Monday, July 28, 2008

An Excerpt from Principal Without a Diploma

My dad was a twenty four year old freshman at Oswego State Teachers College, New York, in 1953. Here's a story from his first weeks there:

(From Chapter Sixteen of Principal Without a Diploma.

Though taking a remedial English course was humbling, I knew that I needed it. I was determined to learn as fast as I could and in fact doubled up on English. The problem as I saw it is that Dr. Palmer's course was all about literature but what I needed was a real understanding of spelling, writing, and grammar. Be it as it may I was off and I would succeed no matter what I thought. My other courses were Math, History, Chemistry, and Metal Shop. I had less trouble with those classes.

In our History class we were assigned to read an article in a book in the library. I went over to the library, which was in the main building.. But when I got inside, I had no idea of what to do , so I went up to a clerk and told her what I had been assigned.

This woman was not in any way ready to help anyone look up a book.

She said to me, " Well look it up in the card catalog."

I had no idea what she meant.

“What’s a card catalog ?” I asked.

"You don't know what a card catalog is?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

I had spent the last three years jumping out of airplanes for the Army and driving a beer truck. I wasn’t about to take any lip from a bookish librarian.

"No I do not." I said forcefully.

"Well how did you get into this college ? After all, the least we expect of new students is that they know how to use a library."

This attitude on her part ticked me off and I was not about to let a clerk push me around. So I let her have it.

"Look lady it’s your job to help me. I've never been to high school and this is the first assignment I ever had in a library. You are paid by the taxpayers to help people like me.”

“I just got my GED in the Army and I have been admitted to this college and I am not subordinate to you or anyone else here so you decide this, for me, will you ?”

“Are you going to help me find that book or do I have to go to your boss and report what a sarcastic person you are ?"

I was angry, and I delivered this verbal blast loud and clear. People in the library were looking at us as I said it.

As I spoke, I could see that my message was reaching her. I saw her expression change from one of condescension to one of helpfulness. Her face turned red, and her voice wavered a bit as she responded.

"I am very sorry I did not mean to offend you. I am just surprised that you do not know how to use a library".

She seemed genuinely sorry, even embarrassed that she had not understood my true circumstances.

"I am sorry. I was wrong and I will help you right now with the card catalog."
And she was true to her word. She helped me find that book and spent a little time showing me how to use the card catalog.

When we were finished, she repeated how sorry she was and said "Anytime you come to this Library If I am here I will help you."

I simply said "Thanks."

From that time on she was quick to help me in anyway she could and in fact we became friends.

Principal Without a Diploma Off to the Printers !

I've spend a good chunk of my spare time these last two weeks in "final edit mode" for my father's memoir, Principal Without a Diploma.
I am pleased to report that the final edit is finished, and we've sent the pre-publication edition off to the printers !

Look for it to hit your neighborhood on September 1 !

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

An Excerpt from Principal Without a Diploma

Here's an excerpt from a chapter in my dad's memoir Principal Without A Diploma.

Our dog Buster was a border collie who was bred to herd sheep.

I don’t remember when Buster arrived at the farm, but some of my first memories are of Buster and his adventures. I was very young, probably only four years old, when I first recall my mother telling me not to touch Buster.

Mother was a city girl who hated farm life, and she did not want Buster in the house. She said he was dirty, and he probably was. I didn’t see Buster as dirty, though. I saw a tan and white collie dog with nice wavy hair. But Mother was not to be persuaded, and Buster became a permanent “outside dog”. We had a woodshed attached to the house that had a stairway leading to the unfinished second floor over the kitchen. Buster's bed was underneath that stairway.

Buster and I became good friends, and I would sneak him extra food when I could, small things like scrap meat and potatoes. Buster would lick my face. We fed him whatever table scraps were left after every meal. Now and then we added in a little extra meat. He loved to chew bones left over from our meals. These were mostly bones from pork chops or beef bones from steaks. Those bones were his dessert after supper and he enjoyed them.

He enjoyed his bed and meals in the woodshed. He never complained and had the freedom of the farm and could come and go as he pleased.

Buster was a defender of the barn animals as well as his human family. He often went out to the barn and checked on the chickens and pigs. He seemed to know it was part of his job to protect every animal and human on the farm. He would walk around the chicken coop and look in as if counting them. They in turn seemed glad to see him and clucked at him, as if they were saying " Hi, Buster, nice to see you. Thanks for checking in on us !".

The pigs, on the other hand, were simply curious and just looked at him.

When ever Buster caught a fox trying to steal a chicken he grabbed the fox by the neck and shook it to death. While I never saw him do that to a fox, we would from time to time find a dead fox near the chicken coop and we knew Buster had got him.

You can read the rest of the chapter about Buster by clicking here.