Saturday, May 17, 2008

***In Honor Of Miss (Ms.) Rose Enos,North Quincy High English Department, Circa 1964

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Ellen Terry reciting Portia's mercy speech from The Merchant of Venice. Fitting right?

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Originally posted in May 2008 on Classmates

"The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath" lines from Portia's speech to the court in William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"

No, I did not have to look those sentences up. (Okay, I will confess, I did look up to see if there was one or two p's in droppeth) I know those lines and more from the master by heart. Although I am not a fan of rote recital, as was the fashion in my schoolboy days and in earlier times (the great American playwright Eugene O' Neill's father was said to be the master of such Shakespearean recital in the 19th century), it does serve to bring up my point. Literature matters. Words matter. I have, on more occasions than I care to remember, honored those ideas more in the breech than the observance but I have tried to be guided by them. And did those pieces of wisdom just spring forth from the depths of my mind? Hell no, they were planted there by the person whom I wish to honor in this commentary- Ms. Rose Enos, my senior year English teacher.

I have recently come into possession of a friend's copy of our 1964 yearbook (Bill Cadger, the great cross country runner and track man) and in thumbing through the pages I came upon a group picture of the English Department, including Ms. Enos. That brought many things to mind in a hurry. First, and foremost, dread. Dread that I would not be prepared for her weekly ten vocabulary words. Dread that I had not memorized my Shakespeare. Dread that I was not prepared for my book report. You get the picture, right? Dread. And that ain't no lie.

So, that being the case, why is Ms. Enos being honored here today forty-four years after the event? Well, go back to that first paragraph. I was not close to Ms. Enos, certainly not her "pet". Perhaps she did not even know who I was. I do not know about today but back then the classes were very large and there were many minds to feed. I know from my own later experiences that such things occur. So it is possible. Perhaps she did not even like me. That too is possible. I did not display my better side, the "better angel of my nature", in those days. However, I know two things about her-literature matters, words matter. That more than balances things out, don't you think? Miss (Ms.)Rose Enos, wherever you are-thanks.


The following, unedited, is the traffic in response to my post on Classmates

I recently received an e-mail on the Classmates site from James Connolly, Class of 1964, who was in English class with me in senior year. James is now a Xavierian Brother- that is a Catholic religious order. He, presumably, has no reason to lie, not that he need to on this occasion. Brother James told me that he too was in dread of Ms. Enos in those days. He also told me that Ms. Enos, among others, had helped him immensely in preparation for his vocation. Enough said.

Replies 5 messages

(2) In memory of Miss Rose Enos . . .

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 23 2008 11:10am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


Miss Enos was my 10th grade English Teacher for the 1954-55 school year. It often struck me as somewhat cruel, but some kids used to say it looked like she applied her makeup with a trowel. I struggled in her class, but so did many others. When we had to write our own poems, I wrote something to the effect that "If I had an airplane, I would fly. . . " I didn't think it was on a par with something by Frost or Longfellow, but one of the guys a year behind me said Miss Enos read my poem to their class the following year. Maybe saying "This is how not to write a poem." Who knows?

When I had the mumps that wiped out my 1955 spring track season, I missed a book report in Miss Enos' class. When I returned after missing 2 weeks of school, she let me choose one of the many books she had in her closet. I think it was called "Merril's Marauders" and it was quite interesting. I had to read that book in one night and write 2 facts about each chapter. I squeaked by with a "C" in her class. I think the spelling/vocabulary tests were what saved me. I just wasn't very good at writing things up in those days. I finally did get a "B" in English in my senior year, probably because I was no longer in the "College Prep" program. When I graduated in 1957, I "fled" into the Navy with no intention of ever going to college. Ironically, I spent nearly all of my first year in the Navy in school. I took the Honorable Discharge in 1967 and started college in 1974, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1982 from the University of Texas in El Paso. I guess some of us take a bit longer to get with the program. I feel that most, if not all, of the English teachers I had at NQHS made a positive impression, including Miss Rose Enos. That was in spite of my not getting the best of grades. Dave Meaney once asked if I was having problems at home, but I fibbed and told him there were no problems. Anyway, thanks should go out to the teachers who put up with us those many years ago.

Craig S. Warren

(3) Miss Enos

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Jul 23 2008 01:31pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

I am posting the information below that I had originally placed with my commentary to prod Brother James Connolly (and others) to come up with their own Miss Enos stories like the one above by Craig Warren.

"I recently received an e-mail on the Classmates site from James Connolly, Class of 1964, who was in English class with me in senior year. James is now a Xavierian Brother- that is a Catholic religious order. He, presumably, has no reason to lie, not that he needs to on this occasion. Brother James told me that he too was in dread of Ms. Enos in those days. He also told me that Ms. Enos, among others, had helped him immensely in preparation for his vocation. Enough said."

(4) Literary ambitions . . . ?

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Jul 24 2008 11:01am PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


My average for the three English classes I had in 10th, 11th and 12th grades was about a middle "C." 10th-C, 11th-L, 12th-B. Miss Enos may have been the teacher who planted the seed of writing in me, but it probably didn't begin to germinate till I started college in 1974, 17 years after graduating from North. I received three "A's" and a solid "B" for the 4 English classes I took in college and was encouraged by the professors to write more. I also did reasonably well writing up the lab reports for experiments in engineering or science classes. More recently, I have started a fictional "narrative." So far it's reached 142 pages in Spanish. I asked a former NQHS classmate if I should write a parallel English version. She told me it would probably be better to finish the Spanish version first. I don't know when that will be, if ever. I know; "don't give up on anything." The Spanish was probably started at NQHS with the two years of Latin with Louise Fifield and one year of Spanish with Roberta Webstersmith, who was usually a French teacher. After all is said and done, unless we slept through high school, all of the teachers and coaches had some influence on us. Some, of course, more than others. Rose Enos was one of those who may have been somewhat intimidating to many, but that's how good teachers are.
My late wife Elvia, who retired in 1990 after 28 years of teaching primary school for the State of Chihuahua, was that kind of teacher. She was tough on her students, and some of them later thanked her for being so tough, because it made secondary school and beyond less difficult.

Craig S. Warren-1957

(5) Yes, Literary Ambitions....

Alfred Johnson 1964

Posted: Aug 12 2008 01:18pm PST
In reply to Craig Warren 1957

Craig- Thanks for answering my question about whether Ms. Enos (or any other teacher) sparked any literary ambitions in you. In the interest of getting your 15 minutes of fame (or more) I guess you better keep on writing your autobiography (oops) fictional 'narrative'. Good luck. The reason that I asked you that question in my e-mail is that someone last spring asked me that same question. I answered her with an entry in this space that I subsequently deleted. I have reposted here to give you an idea about my 'literary' ambitions.


A Writer's Monologue

Why is this writer writing all these damn commentaries on these message boards?

I have recently received an e-mail asking this very question, although it was more politely put. I hope. Well, if one reads my answer on the canned Q&A section on my profile page (since deleted, AJ) provided by this site one answer is to network with the old gang. Another is the fact that some of us are still standing and that is in itself a cause for wonder. In earlier ages (there he goes again with that history stuff) people of a certain age (that means us) would be considered old. Can you believe that? So, partially I am also celebrating that fact. Furthermore, a recent series of events in my life have made me aware of my mortality and I, frankly, feel a need to get back to my roots. Fair enough?

Those reasons listed above are all good and sufficient but I will now present the real reason, a confession if you will. I have always liked to write, and I have an inordinate respect for those who do it well. If for one minute I could write like Ernest Hemingway with that sparse, functional language that gets to the bone of social existence I would give much gold. Or if I could write in the savage sardonic style of the late Doctor Hunter S. Thompson (Doctor Gonzo) I would add diamonds to the pile.

So mix this love of writing with all of the others. Then put them together with the glorious possibilities of the information superhighway that gives me a targeted audience and here we are. And the best part is that you can read or not read these screeds without any fuss, muss or bother. Nice, right?

(6) Literary ambitions . . . ?

Craig Warren 1957 (view profile)

Posted: Sep 13 2008 11:17pm PST
In reply to Alfred Johnson 1964


Haven't seen any of your commentaries for a while. Have you continued teaching? Anyway, I hope all's as well as can be with you.
Whenever anyone asks me, "How have you been?," my usual answer is, "In spight of everything, . . . well."

I have done little writing lately, but have done quite a bit of reading. One of my favorite writers is a lady from Chile who has been living in Marin County in Califorfnia for some years with her San Francisco Lawyer Husband. Her name is Isabel Allende, and she has published a goodly number of books, beginning in the early 1980's. She didn't consider herself a writer until she had published two books and begun to write her third. A word she likes to use to describe her writing as well as most of her life is "passion." You seem to feel that a sense of humor is a necesary quality for a writer, and you're quite right in most cases. Ms. Allende definitely has a sense of humor which is evident in most of her books. She writes in Spanish and most of her books have been translated to as many as 40 other languages, including English. Her life has been somewhat of a "roller-coaster," which you and I seem to have experienced to some degree. Maybe that's what is needed to be a credible writer.

I also recently saw a video of a speech Ms. Allende gave to a group of scholars in Monterey, California a year or so ago. She has an accent in English, but not too heavy. No worse than a Boston accent. Again, her sense of humor and passion were evident. Oh, yeah. One of her books, "The House of Spirits," was also made into a movie in the late 1980's or early 1990's. She is, or could be, an inspiration for me, if I would just get off my duff and back to bashing the keys.

That's all for now. I often say to my son and grandson that if they really like to do something, they should "stay with it." Maybe it's time I followed my own advice.

Craig, NQHS 1957

Saturday, May 10, 2008

***The Generation Of '68?-For Mary, Class Of 1964 Somewhere

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia entry for the "Summer Of Love", 1967.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

The first draft of this comment was written before I got my grubby little hands on a copy of our Class of 1964 "Manet". After intense examination of that document I find nothing there that would indicate that the future foot soldiers of Woodstock Nation were seething to be free to try alternative ways of living. Nor do I get a sense from those pictures that people were getting ready to challenge the way political institutions were being run in this country. I will thus let my original remarks stand.

Do you consider yourself a member of the Generation of '68?

"In that time, 'twas bliss to be alive, to be young was very heaven"- a line from a poem by William Wordsworth in praise of the early stages of the French Revolution.

I mentioned in the Tell My Story section that while we were all members of the Class of 1964 some of us were also members of the Generation of '68. I guess to those of us who considered themselves part of that experience no further explanation is necessary. However, if you are in doubt then let me give my take on what such membership would entail.

This question is actually prompted by an observation made by my old friend, and our classmate, the great track and cross-country runner Bill Cadger (See On The Matter of Bill Cadger-Runner for a comment on his exploits). Part of my motivation for joining this site was to find him. I have done so and we have started to keep in touch again. At one of the "bull sessions" that we have conducted I asked him whether he had gone to any class reunions. I had not done so and therefore I was interested in his take on the subject.

Bill said that the only one that he had gone to was the 5th reunion in 1969. Of course that is the high water mark for the Generation of '68. A key observation that he related, as least for my purpose here, is that when he went to that reunion and people came up to him to introduce themselves he had trouble identifying people, especially the guys, because of all the beards and long hair that were telltale tribal symbols at the time. So that is one, perhaps superficial, criterion for membership.

Frankly, dear classmates, among the reasons that I turned my back on the old hometown right after high school was that it seemed like a "square" (remember that tribal term from our youth meaning not "hip", another term from that era) working class town that did not fit in with my evolving political and cultural, or more correctly counter-cultural, interests. Thus, Bill's comments rather startled me. My assumption would have been that the "squares" would have gotten a job after high school (or gone to college and then gotten a job), gotten married, had kids, bought a house and followed that trail, wherever it led. This new knowledge may tell me something different.

Is it possible that there were many other kindred spirits from our class who broke from that pattern, at least for a while? Who not only grew their hair long (male or female) or grew beards (male) but also maybe dressed in the symbolic Army/ Navy store fashions of the day (male or female) or burned their bras, symbolically or otherwise (female)? Or did some dope (Yes, I know, on the advise of counsel, we are all taking the Bill Clinton defense on this one. Now!) and made all the rock concerts? Or hitchhiked across the country? Or opposed the damn Vietnam War and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported the black liberation struggle and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported an end to the draft, ROTC on campus, etc. and got......well, you know the rest of the line? Or lived in a commune or any number of other things of like kind that were the signposts of the generation of '68? In short, tried to "storm heaven". We lost that fight but the same kind of storm clouds are gathering again, at least a little, in 2008. Your stories, please (and that includes those "squares" who now do not now seem quite that way anymore).

Sunday, May 4, 2008

***Bowling Alone In America?- For Barbara A., Class Of 1965

Click on the headline to link to a Website devoted to ... bowling. Of a different sort.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

This entry was originally posted in April 2008 on Classmates.

Why were there separate boys and girls bowling teams in 1964?

"A book is a dangerous weapon"- part of an old time television ad in support of literacy.

Yes indeed, a book is a dangerous weapon, especially in the hands of a man with a mission. And not just any book, my friends, but a priceless copy of the "Manet", 1964 edition, our year book. I was so alienated then that I believe I threw my copy out the day after graduation. But that is another story. For those who have not read my comments on a previous Message Board entry I recently came into possession of this treasure through Bill Cadger, the great cross-country runner and track man from our class. Now this document and a copy of the list of attendees at the 20th class reunion in 1984 should keep me in commentary until the cows come home. They are like manna from heaven. So what is the subject matter for today? Well, the title of this piece tells it all-bowling, naturally. Or rather, more to the point, why was it necessary to have two separate teams in such a unisexually-friendly sport? (Yes, I know this is an awkward construction, but it suits my purpose.) For those who still have their "Manet", see page 35.

I, moreover, have my legal eagle's hat on today. Let me try to make my point by an analogy in the law. Lawyers Tom Kiley, Kevin Murphy, and Steve Kalish (and any others that I do not know about), who suffered through briefing those endless Constitutional Law cases, will appreciate this. There are various tests to determine whether governmental actions pass constitutional muster. The easiest standard for the government to pass is called the "rational relationship" test. Here, basically anything a governmental actor does, short of murder or mayhem, is okay- so tell your client to go home and get on with his or her life. Separate bowling teams by sex do not even come up to that standard. What gives?

Okay, we are talking about 1964, a time well before women's equality of access was legally, and more importantly, socially recognized. A case in point. In those days there were no young women running track at North. The theory then was that women could only run to the store. Apparently they would break apart or have some other malignant physical problems if they ran more than one hundred yards. Now we know better. Just the other day on Boston Marathon Monday Ms. Tune from Ethiopia not only ran 26 plus miles but had a sprint left at the end. Kudos.

So what does this have to do with the bowling teams? Just this, what possible reason could there have been, even then, for separating the sexes in such a benign sport? I loved to bowl as a kid and spend more than my fair share of time, if memory serves, in that downstairs bowling alley just outside of Norfolk Downs. I know myself, from later experience, that more than one woman could beat the pants off of me at ten pin. No sweat. And here is the real tragedy. I freely now admit that I was very shy around girls in high school. I think that had there been a mixed bowling team I might have been able to overcome that affliction. I would have been less maladjusted and maybe, just maybe, I would not have thrown away that year book. And...

Wait a minute! Let us get this story straight. In the year 2008 this writer is alleging, based on a quick perusal of old "Manet" pictures, that North Quincy High School's failure to provide mixed bowling teams stunted his human potential. And led to a subsequent depraved and sordid life. Well, yes. And others, I am sure, carry those same emotional scars. That, my class mates, is where the little legal discussion above comes into play. Tom, Kevin, Steve- don't you think we have a basis for a class action suit in behalf of the aggrieved members of our Class of 1964? Maybe on a theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress with a "lost of consortium" claim (a quaint legal term) thrown in? Fellow victims, step forward. Tell your heartfelt stories.