Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Voluntouring Students Find Floyd VA Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:00:55 +0000 Continue reading Voluntouring Students Find Floyd VA ]]> This will be the third year that SustainFloyd has had a role to play with visiting students from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. It will be the first year I have been involved with VolunTours, and I am looking forward to it, and envious of the week-long experience that these 25 young people will have after they arrive at the Ecovillage tomorrow.

I’ll have a part in their orientation after dinner on Saturday, and then we will spend three hours together in Celebration Hall on Monday afternoon—a block of time that is more than I would have chosen for anyone to listen to the sound of one voice, but there it is. We’ll make the best of it.

One of the main outcomes the staff is hoping for is that these students gain a deep and clear understanding of their place in space and time; that they better understand the Appalachian mountains and especially the Blue Ridge; that they gain a sense of “Appalachia” in cultural context including the stereotypes versus what they experience on the ground in Floyd County; and that they see with new eyes with regard to their relationship to the natural and human community in light of the ties to the land. Sense of place is the beginning of this process. It goes on beyond that to become connection to and allegiance to place—the soil, air, water, forests and people of those places.

I will try to keep in mind that, when I was 20 years old like these students, I gave no thought at all to a grounding in such things. I wish someone had offered me, as I hope to offer these guests in Floyd, a way of seeing myself in place and time that points in the direction of what I call “a personal ecology.” It would have given me a framework upon which to hang so much of my photography, my writing and my sense of who and why I am.

I’ll share a Prezi with them I call “A Biology Watcher’s Look at the Anthropocene” starting with the “Great Acceleration” in 1950 and the first Earth Day in 1970. In another time block we’ll take 10 minutes for a “visual essay” of personal landscapes and nature scenes from the Southern Mountains and talk a bit about writing, photoessays and “nature deficit disorder.” And I’ll hope to direct their thinking towards eco-empathy and a future where the human economy is once again founded on a healthy ecology.

Interesting to note that participating students have the choice of these locations: Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, San Diego, Santa Fe/Taos NM and little ol’ FloydVA. Here’s how the local program is described:

Appalachia region, Virginia

Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a rural community is proving its resilience by celebrating and strengthening its culture and its natural and historic beauty. This is a place where small-town values and creative community collaboration are thriving. Meet micro-enterprise advocates, support food security and self-reliance initiatives, visit the Floyd country store, enjoy the lively folk traditions and music of Appalachia, and meet with community leaders and families that have championed these initiatives together through Sustain Floyd.

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RE(Devon)THINKING My Brain Thu, 05 Mar 2015 12:14:47 +0000 Continue reading RE(Devon)THINKING My Brain ]]> Long story short, I think I’ve made permanent changes in how I structure documents, blog posts, web pages and writing on the computer. A ticker tape parade ensues. Stock prices soar!

At the end of the story, I’m moving away from Evernote and towards Devonthink Pro. Here’s why (and thank you for asking.)

Devonthink Pro was maybe the first (and most expensive) Mac software I purchased when I made the move from PC in early 2008. I used it to organize the elements that would become What We Hold in Our Hands in 2009. Then we broke up.

Evernote, about that time, had moved from its earliest incarnation as a long scrolling strip of information to its more sophisticated folder and files format. I jumped ship.

I still use Evernote, but for fewer things than I did before I had the V8 Dope Slap moment a few weeks back thinking “I could have used Devonthink Pro!” And it turns out, you can easily import Evernote folders into DTP where they become part of the Artificial Intelligence and other cataloging functions of Devonthink. The faster iMac with 32GB of RAM has also helped this program to rise up in the ranks of apps I use.

I will admit that DTP is not the sexiest, most transparent or intuitive application on the Mac. This information database takes wrapping your head around its particular way of doing things.

But it is perhaps one of the most versatile and potentially useful apps around if you need what it does. Who might need what it does are folks who deal with a wide variety of document types and attempt to glean quick or aggregated information from the docs, snippets, web pages, pdfs and images that would otherwise live on their hard drives.

DTP becomes a super FINDER to either store (import) or reference (index) files and cross-reference some or many  that used to live invisible and helpless on your hard drive. The app is understandibly popular among historians, students, teachers and research types.

I run Workflowy, Nimbus Notes and Simplenote (or others at times—like weather radar this morning) within DTP in tabbed browser windows so I don’t have to switch from DTP to Firefox and back for many routine writing/recording actions.

DTP works [Screen shot from my current open database] best with Safari and Mac Mail, and I  don’t use either. But there are bookmarklets and add-ons for Firefox, plus the “SORTER” which stays ready like an open file cabinet to pop in notes, tasks and “bookmarks” which are active links to web pages.

For digital packrats like me, it is finally becoming obvious that this is an app worth its rather high price. If you do a lot of document scanning then you’ll want DTP Office that is even pricier.

Okay. Take a breath. The excitement has passed and the frenzied parade has crept over the event horizon, so you may resume your boring ordinary life you lived before you were titillated by this account of my software fetish.

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Delicious, Deadly, Deceptive Deathcap Mushroom Wed, 04 Mar 2015 13:27:12 +0000 Continue reading Delicious, Deadly, Deceptive Deathcap Mushroom ]]> Already, underground along the margins of our pasture, the thready future of our largest mushroom is taking shape. And with the first warm weeks of spring, the plate-sized yellow parasols of this fungus will appear, off and on, for six months.

This is certainly the most visible mushroom around, and very familiar—the Deathcap (or Deathcup) mushroom, Amanita phalloides–a species name that I cannot verify to mean of or resembling a…well I can’t confirm that so maybe it was named after J Alfred Phallo. Who knows.

Very familiar. Yes. But I learned a thing or two about A. phalloides from this article at Slate.

1. It is not a native of the US
2. It was only introduced around 1938, apparently from a small population of founder-fungus probably in the soil of a transplanted European tree.
3. It is said to be delicious to eat. Don’t.
4. It is not necessarily fatal if: you DRINK LOTS OF WATER; and call the number at the end of the article for a drug that is effective against the kidney and liver death that can kill.
5. The genetic plasticity if such that this fungus has taken a wide leap in its preferred host trees—from oaks to pines in the US. This is actually pretty amazing but I’m prepared for you to yawn. Go ahead.

Poisonings are common since the range of this mushroom is bringing it before mushroom eaters for the first time in some parts of the country.

But come on people. The CUP and VEIL of the Amanitas should be plenty enough clues to say DO NOT EAT. Some, this article says, have confused it with the field Agaric (which we also have). But  Agarics campestris has distinctly brown-pink gills. You can’t miss them, and no cup and no veil.

Give these lowly adaptors the respect they deserve. As the climate warms, the Fungal diseases are on the rise, and they are coming for us.

During the past century, fungal diseases have felled great forests of elms, chestnuts, pines, and other trees around the world, overturning ecosystems and leaving grassy wastelands in their wake. The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is thought to have wiped out hundreds of species of amphibians and has been fingered as the cause of frog die-offs worldwide. Scientists recently reported that the fungus is also infecting and killing crayfish. White-nose syndrome was discovered affecting a few unfortunate bats in New York in 2006; the fungus responsible for the disease has since killed more than 5 million hibernating bats in 21 states and four Canadian provinces.

As we tear up forests and turn over soil, we unleash spores from their slumber, including species that humans and other animals have rarely encountered before. World trade is helping strains of fungus spread and hybridize. And our wanton use of antibacterial medicine, including in farm animals, kills the microbes that could help keep fungus levels in check.

“The environment is changing quite dramatically,” Heitman said. “Logging, gardening, forestry, and other things that perturb the environment and move around soil or trees that are contaminated with the fungus are a major contributor.”

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Wood Heat is Wonderful But Here Comes the Sun Tue, 03 Mar 2015 12:11:08 +0000 Continue reading Wood Heat is Wonderful But Here Comes the Sun ]]> So we are on the downhill side of winter at last, or at least can see the light—or more to the point, feel the heat—at the end of the tunnel. And I have to say I will miss the wood heat and I will not. To have a morning free of that familiar ritual will be both liberating and a bit melancholy. But mostly liberating. The job is entirely mine, start to finish, and it adds up to an awful lot of touches, reaches and bends, lifts and carries from start to finish.

An all-day all-night seven day a week fire starts maybe in early October. It ends maybe in early April. That’s six months of constant fires, plus intermittent temporary daytime warmups on either side. So maybe seven months of the year require stoking the stove about hourly during the daytime and starting the next morning, first thing after plugging in the coffee percolator.

We run through far more wood now than we used to, what with the both of us (including the Ice Queen who is always cold) being here most of the time now. This year was particularly frigid starting in November and we’ll have depleted all six cords laid up behind the house. I’d hoped to have a third of it left, but not this year.

A cord of seasoned hardwood weighs at least 4000 pounds. Six cords weighs 24,000 pounds. Divided by 210 heating days, that’s about 115 pounds of wood a day to heat this house. Each piece of wood is handled multiple times—from where the dump truck leaves it into my pickup; from my pickup to the wood stacks; from the wood stacks to the Gardenway cart; from the cart on the back porch to the stove.

And keep in mind the fact that 24000 pounds of wood makes a considerable residue of wood ashes that have to be cleaned out of the stove every few days, the colder it is outside, the shorter the time to a stove full of cold ashes. And the glass gets cloudy and needs a weekly Windexing.

Wood heat is wonderful when there is plenty of it out on the porch and temperatures are seasonal “normal” and after the fire is built of a morning and Herself is not complaining that she’s “freezing and miserable” and the glass door of the stove is clean and ashes are not falling out every time another couple of sticks of oak are sacrificed to the insatiable beast.

But you can understand when I tell you that I am ready for a break. I am ready for our heat to come directly from the source rather than its cellulosic proxy—a most wonderful alchemy to be sure, and we treat our winter heat like it grew on trees. But the sun needs no kindling and leaves no ash. And that’s kind of a nice way to heat one’s home from April to October.

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Beam Me Up, Scottie Sat, 28 Feb 2015 13:52:48 +0000 Continue reading Beam Me Up, Scottie ]]> I took this shot a few snows ago and just got around to pulling it into Photoshop. Neither the Darth headgear look or the Vulcan hand greeting were intended, only observed, in apparent anticipated tribute to Leonard Nimoy who has gone on to the Final Frontier.

Farewell, Spock
Farewell, Spock
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Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 7th and 8th Grades Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:04:07 +0000 Continue reading Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 7th and 8th Grades ]]> I’m not sure the world is a better place for having shared these moss-covered and faded reflections, but there you go. You’re done. No more. Until the next wave of remembery.

Seventh Grade: Ms Griffith

•    My memory is that we made this woman ill. I remember subs during this year, and we did not treat them well in ways i have mercifully mostly forgotten—except for putting a large assortment of very wet spitballs from the mouths of both boys and girls into the upturned hat of one male sub. Who never came back. Scurvy elephants were working to become scurvy delinquents. Few of us succeeded. Except maybe Teddy Drake.

•    Not long into the year came the Halloween Carnival which included a hay ride. Repugnant as it was to met at the time, boys were expected to pair up with girls in the back of a hay-filled flatbed truck and ride around the un-wildness of Woodlawn Highlands. To my horror, some of my buddies fell into this trap, and nobody was holding a gun to their heads. I felt totally betrayed and bewildered.

•    I remember very little of what happened during school hours this year. Mostly I would place it along the time axis of a long life by the friends I hung out with—Bobby Pogue (since age 3) and Tim Akers; Bryce Callaway and the Bill Murray gang were not so much close friends as amiable combatants when we had snow and snowballs,  and as collaborators in the pyrotechnics of zinc and sulfur explosions in the power line clearing behind Crestwood Circle. Joe Allen Cook, Ronnie Pilgreen, David Gillespie, Carol Elam, Rick Sprague. More would become visible out of the haze with more time squinting into the past. David Hogan. Whatever happened to him? And Kathy McElhannon?

•    I played YMCA basketball and scored a total of two points (for my own team!) that year. My father was the coach. And then he played on many other teams—away games—after that.

•    How can you spend so many hundred hours and remember so little about it? Maybe our world in that age was enlarging so that school was less and less and friends and music and the greater world became more and more of our lives.

•    I think it is telling that I can sing the lyrics to many of the 100 top hits of that year (1960-1), so culture of the age was replacing culture of the home and the school. It was the age of the Twist, Elvis, Sam Cook, the Everly Brothers and the year Kennedy won the presidency. A catholic. Many southerner Baptists threatened to move to New Zealand. It was the end of the world.

Eighth Grade: Mrs. Gillespie

•    Fat Pat. She was pregnant early on and took maternity leave early in 1962. I remember her as patient, pleasant and secretly amused by much of what she must officially condemn of our collective and individual misbehaviors. We were not mean-spirited, even when we rigged up her chair so that when she sat down and made contact to complete the circuit powered by a flashlight battery, it would trigger a flash bulb hidden in the books on her desk in front of her. I think she laughed.

•    Halloween Hayride 8th grade: I had drunk the KoolAid. Parties include such new sports as Spin the Bottle. And upon those new skill sets, Rhea Smith and the reluctant new imbiber of early-teens KoolAid became special friends.

•    It was the year we had some poor woman for “industrial education.” She was working beyond her pay grade. She called us up to her desk probably for blanket condemnation of our sorriness, which we earned. The lot of us without a word commenced to pushing her desk and the chair she occupied towards the chalkboard like the trash compacter scene from Star Wars. For this attrocious hilarity we were to come back after class that day. We swooped down on the classroom from the outside and jumped in through the open 20 foot tall windows at ground level. She didn’t say by which portal we were to return for detention. We were a creative lot.

•    By eighth grade a young student should begin to show a propensity for one realm of human endeavor over others or at least to have dominant curiosities. I suppose my leanings towards science came best into view when I was at Camp Winnataska and/or fishing. My mother carried me often to East Lake with a little cardboard tub of red worms. There was a mystery in fishing the boundaries between the world of air and the hidden world of water, from which you might pull an old shoe, a largemouth bass or a genie in a bottle. Fishing was mystery and imagination, a lure of opportunity cast time and again into the unknown.

•    For some health class related reason, we took our height towards the end of that year. I was five foot eight. Six months later at the beginning of my freshman year, I and been stretched but without additional bulk, to six foot. A man’s form with a Lost Boy’s brain.

•    And life goes on.

Grade One

Grades Two and Three

Grade Four and Five

Grade Six

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Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: Sixth Grade Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:03:11 +0000 Continue reading Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: Sixth Grade ]]> This was perhaps my most traumatic year of grade school. And my mother corrects me: the Scent of Death was Tabu.  On the plus side, it would be the beginning of the decade of coming of age music. But that is another subject for another time.

Sixth Grade: Mrs. Badeau

•    I wrote the teacher’s name just now and hair on my arms stood up. Not a good sign. I should have had counseling during and for years after sixth grade.

•    The Red Book was the bane of my existence. I could not keep up with my homework (it was somewhere in the mess that was my desk) so I fell farther and farther behind, as recorded in the Red Book. I soon came to dread school, but found there was a solution.

•    I spent a total of a month at home that year, after learning you can run an inexplicable low-grade fever by either holding the thermometer under warm water or, if you’re being watched, under the covers you can rub it briskly against the sheets and create enough friction to become sufficiently ill that you can stay home and watch Arthur Godfrey.

•    I was so far indentured to the Red Book but the end of the year that I was required to address my incompletes over the summer AFTER I had been promoted out of Guantanamo. Such a thing most surely is contrary to the Geneva Convention—unless you are Ruth Hill Carr Badeau.

•    My mother had this same teacher when she was Ruth Hill Carr. I think my mother would have been perfectly normal otherwise. Just kidding, mom.

•    Was it Estee Lauder? Shalimar? Whatever it was, the woman bathed in it. By association, the slightest vapor of it gave me prickly heat for years thereafter.

BigBassDrum300•    This was a year of morning rituals of regimentation to keep the troops in line. One thing for sure, I remember the 121st psalm. “I will look up unto the hills, from whence cometh my strength” and “A little man bought him a big base drum, boom! boom! boom!” We recited together like so many little wind-up toys. Or else! And I learned and still remember the Greek alphabet and the difference between Ionic, Corinthian and Doric columns. The woman was a Roman era groupie. Three years later, I took Latin in high school. I blame (or credit) Mrs. Badeau for that. In combination with Ms Long’s phonics and vocabulary, I was science-jargon primed for college.

•    This was the year some of my buddies discovered the climbing wall. The brick front of the school was such that about every eighteen inches, one row of bricks extended an inch or so beyond the others. If you were careful, you could scale the outer wall a few feet and jump back down. But where’s the fun in that? We decided we’d shoot for the moon: an open second story window, during recess when everybody else was on the playground on the other side. Maybe four of us were about to reach the window when Mr. Hall leaned over, looked down, and just waited. This was one of the first “Oh Crap” moments of my young life. I have had a few since where you’re damned if you climb higher and damned if you let go.

•    This would have been 1960 and the coming of the first new decade of which I took note. I think that was because the even number let me easily predict that at the beginning of the new millennium I would be 52 years old. I could not imagine the point of living so long. I still have moments of uncertainty in that regard. I still am a Lost Boy in NeverNever Land.

Percy Faith – Theme From A Summer Place – YouTube
See where this 1960s hit carries  you.


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Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 4th and 5th Grades Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:13:14 +0000 Continue reading Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 4th and 5th Grades ]]> This would have been 1958-9. Other installments in the series (hang with me, we’re more than half way now) are linked at the end of this chapter.

Four Grade: Ms Long

•    I have copious memories of Ms. Long. I’m sure we all do. She was much feared. I loved her. From her I learned phonics, vocabulary, and sarcasm.

•    She told the story of an irate mother who demanded an appointment with her to discuss what had been said about the woman’s son. She claimed that he had been called a “scurvy elephant.” To which, Ms Long, with her glasses down on her nose and expression of great disdain mixed with pity, told the woman…”I did not call your son a scurvy elephant. I called him a disturbing element.” I think I was one of those too, but she never threw an eraser at me at the pencil sharpener or poured water on my head asleep at my desk. Tough love. She was ahead of her time.

•    I stopped by Ms Long’s house in 1973 when I was working at the medical center and before we moved to Virginia the first time. I knew she was home; the same ancient dark green car she drove in 1958 was in the driveway. I knocked on the door. She answered it. I stepped forward and said “Ms Long, I bet you don’t remember me.” Drolly, she looked down her nose through reading glasses and said “That’s right.”

When I told her who I was, with a flash of recognition, she practically wept. We talked inside for an hour while she watered her beloved ferns. Which she pronounced FuhWeens. (Her classroom was always lined with them and I know there were days she much preferred them to human children.)

She said she’d often wondered what happened to me and my brother who both endured her with much less terror and more cautious admiration than most of our classmates. She never got much love. She deserved much love. She might have been the most influential teacher of twelve years of my deep-southern education.  No, she was that.

Fifth Grade: Mrs. Davis

•    Mrs Davis was a coach maybe, I think, because I remember her wearing a whistle around her neck.

•    Girls as a group formerly not visible began to become visible in and out of class this year. Especially Ruth Schaeffer.

•    I got an upgrade that year from the Rocket crystal radio I had used to listen secretely after bedtime to Birmingham Barons baseball games with the wire clamped to my metal bed-rails. My Birthday-gift radio was a sweet piece of technology—turquoise, like the rock in Mr. Halls collection. It was so tiny—no bigger than a World Book encyclopedia. I was not supposed to take it to school. I took it to school and left it in my locker. I went back to get it, by which time it was already in somebody else’s collection. Maybe Mr. Hall’s.

•    This class was in the new wing (is that right?) with crank-out windows. I spent much time taking advantage of them and not so much the chalk board. Chalk. It is the medium of the age. And they have not yet discovered that all those years chalk dust  was lethal to small lungs–unless you got picked to clean erasers. Chalk dust lung–occupational pneumonopathy of grammar school.

•    Teddy Drake was a scurvy elephant that year. We did our best to keep up with him, but thankfully failed to do so.

•    A YMCA football team was blessed with my participation that year. It was not the brains (they’d heard about my earlier touchdown for the wrong team) so I guess it was the brawn. I exuded a certain Barney Fife wirey-ness. I played wide end, #81. I caught a touchdown pass once, intended for someone else, and I was already positioned properly cross the correct goal line. Hoyt Stovall was the quarterback, a real stud. But Ruth Schaeffer liked me better.

•    It was the year (maybe one of the years) I had consistent P’s for Poor in conduct. I was learning that if I couldn’t beat Hoyt Stovall on the turf, I would be funnier; more entertaining. I was told if I got an E for Excellent in conduct I would get a football. If David Gillespie could do it, I could, mom told me more than once. I got my E. I got my football. And I thereafter resumed my career in my comfort zone, farther down the alphabet.

•    By this year the front of the school property had been terraced. The rough edges of that lot was, before that, one of those few wilderness places in a tame suburban neighborhood. And across the road and down below ran Village Creek, an open sewer as it turns out, and probably a Superfund site now. We always wondered why the water smelled of rotten eggs.

You became a respected member of the Lost Boys if you rode your bike down all three terraces. I did, but feel certain Hoyt Stovall was chicken.

Part One: Grades One

Part Two: Grades Two and Three

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Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 2nd and 3rd Grade Tue, 24 Feb 2015 12:47:13 +0000 Continue reading Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 2nd and 3rd Grade ]]> Second Grade: Ms Barnes  1955-6

•    The first thing I always remember about Ms Barnes was that she came to my house, and I was not in trouble. It was my seventh birthday party. You don’t forget stuff like that.

•    Was this the year we were introduced to “magic markers”? I remember the squeak; and the smell. I think I got high, which was risky. Get the tip too close and you’re marked like Rudolph for a week.

•    This was the year I got a flattop haircut and the year before I grew into my front teeth. I remember the smell of butch wax and egg salad sandwiches and soured milk whose odor never quite left my Lone Ranger lunchbox after the little thermos broke. Their glass liners were not designed with seven-year-olds in mind.

•    I walked to school, cutting across a vacant lot where one day, I found what I am convinced was a large piece of turquoise. I showed it to Ms. Barnes and she sent me with it to show Mr. Hall. He kept it. I’ve wondered about that since.
•    The playground was unimproved until maybe the next year. I liked it better the way it started out for us, with hedgerows of privets along the back and along the side by Leslie Smith’s house. I spent my first wilderness wonderments in those rough natural places.

Third Grade: Ms Terry

•    I have no recollections of Ms. Terry whatsoever.

•    I think I remember this classroom being upstairs in the middle of the building. Our coat closets were out in the hall behind large folding doors. You could look into the room from the vents in the closets and I remember “spying” unseen on my classmates once. I wanted to be a spy from then on. But mostly Superman.

•    I got a pocket knife that year. Briefly. I think it was a dull-pointed scout knife. I was not supposed to take it to school. I took it to school. I thought I would win points with my classmates if I terrorized Dora Kitchens because she was not in the IN group. I did the dead. I served the time.

•    We played football as rag-tag teams for the first time this year. I caught a long pass and ran for a touchdown. For the other team. Years later I learned the rules, but never became a great fan of the game. Give me dodgeball any day–with those big under-inflated ribbed red-rubber balls. Now that’s a sport!

•    We had our own desks—for the first time—where we could organize our own collection of books and things. One PTA meeting I was acknowledged to my mother as the keeper of the most disorganized desk in the class. This inspired me to become the slob that my wife accuses me of being even today.

•    By now we were reading quite well. We had “library period” with some regularity—once a week? I read all of the thin green volumes that were biographies of famous people and spent much time at the Woodlawn library in the science fiction section, fascinated with stories about the future. Now I’ve been there. They all got it wrong. I want my jet pack!

Part One ~ Holman School Days 1954 – 1962

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Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: First Grade Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:30:42 +0000 Continue reading Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: First Grade ]]> I would never have spent my morning pages last week doing this had not I been prompted by a classmate who was penning some memories of those times for his grand children. We both attended Minnie Holman Elementary in Woodlawn Highlands. The building was demolished in the early 90s.

The writing out of these ghoses of memory was an interesting dive back into the Wayback Machine, and I have since remembered more as the first fragments go on to twig into related bits, while some hang just beyond the grasp of recall–at least for now.

So I’ll serialize that rambling remembrance here, FWIW, and recommend such an exercise for your own morning pages, writers and grandparents out there in the blogosphere. — Fred


Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.04.38 AM
Minnie Holman Elementary ca 1927

First Grade: Ms Britton

•    First grade began in tragedy. I did not get placed in the same room as Jane Ann Martin. We were already betrothed, I thought, after a year in Mrs. Hodges’ kindergarten. The scars healed, mostly.

•    Fat pencils. Impossibly thick lead. We did not do much with them that first year that I remember but make black smudges on very wide-ruled pulpy paper and work in our reading groups. Look Jane look! See Spot run. That we did not die of boredom….

•    Smells: the lunchroom smells dominated the aromasphere, from anywhere any floor in the building; and cleaning compound, its resiny-industrial fragrance barely dominant often over the top of upchuck on the waxed hardwood floors; and the smell of hot metal radiators under each of the twenty-foot windows. There was a lot of light, no air conditioning, but I don’t remember ever being too hot. Alabamians once upon a time took heat much better, I think, than they do today. We have acclimated to a very narrow temperature range, but may have to rethink that in the future.

•    Johnny Norton broke his leg. Maybe that was second grade? I did not know such a thing could happen to people I knew. Could it happen to me—on top of not being in Jane Ann’s class? Life took on a new seriousness.

•    We took naps and had large towels from home in a chest in the back of the room for that purpose. I once hid in that chest, for reasons I cannot recover from memory, to be frantically sought when I was not among my classmates after lunch. Carol Elam found me. I was the center of attention—my fifteen seconds of fame. Was I that needy then?

•    The playground, where upon being told it was too muddy to go there, Brice Campbell and I thumbed our noses at such restrictions because we had black floppy galoshes. The principal came and hauled us in by our collars. We did it our way.

•    I remember Ms. Britton sometimes wore her hair in a bun. Maybe always? She looked like the teacher in Calvin and Hobbes. She was a gentle and kind woman, and we could not have had a better start on a journey that for many of us, would take us in a pod through twelve grades and dump us off at the edge of the world.

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