I said yesterday that I have met only two people who were over 100 years old. That number has fallen into dispute, ranging as high as five.
I will admit to one mistake, and it's one that left me shaking my head at how I forgot.
You have to keep in mind that I was reared right on the buckle of the Bible Belt, where it was not only alright but expected that you have a Bible class in school. It wasn't an issue with non religious kids. In fact, it never occurred to me until the fifth grade that somebody might not share the religion (Fifth grade was when we had Ushma, who was Hindi). Turns out that we had a couple of Jewish kids, as well, and a few Jehovah's Witnesses, and one girl whose family just didn't want her getting "bible training."
That last one, who transferred in from Missouri, had to endure "devil worshipper" rumors that whole year. Most of the year. They stopped when she invoked the power of Satan to destroy my friend Nick. She turned into a winged demon, flew away, and we got to go home early from school that day.
I had two Bible teachers in my elementary school career: Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Galloway. Both perhaps deserve stories here, but the one I'll talk about today is Mrs. Galloway.
I'll mention Mrs. Johnson for the sake of a timeline. She was the first Bible teacher we had. She came once a week all through my elementary school career. Then, she retired to her palatial home, and we went a year without learning Bible stuff. Don't worry. That year was not a vacuum. You learn a lot by osmosis around here. I'm as heathen as they come, and I could probably go verse for verse in a showdown with Jerry Falwell.
After that year, a former educator at the school took up the Bible-teaching reins. Her name was Mrs. Galloway. Really. Her parents named her Mrs. Actually, her name was something along the lines of Lois, or Doris, or Delores, but my memory's for crap here lately.
Anyway, the centenarian thing applies here, because Mrs. Galloway was 101. I'd forgotten that. Mrs. Galloway was a former teacher and principal at our school. She'd retired several years previously. And by several, I mean three decades before. Now, this was 1990 and 1991, so she'd last been a fixture in the school in the 1950's.
Now, like I said, we had Bible classes. One a week. And for them, Mrs. Galloway passed out pamphlets with bible stories that we read, and then wrote short reports (like, half a page), and then turned in. We weren't graded for the reports, or for any part of the Bible Class--I now think the Bible Class was equal part desire for us monsters to get some bible in our blood, and desire for a thirty minute break for the teachers....
Anyway, I think Mrs. Galloway just liked reading what we had to say. I found out after the fact that one kid named Tim would curse in his, just to see if she was reading. We never got our papers back, so I never knew how she responded.
These pamphlets that we were given were usually four to six pages, stapled together. They consisted of a couple of chapters of a Bible story, direct from the bible, a summation, and a real-world application. For instance, the story of the Good Samaritan, a summation, for those of us who either could not understand or were too lazy to read, and a real world application, where Buck didn't like Sam, but helped Sam when Sam's bicycle tire was flat, because it was the right thing to do....
Thing is, with these pamphlets, that they were printed in the 40's and 50's. Mrs. Galloway had used them for years in teaching her Sunday School classes. Being that old meant that they were very brittle, their stories contained no black people, and they were somewhat precious to Mrs. Galloway, and she wanted them back.
Now, you can argue the wisdom of lending these pamphlets out to eighth graders. First, do you want to argue with a 100 year old woman? Plus, she got most, if not all of them, back.
In fact, I think there were a few that took a trek to her home, like I had to.
As you can probably guess by reading this blog, I'm a bit absent-minded, at times. I get the tunnel-vision, and I'm pretty bad about missing not just the forest, but most of the other trees because I'm focussing on one or two trees.
Well, I'm not sure about that metaphor, but I will say that I took a pamphlet home to do my report, and then left it at home. Because I'm a dope. Well, Mrs. Galloway was pretty forgiving on that front; she told me to just bring the pamphlet next week. Well, I forgot, and I forgot again. I blame Nintendo.
Anyway, Mrs. Galloway told me that if I had an afternoon free, I could bring the pamphlet to her home.
Well, that afternoon, Mom and I drove to Mrs. Galloway's house, which wasn't terribly far from our own, we learned. We were invited in, given iced tea to drink. We returned the pamphlet, and visited for nearly three hours.
That 100 year mark fascinated me then (and now.) I was in eighth grade in 1990 and 1991. Mrs. Galloway went through her timeline for us: She was born in 1890, and started teaching in 1908. She taught and was principal for more than 50 years, and retired from it in 1960. She substituted for several years, but had been working mostly with the church for the previous twenty.
That kinda galled me. Still does. I mean, she started teaching when the Cubs last won the world series...nearly 100 years ago now. She was in her mid 20's with World War I. She was damn near middle age when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She was 80, which is up there in years, in 1970....
We visited with Mrs. Galloway for quite some time. She took us around her home, which started as a two-room cabin, and had been expanded upon. She invited us to look around her farm.
My mom is and was an antique nut, so she was mesmerized by a lot of Mrs. Galloway's decorations...which weren't antiques so much to Mrs. Galloway...they were probably just "her stuff."
All told, we probably spent three hours there that afternoon. And she and Mom spoke several times after that.
She passed away about a year after that.
How I forgot, I haven't a clue. But then, I forgot those pamphlets, over and over...