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From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum
300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma
The Paw Paw River Journal
Those halcyon teaching days of yore
My Webster’s defines halcyon as tranquil, peaceful, often having memories tinged with golden times in the past. And I have been thinking back to the time when I was teaching in Ann Arbor. I’ll admit that the passage of time brushes memories with a patina of gold. Anyway, my memories of those days are mostly good.
One summer family finances were a little tight, so I decided to teach summer school. However it is now, back in those days the kids who were misfits, ne’er-do-wells, and usually bad boys went to summer school to make up for a class they had failed.
It turned out better than I expected, and I made some friends. I think it was that I was interested in them, liked them, and we had fun in class. Well, there are a few that I would not trust at my back if I met them, even today. One boy in particular I noticed. He was ragged, unkempt, wearing torn jeans, and with hair down to his shoulders.
One day he lingered after class. I noticed him sort of stooging around, so I said, “Would you like to talk?”
He sat down in a chair next to my desk and finally said, “Mr. Davis, I’ve got problems! My folks are about to kick me out… I have a factory job, and I need the money. But the guys pick on me, call me names, and make my life miserable! They call me names like Shirley! I’m getting desperate!”
“Well,” I said, “You’ll have to give this a good think! There are two choices… you can go on being a rebel and pay the price. Or you can decide to fit into society and look and act like everyone else! It’s your choice, and right now you are at a cross roads… It’s up to you!”
He thanked me and left. Next day he was absent. Day after that I hardly knew him when he came in… clean clothes and even a short haircut. He looked beautiful! And he stopped again at class end. He sat by the desk and looked at me. Then he said, “Well, I did it! I got a haircut and put on clean clothes. You won’t believe how it was at work! Guys came by and slapped me on the back… asked how I was doing. The Union Steward invited me to go to a meeting with him tonight!
“But the topper when I walked in the house. My dad had tears in his eyes! Right then he would have given me anything I wanted… and I’m kind of proud of myself. I didn’t ask him for anything!” At that point we were both laughing!
Another kid in that class I particularly liked. He had a ’55 Chevy he had restored, and we talked about old cars. At the time we were reading a play called The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder. You may know it as the hit musical Hello, Dolly. The story is about a couple of boys who leave Yonkers, NY, for the big city. They are looking for adventure, and they find it!
One of them is musing on life, and he says the trouble with the world is combination sinners. They are greedy. You should pick one favorite sin and hug it to your bosom! That way you will stay out of trouble. The idea is that they are sort of country bumpkins, and they are going to get