Reminiscences from his boyhood.

My mother was a schoolteacher, and she never would have believed that I ever would become a writer. I didn’t like sitting in a classroom all day. Much of my time, from grades one through four, was spent standing in the corner of the classroom or sitting in the principal’s office. After the fourth grade, as punishment, the principal would send me to repair the intercoms and amplifier system in the auditorium. I loved electronics.

I almost always was late for school, and had to go to the principal’s office to get a tardy slip. After a while, however, the principal said, “This is ridiculous; let’s go talk to your teacher.” I thought he was going to straighten out my teacher. Not so. In front of the whole class, he told the teacher that I lived a whole two blocks from school, while other kids on the farms had to do morning chores, catch the bus and ride for some time to get to school on time. He advised the teacher that it was ridiculous to send me for a tardy slip, that he was giving me special permission always to be tardy. I never was tardy again.

If students paid to attend the local ballgames ($0.50), they were excused from classes. I always purchased a ticket, and then went to my radio and TV shop to work on electronic equipment. I didn’t like reading storybooks or making book reports. Mom made an agreement with my teacher to allow me to read Popular Mechanics magazine. Then the teacher would view the magazine and ask me questions about articles, and I always received a good grade.

A part of my schooling was spent in a one-room schoolhouse with only one teacher for all eight grades. The teacher, Mr. Long, would let me drive his old pickup to my home on Thursdays, so that I could tune it up for his long trip home on Friday evenings. Sometimes I had to wash the blackboards or mow the school’s grass to get a passing grade. Mr. Long was a great influence on many lives.

I probably disliked English class most of all, especially diagramming sentences, placing the nouns, verbs, pronouns, etc. on lines to construct the sentence. I didn’t know one from the other, and what’s more I didn’t give a care. Mr. Dunn, my English teacher, called me to the front of the room to diagram a sentence on the blackboard in front of the class. I didn’t have a clue on which line the word should go. Mr. Dunn said that there were only two places to put the word, and I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. I placed the word on the wrong line, and Mr. Dunn swatted me with the paddle. The whole class laughed. Mr. Dunn laughed and said, “Go sit down. It’s not the student who can’t learn, it’s the teacher who can’t teach.” I respected and probably learned more from Mr. Dunn than from any other teacher.

Mr. Dunn always wore a bow tie, and at graduation, in honor of him, all the guys wore bow ties. When I received my diploma, I wore a flashing bow tie, and as I walked away, I was flashing the tie. Mr. Dunn didn’t see this, and had no idea what was causing the laughter until his wife explained it to him later at the reception.

One principal, Mr. Shades, told my folks that I had no interest in school or the Future Farmers of America (FFA was a required subject for 2 years of high school). Mr. Shades knew that my only interest was electronics. If I would agree to complete an electronics college curriculum, he would excuse me from high school and enroll me into the Oklahoma City University. I agreed, and he did. I graduated in the top five of 54 adults.

I urge everyone to get their high school diploma and, hopefully, at least some college. Today it’s necessary in order to get anywhere in life.