Monthly Archives: August 2012

First Day of School

How many first days of school have I had in my life? No matter how old I get, the first day of classes always exciting and exhausting! Today I met all three of my classes, and we went over the syllabus which meant I mostly talked and answered questions. But there have been other days when I’ve been the student and those first days were just as exciting as the current one.

I started school with Kindergarten at Hazelwood School in Anderson. We lived on Park Avenue, and I walked to school with my friend Bill Ellis (Foley) who was known to my mother somehow, but I don’t recall how. We walked east on Park Ave., down around where the old Howe Fire Engine works used to be, crossing railroad tracks and several streets to get to school. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember it was exciting. My mother had no choice but to let me walk, but that doesn’t mean she liked it.

I finished Kindergarten and started the first grade at Washington School on Columbus Ave. right next to the big old Delco-Remy plant where my dad had worked during World War Two. I remember that in the first grade we had an exchange teacher, Miss Joan Holderness, from England, and we were all captivated by her accent and the words she used that were so different from ours.

I finished the first grade at Leach School north of Anderson in Lafayette Township, and went to school there through much of the sixth grade. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Hester, second grade was Mrs. Shearer. I had the same teacher for third and fourth grades, Mrs. Redmond, and she was my favorite. Fifth grade was Mrs. Etchison, who never believed that I had a reason for feeling ill after lunch (it was the whole milk), and in the sixth grade we had a male teacher, but I can’t remember his name. I do remember he had a fetal pig in a jar of alcohol which he kept on the long table just across from my seat. I didn’t like him either.

Then we moved back to town and I went to Longfellow and to Central Jr. High School, before a brief stint at Fall Creek Township school. After that it was on to Middletown for the rest of eighth grade and high school.

I loved school, both as a student and as a teacher. When it would be time for school to begin in the fall we would go to Decker’s in Anderson to get my school supplies, and I remember being so taken with that book store with its tables and book cases piled with books, paper, pencils, etc. So many empty pages, so little time. Also in August my mother would get a phone call from the lady in the children’s department at the Anderson Sear’s store (now the public library) and Mother would drag me down there to an un-air conditioned store (remember I said it was August) to try on new heavier dresses and coats until we found the ones that suited Mother. I was always taller than most and harder to fit, so it took a while.

But I think the best first days of school came with each new quarter at Ball State. You really can’t believe how much I loved being in college. I’d go again in a minute if I had the money, to study for another degree….probably in history. And then graduate school, where I started out thinking I’d never love any other college as much as I loved Ball State, but proved myself wrong. Eastern and its campus are just as special to me as BSU is.

So today I began again, and hope to have many more such beginnings at Butler. I’ve learned over the years that wherever you are, if you make that your home, it always will be. Leach is gone now, as are many of the other buildings which saw my first days, but I remember them well, and the first days I spent in them, because the halls of learning have always been special to me.


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Okay, I’ve Had Enough (Downton Abbey’s second season redux)

Last night I read again another newspaper article in which a Dowton Abbey cast member said that the second season strayed away from the focus on the family that it had in the first season, and wasn’t as good as the first. Other outside critics had said the same. Were these people watching the same series I was? I’m beginning to wonder.

It would really be very difficult to end season one with a message that WW One had started, without treating it in the second season. Please believe me…Britain (and its colonial troops) lost many, many more troops than any other country. They slogged about in the trenches (more horrible than even DA could make them look) dying of disease as well as being cannon fodder, for almost three years before America entered the war and got troops “over there”. So, here’s my take on the family thing, and a few others.

War affects all families in all the countries it touches, but let’s just stick with the Granthams and their household. Matthew is the FAMILY heir, and he is seriously wounded. Mary, Edith, and Sybil (FAMILY) all become part of the war effort on the home front. As Matthew hovers between a life in a wheelchair, unable to sire children, and life with Lavinia, the FAMILY is deeply affected. And, in one of the most touching scenes ever, when Isabel Crawley arrives at the hospital in the village and Matthew sees her for the first time since his injury, it’s all about FAMILY. It still takes my breath away to watch it.

As for the servants (they qualify as a FAMILY) we have both William and Thomas serving in the army. Thomas has already been at it as a medic for two years when William arrives, as an aide to Matthew, a job which is supposed to make him safe. There is a well done moment when Matthew shares tea (the British always seem to have time for that) with Thomas in a dug out room oin the trench line, and what do they talk of? FAMILY! The one at Downton, both upstairs and downstairs. Get it?

Thomas survives and William doesn’t, but only after Thomas decides that even the possibility of losing his hand would be preferable to his dying in a ditch in France. When William is married to Daisy on his death bed, who surrounds him? Not only his downstairs FAMILY and his father, but also his upstairs FAMILY, for Lady Edith and The DC are there also, and if your remember, the DC has a “cold”. (The DC has, of course, attempted to keep William out of the war, and then when he is wounded she calls on her cousin “Shrimpy” to help her get him moved to Downton so he can be nearer his father, and his Downton FAMILY.)

Have I mentioned FAMILY enough? I could go on and on. However, might I add that the acting in this second season is probably superior to the one from the first season, if only for the fact that Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary to the hilt, controlled on the outside, emotional on the inside, resigned to the man she loves marrying another and to her own marriage to as smarmy a man as ever was. Mary matures into a women, leaving behind the shallow girl who once wondered if the family would have to wear black to mourn a relative lost on the Titanic, to as woman helping her altered family and its world through a war that finally ends and the ensuing epidemic which follows.

It is the war that altered every Britain’s FAMILY, and one family’s collective reaction/action to it, that sets this second season apart from the first, and which, in turn, lays the groundwork for the third season. The Grantham’s reunite at the end as a family, bloodied but unbowed by war and pestilence, just in time for the 1920’s. It will be wonderful to see how the FAMILY, both upstairs and downstairs, will weather the era of flappers, the Charleston, and the excessive speculation that could eventually lead to season four.

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