Woodworking: What’s this? My memories all go way, way backOne of the jokes about my Grandpa Wood was that he could recall with precision what happened to him 50 years ago, but was stumped if you asked what he had done yesterday.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
One of the jokes about my Grandpa Wood was that he could recall with precision what happened to him 50 years ago, but was stumped if you asked what he had done yesterday.
I’m no grandfather, but now the joke is on me. I can remember the cast of “Dragonseed,” which I last saw 60 years ago (Walter Huston, Aline McMahon, Katharine Hepburn, Turhan Bey, Hurd Hatfield and Agnes Moorhead), but probably can’t tell you who starred in the flick we saw on Turner Classic Movies last night.
Most curious is my memory for the names of students I taught 50 years ago, but haven’t a clue about any student I taught at the end of my career, except Sue, who took my course in reviewing at UW-River Falls a few years ago.
That’s because she dropped by the house last week to ask me a question.
I taught my first class in 1958, as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green University in Ohio. I well remember that class because I was greener than Bowling Green and scared to death.
Most especially I remember Melvin Leibowitz, a very intense freshman, and graduate of Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
One day Melvin came to my desk after class to say, “Mr. Wood, you said you grew up in the upper Midwest. Y’know, Dakota, Minnesota, those places. I really admire folks like you.”
“How so, Melvin?” I asked, thinking it weird that a sophisticated New Yorker should be more suave on the brown-nose circuit than that. Maybe he had heard of walleyes or mini donuts at the Minnesota State Fair.
“Well, you know in New York State we’re all required to study for and take a regent’s exam before graduation. One of the books we had to read was “Giants in the Earth,” by Ole Rolvaag.
“He wrote about life in your neck of the woods, about tying a rope between your house and your barn, so you wouldn’t get lost in a blizzard.
“Gosh I really admire the bravery it takes to live in such an environment, with no towns, no roads, no cars….”
On another day, I read to the class a poem by T.S. Eliot. When I perceived that most of the class was dozing, I decided to change the couplet from “In and out of the room the women come and go,/Talking of MICHELANGELO” to “In and out of the room the women come and go,/Talking of CARMEN BASILIO”
And the class snoozed on. All except for Melvin Leibowitz who came up after class.
“Mr. Wood, I don’t quite understand. The textbook said that T.S. Eliot wrote the poem in 1915. But I know that middleweight Carmen Basilio wasn’t born until 1917. Is this some kind of joke?”
Ah, Melvin. You were a great kid.
In the same class was Lucylee Neiswander of Fremont, Ohio, a pert little brunette who favored V-neck sweaters and pleated skirts. She came to my office one day to tell me she didn’t like the topic possibilities I had assigned for the dreaded upcoming term paper.
“I’m just not interested in the pros and cons of universal military training,” she pouted in her very impressive Northwestern Ohio nasality.
“What are you interested in Lucylee?” asked I, remembering her nasality while I was reading to her about Carmen Basilio.
“Waaal, I’d like to write a history of baton twirling in the U.S.”
“Be my guest,” said Yours Truly, the Ultimate Pushover.
A month later she bounced up to me with a 10-page history of baton twirling in the U.S. After several pages cribbed from an informational brochure by the USTA (United States Twirling Association), I came to the meat of Lucylee’s term paper: “And then, in 1956, the U.S. Twirling Association’s highest honor was bestowed on Lucylee Neiswander of Fremont, Ohio.”
One week later, I attended the homecoming parade in downtown Bowling Green. Leading the parade down U.S. 25 was a pert brunette shod in patent leather cowboy boots, twirling a baton that was aflame at both ends. Lucylee Neiswander of Fremont, Ohio, threw her baton over the southwest corner of the three story Coolidge Hotel, then did cartwheels around the corner onto U.S. 30, caught the baton, still aflame, and headed down the road for Perrysburg.
Ah, Lucylee, you were great, too.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 426-9554.