Sunday, January 13, 2013

I have a bone to pick . . .

I have a bone to pick with people who talk about the "narrow-minded" and "repressive" and "un-diverse" education in parochial schools in the 1950s. I daresay most of them weren't even twinkles in their parents' eyes (especially if they were born after 1962 when I graduated from high school).

Just to take a few examples:

Arithmetic: we were expected to master the multiplication table up to 12x12 in 3rd grade, and short division in 4th grade. We were introduced to fractions, decimals, percentages, and the rudiments on geometry in 5th and 6th grades, and the practical applications of arithmetic in 7th and 8th grades. I have the books. One time in the early or mid 90s I took my eighth-grade arithmetic book to the office, and graduate engineers were astounded by what I was expected to know by age 14.

Reading: Our readers had stories about children all over the world, plus stories of life on the frontier, and folk and fairy tales from all over the world. I have the books.

Fourth grade geography: we learned about other lands and the children who lived in them; I can remember the pygmy hunter-gatherers of Malaya, Mongol children on the Siberian steppe, Indian children in the Andes, kids on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, USA, Inuit kids (Eskimos as they were called then) in Alaska.

About fourth grade-fifth grade, there were monthly publications in comic-book format called "Junior Catholic Messenger" and "Young Catholic Messenger." One year there was a nine-part series on various immigrant groups to America, and another year there was a nine-part series on human anatomy and physiology (they left out sex and reproduction because we didn't need to know that yet, we were too young; and because the philosophy of the school was -- note well! -- that it was our parents' job to teach that).

Fifth and sixth grades we learned the basics of world history and geography, and in seventh and eighth grades we learned the basics of American history. I have the books.

We had gym starting in fifth grade.

We had music all eight years. Besides teaching us the basics of reading music, the music books had classical melodies, folk tunes from all over the world, and folk dances. (I think it was in fifth grade we learned "La Cucuracha," of course a very clean version.) I have the books.

Of course we had religion all eight years, taught according to our ability to understand it, and we were expected to memorize it. Of course it was "packed" and drilled in, I think in the hope that as we grew up and survived our rebellious years (which our teachers knew we would have) we would remember it and could unpack it. I remember vividly being struck hard in my thirties by the very first question in the Baltimore Catechism: "Who made you?" "God made me." That popped into my head again and I said to myself, "That means Pop and Ma only helped!"

We got what I think was a superb foundation for life.

So please don't tell me how bad it was in the 1950s if you weren't there. Thanks.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

First time since summer 1961

Twenty .38 special rounds through a Ruger Blackhawk
at a life-size silhouette target at 21 feet.
3 in the X zone
1 on the line of X and 10
1 in the 10 zone
7 in the 9 zone
5 in the 8 zone
3 in the 7 zone
none elsewhere, no misses.
I think I did pretty well!
I know I did better than I thought I would.
I'm grateful for the gun control Pop taught me when I was a kid! --
Aim carefully, pull gently.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Curious Dream

I just woke up from a very curious dream, a mix of memory and fantasy.

I had been summoned to the office where I worked for some unspecified reason.  I dressed up very nice because it was hinted there were Important People that I had to talk to.  When I got there, the anteroom of the boss' office was full of people, most of whom I didn't know.  I tried to find out what was going on and how it affected me, but couldn't.

So I decided to go to my cubicle and do some work while I was waiting.  I had a hard time finding it, because it was tucked back at the end of a sort of maze, it was a tiny corner, and it didn't even have enough room for the computer I needed to work.  In its place there was a brand-new compact little machine that I had no idea even how to turn on, let alone operate.

I went looking for a snack and coffee, and wandered lots of empty halls until I found the snack bar.  It was tiny and underequipped, and there was little there for me.  While I was there, someone came and told me I had to report to the boss' office.  So I set out for it, looking for a toilet on the way, and couldn't find one.  When I got there, people were talking about their careers with the organization; the guy next to me got so upset that he couldn't talk any more, started crying, and slid out of sight under the sofa.

It wasn't my turn yet, so I went out, again looking for a toilet.  I wandered through what seemed like miles of empty halls lined with vacant offices.  I ran into an old pal of mine who had started at the organization about the same time I did.  We smiled, compared notes, and decided that there was no place for us here anymore, and we might as well retire and be done with it.  They weren't giving us the equipment we needed to do our jobs, and the young folks had no time or inclination to take advantage of our 30 years or so of experience.

That was where the dream ended and I woke up.

There were a lot of other little details, most unrelated.  The main  theme of it all seems to me that my time is up and it's time to move on . . . whatever that means.  It could be almost anything.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


A basketball comes into a bar and orders a beer.
"I'm not serving you," says the bartender.  "You dribble."

I have begun to suspect that very few Yeti are Catholic.