To my Favorite Teacher.
I lay here and wonder how it has come about that I find myself quickly approaching the mid sixties. Sixty four just HAS to be the “new” forty. But, its unfortunately not.
I think back a half a century ago. Yes, dang it…that’s fifty years. Back to the Beatle’s first album. Back to early Vietnam. “Looking for more in 64′” by Jim Nesbitt. Landslide win for LBJ. Arnie wins the Masters and Nicklaus the British Open. I had started playing golf that summer and loved it, and lived it.
Gilligans Island and Mary Tyler Moore premiered on TV, and LBJ premiered the “Great Society” Mickey Mantle tore up the cowhide that Summer.
The Fall of 64 rolled around and thoughts of going back to school surfaced. I had not enjoyed my 8th grade year and wasn’t looking forward to my Freshman year. I had signed up for Journalism for that year. Mrs Wingfield was the teacher, and advisor for the “Bulldog Barker” She had been my 8th grade English teacher, and it was my best class that year. I had developed a rapport with her because I liked to write poetry, which was sort of kiss of death for a teenage boy back then, but I had received some encouragement from Mrs. Wingfield, and I had penned a lot of poems that Summer.
Mrs. Wingfield would read them, and offer advice and praise…which was a badly needed commodity for me at that time of my life. Somehow, the idea was hatched to start a literary publication that year for students interested in writing and art. The Sampler was born.
As it turned out, there was a LOT of interest and a lot of contributions. Wayne Greene, who was talented at everything, had a lot of illustrations in the Sampler, and had offered up one of his paintings as the prize for best poem in the Sampler. Mrs. Wingfield and Mrs. Royals would be the judges.
I knew I didn’t have a chance, but I turned in a lot of poems that year. I was working hard on an article for the “Barker” in May of that year, and Mrs. Wingfield brought in a copy of the “Sampler” hot of the presses and handed to me. I opened the front page to find that one of my poems had won first place! I got my picture in the Barker that week holding Wayne Greene’s abstract surrealist painting I had won. I kept that painting up until just this past year when it got water damaged.
Most of all, I have kept the memory of that moment. I read over all the poems in that very first Sampler many times, and there were some good ones in there. I am not sure how my simple four paragraph poem was the best, but the fact that Mrs. Jesse Wingfield had thought it was, bolstered my confidence in my abilities to a point which has stayed with me all my life….all my life. How many people could say they had been that crucial in the life of another person? But that was the effect that the gracious and dignified lady had in people.
Even for many years after, when I would visit the school and see her, Mrs Wingfield always had a smile and a “Hello Larry” which was just for me, her “favorite” student…one among hundreds of other favorites. She knew how much she meant to me, because I told her so in no uncertain terms. I’m glad I did.