A lot of things have been on my mind lately — finances, getting a new “day job,” big projects at work, a new baby on its way and a whole slew of other concerns. I’ve been handling it pretty well, I think, but sometimes I miss the “carefree” days of high school and college.
As you may know, my friend AAlgar and I initially met in our junior year in high school in Mr. Wrabley’s history class. That guy was just amazing — he taught history like he was right there in the midst of it. One quote of his stands out in my mind about the United States around the time of the civil war: “In those days, the South was completely Democratic. I mean, it was so Democratic, that if the Democrats had put up a dog to run for President, and the Republicans had put up Jesus Christ, the South would have voted for that dog.”
The next fall, AAl and I were both on the staff of The Hornet, our school paper. Our friendship grew further as we realized that he (credited as “Assistant Editor”) and I (credited as “Distribution Manager,” whatever the heck that was supposed to be) were actually doing the work of Editor and Assistant Editor, respectively. Our “Editor” at the time was doing maybe one page of layout to our 5 or 6 pages each. As the last issue grew near, and we grew even more and more tired of the lack of credit we were getting, we determined to change the masthead to reflect what we thought were our true credits …and we wouldn’t have gotten caught, either, if it weren’t for those meddling kids! One of our “friends” whom AAl confided in about the switch turned out to be a better friend to our absent editor, who in turn had a hissy fit that we wanted to give credit where credit was due. We were quite upset about getting caught, but our advisor, Mr. Bach, tried to calm us down. He knew the work we had done, but for political reasons, couldn’t do anything about it.
There were a few times where we had gone above and beyond the call of duty to expedite some foray into investigative journalism, strained as our brains were from editing mindless fluff pieces and trudge about our lagging sports teams, only to have them killed by the administration. Just goes to show it doesn’t pay to make the administration look bad when they control the contents of the paper. I know Mr. Bach silently sympathized with us sometimes, but at times the censorship got so ridiculous, he went to bat for us. I recall at one point, we were literally not allowed to use the word “knife” in an editorial, so we finally resorted to replacing every occurrence with the term [spatula]. That got through, and I think the goofiness of the point was emphasized.
Mr. Bach was one of those rare teachers that actually made an impression on me. I’m sure in some small way it’s due to the fact that his stocky, bearded countenance reminded us of a large furry Muppet™, but he was also a teacher who saw the potential in us and encouraged it.
I wrote Mr. Bach recently, and he replied with some surprise. He was grateful that I had taken the time to thank him for what essentially amounted to mentoring me, as he says teaching is usually a thankless profession. I can imagine. While you’re in high school, you’re so busy worrying about popularity, or the opposite sex, or not getting beat up, that you either A) don’t realize what good teachers you may have, or B) when, after you’ve been out for a good while, you finally realize what great people you had teaching you, they’re either lost to another school system or deceased.
He also, in a roundabout way, provided the seed that bore forth the name of this site, my little company, Station in the Metro. From the Ezra Pound poem In a Station of the Metro, which he parodied in a valentines note to his then (and still!) Significant Other. AAl and I have parodied situations involving him and his then-housemate, Mr. Finck (a math teacher at the school— not his S.O., lest you get any ideas) many times since then. All in good fun, but we probably wouldn’t remember him so well if it weren’t for the fact that he encouraged us so much. I think AAl and I both agree that he’s one of the best teachers we’ve had.
Thanks, Mr. Bach, for the inspiration, and thanks to all the other teachers I had over the years. Even though I may not have appreciated you at the time, I certainly do now.