The Road Not Taken, Part II
by Rainer Klauss
After I bailed out of graduate school at Auburn in August of 1974, I landed a job as a travelling speed reading and study skills teacher with a company called Readak, which had offices in New Orleans and Boston. In the 1960s and 1970s, that company was probably the chief competitor to the Evelyn Woods Speed Reading Dynamics courses that were taught, mainly to young professionals, at seminars nationwide. Readak pursued a different market: students at private schools, military academies, and junior colleges.
I was initiated into the mystic techniques of the Readak method in New Orleans. The office was located on Canal Street, but at the western end of that famous street, far from the tourist attractions and charm of the French Quarter, and near a collection of cemeteries. The hectic pace of the instruction period allowed little time for experiencing the delights of the Crescent City. Residing in a cheap motel on the outskirts of the city, I found no opportunity to go hear Al Hirt play Dixieland jazz at his club on Bourbon Street, or to enjoy the powdered sweetness and crunch of a plate (or two) of beignets at Café du Monde. We listened to lectures and had practice sessions all day, and at night I reviewed what had been presented. The cram-course lasted about two and a half weeks. A picnic at Audubon Park marked the end of our training, and the next day the nine of us-- who had barely gotten to know each other--scattered, hitting the road to our first assignments.
By leaving Auburn that summer, I had finally given up on the dream of becoming a scholar and teacher—a future I had begun envisioning for myself in 1966 when I switched from engineering to English. Following several quarters of poor grades, turmoil, and anguish, I had found a path that seemed to call forth and encourage my innate interests and skills. It was spring. Drawn out by a skillful professor, I fell in love with literature and, finally, the college experience. Those buoyant feelings grew, and when I graduated in 1968, I had already been admitted to graduate school in English at Auburn. However, that advance toward my goal had to be put on hold for two years, while I served in the Army, at Ft. Benning and then in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
I entered graduate school in January of 1971, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for prime time. I dropped out after two weeks and returned to Huntsville, figuring that I was rusty from the two-year military hiatus--having lived a life that was very different from that of the university. While I was home, contemplating my future, an odd thing happened: I got hooked on a soap opera, “All My Children.” This may seem silly, but I saw this addiction as an embarrassing low, a sign that I was sinking into passivity. I resolved to return to Auburn; I needed to get my life back on the path that had seemed so harmonious before.
Having left in good standing, I re-enrolled spring quarter. I recapitulated, in kind, the experience kicked off in the first grade and that grew more complex every stage after that: entering a new level of education and learning its ways. This time there was more at stake, however. I was preparing for a career. I buckled down and excelled, making A’s across the board in my first three quarters.
That fall I became a graduate teaching assistant. To do so is to be engulfed in a double life. You take courses, read lots of books and articles of literary criticism, and write papers propounding your opinions in pursuit of your degree. In your other role, you teach freshmen about composition, instructing them in the rudiments of clear and effective writing, and introduce them to parts of the canon of Western literature. You serve an apprenticeship, and you get introduced to the nitty-gritty of the academic life at that level.
To make a long and complicated story short, things fell apart over the next couple of years. I was a mediocre, unconfident teacher. I didn’t acquire the knack of engaging with the students freely. Failure at that fundamental level of educational interaction preyed on my mind and made me question my suitability for what had seemed a fulfilling career. I took all the courses that were required for the master’s degree, but my passion for the literary life steadily waned.
Knowing that I was nearing the end of the work toward the master’s degree, I began working on my thesis project: “Hunting Scenes in Middle English Poetry.” Perhaps some of you know of or studied that jewel of medieval poetry, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” with its three vivid hunts for a deer, a boar, and a fox. There are at least eight more examples of the hunt scattered across medieval literature, but none are as brilliant or detailed as those in “Gawain.”
In spite of guidance and encouragement from my thesis director, I could not fashion a compelling, coherent, or stylish account of all that poetry. Ironically, the subject eluded me. My mentor was puzzled: what had become of his confident and committed student?
I knew I was at the end of my rope. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the thesis, I didn’t want to teach composition anymore, and my GI benefits were just about maxed-out. Before I left school, I had a brief conversation with my thesis director. He had seen that I was stymied and agreed that perhaps a break was a good idea. We both talked as if I were coming back at some point, but I suspected that I was saying goodbye to all that.
To be continued.
Memphis, TN - Two music events happened in the month of February that I always remember. The first one was "The Day the Music Died" when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens were killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, and the other was the first appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, on February 9, 1963. Call me old, but I remember both of these events.
February 9, 1963
51 Years Ago Today
February 3, 1959
A Test for "Older Kids"
I got this in my email this week and thought I'd share it with those of you who may not have seen it going around. This is a test for us 'older kids'! The answers are printed below, (after the questions) but don't cheat! answer them first.....
01. After the Lone Ranger saved the day and rode off into the sunset, the grateful citizens would ask, Who was that masked man? Invariably, someone would answer, I don't know, but he left this behind. What did he leave behind?________________.
02. When the Beatles first came to the U.S. In early 1964, we all watched them on The ____ ___________ Show.
03. 'Get your kicks, __ _________ _______.'
04. 'The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to _____ _ _____.'
05. 'In the jungle, the mighty jungle, ____ ____ ____ ____.'
06. After the Twist, The Mashed Potato, and the Watusi, we 'danced' under a stick that was lowered as low as we could go in a dance called the '_____.'
07. N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle's makes the very best.... _________.'
08. Satchmo was America 's 'Ambassador of Goodwill.' Our parents shared this great jazz trumpet player with us. His name was ______ ___________.
09. What takes a licking and keeps on ticking? _______.
10. Red Skeleton's hobo character was named ______ ___ ________ and Red always ended his television show by saying, 'Good Night, and '________ ________ '
11. Some Americans who protested the Vietnam War did so by burning their ______ _______.
12. The cute little car with the engine in the back and the trunk in the front was called the VW. What other names did it go by? ___ & _______.
13. In 1971, singer Don MacLean sang a song about, 'the day the music died.' This was a tribute to _______ ____________.
14. We can remember the first satellite placed into orbit. The Russians did it. It was called __________.
15. One of the big fads of the late 50's and 60's was a large plastic ring that we twirled around our waist. It was called the ______ _____ .
16. Remember LS/MFT _____ _____/_____ _____ _____?
17. Hey Kids! What time is it? It's _____ ______ _____!
18. Who knows what secrets lie in the hearts of men? Only The _____ Knows!
19. There was a song that came out in the 60's that was "a grave yard smash". It's name was the ______ ______!
20. Alka Seltzer used a "boy with a tablet on his head" as it's Logo/Representative. What was the boy's name? ________
01.The Lone Ranger left behind a silver bullet.
02. The Ed Sullivan Show
03. On Route 66
04.To protect the innocent.
05.The Lion Sleeps Tonight
06. The limbo
08. Louis Armstrong
09. The Timex watch
10. Freddy, The Freeloader and 'Good Night and God Bless.'
11. Draft cards (Bras were also burned. Not flags, as some have guessed)
12. Beetle or Bug
13. Buddy Holly
16. Lucky Strike/Means Fine Tobacco
17. Howdy Doody Time
From Our Mailbox
Subject: ThanksPolly Gurley Redd
Thanks so much for the bowling memories. I don’t think I ever played at the Playmor and I was trying to remember where we did go to bowl with my parents while I was reading when there it was, Pin Palace. Gosh, I remember that so well. Thanks for kicking that back into the old brain.
Having been gone from Huntsville since going to college in 1966 and then when my mother left after my father died in 1984, it is so hard to remember the places we went, much less the ones that are gone, so I am also enjoying the memories from the “missing” lists. I know I really miss Pasquales which was on Governors near the Ice Palace and had the most delicious “Stromboli Steak Sandwich” with a brown gravy and a rich buttery garlic roll. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Now strombolis all have tomato sauce.
Thanks for all you do to keep our Lee family thinking.
Subject: The way things were.
Tommy and Fami-Lee,
When I recall people, places, things, and happenings form the past my wife tells me I am living in the past. I tell her that I am remembering better times and places. Thanks to everyone for the great memories. I agree that we grew up in the best of times and that it is a great shame that our children and grandchildren and, at least in my case, my great grandchildren could not experience what we did.
Subject: Reunion Meeing
The first general meeting of the reunion committee for 2015 took place on Jan. 30 at the West End Grill. The group made a tentative decision to hold the affair at the Marriott Hotel in Huntsville on September 11 & 12, 2015. As in the past, this will be a gathering of the classes of '64-'66, with a program centered on the class of 1965, in acknowledgement of their 50th year anniversary. Other matters will be ironed-out at subsequent meetings and classmates will then be informed of further developments and details.
In attendance were Ann Pat King Fanning ('65), Ann Wilson Redford ('65), Andrea Gray Roberson ('66), Niles Prestage ('65), Judy Fedrowisch Kincade ('66), Carolyn Burgess Featheringill ('65), Carol Jean Williams Carroll ('65), Beth McNabb Weinbaum ('65), Glenn James ('65), Rose Marie James, Gudrun Wagner Klauss ('65), Rainer Klauss ('64), Patsy Hughes Oldroyd ('65), Sarajane Steigerwald Tarter ('65), Lynn Bozeman Van Pelt ('66), and Pam Grooms Smith ('65).
A serendipitous moment occurred at the beginning of the meeting. The lady serving us, Melody, had noticed that we were from Lee High. She announced that she was the daughter of Jasper Jenkins, the chorale teacher during part of our tenure at Lee.