Thursday, December 29, 2005

Old School Daze Part 2

And so we stand poised at the edge of 2006, 2005 still gripping our coat-tails but feeling its fingers beginning to lose hold as we strain towards our new friend...isn't it time to reflect on the year that was?

Of course it is. The year that was, in this case, was 1930, when I was just a wee bit of a thing in rural Massachussets. A country determinedly blind to the threat of Depression, a nation letting itself slip like a 40-something businessman who's two-decade marriage has gone to ruin. We danced those dark days - oh, how we danced. And, naturally, it was the dance of children, for I was entering my early teens and, as a wise songstress later put it, I was "not a girl, not yet a woman" (or a man). We called our dance The Flibbertigibbit, and it failed to make waves. But even now when I meet one of my old school chums (ever more rarely, I'm afraid), one or the other of us will inevitably launch into a spirited rendition of our untimely jig and we will both fall about laughing. To paraphrase Jesus: where two or more of us are gathered, The Flibbertigibbit will be there. It was a bit like The Running Man, now that I think of it.

Thoughts like these take me back to my old school photos, and I've dug up another one from these days in Crook Neck, Mass., USA. Ah, here 'tis.

I was absent this day, oddly enough. I think I had a bad case of quinsy that day, but it could equally have been a dose of scrumpox or Bronze John. I was a veritable treasure trove of archaic ailments, all once common but oddly lacking from contemporary medical dictionaries. In less than three years in my youth, I managed to suffer from trench mouth, La Grippe, grocer's itch, croup, bloody sweat, dock fever, dropsy of the brain and many good old bouts of the horrors.

Anyway, before you began prying into my private life in such a fashion, I was discussing my schoolmates. Let's have a closer look at some of the kids.

Have you ever noticed how every class has at least one dirty kid? Kind of like Pigpen from Peanuts. He was always my favourite. Just living free. So this kid here was called Dirk, and we all knew him as Dirty Dirk for obvious reasons. Also because he often exposed himself to other children.

Ah, Jemima. Paler than most, on account of an anaemic disposition which was eventually to be the end of her, she also saw a wasting of the brain which had many side effects. You can see here the tea towel she always insisted be draped across her head at a jaunty angle. She insisted it would come into fashion but I don't think it ever took off.

Beatrice here was quite the character. She always insisted that she was in fact a well-known gossip columnist for the New York Times, and suffered the humiliation of our derision and scorn at these outrageous claims. But what do you know? It turns out that when this photo was taken, Betty was in fact 43 years old and one of the most talked-about writers at that esteemed publication. We never could understand what she was doing in our class, but suspect a kind of Fast Times at Ridgemont High undercover deal.

Hmm. Now this might seem a bit distasteful for modern audiences, but you have to understand that we did things differently then. Nowadays, with access to modern medical facilities and vaccines and so on, it's hard to remember what it was like in the grip of a depression with no such things as antibiotics, regular meals or even clean water. But we stuck together. So gasp if you will, but I think it was right that we included Eric in our school shot, even if he had been dead for seven weeks. I mean, we kept him in class that whole time. After all, his parents had paid his tuition in full.

This is our teacher, Mr Singh. In retrospect, I do question the wisdom of employing a twelve year old Indian boy as our teach, but he arrived with very good references which included time spent teaching at Princeton, Harvard and MIT. The teaching staff was limited, and they could use all the help they could get. Also, Mr Singh's teaching style was pretty much limited to throwing paper planes at us, taking our lunches and starting singalongs (with songs we never knew the words to).

Gretel may be confusing to you younger folk. You see, back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for actual fairy folk to sign up for class. In this case, Gretel was a bridge troll. I don't know what she ended up doing, but then I haven't been back to Crook Neck for some time.

Anyway, there you have it. My memories have begun to fade over the years, so I felt it might be worth putting these down for posterity. Carpe Diem, and all that ("seize the carp", I believe).


richardwatts said...

Dratted slippery things those carp - rather like the truth. ;-)

Clem said...

OMG update yr blog LOL kthxbye