Characters from a Sixties Childhood
Virgil Hummer was a music teacher,
of strings. Really.
Marshall Silence ushered at the Plaza Theater
I kid you not.
He did keep the noise down
at Wednesday matinees
full of shouting kids.
He had the red jacket and the flashlight.
He lit your way to your seat
and lit up the couples making out in the balcony.
Wilton Veal lured young, fresh kids
to his basement.
His train setup there was amazing.
Boys, especially, liked to go there.
And he liked the boys, especially.
He'd hand you the controls, then stand closer
and closer as you focused on the tracks.
You had to dodge him but
that wasn’t hard, as his left side didn’t work — polio.
I never went back after he got a feel of my butt.
Mrs. Proctor was my second-grade teacher.
I can still envision
Miss Markley’s neat numbers and letters
on my first-grade report cards.
Mrs. Kidwell — with no sense of humor.
I'm not making up any of this.
Dennis Schubert became a musician.
It’s a good thing his mother
didn’t name him Franz
or I know you’d quit reading right now.
Miss Rowena Osborne was from Kansas,
But English literature had carried her
far afield, far downstream,
And she delighted in trying to carry us with her.
She felt my butt, too.
She used to call kids up
to read and coax them to
stand behind her desk where she could
reach their thighs from her chair without being seen.
But we all knew.
The superintendent was Leon Couch.
I never knew if job applicants had to.
Miss Vashti Rekate had had polio so bad
she walked with crutches.
She used the rubber tips to kill slugs
on her front sidewalk.
And wielded those scarred wooden things
with dash and panache,
pointing with them to the blackboard
in her fourth-grade classroom.
Spike Bickel, whose mom
nicknamed him after a vaudeville comedian,
Introduced us to “the finger” and it’s meaning
just before the start of Miss Rekate’s class one day.
I think she hit him with a crutch.