Peter B. Green

© 2017 Bill Murphy

Who was your favorite teacher? Who was the most memorable, the most unusual? Who was the one most likely NOT to succeed as a teacher today? For me, that could only be Mr. Peter B. Green, 8th grade science, Enochs Junior High, Jackson, MS.

Mr. Green made school FUN! Mr. Green made life fun. I apologize for the poor quality of the WWII era B/W newspaper photo, but it clearly illustrates Mr. Green’s quirky, mischievous grin. That’s how I remember of him. It’s the only photo I have of him.

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Today Mr. Green wouldn’t last a day in a public school classroom.

1950s classrooms were far different from what they are today.  More expectations were placed upon students. We were expected to pay attention, participate in class, be punctual, be respectful, study, succeed and of course, obey the rules of the classroom/teacher. In Peter B. Green’s classroom, it was understood that he was the teacher, and we were the students. If we wished to live and do well, we accepted our ‘place’ in this ordered, classroom society, where authority was recognized, not challenged. Amazingly, we were happily comfortable in this setting.

Mr. Green had a strong arm and a long wooden paddle. His ‘board of education’ was about 18” long, with a broad, flat business end. It was designed so as to leave neither scars nor bruises. Yet it could inflict a maximum amount of pain per square inch.

There was a firm belief in the 50s that pain was undesirable. It was also believed that students who did not follow the rules, and then received pain upon their softer hinder area for breaking afore said rules, would be deterred in the future from breaking said rules again. Amazingly, this simply cause and effect principle worked 99.9% of the time. It’s a lost art today.

Yes, I sometimes pushed the .1% upper limit. Or would that be ‘lower’ limit?

Rule #1 was the simplest rule of all. BRING YOUR SCIENCE TEXT BOOK TO CLASS. It’s amazing how many students often ‘forgot.’ The book-reminder ceremony was simple: Step back to the doorway, face the hallway, bend over and place hands on the knees. Hold still and receive your just and deserved reward – a single, powerful swat on the seat of knowledge – ‘sending you on the way’ to retrieve your book. I can’t vouch for Mr. Green’s racial beliefs, but I do know that he wasn’t a ‘sexists.’ Boys and girls alike received the SAME book-reminder-retrieval sendoff.

LEAVING an errant book (or gym shorts/tennis shoes) earned a different reward.

Mr. Green surely checked under every desk, every class period. He always knew from which class period a particular item was left. After we’d been given a reading assignment, and our heads dutifully bowed in study, he’d retrieve the offending object, then taking careful aim, throw it at the culprit who’d left the offending item/items. I know this because I peeked. I’d never wanted to miss this ceremony, and witnessed many a pair of tennis shoes bouncing off unsuspecting heads!

Believe it or not, no one ever called the school board, parents, or police.

Did I mention that he really was a great teacher. In addition to teaching us awe and respect for authority, he also taught us the awe and wonder of science. I always looked forward to his class, even test days! Until… One day it became my turn to be on the receiving end.

At the time, I dabbled some with 8th grade level writing, and wrote a clever little poem about Mr. Green. It described his untimely passing on. Not making the heavenly grade, he descended into the great fiery below. I mentioned that he was issued a pitchfork.

But I made the insane mistake of passing the poem around in class.

You guessed it. The gleeful work of Bill the Poet was intercepted. Strangely, he didn’t say a word. I was terrified. I could only imagine what wrath I had kindled inside him.

The next day, I crept into class, literally shaking in fear. Still, No reaction from Mr. Green.

Shortly after class began, he gave us a multi-page reading assignment. Oh no!

I propped my book on the desk like a drive-in theatre screen, to give me some small degree of forward vision. It’s a good thing I did.

Over the top of my book – I saw Mr. Green, fire in his eyes and a devilish grin on his face, marching toward me – A PITCHFORK in hand!

Quick as a flash, I jumped from my seat, and dashed for the door, Mr. Green in hot pursuit. Down the hall I ran, and out the school building door. He was still after me. I ran across the school yard, across the street in front, and into Poindexter Park across the street from the school.

By this time I was winded. Deep down, I reasoned that in all probability he wouldn’t actually run me through with the pitchfork. Probably he wouldn’t. Maybe.

I stopped. He didn’t spear me. Whew!

We walked back to class side by side, laughing together most of the way. I think he even remarked about the cleverness of the poem.

It was one of those rare moments in life that one can never forget – when you’re glad to be alive, and you’ve just experienced an event that is truly rare, memorable, and totally unbelievable. And yes – that pitchfork chase actually happened.

Thanks Mr. Green!  And as Bob Hope said and sang, Thanks for the memories!

 

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Ole Bill, Horse’s Butt

© 2017

I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things in my life, and that’s not a boast. It’s a simple fact.

Some of those things might read like a creative ‘bucket list,’ that is, things to remember with pride. Others… well, not so much. Let’s forget those, shall we?

Tonight I was looking through an old photo album from childhood, and found a most interesting photo. My mother, always with camera in hand, or in easy reach, recorded everything. It was like my sister and I had our own personal paparazzi. I’m sure that Dad’s household expense ledger had a column labeled PHOTO PROCESSING. Oh if Mom had only been in Dealey Plaza that fateful Friday in December of 1963. Her photos would have quickly settled any and all controversy.

A few nights ago while watching TV, Carol and I viewed a commercial for fabric softener. The scene showed 2 guys in a horse costume. The guy in back was fortunate enough to have on the front end, a fellow with sweet smelling clothes. Now I ask you, what is the percentage of people in the world today who have ever supplied the legs to a horse costume?

I have. And here’s the photo to prove it!

Horse

That’s yours truly in the southern most portion. My baby sister, (older than my wife Carol), is in the stroller, admiring her big brother.

Mark another one off the ole bucket list!

 

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Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that experience is the best teacher. Yet have you noticed that we usually learn fastest through comparisons? Why is this?

We tend not to appreciated health until we’re sick. We don’t value wealth, until we’re broke. We don’t recognize the value of friends, until we’re friendless and alone. What were we thinking?

Years ago, a stark comparison-lesson taught me the meaning of that old familiar Christmas carol, “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.”

This is a carol of praise and adoration. It welcomes the faithful to come worship and rejoice in His presence… to praise Him for His endless deeds of love and mercy. And who would come to this praise-fest? It would be those with thankful hearts, of course.

Thankfulness is the fertile soil on which faithfulness grows.

It was Christmas Eve during high school. This was in the 50s, when ‘commercial’ Christmas was not as out of control as it is today. Merchants closed their doors early on Christmas Eve, so that employees could go home and spend quality time with their families. How thoughtful. But that was the norm back then.

My main squeeze and I were driving toward my family home, for our large Christmas Eve meal, to be followed by the exchanging of gifts. We were traveling down Gallatin Street, within a few blocks of my home. This is a rather rugged neighborhood today. In the late 50s, it was just beginning to see the effects of ‘urban decay.’

As we drove past a large boarding house, I noticed a man sprawled in the gutter!

Drunk

I immediately stopped, as did the vehicle behind us. The man in the other car rushed with me to the man’s side. He was a sorry, smelly sight … passed out drunk.

We rolled him over, and he aroused, slightly. With a feeble hand, he pointed toward the boarding house. We lifted him to his feet. Each taking an arm, we walked him to the house. A man came to the door. “Joe. Joe. Joe. Not again Joe,” he said. Then the fellow at the door thanked us, and took control of Joe.

We returned to our vehicles, and were soon on our way again, to family, friends, food, and all the many joys of Christmas. I suppose Joe simply slept it off that Christmas Eve night, alone.

But that night, far from being alone, thanks to Joe I learned the true meaning of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” I saw my life in a whole new light, as my life was vividly compared to that of poor Joe.

Before I saw Joe there in the gutter, I thought of myself as faithful, true to the words of the song. And I also thought of myself as thankful. But seeing Joe there, in the gutter, made me re-think my opinions of myself. It was a sobering lesson.

Looking back now across the years, I’d like to say, “Merry Christmas Joe, where ever you may be today. Thanks for showing me the path to faithfulness and thankfulness. As my teacher that Christmas Eve, I’m sorry that my lesson was so difficult for you. May God bless you!”

 

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1950s Sci-Fi Movies

Planet X

© 2017 Bill Murphy

The 50s were the hay-day of Sci-Fi movies, and I missed very few. Among my favorites was the then horrifying “The Man From Planet X.” Yes, I have a copy of it today.

I must add, that by today’s standards, it was horrifyingly lame. The fact that it was low-budget, is painfully obvious. But in 1951, the movie terrified us. And might I add, it starred Sally Field’s mother.

Although my grade school was in walking distance of down town Jackson, MS, my junior high and then senior high were much closer. Many an afternoon after school, we headed straight for the movie theatre running the latest creature-feature. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Destination Moon. Rocket Ship X-M, Expedition Mars, It Came From Outer Space. No wonder we all wanted to be astronauts. If nothing else, it sure made us pay close attention in Science and Physics class.

In the 50s, a coke and popcorn at the movie didn’t cost more than the cost of admission. But to growing boys, anyone could buy popcorn. We wanted our movie experience to be special. On the way to the theatre, we’d stop by Krystal!

For those not so southern friends who are not familiar with Krystal burgers, they’re the southern equivalent of White Castle burgers… one of those fine delicacies you either love or hate. There is no middle ground. I can best compare Krystals to skunks. When you smell one, you know instantly what you’re smelling. And, you can smell both from a very long way away. Because those delicious little Krystal burgers then cost less than a dime each, we each got a bag full. You know what’s coming.

No more than had we sat down in the darkened theatre, than you could hear the sounds of noses everywhere – sniff, sniff, sniff. I’m sure some were offended… interpreting the savory aroma as ‘stink’ – while others were asking themselves, “Why in the world didn’t I think to get me a bag of those?” Yes, we really turned some heads!

My favorite horror movie story came from my brother-in-law. I’m not sure if he was the actual participant in this jewel, or not. As the story goes, you take into the movie theatre a can opener and a can of vegetable soup. The soup is kept between you legs, until it is warmed to body temperature, and then you open the can – and wait – until a particularly gory scene. Oh, did I tell you that you should sit in the front row of the balcony? As gore fills the screen, you let out a resounding, “UUUUUUUGH!” and empty the warm soup onto the unsuspecting heads below. (They don’t think it’s soup. Get it?)

Who said that the 50s must have been a boring time in which to grow up? NOT!

 

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The Book That Changed My Life

© 2017 Bill Murphy

I’m certain this writing assignment was expected to invoke responses such as: Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men or The Old Man and the Sea. But the one book that had the most effect on my life, is the Bible. To be more specific, a small red Gideon’s New Testament, which I was given in 1951 – and I promptly read. 

Bible

I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi at the time. George was a neighborhood school, in walking distance for the students. We had no school buses, and – I can’t remember a single child being dropped off by automobile.

I was a ‘Safety Patrol Boy’ that year. Every intersection surrounding the school, and for a couple of blocks beyond, was manned each morning and each afternoon by a patrol boy, to insure that the smaller kids got safely across the street.

Early that year, the Gideon’s visited to our school, and passed out small red New Testaments to the students. I still have mine.

At the time I received my Testament, I was assigned to a rather dull and boring intersection – with few students to monitor. Morning and afternoons, I spent my time reading. I finished the entire book before my intersection assignment changed.

I was raised in a Christian home. We were not just church members, but church attenders – Sunday mornings as well as Sunday nights. Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was the head of the Primary Department. Needless to say, my sister and I received our fair share of perfect attendance awards. But one does not become a true ‘believer’ by osmosis.

As I read my little red Testament, the words seemed to come alive as never before. Something really weird was happening, something that I couldn’t at first understand. And then it came to me – my Eureka moment.

Before, because I was so closely associated WITH church, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the teaching of the church – and because our church was a Christian church, ergo – I must be a Christian. But for the very first time in my young life, my heart was called upon to decide – did I really BELIEVE all this small red book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 66 years ago, but I can remember the morning as clearly as if it were yesterday – the day that I determined in my heart and in my mind, that YES – I believe. And belief, prompted by that tiny book, changed my life forever.

 

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CHRISTMAS FOCUS

© 2017 Bill Murphy

As I write, we’re in that mystical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find this season of the year best for reflection – for mental and spiritual re-grouping. When I’m focusing on Him, the better I hear what He’s speaking to me.

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This past Sunday in church, something was voiced from the pulpit which caused my mind to wander briefly. It was as if God was saying, “Come ‘ere a moment. I wanna tell you something.”

In my mind’s eye, I saw God’s hands offering a gift. Immediately, I thought, Is this for me? What is it? Can I open it now?

That’s when He spoke to my heart, and His words put the eyes of my heart into focus. I was focusing on the gift.

The truth is, God gives us so very, very much. He gives us love, joy, hope, peace, salvation, strength, healing, and oh so much more! God is a GIVER. He gives, and gives, and gives. And then He gives us more.

Then I saw the word gives, in capital letters. G-I-V-E-S. And His finger erased the letters G, V, and E. All this happened in a very brief moment, and yet His message to my heart came through clearly. He was telling me that He appreciated that I understood that He gives – and that He wished more of this world realized this also. But – by removing those 3 letters from ‘gives,’ He was showing me that it was supremely important to recognize and remember that He IS!

In that brief moment I saw that the focus should not be on the gift, but on the GIVER. Not upon what He gives, but upon who He is! We’d not have the gifts, were it not for the GIVER. That should be our focus.

This Christmas season, when you’re tearing into (physical) Christmas presents, be mindful of who is the giver of that gift, and tell them THANK YOU! Our human friends and family appreciate being appreciated also! Appreciation goes a long, long way.

Something tells me you appreciate being appreciated yourself!

 

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THE CHRISTMAS THIEF

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that Christmas is for children. Not so! Christmas is for everyone. On the other hand, modern commercial X-mas IS for children – and for manufacturers and merchants everywhere. This story is my take on the difference between the two.

Manger

 

Joseph stood by Mary’s side, as she cradled the newborn child. He reflected on the past few months, and this astounding miracle which had befallen them. He thought too of their awesome responsibilities ahead – caring for, and raising – the son of God! Why them, he thought, and how would they do it?

And then he heard the sound of excited voices just outside the poor stall where they had taken lodging for the night – and where the Christ child was born. “Here, here he is!” Joseph heard one of the voices exclaim. Then several ragged shepherds entered the straw strewn room. Their faces where filled with awe and wonder – such joy Joseph had never before seen. Soon, all the rag-tag men were kneeling at the feet of Mary, all of their attention focused upon the sleeping infant.

Then one of the men turned and faced Joseph. “An angel appeared to us, yonder on the hills,” he began, “and told us where we’d find the new born king. And the a heavenly choir of angles filled the sky, praising God on high! We came as quickly as we could.”

Then a second man stood, and took Joseph by the hand, leading him off to the side. “I don’t want the child’s mother to hear this,” he began, “but I need to warn you. We met a most unusual fellow along the way. He was very fat, dressed in red, and had a long white beard. He stopped us, and tried to direct us in a different direction, away from here. We thanked him, and pretended to go the way he’d instructed us, but quickly returned to the right path. Who might he be?

“I have no idea,” replied Joseph. “Unless…”

Joseph was about to explain himself, when again he heard voices outside, and the sound of the hooves of large animals. Three stately men, each dressed in regal attire entered the stall. The tallest among them spoke, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship the newborn king,” he said, as he bowed low at Joseph’s feet.

“Kind sir, please,” said Joseph. “I am but a humble carpenter, not due such respect from you. The child is there,” Joseph said, pointing to the far side of the stall, where Mary still held the baby in her arms. “Worship Him!”

The 3 men, in deep respect for this newborn king, approached him slowly, reverently, then knelt before him. Joseph gazed at the scene in wonder. The new visitors spoke among themselves in hushed tones, so not to disturb the sleeping child. And then, slowly, they each placed a jewel covered box on the straw at his feet.

“These gifts are for the child,” one of them said to Mary. “It is at best the very least we could offer him.”

And then, one by one they rose to their feet. One of the stately men pulled Joseph over to the side. Taking Joseph’s hands in his own, he spoke slowly. “Kind sir, I fear there’s a villain afoot. Just as we neared Bethlehem, we met a robber along the way. He was a quite bizarre character. Dressed all in red, he was rather chubby and had a long white beard. His looks were so deceiving and disarming, that I got down from my camel and approached him. That’s when he attacked us, trying for all he was worth to steal away the gifts we had for the child. It took the 3 of us to fend him off! See the scratches I received,” he said, pulling up his sleeve to show Joseph. “Please take care, for this scoundrel is out to steal from the newborn king!”

“Yes we will. And thank you ever so much,” said Joseph. “I wonder who this man in red might be.”

“I don’t believe he’s a man, not like you and me,” replied the wise man, “I believe he’s a spirit – a spirit come to do battle against the Christ child. I can see in my mind, years ahead, many years ahead, when this man in red will still be doing battle with the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who is all smiles – with promises of joy and happiness. But he wants to overshadow the child, to take place of this newborn king. He wants to be to be more popular – more loved. And the sad thing is, children will be lead away from the true king born this day in Bethlehem, and will look instead to the thief in the red suit – and celebrate this day as the thief’s day! And their parents will support this. Oh how tragic, how sad!”

“But how can we stop him?” asked Joseph.

“The child who now sleeps in your wife’s arms is truly the newborn king,” replied the wise man. “He will rule someday with love beyond measure, and with mercy and grace. Every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord. He will prevail. He will!”

The wise man continued, “But until that day, many will ignore him, even revile and hate him. He will try to win them over to the very God of heaven, his true father, but they will not listen. Many will embrace others, just as they will embrace the man in red. And that’s sad indeed. But other’s, like you and me, and my traveling companions, and these deliriously happy shepherds, we will be by his side and at his feet, always – always and forever! Take heart in that my friend!”

Later that night, when all the visitors were gone, Joseph pondered everything that had happened, and all that he had seen and heard. And he resolved with renewed strength to be the very best earthly father he could be – to this son who would in truth, welcome him as a son – into his eternal kingdom!

 

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