I’m in the airplane on my way to Buffalo to revisit my childhood haunts and meet up with eighth graders at two different schools–both of which I attended.
First on the agenda is Kenmore Middle School, scene of that awkward transition from true childhood to the teen years. In my day it was Kenmore Junior High, covering 7th 8th and 9th grades before unleashing us on e massive local public high school. It was there that I read virtually all of Gone With the Wind during math classes and first experienced the dreaded home ec classes. Awe made lasagna and sewed dresses. That’s all I remember.
Although being a writer wasn’t part of my plans at that time of life (I was going to be a concert pianist) I find it interesting to realize that the only teacher whose name I recall is that of my sev 8th grade English teacher, Miss Fox. And the only other I remember vividly (minus her name) is my 7th grade English teacher.
That 7th grade teacher is remarkable to me because she took it upon herself to teach us grammar, including diagramming sentences, parts of speech, case, tense, mood etc. I don’t think I’d have known anything about grammar except what I learned in foreign language study were it not for that teacher.
She also read aloud to us at the end of the periods. She was a good reader, and brought to life whatever she was reading. While many other of my peers have dreadful memories of Johnny Tremain, I recall that novel with intense affection.
Miss Fox was a lively, amusing young woman who always made English fun. I recall her stewardship of our school literary magazine. I had poems published but at that time couldn’t get my arms around the subtleties of a successful short story. It was a remarkably difficult to make the transition from events strung together and something that had an element of drama. I remember being a little in awe of those few classmates who managed it.
Instead of going to the large, local high school, I (as we’re my brothers eventually) was sent to a private college preparatory day school called The Buffalo Seminary. That’s where I’m going to give a writing workshop for prospective freshmen on Saturday. It’s right around the corner from where I’m staying, in a posh part of buffalo, on parkways oiled with mansions erected by the industrial age robber barons.
It will be strange to visit this city that I was so eager to get out of when I was a teen. I shall no doubt make observations about it all here.