life in and around NYC is insane

Sunday, July 12, 2015

missed opportunities

Sigh. Sometimes you don't realize the value of something until long after it is gone.

7th grade, my first year of junior high.  There were 3 social studies teachers assigned to our grade.  

I considered myself lucky to be in Mr. K's class.  Mr. K was young, probably in his 20's, with longish hair and a mustache.  Very easy to get along with, we could related to him because he was close to our age. We loved Mr. K's class.

But in the spring semester, the teachers rotated.  We'd have two weeks with Mr. A,  Mr. A's students would have two weeks with Mr. H, and Mr. H's students would have two weeks with Mr. K.  Then we would have two weeks with Mr. H,  Mr.  K would teach Mr. A's students and Mr. A would take Mr. H's class.  At the end of the month, each teacher would return to his original class.
 
M. A was middle aged, balding and not terribly exciting.  His class was OK.

Mr. H, on the other hand, was terrifying.  I assumed he was in his 30's at the time, but he may have been older.  He had anachronistically short hair.  Back then most male teachers wore button up shirts and ties, but on Mr. H it seemed like a uniform.  He had a no-nonsense attitude.  In hindsight I'd guess he spent time in the military, he reminds me of former Marine officers I met later in life.

What was really scary about Mr. H was that he had a glass eye.  This was not rumor -- be told us he had a glass eye the first day he was in our classroom.
 
I couldn't wait for Mr. K to come back.

Mr. H's family had lived on Long Island since colonial times.  In fact, there was a town named after one of his ancestors.   He was a member of several local historical societies.  He knew so much about local history, more than I could possibly imagine.  What an opportunity I had. What an opportunity I squandered.  I wish I had learned more local history from him.

Mr. H is the one who introduced me to the legend of Whisper the Bull.

Smithtown, NY was  settled around 1665.  Legend has it that Richard Smith rescued the daughter of a local Native American chief.  As a reward, the chief told Smith he could have as much land for a settlement as he could encircle in one day while riding a bull.  Smith is supposed to have made this ride on the day of the summer solstice, on the back of a bull named Whisper.

You'll find a statue of Whisper in Smithtown, at the corner of Route 25 and Route 25A,

Smithtown Bull.JPG
"Smithtown Bull" by DanTD - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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