you say tomato,
gazpacho or gestapo
call the whole thing off
I try to avoid making comments about the Congressional Representative from Georgia’s 14th district for any number of reasons.
For the most part I wish the same wish I wish whenever I read or hear about her and that is I wish she would go away.
But her most recent comment that the Speaker of the House of Representatives was sending out the “gazpacho police” was just too much to ignore.
I understand that the person in question somehow avoided taking High School Civics or as it was called at Grand Rapids Creston High School, where I went, ‘Government’.
I would have loved seeing this person in the Government class I was in.
I think it was a state law back then, that for anyone to graduate from a High School in Michigan, they had to take a Government or Civics class.
At Creston, that meant Mr. Reagan’s class.
Mr. Reagan knew that every, and I mean every, student had to go through his classroom to get a diploma.
Mr. Reagan knew it and made the most of it.
We knew it too and we all loved it.
Or at least I think we did.
His classes were not so much classes as they were like a nightly episodes of the Tonight Show.
But instead of being at night, they were during they day.
And instead of starring Johnny Carson, they were starring Mr. Reagan.
The students were not so much students as we were a captive audience as well as the targets for his jokes and efforts to playfully humiliate us.
He loved to pick on the students and he picked on all of us.
He would point at someone and ask, “What color was George Washington’s white horse?”
When the student answered “How am I supposed to know that?” he would just grin and grin and nod and nod.
If no one else in the class laughed, he would stare at the entire class and grin and grin and nod and nod.
Somewhere along the line, someone told Mr. Reagan that the Grand Rapids Public Schools required male teachers to wear a jacket and tie on payday.
Mr. Reagan usually had a tie on but he picked up a knee length white lab coat that he liked to wear in place of the usual jacket.
He would stand at the front of the classroom behind a table top podium in his lab coat and read to us the headlines from yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press and then comment on how expectedly stupid or unexpectedly smart the Mayor of the City of Grand Rapids was.
On the chalk board behind him, Mr. Reagan would also list the latest gossip headlines from Creston’s Senior Class.
After reading the newspaper, Mr. Reagan would then read off the list of gossip headlines along with commentary.
“Robin saw Bill with Jennifer at Frosty Boy. Bill is now looking for recommendations for inexpensive wind shield repair.”
No one would be spared.
And once he found out something about you, it was all over.
I remember one young lady who managed to park the family car inside their garage, sideways.
It was winter and the driveway was icy and she was going a little too fast as she pulled in so she hit the brakes, which on ice caused the car to tail spin just as it entered the garage.
The front of the car went to the left and the garage was flexible enough that the wall flexed back and the rear end of the car made it through the narrow opening to slide against the wall on the right.
That part of the wall flexed back, without breaking, so the car slid into place sideways, inside the garage.
Both walls flexed back flat and tight against the front and back bumpers and the car was stuck, sideways, inside the garage.
Mr. Reagan lived on that one for weeks and asked for regular updates from the podium for the benefit of the class.
For me, Mr. Reagan’s class wasn’t so much an educational opportunity as it was a challenge.
If Mr. Reagan was Johnny Carson, I was the new comedian on in the last 10 minutes of the show.
Mr. Reagan came into class and read a long list of students who were out with the flu.
Mr. Reagan then asked if we had heard of the Egyptian flu?
“You catch if from your Mummy,” he said.
“That joke SPHINX!” I yelled back.
I got the bigger laugh.
Mr. Reagan stared at me for a few seconds.
Then he pulled out his gradebook and turned to my page.
“Hoffman,” he says, “ESSAY ESSAY ESSAY,” making notations in the book.
“Essay? Does he have to write reports again?” someone asked.
“Not ESSAY,” Mr. Reagan said, “S.A. Smart Assss…Aleck.”
The points were not for being loud or yelling, the points were for getting the bigger laugh.
There was another time when Mr. Reagan gave us a test.
He passed out the tests and then left the room.
This test was an essay test and we had to outline the steps on how a bill became a law.
I knew there was a flow chart that showed these steps in our text book.
As soon as Mr. Reagan left, I tore the page out of my book and got the hall pass and left.
At Creston High School, each room had a flat piece of wood about one foot square with the words, HALL PASS – ROOM 101 or whatever room it was, painted on it.
Students who left the room had to carry the hall pass with them so that it was visible at all times.
Mr. Reagan had taken the thoughtful step of tying a piece of rope to the hall pass for his room and threading the rope through a roll of toilet paper.
Most teachers kept the hall pass in a desk drawer but Mr. Reagan kept his propped up against the chalk board.
If you asked to use the hall pass, he would ask IN A LOUD VOICE, Number 1 or Number 2?
He did that he said because in case of tie, number 2 would win.
Hall pass in hand, I ran down the back steps and made my way to the library.
You have to understand my High School career.
I myself can’t explain a lot of it but for the most part, I got away with almost everything.
Bucket of water out a third story window on the band.
Giant for sale sign on top of the school marquee.
The usual stuff.
I was known to be a bit goofy but harmless.
And I was for the most part, responsible.
I mean, the school knew I wasn’t going to try and burn down the school or something too stupid.
I was a familiar person in the hallway during class.
My junior year, I wanted to work on the school newspaper but that class met at 4th hour and I had a conflict.
After an interview with the teacher/supervisor, the decision was made to let me be on the newspaper staff but during 1st hour.
The newspaper had a small classroom office dedicated to the paper and yearbook production and Mr. Eikenhout, the teacher in charge of publications, would meet me there at the start of the day and let me in.
Then he would go do whatever he went and did and I was left alone for an hour.
It didn’t take me long to discover that that little room also had a hall pass.
After that I spent a lot of my time exploring the old building.
I learned how to get in the attic.
I learned how to get into the back rooms of the school auditorium.
There were some rooms I went that I was sure no one had been in for years.
It got to the point that finally one of the school security guards came up to me and asked, “Who are you anyway?”
Me running through the halls during class was not all that unusual.
At the library I waved to the librarian and went back to the AV room.
I was a familiar person here in the library too, and had a lot of freedom.
I fluttered the page in my hand at whoever was in the AV room and I said, “Mr. Reagan needs an overhead made of this diagram.”
The person nodded and waved me over to the duplicator.
Don’t ask me how I knew how to use the duplicator but I did and I slid the page in and pressed a couple of buttons and there was a hum and out came a thin plastic transparency of the page.
I got my page out of the machine and grabbed the transparency and ran back to class.
Mr. Reagan was still gone and on the front table next to his podium, was a projector we called an overhead.
I pulled down the screen over the chalk board, turned on the overhead and put my freshly made transparency on it.
And there on the big screen, for the class to see, was the diagram of how a bill became a law.
Nobody said a word.
I sat down and went back to the test.
The class was quiet.
Then Mr. Reagan came back in.
He must have forgot that when he left that the overhead wasn’t on as he used it constantly and he just walked past the screen and sat down.
I tried to get the person sitting in the front row to switch the machine off but everyone was keeping their heads down.
Mr. Reagan looked out a the class then looked up at the screen, it took a few seconds, and he yelled HEY!
He got up and took the transparency off the overhead.
“You all fail the test,” said Mr. Reagan with his big grin on his face.
Then the class got un-quiet.
Not my fault!
“But what about us who didn’t need that,” said, as I remember, the girl who parked her car sideways.
But here is the thing.
No one and I mean no one, not even garage girl, said, “HOFFMAN DID IT.”
This wasn’t like the time in Biology when everybody said HOFFMAN DID IT!
Mr. Reagan couldn’t help himself and burst out laughing.
He knew this would be a great story both for the other classes and the teachers lounge.
“Okay okay okay,” he said, “just finish the test.”
And he turned off the overhead and sat down, still chuckling to himself.
We all went back to our essays and the room was quiet.
“Hmmmmmmmmm” said Mr. Reagan in a quiet voice, “Somebody,” he said, drawing out the word sommmmmme, “had to cut that chart out of their text book.”
BUT I DIGRESS!
I would love it if somehow all the members of Congress had to take that High School government class over again.
But would they learn anything?
Would they have learned the difference between gazpacho and gestapo?
And again I think is this new?
I am reminded of Mark Twain when he said, “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.“
*The photograph of Mr. Reagan is indicative of my time in High School.
I was the photographer for the school publications which was a very useful thing to be when you wanted to be places most students were not supposed to be.
For this picture I was told by Mr. Eikenhout to get a photo for the yearbook for the Class of ’78, of the three senior class teacher advisors, Mr. Haskins (My Biology Teacher – the one who asked the class, WHO DID IT and the entire class said HOFFMAN), Mr. Vander Lende and Mr. Reagan.
Mr. Reagan told me he would not be in the picture unless it was funny.
I suggested that we could arrange for Mr. Haskins and Mr. Vander Lende to hang him and Mr. Reagan said set it up.
First I went to the gym to get a rope which I got without any problem.
Then I got the three teachers together.
The center on the basketball team, was walking by and I asked him to stand on a table and dangle the rope over Mr. Reagan who was standing on a low stool.
As I was about to take the picture, one of the school Assistant Principals came around the corner.
I don’t know what he expected to see when he turned the corner but two of his teachers stringing up another teacher was most likely not on the list of possibilities.
He looked at the teachers and he looked at me.
I knew what he was thinking and that was he didn’t know what to think.
At the time, the Grand Rapids Public Schools had come up with a program for those one of kind students who needed a class that no one else in the world might want to take.
It was called the “Independent Study Program” and because of my interest in photography and that the one photography class in the entire school system was in conflict with the only upper latin class in the entire school system, I was allowed to set up not just one, BUT TWO sections of my class schedule with an independent study in photography.
For the most part I was left on my own to put in 10 hours a week on photography.
I would tell my friends that by bringing my camera, I got class credits going to basketball games.
I also had a part-time internship with the Grand Rapids Public School’s Instructional Media Center or IM.
This was the schools districts media center that had special equipment that wasn’t available in each school.
I think that’s were I learned about duplicating machines.
I would show up there a couple times a week and they would send me out to photograph special events at different schools around the district.
The Director of the IM thought I was wonderful.
Nice and polite and on time.
The Director of the IM was the wife of that Assistant Principle.
That poor feller knew what I got away with in school and he also heard about me from his wife.
Now here I was with my camera out and three teachers and rope.
“That’s not right,” he said.
And he grabbed the rope and yanked it down.
“This is how you tie a hangman’s knot,” he said.
And he looped and looped the rope around and then pulled it tight and handed me a rope with a perfect hangman’s knot in it.
And walked away.
Like I said, you have to understand my high school career.