Friday, March 20, 2009

My Teacher Didn't Jump Across the Ladders

Kind friend Dale Lincoln stops by the Skillin's Garden Log with another fine life story that makes you smile and makes you think:

Many wild expressions are heard during election years. Before the Presidential election in 1992 Ross Perot stated that CEO’s of many corporations had “jumped across the ladder” to arrive at the top position and they didn’t fully understand the operation of their company. They would have a better understanding of running their company if they had started as janitor and worked their way to the top!” Those words made me think of one of my teachers.

When summer vacation (1949) ended, five students in Grade 8 along with students in Grades 5, 6, and 7, welcomed a new teacher, Mr. John Longmore, to our school in Perry. It didn’t take us long to notice that his smile showed a lot of teeth, his patience was good, he was musical, and he loved to tell stories about adventures in the wilderness of Maine. Sixty years later I’m still giving his Mathematics and Maine History lessons excellent ratings.

Several years after being our teacher my friends and I were still giving him friendly greetings. In retrospect we realize that his school year may not have been the easiest year in his work life. Our school didn't have running water or a telephone. The room was heated with a “pot bellied” wood stove. Two 100 watt light bulbs dangled from the ceiling. A very large physical education room was the great outdoors.

Early in the year I hit a baseball that was quickly moving toward right field. My friend playing first base, stopped it with his bare hand. He screamed, stuck his finger in the air and displayed a compound fracture. Without any hesitation, Mr. Longmore had Frank(and his brother) in his automobile and were heading for the doctor’s office in Eastport, Maine. The teacher of Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, became our supervisor for the rest of the afternoon. A few years ago Frank’s mother told me that for many years after that incident, in his friendly way, whenever Frank saw his former teacher, he would isolate his big deformed finger, extend his arm, and say: “Hello Mr. Longmore, remember me?!”

Spring arrived. Each afternoon Mr. Longmore’s students practiced for a school play that never had an opening night. An automobile accident on Memorial Day weekend claimed the life of my classmate, Janet, who had a leading role in the play. From two experiences I've learned that every teacher that has ever returned to school after a weekend and found “an empty seat” in their classroom can relate to Mr. Longmore’s feelings as that school year was ending. The day of the school picnic survivors of the accident displayed their scars and bruises. Janet's mother displayed colors of yellow, green, purple, and blue covering her face, neck and arms. Hearts of many people were heavy as my Grade 8 year was ending. The last words Mr. Longmore, as my teacher, said to me were: “Whenever you see me, be sure to say hello and tell me how you are doing.”

Mr. Longmore was a teacher at Perry for two more years, then moved away. More than thirty years passed before I would fulfill his request. Then several friendly but very short meetings happened with him. He would always ask questions about what I was doing and listen to what I had to say. We would exchange pleasant memories before continuing on our daily routines.

One day I spotted Mr. Longmore at a distance as he was making his exit from a restaurant. I approached him and said: “Tell me what happened to you after you were my teacher.” This was his story:

My wife and children moved with me to East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I started taking courses at a near-by college and got a job as janitor at a place that designed and manufactured heating and air conditioning systems. When I applied for the job I mentioned that I had taken a very short course in drafting and had worked one summer in the shipping room at a sardine factory in Eastport, Maine. I hadn’t been with the company very long when my boss sent me to the shipping department. I worked there until the day my boss said: “They need lots of help in the Design Department. You know a little bit about drafting, so I’m sending you up there.” After a few years in that department the Assistant Manager of the company became Ill. They asked me to help in the Front Office. Then they promoted me to Vice President. I retired as President of the company.”

As our conversation ended and to the present day I have felt very proud of my teacher.

NOTE: During the past year thousands of people have lost high paying jobs. Some of those people have gained employment as janitors. It is encouraging to imagine that like my teacher, Mr. Longmore, within a few years they may be President/CEO of the company that hired them. Never Give Up!

Dale Lincoln
Perry ME
in Zephyrhills FL
March 20, 2009

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