Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Port and Brandy

Bill Farrell As a student in London I was mostly cold during the winter. One evening around Christmas we went out caroling and raising money for charity. We sang in the key of loud while students would knock on doors asking for money or canned food. It was a common sight for bands of students to be caterwauling in the mews at night. One very cold, damp night we ended up in a pub, tired and freezing. The publican, a kind soul, sported a round of "port and brandy" to warm us up. That it did and I haven't been cold since! True story.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Remember, Remember

Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Back when I was a student in London, fresh off the boat from America, I had no idea who Guy Fawkes was or why the Fifth of November was such a big deal.

Turns out that Halloween is all but unknown in England, being an "American thing" but Guy Fawkes day is a big deal and has been celebrated for hundreds of years.

I first became aware of Guy Fawkes day around the end of October when I started seeing school kids on street corners with a dummy of some sort, begging "A penny for the guy."  I donated a few pennies but didn't know why.

Well, the "guy" was Guy Fawkes, the ringleader of a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605.  The plotters were caught and the scheme was thwarted.  The plotters were "dealt with" as can only be imagined given the times, but the audacity of the effort lived on.

Penny for the Guy became an annual fundraising effort for charity and an excuse to have parties and fireworks.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

State Fair

Fall was the time for State Fair.  The caravan of rides, exhibits and side shows came to town at the end of October every year.

Nothing like the State Fair as a kid.  The smells, lights, music, food, sights and sounds were overwhelming.

There were "kiddie" rides like the Carousel of Horses and "big kid" rides like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Double Ferris Wheel (which I NEVER went on!).

The Side Show was the best.  Snake Lady, Dog Man, Giant and others.  Each ticket cost a dime, ten-cents, but admission was well worth the cost.

I still have a ring I bought after seeing Andre the Giant (who was not the real Andre the Giant of wrestling fame) but his fingers were huge as was the ring, and I carried that ring around with me for years in Elementary School as a talisman.

Corn dogs.  A hot dog on a stick wrapped in corn meal batter and fried.  A true delicacy.  And only twenty-cents.  I could have eaten them all night.  The corn dog was not something that you could get other than at the State Fair.  I recall one visit where I jumped out of the car and ran directly to the corn dog stand.  My idea of heaven.

State fairs must be a kid thing.  True confession, I haven't been to one since I was in the sixth grade.  And, I still relish corn dogs.

Saturday, November 03, 2018


I saw a sign today at the local elementary school:  Fall Carnival Tonight!

That brought back memories of my own elementary school Fall carnivals which I totally loved!

Fall Carnival!

Games!  Food!  Fun!

There was no down side.  Each room in our school was assigned a booth.  My favorite year was hosting the Balloon Popping Booth that involved blowing up balloons and popping them with darts.  As students manning the booth during our shift our responsibilities were to take the ticket, hand out the darts and award prizes to the winners.

Mostly we relished the food:  hot dogs, popcorn, candied apples, cotton candy and ice cream.  All of which you could buy for 5-cents each.

I still remember the sights, sounds and smell of Fall Carnival.  Living in the South, most carnivals were warm with just a hint of Fall in the air.  Perfect weather to enjoy the games, friends and food.

Modern kids.  They have no idea!

Friday, November 02, 2018

Sugar High

To all those teachers who hold class the day after Halloween, I feel your pain.
A long, long time ago in a school district far, far away the Math Teachers attended a state conference. Our management at the Research Center put out a call for volunteers to teach math classes as "special subject experts" on November 1 and 2.
Of course, I volunteered. Two days of special topics in math classes, what could go wrong?
I was assigned Advanced Calculus. Well, alrighty, then! Let's get this show on the road! 
I decided to give two presentations on the History of Navigation, which would touch on astronomy, geometry and mathematics. I'm sure Spock would have pronounced it, "Fascinating!"
Anyway, I showed up to class half an hour early, props in hand, years before Powerpoint, but with my trusty HP-45 calculator and tales to tell. I went to the Advanced Calculus room and waited for the kids to arrive whose lives I would change forever.
However, the Assistant Principal met me first and told me there had been a change in assignments. My room was BR-549 down the hall to the left.
Okie, fine, I went to my assigned room. Nobody was there, yet, so I perused the teacher's desk and handouts to find out what math class I had been assigned. 
Introduction to Math for the Doomed, Depraved and Clinically Insane.
The handouts literally talked about Mr. X and Mr. Y. The homework assignments were "Using a calculator, compute 2 x 8."
I had the Warthogs from Welcome Back Kotter. When the class filed into the room most of them were hauling bags of Halloween candy. It was the Breakfast Club. It was Blackboard Jungle. It was To Sir With Love. Without the love.
Undaunted, I introduced myself to the group chatting amongst themselves, ignoring me. I minute into my teaching career and I had already lost the class. I announced my topic and didn't get even dull stares. Half the class dragged their desks into a circle, built a fire and started a Satanic ritual. After about five minutes I gave up and announced that anybody who was interested in the special presentation could join me in the corner and the rest of you had the day off.
I got two students, one, apparently the designated sacrifice who was particularly grateful. We were pelted with candy wrappers for an hour. The next day I didn't even try. I told the Warthogs to build their camp and have fun while me and the two refugees would huddle in the corner.
Since then I have voted Yes on any school bond that increased benefits to teachers.
Oh, and the guy who got the Calculus class. Well, apparently he had a "delightful time." And to this day it has never been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the ice pick that deflated his tires belonged to me.

Thursday, November 01, 2018