Friday, January 31, 2014

"I meant what said, and I said what I meant! An elephant is faithful, 100%"  Horton, the elephant

My senior homeroom teacher scared the living daylights out of me! There she stood on the first day of school, her long-sleeved black dress ending at her ankles where her huge black, "sensible" shoes began. An enormous crucifix hung from her neck, and the word was that she had been a nun. NO ONE talked. We all just stared at her... we'd heard about her class... She told us to stand up so we could introduce ourselves to her, one by one. We were to shake her hand and tell her our names. Luckily, she started on the other side of the class. I studied the whole operation and was wondering if I should throw in a curtsey for free...
"And who are you?"

"Terry Kingston..."

"Speak UP, girl!  WHO are YOU?"

"Terry Kingston." She'd get no curtsey from me!

"What is your WHOLE first name!"

"Terry is my whole first name..."

"THAT'S NO NAME! WHAT WERE YOUR PARENTS THINKING WHEN THEY NAMED YOU? IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERESA!!!" ...and she threw down my hand.  ...and on to the next poor schmoo she went.

Her first order of business was to teach us how to walk into her classroom. There was to be NO NOISE! "Do NOT, at any time, let your heels click on the floor!"

Just then a kid walked in with a message for Miss Billingsley from the office.  He had TAPS on both the heels and toes of his shoes! He thought he was cooool. She commanded him to walk back-and-forth on his TIP-TOES 25 times for that infraction!  ...and he DID!  We watched him do it! I was terrified of her.

But Bruce wasn't! Towards the middle of the year, he had the nerve to raise his hand in this "home"room class, and question something that she'd just said. Bruce was in ALL the honors classes, and, boy, was he smart... not as in "smart alec," just very smart.

Miss Billingsley told him to come out into the hall with her, and he did. Then she began to yell at him. Amazingly, we could hear Bruce defending himself, out loud, mind you! They must have walked down the hall and down the stairs, because the yelling got softer, and then there was none.

The creepy part was that no one ever saw Bruce again!

Now, New Jersey was just down the parkway and across the river from us somewhere, and, later I found out, according to TV, that Tony Soprano lived there, and the Mafia and all, and bad things happened and...  Well, you know... Where WAS Bruce? NAW! Miss Billingsley would have put TONY in slippers, if she'd ever met him, and she'd have taught him to walk properly, too!  

From Miss Billingsley's HOMEroom, I'd go to Miss Favroe's English class. Miss Favroe had a black dress, too, that stopped at her ankles, and the same sort of shoes. It was her eyes that I noticed most, though. They were very smart eyes, and kind. When we were sitting in her class, she towered over us. She was at least 6+ feet tall. But when the bell rang and we were dismissed, she only came to my shoulder! Funny how perceptions color everything.

For the first time in my student-life, I hated English class! It seemed that every night we had to memorize lists of words for some quiz or other the next morning. We memorized ALL the prepositions first. Then, later, every week it was some other lists of parts of speech. It cost me most of my study time every night, trying to pass those darn quizzes, because one of the things I cannot do is memorize. My mediocre grades in history classes proved that. Therefore, I hated history, too! It was a given.

It wasn't until my first art history class in college that I was taught history differently.  Those names I'd had to memorize were PEOPLE... REAL LIVE PEOPLE who had thoughts and feelings and desires just like I did! It was a REVELATION to me, and that changed me and my studies, and in a way, it opened up my life!

But, back to Miss Favroe...  One day when we walked into her class, there were these funny words on the board:       

            Buffalo Bill's
            who used to
            ride a water-smooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfivepigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
                            and what I want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

Well, she'd cracked up! That was all there was to it! We looked at each other, and then at the board, and then at her, and then we did it all over again.

When the bell rang to begin the class, she asked us to tell her what we thought of that "poem" on the board! She'd never asked any of us what we thought before! No one had. We were just students. Well, it was a "new day, a new dawn, a new me, and I was feeling gooood!"

As you probably already guessed, it was an e e cummings' poem. That day turned me around, and English became my most favorite class, ever in the world, except for art class.

We studied, we learned, and we grew as students because of that lady. And then it was time to take the S.A.T.'s. Those day-long tests would decide what colleges or universities would accept us. The compulsory multiple choice tests were in the morning, and the optional Writing Tests were to take the entire afternoon and on into the evening hours.

When the results came in, I saw Miss Favroe walking down the hallway, and she called me over and asked me to walk with her... ME! She said that my scores were so high that I would be accepted anywhere, even at her alma mater, Smith College!  She told me that she would write me a recommendation letter, and she thought I should apply there. ME! 

As we walked down the hall, I got up the nerve to tell her that if my scores were so good, it was all due to HER...  Every bloody one of those lists of words that we had to memorize were vital to getting correct answers on those multiple choice tests. The difficult, thoughtful choices of poetry we'd studied in class had been vital for the thinking that those the writing tests required. It was all HER! 

Miss Favroe was my model for teaching long after I left high school. I didn't go to Smith, although, I was accepted there, and at UCONN, too. You see, a girl I knew came running up to me that same day saying, "Terry, I got my black dress for college! Have YOU got yours yet? C'mon, tell me!"


She said, "Well, what are you going to wear to all the university cocktail parties, then?"


That made my mind up!  It was no Eastern college for me! And NO BLACK DRESSES, EVER...  whether they went with black Army boots for teaching OR were slinky and meant for going to cocktail parties!"  NO BLACK DRESSES! 

The University of Nebraska had accepted me, and that's where I'd go... with football and ice cream and pennants and things like that.  YUP, it was UNL for me.  

When I got there, the week before classes started, I went through "Rush Week."  At all those sorority rush parties, I was the only one one who didn't have a "little black dress..." 


  1. Heh heh heh -- you are awesome! I taught with another gal once who'd refused to join any sorority after she learned she'd be expected to wear pantyhose. Uh-uh, she said. No way. ;-)

    1. I would have liked that lady! :} I did meet some wonderful people in the sorority that I pledged, but there were sooooo many other people that I met who were NOT in sororities or fraternities, and they were very special folks, too.