the humanities. He also was equipped with practical knowledge and wisdom, the sort that could be applied to everyday affairs and issues.

The topic of censorship once came up in class. Mr. Tighe said, “When arguments of censorship arise, it always comes down to the question: where you draw the line?” He continued in this vein. He asked the class, “Do you think I should be allowed to sell French postcards in the school parking lot?” We all said no. “Well then,” Mr. Tighe said, “that proves my point.”

I was thinking recently about Mr. Tighe’s observation, which I never forgot, and its implications — both in the “narrow” sense (how does it apply to issues of censorship and obscenity?) and in the “wider” sense of how it might apply in general to controversies where one side or the other might say, “This is beyond the pale. This goes too far.”

 

 

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Some examples.

In a previous post of mine

 

“After Racist Rage, Statues Fall”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/09/06/after-racist-rage-statues-fall/

 

I stated that, in my opinion, statutes honoring heroes of the Confederacy should not be taken down. A reader of the post commented: “There’s a big difference between Robert E. Lee, who fought to preserve slavery and who fought to tear this country apart, and the founding fathers who created our government. Should statues of Hitler and Nazi monuments be preserved because they are part of history? [italics added]”

That comment (the second, italicized sentence, not the first) stopped me in my tracks. It made me think: Could it be that I am opposed to taking down MOST statues, but that here are some exceptions, some historical figures (Hitler, Stalin, etc.), who were so bad — notwithstanding my stated point of view, in variance with it, or perhaps one might say, despite it — that they should not be honored with statues?

Similarly, in my post

 

“is it possible (or desirable) to hold two divergent opinions at the same time?”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/04/24/is-it-possible-or-desirable-to-hold-two-divergent-opinions-at-the-same-time/

 

I noted that there were some hot button issues — ones that seem to never get resolved — that are so contentious and emotionally charged that “public agreement” on them seems impossible. For example: capital punishment; abortion; hawks vs. doves. The real test, the hard part, I wrote, comes “when one is dealing with actualities and specific cases.” For example: I am against capital punishment, but when I saw and read news items about beheadings of hostages by ISIS terrorists, I felt that I would like to see the executioners publicly beheaded. Charles Manson died a few weeks ago. I believe in the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, but I was glad to see him dead.

And so on.

 

 

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What about censorship? Obscenity? Pornography? Which my English teacher was talking about.

What once was considered obscene — and was verboten legally — is now common. Ulysses, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer — all of them classics — were once forbidden books. What ever happened to censorship (on obscenity grounds) of literature? It doesn’t exist any more.

Sexually explicit films and magazines that would be considered legally obscene when I was growing up seem tame and would bother no one now. Pornography is available on the Internet for free now — to suit every market niche and appeal to every prurient taste.

So, the “foul lines” keep being widened for obscenity issues.

 

 

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What about the recent spate of reported sexual offenses (most of them from past years) against men? How does Donald Trump compare with Bill Clinton in this regard, or vice versa? Are Al Franken’s and Garrison Keillor’s transgressions as serious as were Harvey Weinstein’s and (allegedly) Roy Moore’s? Charlie Rose? Matt Lauer? (See more on this below.)

 

 

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The bottom line, it seems to me, is that when push comes to shove — in the final analysis — judgments are made both: (1) according to principles people feel compelled to adhere to; and (2) according to the degree of outrage or indignation they do or do not feel. Perhaps this is obvious. In making judgments, one takes into account both the law as one construes it (ranging from the legislative to codes of ethics and religion) and one’s gut reactions.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, when considering grave issues, people believe they are adhering to firmly held principles. But, opinions can and do shift over time, according to what people are willing to tolerate. Just as Mr. Tighe said.

Take the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for example. Some legislators and many anti-Clinton people (including some, like myself, who always vote Democratic) felt that Clinton, having lied under oath, should have been impeached on principle and as a matter of law. Others were willing to give him a pass.

 

 

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What about the wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations now sweeping the country in tidal wave fashion (mentioned above)?

Standards are shifting, that’s for sure.

But, there seems to be much confusion. Are distinctions being made, should they, according to circumstances, gravity of offense — e.g. Al Franken and Garson Keilor, say, versus Harvey Weinstein?

Is it now the unwritten law that any evidence of inappropriate sexual behavior, any improper or unasked-for advances, are henceforth forbidden, and that all cases will be punished with equal severity?

There was a good column in The Washington Post recently that addresses these issues (and, for readers of this post from overseas who may not be familiar with the current controversy, provides an overview):

 

“So what should happen to Al Franken?”

by Ruth Marcus

The Washington Post

November 17, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/so-what-should-happen-to-al-franken/2017/11/17/6b7d64fc-cbdd-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html?utm_term=.b034f7fa8980

 

All kinds of issues seem to be getting entangled here: moral principles; feminist issues; the law, which is often not clear (for instance, where and when was the offense committed? was it a state or federal crime? does the statute of limitations apply?); and so on. Then, what seems reprehensible to some may seem excusable to others. Pretty much everyone agrees that pedophilia is the worst sort of crime and is repugnant. But, were Roy Moore’s alleged transgressions those of a pedophile?

 

See

“Roy Moore is not a pedophile”

by Rachel Hope Cleves and Nicholas L. Syrett

The Washington Post

November 19, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/roy-moore-is-not-a-pedophile/2017/11/19/1a9ae238-cb21-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.7203b32cb7c2

 

It matters, because when we are debating issues like these about which people feel so strongly, hysteria can prevail. Terms are thrown around and accusations are made loosely. Clear headedness and dispassionate judgments tend not to be welcomed or in evidence.

Which is not to say that people shouldn’t feel outrage. I myself found that I loathed Moore: his past actions, his denials, his attempts to impugn his accusers.

But, here’s a question worth pondering. Sexual harassment in the US — in the workplace, in the media, in academia — as the recent allegations show, is nothing new. Quite a few of the victimized women have indicated that complaints they made in the past were ignored. But, now, when an allegation is made against Garrison Keillor or a WNYC talk show host, they are immediately fired and their shows are canceled, despite their having disputed allegations or denied them. Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine is accused of predatory sexual behavior with minors, and he is immediately fired by the opera’s board of directors before an investigation which the board had just commenced is completed.

So, how are the swift actions by corporate boards and peremptory firings accounted for? Apparently, Mr. Tighe’s line has shifted, very fast. But, I wonder — in the case of the firings, do the boards of corporations and media and cultural organizations really care that much about the victims, or even feel outrage? I think what they care about most is staying ahead of the curve of public opinion, and making sure that they are not seen to be tolerating such behavior, lest it have a negative impact on sales, attendance, viewership, and the like.

If they really cared that much about the issues, and the victims, why were complaints routinely ignored in the past, until the very recent past, before public opinion shifted? And, if what we are talking about is criminal behavior, why not let the law run its course?

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2017

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

See also:

“When #MeToo Goes Too Far”

by Bret Stephens

The New York Times

December 20, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “Reflections on How I Deal with Lingering Resentments”

 

 

This brief 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 did wear glasses, and that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Gibson.

I was deeply hurt but was resolved not to show it or quit.

I can never forgive or forget the way he treated me. I never got over it.

 

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My older brother 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 in many ways feel that I never want to let go of my anger at Coach Gibson. I don’t know. 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.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2016

 

 

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Addendum: 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 can be particularly vulnerable — can’t. Other persons lacking empathy 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.

 

— Roger W. Smith, August 3, 2017

 

 

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Addendum: A 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:

Perhaps.

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, not 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?

an election related anecdote (apropos The Donald’s upset win)

 

 

 

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.”

It seems it never really does.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      November 9, 2016

My English Teacher, Robert W. Tighe

 

 

 

 

Bob Tighe.jpg

Robert W. Tighe

 

 

 

The following is a message of mine posted on Facebook in response to a daughter of my former English teacher Robert W. Tighe.

 

 

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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.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     March 25, 2016

Thanksgiving

 

 

 

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

One great thing about it is that it comes on a Thursday and that normally means a four day weekend for all, with time to travel to and join families.

Another thing I like is that there are no gifts associated with it, and little commercial hoopla.

 

 

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In New England, where I grew up, Thanksgiving was done right. It was a truly memorable and wonderful day. My family really knew how to celebrate it.

There was an appropriate sense of solemnity about the day — not so much anything piously enforced — just because people cherished the day and knew how to observe it.

It came at the end of fall (a gorgeous season in New England), when the air was crisp and the trees had become bare.

 

 

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From when I was about twelve years old, we lived in the suburbs. Schools always had a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (which, as far as I know, is not observed by schools elsewhere in the USA).

On Wednesday night, there would be a bonfire and rally for the Thanksgiving Day football game. High school Thanksgiving football games were a big deal in Massachusetts.

Our high school team in Canton, Massachusetts had some memorable games against our hated arch rivals, Stoughton.

I will never forget the 1959 game, which we won 18-8 in a stunning upset. (The Stoughton team had been nearly undefeated up to that point.) I remember that game and the excitement of the buildup to it vividly. It was one of the most memorable sports events I ever witnessed.

 
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Thanksgiving for us always meant a family gathering, at our home or grandparents’. We always had a big sit down dinner with invited guests: mostly relatives; sometimes a friend or acquaintance who was away from home. My parents liked to reach out to others and include people at the dinner table whom they thought would be interesting company. While the family aspect was important, they were “catholic” — broad minded — when it came to invitees. Before we moved from Cambridge to Canton, my parents rented rooms to Harvard graduate students. They would occasionally invite foreign ones to share holiday dinners with us. They liked to invite people who would appreciate being included and had nowhere else to go. They did something similar with an elderly unmarried relative of ours whom they always made sure to invite.

 
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The dinner was truly marvelous. A whole day was spent, it seemed, preparing it (well, all morning), and it took a long time for a team of volunteer dishwashers to do the dishes. (I was never drafted for this duty.) Establishing when the turkey was done was a source of great concern.

My mother would put it in the oven very early in the morning; she would get up especially to do so. It was huge. It had to be done just right, of course, and it always was. My father always carved. I used to think that carving was a great skill, one that I would never learn or possess.

My mother was the main cook, but others contributed. My father used to make scalloped oysters, a side dish he loved and would labor over with enthusiasm. Guests would invariably bring more stuff, mostly pies; we always had about five or six pies to choose from, always homemade.

The number of side dishes was truly outstanding: stuffing, gravy, mashed and sweet potatoes, squash, all sorts of vegetables (including Brussels sprouts and cranberries, neither of which I particularly cared for), and rolls.  Plus, cider and wine and a variety of nuts for appetizers. The turkey was enormous. The amount of effort lavished on the meal was prodigious. Eating it was sheer pleasure.

In the evening, we would have a light snack from a platter of cold turkey.  The next day, my mother would make turkey soup, which seemed to take her forever. The turkey soup would last for several days. I couldn’t get enough of it, it was so nourishing. I would come home from school and ask my mother what was for dinner. “Turkey soup” was the answer. My mother would ask, “Would you like another bowl?” The answer was always yes.

A truly American holiday. Begun in New England and, originally, celebrated only there.

It makes me miss my parents.

 

 

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Postscript

When I was in my twenties, I was working in a hospital in Connecticut and could not get home for Thanksgiving one year. I went with four or five other hospital workers to a restaurant where we had a Thanksgiving dinner. We tried to be festive, but it was a big letdown.

Not long ago, my wife and I decided to do as a Polish family whom she knew was doing and order a turkey cooked for us by a Polish catering service. It was rather expensive. But, we didn’t feel in the mood for cooking and it seemed like a good idea.

The turkey that we got was inexcusably flavored with garlic that had been rubbed into it everywhere — it was cooked totally wrong. I was so angry over this, I couldn’t eat the turkey, which helped to ruin my Thanksgiving. I thought to myself, they can’t even get a turkey right! All you have to do is put it the oven and baste it a few times.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    November 24, 2016

 

 

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Addendum: re the time of year, I can’t help thinking of the following famous lines of Shakespeare:

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold;
Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

—  Sonnet 73

 

 

 

Alan W. and Elinor Smith with granddaughter