Tag Archives: Dr. Erwin Gaines

Roger W. Smith, “‘dirty’ books”

 

 

 

There was a cheap mass market paperback book on the living room bookshelf in our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 1950’s – I would guess it was my mother’s because she was the parent with literary tastes: a collection of short stories by Erskine Caldwell, a Southern writer who wrote about plain, simple people. He had a very simple, down to earth style.

I read one of the stories, “A Swell Looking Girl,” when I was a preadolescent. It astounded me because of its frank content, telling an unvarnished story that – while the language was not crude – seemed to have shocking implications. I did not, however, view it as a bad piece of fiction. Even at that age, I had fairly good taste.

“A Swell Looking Girl” is a very simple story about a young man in some town or other in the South who has just gotten married. He is very proud of his young bride and wants to show her off to his male neighbors. So he has her come out on the porch and then (eventually) lifts up her dress. She is nude underneath and completely exposed. The men all say “that sure is some swell looking girl” and gradually leave. That’s the whole story.

The story seemed remarkable to me at that age because of the thought of complete female nudity. It was kind of understated the way it was written, but very daring.

Another book on my parents’ bookshelf which I became aware of at a later age was James Joyce’s Ulysses. I was intrigued by it without reading it (which would have been quite difficult for me then; it still is now). I asked my mother and father about it once at the dinner table. I doubt they had read much of it, but they did explain to me the use by Joyce of stream of consciousness. This intrigued and interested me very much.

Later, when I was in high school, my church youth group, Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), had a midwinter conference at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire in which one of the workshops, which I attended, was on sexuality. In the flyer for the conference, in the place where there would be a description of the workshop, instead of a description of the workshop per se, it simply quoted the famous concluding words of Ulysses:

… I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

This caused quite a stir. Some adults were alarmed. They already thought that these LRY conferences, with adolescents staying together away from home at a conference site with little or no supervision, were a de facto invitation to licentiousness.

My reaction to the Ulysses quote in the flyer was that this was powerful writing of a high order. It did not arouse prurient feelings in me.

Another erotic book that I became slightly acquainted with at around the same time (actually a bit later) was Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I knew of the book but hadn’t read it until my senior year in high school. That year I attended an LRY conference in some town in Massachusetts and was staying over the weekend in someone’s house. There was a paperback of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in my room and, during downtime on a Sunday morning, I read some of it.

I grew to like and admire D. H. Lawrence; yet, I like several of his other novels (particularly The Rainbow and Sons and Lovers) a lot more than Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Nevertheless, when I first read it (parts of it, the “good parts”), I was favorably impressed. It was my first exposure to Lawrence. And, the sexual language and sexual descriptions were new to me. It gave me a desire for sex and got me thinking about it in more explicit terms. Yet, I knew it was not just a “dirty” book.

In my late high school years, I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn in a recently published Grove Press paperback with a bright red cover, which I found in my father’s bedroom — the obscenity ban had just been lifted by the courts. I had never heard of Miller.

At first, I noticed the sexy parts – there were lots of them. The “good parts” were explicit, more so than other naughty books that I had hitherto peeked at. Besides being erotic, they were well written, amusing, and fun.

Soon — very quickly — I got caught up in the whole book and in Miller’s narrative style and I was no longer interested in the sexy parts alone. And, I found that I enjoyed the sex scenes not only for their explicit erotic content, but also for the humor and the good, zesty writing.

Tropic of Capricorn is one of my favorite books and I think it deserves the status of an American literary classic.

While in college, I also read Miller’s Sexus and Plexus and, later, books such as Quiet Days in Clichy and The World of Sex. I enjoyed them all and came to have admiration for Miller as a writer.

My father’s book collection included Memoirs of Hecate County, a novel by the famous literary critic Edmund Wilson. The book was banned in the US until 1959. I read one graphic sex scene in my father’s copy. I didn’t like it. It was too clinical, like an automaton detached from the protagonist’s persona is engaging in sexual intercourse. I find aspects of Wilson’s personality unappealing and don’t particularly care for his writing.

Peyton Place (1956) was a book that was around in those days. It was a phenomenal best seller and was published in a paperback with a black cover that seemed to promise, here is a BAD book. We didn’t have a copy in our house, but a lot of people did. There were a few naughty scenes, but I am sure the book would seem tame now.

The Carpetbaggers (1961) was a bestseller by Harold Robbins. We didn’t have a copy at home, but several kids I knew in high school called my attention to it. I think that it was one particular scene that caused most of the excitement. A girl is at the top of the stairs in a house, naked; she spills orange soda on herself and carries on in a provocative fashion. It was titillating for an adolescent, but I had no interest in reading the book.

Harold Robbins was a trashy writer who sold out. But, in my adult years, I did read an early novel of his, A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952), written when he still had some integrity as a striving writer. I was able to purchase a rare copy. Surprisingly, it was a pretty good book, a piece of realism about a young Jewish man who struggles to make his way during the Depression.

Another book that I discovered on what used to be the erotic books table in bookstores in the sixties – when I was in my young twenties — was My Life and Loves by Frank Harris. He was a successful editor in New York who had countless sexual conquests. Recently, I saw a handsome paperback reissue of the book on one of the bargain tables at the Strand Bookstore in New York and examined the book again. The book is a frank autobiography that was privately published by the author during the 1920’s and was published thereafter by the Obelisk Press in Paris (Henry Miller’s first publisher) in 1931. It is incredibly explicit and details one sexual encounter after another, with Harris portrayed as being remarkably potent and the women portrayed as ravenous for sex.

I can’t quite account for the fact that I found it, as I did at the later date, to be boring and tedious. After a few pages, you feel compelled to put it down. It’s like the case with pornography. The detail quickly becomes repetitive and mind-numbing.

George Orwbook I should mention, although no one nowadays would categorize it as a “dirty” book. When I was in high school in the early 1960’s, however, things were different.

Nineteen Eighty-Four can hold its own not just as a polemic, so to speak, but also as a literary work. It took me several readings to appreciate this. After several readings, I grew to appreciate what I consider to be the brilliant satire more fully. I think that Nineteen Eighty-Four bears comparison to an even greater work, Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Both works are brilliant pieces of satire.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is not pornographic. But, there are a couple of sex scenes involving the protagonist, Winston Smith, and Julia, “the girl from the fiction department.” The scene (and the line) that I remember best from reading the novel as an adolescent – it seemed to be what all my fellow teenagers noticed — was the scene when they first make love and Winston “felt at the zipper of her overalls.”

Because the book contained two sex scenes, it was banned in our high school (Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts). I did read it, however, as part of Dr. Erwin Gaines’s reading group. Dr. Gaines was a high ranking librarian in Boston who had instituted an extra-curricular reading group for high school students. We would meet at his home every two weeks or so during the school year to discuss books; it was very enjoyable and stimulating. I am glad that I got to read Nineteen Eighty-Four then and didn’t have to wait until later.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      July 2016

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “Further High School Reminiscences” (Canton High)

 

 

‘Further High School Reminiscences’

 

 

(Note — a downloadable Word document of this post is available above.)

 

 

********************************************

 

 

 

Further High School Reminiscences

by Roger W. Smith (Canton High School, class of 1964)

 

 

I attended Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts and graduated in 1964.

 

 

 

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Our high school yearbook, The Echo, of which I was editor in my senior year (Canton High School, Canton, MA, 1964), is viewable online at

https://archive.org/details/echocantonhighsc1964unse

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.

 

 

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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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_J._Badoian

for a Wikipedia article about him.

and

http://www.wickedlocal.com/article/20131008/NEWS/310089763/?Start=1

for a feature story in which he is profiled.

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 over the years, 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.

 

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The Canton High School yearbook for 1963 (the year preceding my graduation) is also on line at

http://www.mocavo.com/The-Echo-Canton-High-School-1963/964606

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Page 106 of the 1963 yearbook is at

 

http://www.mocavo.com/The-Echo-Canton-High-School-1963/964606/6?browse=true#106

 

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.

 

Page 108 of the same yearbook is at

 

http://www.mocavo.com/The-Echo-Canton-High-School-1963/964606/6?browse=true#108

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 1962 Canton High School yearbook (my sophomore year) is online at:

 

https://archive.org/details/echocantonhighsc1962unse

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As I indicated above, the 1964 Canton High School yearbook is viewable online at

https://archive.org/details/echocantonhighsc1964unse

 

Page 9 shows the Assistant Superintendent, John O’Connell. I have a story about Mr. O’Connell.

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 1984. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The 1962 Canton High School yearbook (my sophomore year) is online at:

 

https://archive.org/details/echocantonhighsc1962unse

 

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.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

      October 2016