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The Fighting Poultry Clan…….
I was thinking about our old high school mascot, a male chicken, and the above image the basis for the name “The Poultry Clan” which was changed to the “The Fighting Clan” after I graduated and people call it “The Clan” for short. The word Clan actually means children in Gaelic. Now back then, no one really fixated on that moniker, as racist as it sounds, because Vineland, New Jersey was the center of the egg business. The “Egg Auction Building” was a huge edifice on Delsea Drive and eggs were the town’s main export along with farm vegetables for many years. I used to think about what impression an opposing football team might have taking on a team with a mere male bird of fowl for a mascot, but then Brison Manor (http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=MANORBRI01) came from a neighboring town of Bridgeton, and was a starter for the Denver Broncos for 8 years of a 10 year NFL career, and I faced him head to head, me being the smallest guy on the line. We won that game, I rest my case. My mind then began to wander to some memories of high school days and I decided to share a few chuckles and some serious thoughts as well.
Way back in my freshman year I decided that I needed to take a typing class, never realizing how one day it would allow me to do such incredible things with a blank sheet of paper, to create universes of imagination. My teacher at that time was very strict but also very pretty and young compared to my youthful age of 13. I started in Kindergarten at age 4 as my birthday was right on the edge of allowability for that year, and so most everyone I knew was older than myself with a few exceptions.
Our recently married, pretty disciplinarian instructor in her twenties would usually wear mini-skirts and for some strange reason sit right next to me on my desk where our books and papers would normally be for typing exercises, and myself at that time having the Vulcan Dr. Spock’s hormonal equivalent levels of “Pon Farr” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amok_Time), it was impossible not to look at her legs as they were inches from my eye level. She was the ultimate S & M Queen in retrospect, but damn I learned how to type without looking at the keys!
Then my mind drifted forward to another cougarish teacher of English. She was divorced, a hottie, and had that same type of personality as my typing instructor, only she was a bit mean and now I realize that was an extension of her defensiveness because ever male teacher in that high school must have hit on her. I saw her many years later as she happened to be a cousin of one of my lifelong friends (I never knew that information at the time in high school) and I attended his summer party family reunion bash. I saw her and I knew who she was instantly, but she had no idea who I was. She had filled out from the slender figure of a twenty-something and was now middle-aged but still very attractive. I bided my time and then confronted her. It went something like this:
Me: “You don’t remember me do you?”
Her: “I can’t say that I do.”
Me: “I was in your English class my name is Nick Oliva and I have an old grudge to air out with you.”
Her: (Looking shocked and surprised) “Ah, okay let’s hear it.”
Me: “Well, we had to do a report on the Tale of Two Cities and you made us stand in front of the class and orally give that report, and you required us to speak for twenty minutes, which I thought was insane and the cause for many of the reports to be quite boring to say the least.”
Her: “Well, that’s it? That’s your beef?”
Me: “No, this is. When I did my report I reasoned that Madame LaFarge was NOT the evil person portrayed in the novel by Charles Dickens. She was seeking revenge against the Evrèmondes, for the crimes a prior generation of the Evrèmonde family had committed and that included the deaths of her sister, father, and brother. She was also a central figure in the support of the French Revolution. My point was that if your family had atrocities committed against them and you lost your sister, father, and brother, you too would be seeking the same blood lusting revenge for their deaths and how could she be portrayed so evilly if she was a part of the French Revolution that changed the world?”
Her: “Well, that certainly was a good point, what did I say to that?”
Me: “You said, very interesting but it was only half the time you were supposed to speak” and I said to you, “well it was twice as good as any normal book report and you got pissed off.”
Her: “And how did I grade you?”
Me: “You grudgingly gave me a B.”
Her: “At least you got that!”
She then walked away and purposefully avoided me for the rest of the party.
The last story for this blog is a woman named Zoe Pappas. Mrs. Pappas along with another English teacher Emily Morin) played a huge role in helping me to believe in myself and instilled a sense that my thought processes, though very unconforming, were on the right path.
It was my senior year and my Civics/History teacher, Mrs. Pappas, had an FBI agent come in (this was the fall of 1970) and explain what the FBI did and the history of the organization. This was probably an attempt at “educating” young students that the FBI was their friend and to counteract their becoming reputation as a “police state” enforcement agency. At that time the FBI was collecting names of political anti-Nixon citizens for a “blacklist” to try and deport unwanted contemporary thinkers. (Note: In 1972 the FBI attempted to force the deportation of “radical” John Lennon) I let him drone on and on and then after he wasted 30 minutes of a 45 minute class, he asked if there were any questions. Big mistake…..I raised my hand and asked, “So why does the FBI keep a list of people who are considered activists and free thinkers, and try to arrest and deport them? You could hear a pin drop, and see students jaws drop along with the silence. I thought I really went too far and that I was going to hear holy hell from Mrs. Pappas after he left. The agent tried to avoid this issue with bullshit about their charter and investigative techniques and never did answer the question, as I expected. He left and Mrs. Pappas came back to the front of her desk. I really thought I was going to the principal’s office for this one, not that I cared at that point. Mrs. Pappas began to speak of the importance of understanding how our government works and how we must be aware of what it does and then raised her arm and pointed her finger at me. I froze completely. She then said “and Nick, your question was the best one I’ve heard anyone ask. ”
Well, thanks to teachers like her and a few others that encouraged my “twisted thought process” I gained the confidence to “be one traveler “ who took the other road, the long Dharma road that never ends, and now I understand the real difference a teacher with a free mind can make.