Saturday, March 26, 2005

Chapter 1, P.K.

The following is part of chapter 1, the part that fits on a Blog post

Chapter 1

School means something much different to me than most. Therein lies the key to the title of this book. We lived real close to it, and Dad was, as my kids used to say, “the head guy” there. I used to visit the school as a little kid, not in kindergarten yet, with my dad. When I got old enough to sneak off by myself, I went over there without permission one day, and spent a little time with the custodians (we used to call them janitors) as they worked through getting the school ready for the next school year. It was a hot summer, and the inside of the brick and concrete school was more comfortable than the outside air. It also had a pleasant smell: gym sealer, duplicating fluid, soap and the cooled mown grass scented summer air flowing through the terrazzo corridors. I must have been about five, and only barely remember how it happened, but I somehow sat in one of those big mop buckets with the wringer on it, and got stuck. After they saw I was OK, (with a wet seat, but OK) some fun was had by all at my expense, and of course, my brothers never let me forget it!

I always had a good relationship with janitors, and never knew until adulthood that some custodians are child molesters. I was fortunate both in not meeting one of those, and not knowing about it until later. I’m sure none of those guys were in that category. I can still remember their faces, if not names. And I can still remember the scent of school in the summer.

What's the title about? Maybe you’ve heard that a preacher’s kid or a principal’s kid is either full of hell or an angel. Well, there are some good reasons for that, but no psychology here, I promise. My Dad was a stickler for rules. He occasionally broke some, but not many, and wanted us to know that they were not to be broken lightly. His dad, Dr. Oscar Charles, my granddad, was a strict non smoking teetotaler and a serious church going Protestant. He came from a big Welsh immigrant family, and they were strict Calvinists. My Dad used to say (and as an adult having been to Wales and read about the developments in the 18th and 19th centuries there I know now what he meant) “the only good Protestant is one who goes out and founds his own church!” I don’t know if it was original with him, probably not, but it still gets a laugh when I repeat it in some circles. You see, in Wales, his great great great...grandfather was an itinerant preacher who founded his own church...

Dad was a Methodist, in Clayton anyway, and I never knew him to be anything else. His Dad did not drink. Not only that, he was very opposed to anyone drinking, period. When Grandpa and Grandma came to visit, we had to be sure all Dad’s favorite, Red Cap Ale cans or bottles were gone, both full and empty. Dad was also aware that it was frowned on in some circles, if one hung around bars for even a social drink, or had any alcohol in your home, particularly if you were a teacher or a school principal. We made lots of trips to Watertown, NY, to buy groceries. Sometimes we would come back with a six pack or two of Red Cap. Dad’s and Mom’s friends, Sam and Betty, would come over to the house to play bridge. Sometimes they would go over to Sam and Betty’s. It usually involved the consumption of a couple of Red Caps. No scandal there, by today’s standards. But he was sure that he needed to be circumspect about it, and he was. He never went into any of the local bars, not even to talk to someone while he had a coke or a glass of water. He just did not think it was proper for a school principal to do so. Now, I’m pretty sure the folks in town knew he would have a beer or two now and then, particularly since one of the school songs about MoMo (Dad’s unofficial nickname with the students for years) had a line about “MoMo” having a beer. But you would not see him hoisting one at McCormick’s, and he disapproved when those who worked for him did. . . . . .

Interested? Stay tuned. Maybe I'll put more of the next few chapters (I have 10 finished) on.


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