When memory keeps us company and moves to smiles and tears, we find ourselves occasionally back in a little red schoolhouse, or senior high, or the hallowed halls of ivy …
Remembering a special teacher, an awakening lecture or something hilarious like the time a chicken strolled into the classroom during a discussion on Shakespeare (pranksters had kidnapped the bird and released it in the hallway).
Personally, I keep returning to the eager, devoted and utterly futile efforts of Ms. Elizabeth Wright, eighth-grade music teacher at Eugene Field Elementary in Carthage, Mo.
She was a lovely lady in a hopeless situation:
Not enough girls with sweet voices, and too many boys with none at all. Well, not what you would call, in a broad sense, human voices.
There may have been a few of the guys who eventually grew a decent voice, but right then, in eighth grade, we sounded like a dog pen at breakfast time.
Ms. Wright would bring to class these charming little songs about Greek children feeding ducks or tending sheep, and we always ripped to shreds any trace of melody.
Some of us were slow singers, you might say, causing others to tailgate us.
Those who more or less knew what they were doing would get detracted and there would be a traffic jam of howling and barking.
And the song would drift into a jarring, screechy mess.
I know it must have been a cruel disappointment to a dedicated teacher like Ms. Wright.
Music class was held in the school’s tiny gym, which was an antique basketball court better used for PTA meetings and school assemblies.
There were very old steam radiators in distant corners that made strange clanks and rumbles, and to this day I believe Ms. Wright would have been more successful conducting the radiators than her howling, screeching students.
She would have brought out better music.
Innocent little ballads were sung fairly well by the girls, but when the boys came in, it was general annihilation.
Of all the great moments in education — the lessons, the lectures, the catnaps — nothing stands out to me like the number we did on musical numbers at Eugene Field Elementary.
Reducing a talented and devoted music teacher to helpless stammer.
I've often wondered if perhaps Ms. Wright didn't go back to college and re-train herself to be a teacher of woodworking or general shop.
Corky Simpson is a veteran journalist who writes a column for the Green Valley News.