Our Promised Land

Chapter 9.     SCHOOLS


Arthur G. Thayer

Thayer Coat Of Arms

Copyright © 1983 with all rights reserved by Arthur George Thayer



      At age thirteen I started high school in Alpena. Mom found a couple, Mr. and Mrs. William G. McDonald, who gave me room and board for two years. (Mr. McDonald was chief electrician at a cement plant and later became manager of the plant).

      One spring I was cleaning their window screens with a cloth and turpentine and a small short-haird dog came by. I scratched his back and put a drop of turpentine near his tail. After a bit he took off, went through a hole in the wooden fence and started "yip,yipping". The McDonald's were amused by it and I mentioned that years ago, our neighbors, the Larson's, had a dog named "Buff". Buff was friendly and would come to our house and he and Collie would get together and hunt. We would tie up Collie and put some Slone's Liniment on Buff's butt. Mrs. Larson thought it hilarious when Buff came home dragging his butt on the grass all the way from the barn to the house.

      Well, a week or so later Mrs. McDonald went to her hairdresser. Most women enjoy discussing the affairs of the day and after awhile the lady said, "Oh, Mrs. McDonald, one day my dog came to the door yipping. I opened the door and the dog went over the chairs, the tables, upset a lamp and some flowers and I could hardly catch him. I called the veterinarian who came over, examined the dog, and said that someone had put turpentine on his butt. If I ever catch the person, I'll put turpentine on his butt!" Thankfully, Mrs. McDonald did not mention that I was the person. (Years later I went to my doctor to have a hemorrhoid removed. All was well until I came home and suddenly found my butt on fire -- I thought of that poor dog!)

      In my junior and senior years, I stayed with a Mrs. Richards for $4.50 Monday through Friday, or $5.50 the entire week. In my senior year, I tried out for football, went to all the games, and received a reserve letter. I was also given the honor pin for highest grade for two of the grading periods and was inducted into the Hi-Y Club.

      The Maltz movie theater in Alpena presented black and white movies in 1926. As an organist fingered tunes or songs on the ivories, the words were flashed on the screen. When Red Grange and the Marx Brother's movies were featured, crowds filled the theater. But in '28 or '29, color and sound were added and the organist lost his job. Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Al Johnson, the Barrymores, and a host of others came, one more dazzling than another. "As Time Goes By", "Someday You'll Know", and "Old Man River" became my reverie.

      In the fall of 1930 I entered Alpena County Normal for a year and became qualified to teach county grade schools. Mrs. Anthony was my principal and an inspiration to me. We developed a friendship that has continued for over fifty years. She lives with her sister Vera, who was in my High School and County Normal classes. In June 1981, Beccy, her children, Melissa and Ryan, Eva and I visited them in Stockton, California and have enjoyed writing and phoning her since.

      Before teaching, Bill McPherson and I took a vacation in the summer of '31. We drove to Washington, D. C. for a week and then to a beach in North Carolina for swimming. It was my turn to drive when I had an accident near Ashville, I bent the left front wheel and fender on Bill's car and nicked the bumper on the other car, but, thanks to his Dad's insurance, we were released by the police.

      Since it would take several weeks to repair Bill's car, he bought an air-cooled Franklin touring car for $50.00. We loaded our gear, started home, and were six miles from Knoxville when, on a narrow gravel road, the car stopped. We pushed the car over to a grassy spot and went to a nearby shop. There we met a fellow who patched the distributor point, but it still wouldn't run. A farmer drove us to Knoxville where we bought a 12 volt condenser. We walked back on the gravel roads and it was midnight by the time we returned to the car. The condenser was attached and we did some testing to be sure we had the wires on the proper sparkplugs.

      We tried to take off, but the starter wouldn't work. The battery was down so we cranked it and it started. Then the generator did not work properly and we decided to camp for the night. The next day we stopped in Knoxville and bought eight large one and one half volt batteries and some wire, hooked them to a 12 volt battery and replaced the dead battery.

      All went well until we were into Ohio. In Dayton, a mechanic reworked the car distributor point and by evening we were going through Perrysburg, Ohio. Every time we stopped for gas, we had to put oil in the engine and when we opened the huge hood, a large cloud of smoke would rise.

      It was a nice moonlight night and we could run without lights. In order to save the batteries, we would turn on the lights only when we met another car. It was with a sigh of relief that we arrived home about 1: A. M.

      In the 1931, '32, '33 school years, I taught grade school in Spratt in the southwestern corner of Alpena County about 25 miles from home. The farmers were poor and some poorer, but they sired children.

      One beginner had a constant cold and never blew his nose. He had probably never used a handkerchief. The next week I brought a box of Kleenex and urged his sister to have him blow his nose. Somehow that quickly stopped the dripping.

      We had a wash basin that was used by all. The water was cold so hardly anyone used it and hands were dirty. I cleaned an empty two gallon oil can and soldered a brass spigot near the bottom of it. I filled it with water and set it on the furnace until it was warm and then placed it on the windowsill. I bought a small oil can, the kind used to oil a hinge, and put soap in it. A squirt or two on their hands, open the spigot just a bit to wash and rinse, a paper towel, and presto, the kids' hands became clean. Indeed, the next day they even came with faces washed.

      Cold dirty water might even be alright to drink. As a pupil at the Norwegian grade school, I was once at the recitation bench, standing and reading a paragraph from "Evangeline" to the class. Suddenly my vision closed in on me like a black shutter, becoming smaller and smaller and I fainted. The teacher carried me to my seat and one of the other boys brought the wash basin with dirty soapy water, thinking to throw it on me. I began to waken. The teacher grasped someone's glass, scooped water from the basin, and had me drink it.

      The first fall of teaching I bought a used two-door Model "A" Ford and drove home for the weekends. Much of the time I could go home, but if the snow was deep, it was not worthwhile. The car's wheel base had a high clearance. For example, once when it was fall and the gravel road was smooth, I came over a hill going 45 to 50 mph. There were seven or eight hens and a rooster in the middle of the road. The hens scattered and scooted for the ditches. The rooster started one way, then the other way, and I went over him, heard a couple of thumps and looked in the rearview mirror. A cloud of feathers in a Christmas tree shape rose, and the rooster flew out at a high speed and raced for the ditch.

      Bill, George and I drove my car to the '32 - '33 World's Fair. The physics displays and the Adler Planetarium Show intriqued us. The Field Museum of Natural History was only given a quick walk through as our time was limited.

      In the fall of 1934, I entered Central State College at Mt. Pleasant for a year to extend my teaching certificate. My roommate and I would con the landlady into fixing us a bowl of soup for dinner to cut down on expenses. I tried out for football, sought a job, hurt my leg, found a job, and dropped football.

      I found what jock itch is and went to the athletic office and aked one of the coaches if he had something for it. He went in the closet, came out and said, "Here, this will take care of it." It was a small can of salve and from his expresssion, I thought it wise to try it carefully. (A little dab will do ya'!) It had to be put on gingerly, but it worked and in a day or so the itch was gone. I mentioned this to my roommate, who had the same problem. The salve doesn't effect the skin immediately and he had himself pretty well salved when he rushed to the bathroom. Well, it took at least four or five minutes to put out the fire.

      While home for the holidays, I felt it a good time to have my appendix removed. The Alpena hospital was small. It probably had been a large dwelling at one time. At Christmas nobody wants to be in a hospital so I was the only patient for awhile. I had a semi-private room next to a ward of five or six beds. One afternoon, an old reclusive farmer came in and was put in the ward. The doctor and the nurses came out into the hall to discuss his problem. It became evident that he had had no recent bowl movement. Furthermore, he would get a dose of castor oil now and another at bedtime... and if the bowel movement did not occur, they would have to operate. (I always wondered what kind of operation that would have been or what they would call such an operation!)

      I woke up about 2:30 A. M. to see nurses carrying crumpled bed sheets across the asle. His bowels had moved and, for him, the simple solution was to find a new bed -- then another -- and yet another! While the nurses did not enjoy the cleanup job, it provided me many a chuckle. Of course, the chuckles were a little hard on my sore tummy.


                      Other Chapters

                        1.     Atlantic
                        2.     Silica
                        3.     Oil City
                        4.     Boat Trip
                        5.     Chris's Home
                        6.     Hubbard Lake
                        7.     Hunting and Fishing
                        8.     Our Farm
                        9.     Schools
    Next - - - 10.     The Depression and the 30's
                      11.     Michigan State University
                      12.     Jobs
                      13.     Our Home
                      14.     Boating
                      15.     Trips
                      16.     The Tropics
                      17.     With The Kids
                      18.     It Is Written


                      Thayer Letter


                      Tree Page


Copyright © 2001 with all rights reserved by William V. Thayer

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