The Glory Has Departed
Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence
Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Like many in our 50th reunion class, Moline High School, 1966, I remember the teachers from elementary school the best. I went to Garfield, now closed, and remember those teachers and the school with great fondness. In fact, when someone thought another Moline elementary school was dominant on Facebook, I began listing all the names from Garfield, just from our class. Others chimed in and named more.
My mother taught there, so we often trooped to school on foot and sometimes enjoyed a car trip. Within a short distance was Whitey's Ice Cream, Wharton Field House, Hasty Tasty Restaurant, and Teske's Hardware Seed and Feed (now Teske's Pet and Garden).
A notorious candy store was in the same neighborhood. I was warned not to go there, which made the candy even sweeter. The place looked a bit seedy but nothing ever happened there.
Walking to school meant going by Guy Johnson's home. Several of us collected and read comic books of all kinds. Classics Illustrated taught me the plots of all the famous works of literature. In time I owned all that were in print. Superman was another favorite, and it became part of my PhD dissertation, since the early Superman was a clear example of the Social Gospel Movement.
Parents frowned upon Superman to some extent, the Three Stooges even more, TV most of all (when they were not hogging the set themselves), and various other evil influences, like Mad Magazine.
Most of all I remember being surrounded by teachers. We had teachers at our home countless times, a teacher's daughter, Liz Copeland visiting, teachers' stories, teachers' complaints, PTA meetings at Garfield - total immersion in teaching. Th PTA meetings featured potlucks with an endless supply of desserts, none of which escaped my attention.
Some meetings meant I had to be babysat by the Garfield Library. It was a small room filled with the best books. There I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I enjoyed the elephant book so much that I eventually read all that were in the school or shelved elsewhere. I recently bought one for myself because I still enjoyed it so much - and later sent it to a church member's daughter. Everyone should love that story.
Books were everywhere - in every classroom. Garfield teachers read to us. My mother read to us at night. Later I read to our children, and our son read to his.
The teachers I remember best from Garfield -
I even remember being taken in for an interview for Kindergarten, which Mrs. Steelman taught. I was going "early" since I turned five in October. Apparently I passed the oral exam and started a few weeks young. In Kindergarten I hated naptime and got in trouble for talking and fidgeting. We slept on our individual rugs, which were obsolete once we passed into the maturity of First Grade.
I felt so teeny-tiny with the big kids of Sixth Grade around. One of them boosted me up for a drink from the fountain. As a son of the Mrs. Jackson, I always got special treatment from the big kids who loved her classes. I grew up with kids of all ages saying, "Your mom was my favorite teacher!"
She was not alone in that regard. Mrs. Copeland was also loved by her students. We had one at Garfield who was simply crazy as a hoot owl. I was never allowed to criticize a teacher, but I did a great imitation of Mrs. Daily, which made my mother burst into laughter.
Mrs. Parks was my First Grade class, but I have few memories of that year. She was very kindly and I may have had her twice, for third grade as well. If only I could ask my mother.
Mrs. Woods was my Second Grade teacher. I remember the kids from that class quite well. Mrs. Woods looked like everyone's beloved grandmother, and I can still hear her voice in my head. Like all the teachers at Garfield (except one), she loved her students. She read stories to us in class and taught us how to read. I loathed Dick, Jane, and Sally and their rabid dog Spot.
After that year I began to read voraciously, so the Moline Public Library also babysat me at times.
Fourth Grade meant I had the fascinating Mrs. McMillan. She was in the Philippines or near them during WWII. Her son and I palled around for a time.
Hallie Emory taught Fifth Grade. She looked fierce and took no guff from anyone, but she poured herself out for all her classes and gave us so many things to learn. She set up the Good Citizens Club, where we elected officers and practiced Roberts Rules of Order. Later I dealt with adults who never caught on to Roberts Rules or why those rules were articulated.
Miss Maynard struck me as rather grim and humorless, so our gang made a point to have fun in Sixth Grade. I have often told on Facebook how our gang drove a substitute teacher nuts one day. Unfortunately, she was the wife of our minister at First Christian. Needless to say, I was the focus of considerable wrath when my mother found out.
The Garfielders did very well in adult life, and I give our teachers the credit for laying the foundation for our educations and careers.
In our class -
Three of us went to Yale University for graduate school, certainly far beyond statistical predictions.
One became a physician, perhaps the only one in the senior class of around 750.
Two earned PhDs
One went to Broadway.
I am sure many more accomplishments could be listed, but I do not have the data on everyone. One thing is sure about the Moline public school system of the time - we had all the opportunities of the finest private schools, thanks to local industry and the dedication of the teachers.
When I had to use base two in computer science, my fellow students in Phoenix were perplexed. They had to count 0, 01, 10 and figured out what 11111111 meant. And hexadecimal? How could ff be 11111111 and 255? It was old stuff for me.
I am sure many others could add to this. When I get tired of teaching and grading and dealing with educational supervisors who do neither, I think of the graphic at the top. We are the result of teachers who never knew where their influence would stop.