Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remembering American History

I hated history class when I was in grade school. The history books were so boring . . .

When I was in 3rd grade, our teacher left suddenly, and we were given a substitute. Poor lady. No one did any work for her. I would draw pictures of what she called "our American heroes" instead of doing reports. I think I informed her that this was an option allowed by our REAL teacher.

I remember drawing a picture of Paul Revere. I drew a little boy and wrote underneath: Paul Revere before his midnight ride. And then I added--he didn't even own a horse yet.

My father said my Paul Revere should at least wear a hat and long hair. I wasn't sure if he had a hat yet, or a ponytail, but just in case, I drew two pictures, one with the hat and a ponytail, one without.

Years later, when I think of Paul Revere, I think mostly about that weird hat.


TC said...

Pity the plight of poor substitute teachers in every epoch, always having to hear how the REAL teacher did it. Even if she/he didn't.

I think your father was probably right.

The pictures of him (PR, that is, not your father) in later life show him with a wee sort-of-ducktail thingie. The cover of Esther Forbes' novel Johnny Tremain represents a young pseudo-Paul Revere wearing his hair in that same style. If style is what you would call it.

Otherwise most images conceal the hair with the weird hat.

(I'm doing my best to produce some sympathy, but the freemasonry chafes a bit.)

As a tiny proto-American I was always wanting to draw pictures of WW II battle scenes. Not so much the heroes as the hardware, explosions, etc.

Nin Andrews said...

And did you get "credit" for you battle scenes? And what about those field trips to battle fields . . .
So educational.

ACravan said...

I really love this and would state my many reasons in tedious detail, but that would belie the principal drivers, which are its brevity, its wit and the economy of the line drawing. I think that without doubt the most fascinating object I have ever seen displayed behind a frame was a Paul Revere manusript expense report that he turned in after his Midnight Ride. It was being auctioned several years ago at Christie's NY along with some other fascinating letters, including Harry Truman's typewritten missive on White House stationery threatening to knock the block off the reporter who criticized his daughter Margaret's concert piano performance. In any event, PR's expense report followed in close detail the modern pattern of itemization, e.g., "cost of water for horse," "mileage," "cost of lodging at inn." It was so great. I think highly of his silverwork also, but this was priceless (although I expect it sold for a price.) Curtis

TC said...

Oh no, Nin it was strictly extracurricular. I loved to draw. My father, once, before the problems of life got to him, had been an excellent draftsman, and I had perhaps inherited a whit of that skill. (Also, as it would turn out, a bit of the susceptibility to problems.) Warfare scenes provided the subject matter only because, on the West Side of Chicago, there was a shortage of the standard initiatory artistic subject matter: birds, trees, flowers, all that pleasant stuff. The Sisters of Mercy, Ursulines et al., did not consider drawing a legitimate addition to the sacred triad, reading, writing and arithmetic -- positioned slightly below the central subject matter, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and all the many saints and blesséd ones. I considered holiness ungraspable as subject matter (or as conduct template, sadly). I think I did understand that war, whatever it actually was, had nothing to do with any of that. In fact war was pretty much something I dimly perceived strictly through eavesdropping (the way small children learn about everything terrifying). (Those large ears, back then, actually still worked for hearing purposes.) I imagined a version of it, often, in the middle of the night, watching the shadows flicker in the tenement airshaft, and hypothesizing the air raids that must inevitably follow. This area of dim remembrance was reawakened vividly after the September 11 attacks. Whence came an odd aide memoire, Silhouettes in the Shade.

But to nudge back toward topic... and for Curtis (hello, Curtis)... here are Paul Revere's dentistry tools.

And about that feisty ex-hat salesman from Kansas City, Harry Truman, in order to knock somebody's block off, I fear he would have had to be armed with a lance and mounted on Paul Revere's horse. I once (true!) served as part of his bodyguard crew at a political convention in Chicago. They didn't have those glass vizor podium protectors, SS detachments & c. in those days. On the same assignment I was also delegated to protect Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. She was dolled up in an entirely cool cheongsam, and was in every respect a classier act.

Nin Andrews said...

Amazing. I would love to see PR's real hat! And the dentistry tools. Ouch. And as to war, I was just talking to a friend about how I have never really understood the appeal. I think my mother's reading the graphic details of the Iliad at a young age did me in for life. I was the youngest of 6 so whatever was read was not nec. for my age . . . and she read to keep us from beating each other up at the dinner table each night.
You were a body guard? Good grief . . .
On the other hand, I was pretty sure a bomb was going to fall from the sky sooner or later--didn't help that my father built a bomb shelter (which we turned into a photo studio) and we would play the end of the world down there . . .

TC said...

Double ouch on the dentistry tools.

Oh, the Bomb, it was inevitable. We were made by the nuns to hide under our school desks for a some minutes every day, to prepare for the blast.

At home, we were advised to tack up blankets over the windows.

I remember computing the distance of my home from the plotted epicenter. Something like two miles. Those blankets were really going to be a big help.

On the other hand, I bet those peaceful passages of the Iliad will stay with you forever. All three peaceful lines.

What can you say about a long poem that begins with the word "Mania"?

Yeah, war always was, and will be boy stuff. If it weren't for needing carpenters and plumbers, they'd be best gotten rid of altogether. And even the contractors and plumbers -- always too busy when you need them, then too expensive when they show up.

TC said...

And by the way, having managed to disentangle myself in the nick of time from ROTC, the closest I have ever come to experiencing combat was in your neck of the woods, Nin. That was, St. Patrick's Day, downtown Cleveland, late 1950s. Achilles himself would have shrunk from that maelstrom.

ACravan said...

A propos of “assorted,” when I was very young – it definitely happened during the Eisenhower administration – when my grandparents were leaving on an Atlantic crossing from the (Cunard, I believe) steamship docks in Hoboken, NJ, my grandfather took me for a stroll on deck during the overlong, overelaborate family sending-off gathering. He noticed former president Harry Truman (this was before the time when former presidents were habitually referred to as “capital P” President [Insert Name Here] for life and surrounded by SS detachments) standing by himself and thought it would be appropriate to shake his hand and introduce him to his grandson. Truman was, as you say, quite ordinary in size, not formidable, but it’s a pleasant memory. Those dentistry tools, although amazing, are possibly less so. I’ll have to sleep on it and see whether they attack me. Anyway, this was a very enjoyable post for a lot of reasons. We live in Philadelphia – cradle of liberty and all that – and the kids know and are taught very little about basic American history in school and it’s no longer considered essential initially to teach history in chronological order. Instead, they pursue “themes.” Even a 7th grade school trip to colonial Williamsburg, permanent resting place of the three-cornered hat, and our trips to Independence Hall, etc., have failed to remedy this. My intelligent daughter, who is now in the 9th grade, recently referred to the Revolutionary War as the “War With London.” And they wonder why Dad asks for another glass of wine and the television remote control. Curtis

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, it's hard to see how schools teach sometimes. I have many stories . . . My daughter had an English teacher who commented that after reading the students' first essays, she sure wasn't going to want to see a second . . . So she gave multiple choice tests.
A Spanish class--at the end of year the kids couldn't count or . . . And it goes on.

TC said...

Achronological thematic "history" always reminds us that the time tapes might as well have been re-wound and played back in reverse, like the "forward" version of Michael Jackson's moonwalk, in which Michael appears to be ice-skating.

In this sort of history, the Liberty Bell would have been cracked in casting, and the crack would have miraculously healed itself over the years.

Harry Truman was the First Worshipful Master of the Grandview Lodge of Missouri Freemasons.

Paul Revere was a founding Master of the Masonic Lodge of Boston.

Mitt Romney is a member of a sect whose rituals bear the direct influence of Freemasonry.

Baptism of the dead and sacred underwear were developed on the planet Kolob as powerful weapons in the War on London.

Heaven only knows what secrets the 10th grade may hold.

ACravan said...

Nin's response sobered me; Tom's unsobered me. I just hope that by the time Jane finishes high school she has been required to learn more of what I think I'm correct in regarding as the "basic things." We all pick up attitudes and aura from our teachers along the way, of course, but I would just like her to be better on names, dates and chronology and the details of historical events. At this point, they mostly erect signposts for the students and assign each such marker a "politically correct" conclusion. Regarding freemasonry, I would be happy to send you both the emblem/coat of arms for "Post-Modern Freemasonry" I recently discovered in a Google search for something else. I guess they've really thought of everything. Curtis