First things first: as a child, I didn't realize schoolteachers had first names. My parents taught me to call them "Mr." or "Miss."
Old habits die hard. Even today, I find myself calling Francis Gale "Mr. Gale," and Beulah Regular "Miss Regular."
Mr. Gale was one of my teachers when I was a boy in Hampden, where my parents were the pastors of the local Pentecostal church.
I finally realized Mr. Gale had a sense of humour when I recently picked up the book, "Tales Told by Teachers 1998: A Book of Memories."
Gladys (Burton) Costella - or should I say "Miss Costella" - writes, "Memories of the kind found on the pages of this book not only take us backward in time, but also cause us to gaze inward. The glimpses into other teachers' experiences lead to reflections of our own, be they similar or not. The feelings expressed by those who have shared their memories with us evoke (likewise) feelings in us, and perhaps even help us to reevaluate our own days in the classroom.
"How often, while reading a memory contributed for this book, did one of us on the committee say, 'Oh, yes, I remember that! And in our school we used to...,' leading one or the other of us to regale the committee with yet another tale. If we had not realized it before, we soon became aware that 'memories beget memories,' and sharing them with others brings immense pleasure."
The stories are as varied as the teachers who wrote them. Harold Loder writes about "My Only Baptism." Judith Peckham reminisces about "Santa's Goats." Lily (Curtis) Critch relates "Confessions of a Sex Education Teacher." Dorothy (Randell) Pittman regales readers with tales of "The Teacher Babysitter." And, Larry Grandy discusses "The Chummy Jigger."
There are even jokes scattered throughout the book.
For example, a teacher pays a visit to a student's home and asks, "Are your father and mother in, Morton?"
"They was in, but now they is out."
"Why, Morton, 'They was in,' 'They is out'? Where is your grammar?'
"She's upstairs taking a nap."
Some of the contributors recall their memories in poetry.
For example, Hazel Batstone writes:
After lunch one Autumn day, returning to my task,
All the children stood in silence, each face as if a mask.
What could have stopped their noisy play, and games of ball and bat?
When I sped upon the latch, hung by the tail - a rat!
Don Crewe - who, incidentally, taught my brother, David, when we lived at Port aux Basques - reveals student answers he encountered while teaching. The following examples are priceless:
* Timbuktu is an imaginary country located somewhere between Timbukone and Timbukthree.
* A virgin forest is a place where the hand of man has never set foot.
* The tendency of children to resemble their parents is called the "spittin' image."
* Mahatma Gandhi's first name was Goosey Goosey.
* Two days in the week that begin with the letter "T" are Today and Tomorrow.
* The thing that Shakespeare, Dickens and Mark Twain have in common is that they are all dead.
* I know what schizophrenia is, but I'm of two minds whether I can write it down.
My teacher, Mr. Gale, is a contributor to the book, as well.
"Once while teaching in a certain place," he writes, "I heard about a man who was sick. He wanted to go to a hospital, but he didn't have any money to get some clothes that he needed and to pay his fare on the coastal boat.
"Another guy and I decided to go around the settlement and take up a collection for him.
"In the evening, just as it was getting dark, we knocked on the door of this house, and a woman came out. When we told her what we were going around for, she told us to come in.
"There was no electricity in this place, so everyone had kerosene lamps. As we walked into the kitchen, she said to her husband, 'Light the lamp, Garge. It's as dark yer as in a cow's gut.'
"Garge replied, 'Mary, you've bin everywhere, haven't you?'"
Remember the day Mr. Gale threw a piece of chalk at me in class? Well, I ducked and he missed.
Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org