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201002 November 2, 2020


Ninth Grade English
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    Next to my typing class, my most memorable ninth grade class has to be English. Besides being my homeroom and typing teacher, Mrs. Parks was also my English teacher. I remember the ninth grade English studies were divided into two separate components. One semester was devoted to grammar and the other semester was devoted to English Literature. I can’t remember which discipline was taught the first semester and which one the second, but I did pretty good in both, getting a B average for the first one and a B+ average for the second semester. Believe me when I say I was happy to get B’s and would be even more so as I entered my high school grades.

    I have some strong and somewhat funny memories of those days. I remember that in the ninth grade so many of the class had such bad handwriting (including me) that Mrs. Parks added a Couse of handwriting to our requirements. She taught us a system called “The Palmer Method.” According to Wikipedia, “'The Palmer Method' was developed by Austin Palmer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was primarily designed to be a simplified version of the 'Spencerian Method', the major standardized system of handwriting since the mid-nineteenth century, and quickly became the most popular handwriting system in America.” Though I write very little cursive text today, when I do I still use this method, with a small variation I use for my signature. I did not mind taking this training, but Mrs. Parks also concentrated her class studies on spelling. Spelling was not a separate subject in Junior High or High School, but so many of the class had horrible spelling skills she decided we needed more practice. I still have horrible spelling skills and am ever so thankful for today’s word processors and the spell correct features. I despise the auto correct option which has a habit of completely changing what I am intending to write.

    One part of the studies I loved but many hated was the task of diagraming sentences. For some reason I took to it and loved the challenge it offered. I do not know if that skill is still taught in schools today, but I expect it is not. It was like a puzzle to me and I think of it often these days while I am taking my online French lessons and have to figure out that language’s sentence structure.   

Sea Fever

    The other English semester’s topic of literature also still holds some strong memories and perhaps was instrumental in my “teacher’s pet” feeling I sometimes had with Mrs. Parks. Early in the semester we were studying poetry and I wrote a parody of one of the poems. A parody is the imitation of the style of another work, writer or genre, which relies on deliberate exaggeration to achieve comic or satirical effect. The poem was Sea Fever by John Masefield, which I rewrote as I Must Go Down to the Creek Again. My version started out with “I must do down to the creek again, to the muddy creek and the frogs.” Mrs. Parks loved it and I think it lead her to select me to be on the school paper – a media for which I wrote many funny poems. I can think of no other incident early in those classes which endured me to her in the way the poem did.

    Though I was not really the teacher’s pet in my eyes, I did seem to reap the benefits of having her like me. The biggest proof of that was when we decided to read a play at the end of the year and she gave out all the parts. As I listened to her calling out the names and assigning parts I was worried about being left out as she kept ignoring my name in her assignments. Finally she got down to the main role and assigned it to me. Now this was not a serious play on a stage, but each person had to go to the front of the classroom and act out his or her part as it was being read. Remember this was the ninth grade, I was a new kid in school, and I was very bashful. I was not worried about stage fright, because earlier that year I had given a speech and report to all the prominent members of the Kiwanis Club on my trip the Boy Scout National Jamboree. No, but I froze when I saw what my part in the play had to do. At the end of the scene, the main character (me) was supposed to kiss the main female character (Linda Pell). Many of you had come through the earlier school years with Linda and most should remember what a beautiful girl she was. I knew Linda from my trips to Carter’s Skateland, but the idea of kissing her in front of the whole class petrified me. I kept trying to figure out how I could do it and not make a fool of myself. I was 14 years old and only kissed a few girls at earlier kissing parties, but that was done in dark rooms and as a group activity. I even asked Mrs. Parks what I had to do and she said “just kiss her.” I had hoped she would say something else. Well, when the moment came, I took a heavy breath and kissed her – on the cheek. How many times later in my life did I wish I had a chance to redo that scene? Anyway, that memory sticks with me.

    One final memory of the literature class also sticks with me. We had to write a book report and each stand in front of the class and read it out loud. I had a fascination with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World and had read it after seeing the movie earlier that year. Well, when we started doing the reports I was surprised when Jerry Schultz got up and did his (alphabetical order S before T). Jerry surprised me, because it was obvious to me having read the book that he had not. His whole book report was on the movie version of The Lost World and not the printed Sir Author Conan Doyle’s version. I was sure he would be called down for his report, but when he was through Mrs. Parks asked him a few questions and he sat down. He was never punished for not really reading the book upon which he gave his report. It upset me more that the movie producers themselves did not even follow Doyle's version. It was one of the first times I had actually read a book which had been turned into a movie and I was furious that so many liberties had been taken in the movie. I was so mad I had even written a letter to the studio that made it expressing my anger. And then Jerry had gotten away with something equally as bad in my view.

The Lost World

    So, ninth grade English filled my young mind with a lot of memories and I can only wish I had kept my journal that year because I am sure there were many other occurrences which will never be recalled. 

        Memphis, TN - Next week will feature my Veteran's Day salute to our Lee Generals. I hope everyone who deserves to be recognized has notified me so they can be included in the recognition.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Typing Class

Jeffrey Fussell

LHS '66

    Reading your article on typing class reminded me of my experience in a typing that I took in my (successful) return to postsecondary education.  This particular school used Panasonic “daisy wheel” typewriters.  These damnable machines made no discernable noise when imprinting the character, but made a distinct “clunk” when the wheel returned to the “home” position after imprint.  This was disorienting for one accustomed to hearing the tap of the striker hitting paper relative to typing speed. I never got past 20 words per minute, but still use a double dash and double space after each sentence.

Subject:    Remembering Janice

Tom provost

LHS ’66

    Tommy, that picture of Janyce brought back some pleasant memories! She had such a great dry sense of humor. I remember when some of us guys ( Joe Harrison, Marin Lee, Ken Martz and possibly me not to mention any names) rolled her yard and we had to go back the next morning and clean it up! We may have talked Barbara Reilman DeHaye into that caper also.God test her soul - Thanks for letting us know. 



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