The Lady in the Pink Olds

Looking at this old A&J from 1998, I think of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Graham. Mrs. Graham sported pinkish hair, way ahead of its time, and drove a 1958 Oldsmobile whose color matched her hair. I kid you not. Mrs. Graham was kind enough, but she had a calm professional manner that did not instantly endear her to children of an age when favorite teachers all had a sweet side. But we 5th graders were growing up, and Mrs. Graham was the perfect teacher. She was the first teacher I remember who began to instruct us in the craft of writing. She introduced us to “themes,” which is what she called short essays. She encouraged us to reach, to think of verbs more descriptive than “went” or “said.” Mrs. Graham’s class was the first place it was noticed that I have a talent for this sort of thing, and Mrs. Graham did the noticing. I even worked dialog into some of my themes, complete with quote marks, and that had to be something she didn’t encounter every day. She even told me I had an ear for dialog. If she could see me now! I probably have not given her enough credit for her influence upon me.

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92 responses to “The Lady in the Pink Olds”

  1. My wife had a very young teacher who influenced her when she was about the fifth grade. She basically said the same thing that she had a knack for dialogue. Years later we read that she was retiring and Marianne contacted her and let her know that she’d been a multi published author. Her reaction was “Oh I knew that was going to happen!”

  2. My fifth grade teacher Mrs. Cook taught me to write words and I have always given her credit.

    A remarkable woman who survived the great Galveston hurricane tied to a post in her attic. Her husband and children washed away as she watched.

    She lives on in those of us she touched and reached.

  3. Debbe, I agree the cats are cute and I’m not a fan of that group either.

    Jackie, good luck with the plans for your business. Along the lines of changes and age, one of my FB friends has worked in the newspaper business for years. A few years ago he took a job with a small paper in Texas. Just in the last couple of weeks he announced he had bought the paper from the people he’d been working for. I think he’s 61 or 62, so it’s not too late to change your life as long as you’re living it.

  4. Had an English teacher back in 7th grade, the year we learned to diagram sentences, she was the one who turned me on to language along with my Fargone Swiss father. An annual assignment for her students the following year, yes I had Mrs. Rabidoux again was for us to write our autobiography. For me this Symply entailed as great a deal of exaggeration and buffoonery as an adolescent could conjure. From there a love of words grew. Mrs Rabidoux (my sister Marlyse’s 7th grade teacher as well)was met the summer before 7th grade at the local emporium where I was getting my clothes for the following school year. I remembered my smart aleck remark was to the effect of; I hope I don’t have you next year upon introduction. She turned out to be a very large, scary woman who was not loving but definitely infinitely caring of her students and impacted many lives…thanks JJ for bringing me back to this.

  5. Arlo says “ensconced”; Janis says “ensconsed”, twice. Methinks the former spelling is correct.
    Then, too, I believe I have seen the same word without the first “n”: “esconced”. That is likely incorrect, though I have been known to use the word with that first “n” elided from the pronunciation.

    JM: Your Mrs. Cook must have been still teaching at age 75 or so if she were already married and a multi-mother by the 1900 hurricane. Given your birth year, you’d have been in 5th grade around 1955, right?

  6. My 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Potter, big claim to fame was she was born in the Indian Territory. She must of been 60ish when she had me as a student. Looking back, most of my elementary teachers were in that age range. Today, all of them appear to be in their 20’s and 30’s.

  7. I skipped a couple of grades but close, I suspect 1954?

    Mrs. Cook taught my mother and all her siblings when they got public schools in Louisiana and bused in the country children.

    Before that the rural schools were one room schools paid for and built by the land owners. They paid the teachers too and boarded them with a land owner. The one in our rural community where my mother and siblings started school was about a mile down dirt road on next plantation. My oldest aunt, a half sister to my mom, taught her siblings there.

  8. In 1928 Govenor Huey Long built public schools in every town, made free text books available to every child and made free busing available. Before that there was al.ost no schools available in our state.

    Over half the state was illiterate at that time. He began a huge literacy campaign to educate adults and enable all to read and write.

    However, I just read article that Louisiana ranked 49th in education in 2017.

  9. In the ’40s, at 13 or 15, I visited the LA capitol bldg. in BR, saw the assassination site, maybe damaged marble in the wall. Got curious, did a search, found this.


  10. Got some of my books in I ordered written by Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Reading the first “Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming.”

    Gives you a deeper understanding of Janis despite Rheta claiming the character is not based on her. Sure looked a lot alike in early days of the Days.

  11. I had several teachers throughout all of my school years who changed my life.

    I have been fortunate to have had students who told me that I also changed theirs. It’s deeply humbling, and I know that I don’t deserve their praise.

    I like to think that, if I actually had that effect, I am returning the favor that my teachers bestowed upon me.

  12. Rick: “… I know that I don’t deserve their praise. I like to think that, if I actually had that effect, I am returning the favor that my teachers bestowed upon me.”

    You probably do. It happens a lot, and is gratifying, and you are returning the favor. You cannot repay such mentors, but you can pay it forward.”


  13. Still reading Rheta but going to bed to sleep, not read. This is Rheta’s autobiography, the one she measured in Christmases. Her second autobiography she measured in dogs.

    Because of Jimmy I find this more interesting than the usual Southern genre missive.

    And there was Jim Young suddenly appearing.

  14. My 12 grade English teacher was a holy terror who though we band students deserved to lose credit in her class because we were gone for a week each year for the annual band trip to competitions in other states. She had graduated from college at 19, and had tried to enlist in any nation’s army that would let her kill Nazis in WWII. She also had been on a professional women’s basketball team that featured redheads. I had never truly disliked a female teacher before meeting her.

  15. I was thinking of my alcoholic red haired witch of a senior English teacher and wondering should I mention her?

    She was old, burned out and ALWAYS smelled of alcohol. She was my homeroom teacher. I had little to do my senior year so graded most of her tests and essay assignments. We were a small high school with barely a hundred students so she taught all four grades.

    Think of her daily my entire life. Students claimed she was a witch. I remember her exact words.

    “You have too much energy to burn. You need a good case of tired blood.”

  16. I had a lot of good teachers in the different schools I attended. Trouble is, I can’t remember names earlier than one from Jr. High. She was the math teacher I had in 7th grade for about half the school year. Pretty redhead, good teacher I guess, but I was not good at math and didn’t have her class long enough to get anywhere. Her son’s the most famous weatherman in Alabama these days.

    And in another school, can’t remember her name, but our algebra teacher blew a fuse one day over some guys talking through the class. Only time I ever saw one lose it like that, throwing erasers at the offenders and yelling.

    Great science teacher senior year. Mr. Washington, friendly, kind and soft-spoken. Could draw you into the subject and was willing to talk about what interested us.

  17. And Jackie, I recall your stories about digging in the old outhouse. Go to YouTube and search on privy digging. There are quite a few folks who made videos about that and what they’ve found. Check Exploring Alabama on YouTube too.

  18. Dear emb, I wondered what had become of you, was rather worried; how are we going to find out when a long time Villager disappears? Glad to see you back among us again. Were you able to get out at all, for errands and the gym, and your volunteer work, or were you stuck at home through the bad weather?

    Funny, in my years 1939 to 1950 at the Raymond NH Consolidated School (one large two-story building) I don’t recall ever being taught how to write well; as many of you folks have. Penmanship, yes — dialogue and such, no. Must admit though, I have always been such a know-it-all — and still am — perhaps I just didn’t pay attention. “I know all that stuff already, don’t need to listen to it.” I do remember fondly teachers, young, old, and in between, who were friendly and kind. Some read aloud to us; I loved it, and the other kids seemed to enjoy it. The other kids didn’t read at home, as far as I could tell. I grew up in a home with lots of books; most kids weren’t so fortunate. Anyhow, Mrs. Nutbrown read to us sixth graders “The Secret Garden.” We loved it, even though I had read it at home. Some teachers brought in books and left them somewhere for us to discover, a real treat! We didn’t have a school library. “Paddle to the Sea” I adored. Wonderful pictures, and so many of them!

  19. In second grade I discovered the school library and read my way through it. Apparently I read at an adult level from the beginning, something my mother credited to COMICS.

    My mother was never a reader but she saw that I had limitless books. No one ever screened them for appropriate subjects, I just read away.

    Maybe that is how readers are, diving in without paddling in the shallow end.

  20. Good morning Villagers…..

    Oh, Miss Charlotte, good to see your post. I was worried about you. And I too have wondered about how we would find out about a MIA Villager. Like Smigz, where’s she at and I hope all is well with her.

    Galiglo…she’s ok, I’m assuming…she’s one busy lady, but does drop in every now and then. Ain’t that right Gal 🙂 ?

    GR and Jackie have each other, so I know they are well taken care of…they have the best prescription of all…love.

    Time to move on…need to check out my LOL cats….


  21. I wish I could say I remembered certain teachers for their kindness or encouragement. Alas, I cannot. The elementary school I went to was near a teaching hospital so my teachers all seemed to be waiting for their husbands to graduate so they could fulfill their destinies as rich doctors wives and thus were only teaching as a means to an end. We moved when I was in the fourth grade, and the little town we moved to was very rural and if you weren’t kin to everybody else and the teachers hadn’t known your family since Noah you were ignored. How I made it to college I’ll never understand. For instance: does anybody remember the Weekly Reader Book Club? Once or twice a year we could order books from them, so I ordered several books on Greek mythology. When the teacher opened the box to hand out the books she saw them and set them aside saying that it must be a mistake, and nobody in the class could have ordered those. I raised my hand and she said “oh. I should have known it would be you” in a rather sneering voice. I really didn’t like high school. Now, if you really want to hear me talk for hours, ask me about my college years. 😉

  22. I never got to stay anywhere long enough to belong. Books are a refuge for people like us. We can live anywhere we like in books.

    Loved mythology, it funded my arguments with fundamental primitive Baptist preachers.

    Living in a foreign country and out on a dirt road in Louisiana and going to private schools and skipping grades guaranteed you never belonged.

  23. Carry on, Trapper; certainly I’m not the only one who’d enjoy your college tales

    I had several notable teachers in HS and college; not so much in grad school because one didn’t see the grad profs that much, especially the one who later won the Nobel Prize. In grade school, almost all the teachers were very good professionals, although the 5th grade teacher broke down in class once or twice before being replaced. The kids sympathized with her, but were in no position to help or even to soothe.

    In HS, the cadre of math teachers was superb and they all fostered my innate interest in the various kinds of math. I am a very logical person, so plane geometry came easily; the world of algebra opened next, and I was amazed at what was possible to know just from studying the format of a given equation! Trigonometry was absolutely great and stuck to me immediately – so well that, two years later, I was able to walk into an exam [for testing out of taking the college course] cold, and manage a 95%. A little solid geometry twisted my brain into seeing things from different visual angles and then applying plane geometry ideas. We finished up with the basics of calculus, and yet another fascinating aspect opened to me and was absorbed. I do wish, in retrospect, that the calculus teacher had pushed a bit more.
    Any wonder I went to college as math major?

    In addition, I was blessed to have my homeroom teacher – also a science teacher – be a kindly, droll person who could explain basic electrical stuff clearly. My Latin teacher for all 4 years was as old as Cicero’s grandmother, but really knew her stuff and pushed me to a 3rd place finish in the annual New York City Classical Club’s city-wide competition.

    My best professors in college were the two most senior chemistry profs. One was multi-learned as well as a moral beacon, with a touch of kindliness (when I slept through an announced exam during senior year – he forgave me!) When I reconnected with him around 2000, he said that he did remember me as rather an underachiever – he was correct. The other was my extremely learned professor of organic chemistry. We students claimed that the word “astute” was coined to describe him. What a fount of knowledge and non-flusterability! Those two were why I kept up a chem major along with my math major, and, eventually, attended grad school in chemistry [taking math graduate courses too, for amusement].

    Over to you, Trapper….

  24. For those of us who found math and chemistry a foreign language those classes would have been knee slappers.

    I have never attended a class reunion at any level. Never will. Yet I am remembered as cute, funny, smart, sweet.

    Wait, that’s today too. Still that perky petite blonde at 73, still swimming against the current.

  25. Read first half of Rheta/Janis back story, stopping where she buys her own place in the country and leaves Jimmy.
    I will finish it tonight probably.

    Talk about insecure body self image. Jimmy writes and draws Janis with love but validity.

    Were I Rheta/Janis I’d be appreciative of the way Janis matured and grew.

  26. Jackie, I’ve never attended a high school reunion, or wanted to, because I didn’t like many of my classmates or care what happened to them. One thing that will show you how clueless they were: I received a letter from the ten-year reunion listing all those classmates that they couldn’t locate, including Ed Begley Jr, who was starring in St. Elsewhere at the time. Checking his page on Wikipedia, I see that he’s exactly one day younger than me, but his picture from 2009 makes him look over a decade older.

  27. I love the word “theme” for essay. I wonder when it dropped out of usage. I wrote lots of essays in school in the 70s, but no themes. Was it the 60s when themes ended?

  28. Dave: Hadn’t thought of “theme” for essay in ages, so long I’m not sure when I last heard it. Probably in jhs or hs, maybe Freshman English at Cornell U. Not likely after that; there were essays and term papers in some science courses at Cornell [wildlife BS] and U. MI. [zoology degrees] and grad theses, and long [total 9 hr/9 questions, twice], but no “themes.” Was it only at Cornell that we bought special pads of “theme paper”, and only for Freshman English? That suggests that essays were called themes there. Poor profs had to read our handwriting.

    Mine had become printing in jhs, and I suspect teachers were glad it had. For 36 yr. at BSU, students got to see my legible if not graceful printing on blackboards and eventually overhead projections. Loved those machines; got out before PowerPoint took over.


  29. Had lost an earlier post to the abyss where I thought about essay and the level of effort that word represents to me. Like Dave, the label ‘themes’ was not used in my time, or maybe region. I like it. It may have suggested a melodious focus on flow rather than work involved.

    More was written, but that’s the nutshell version.

  30. Ghost and I went to the st Evita this afternoon. The music was beautiful, there is only music, no dialogue. The voices were not superb and the sound not great but it kicked in my memory.

    In 1952 I was in Venezuela where Eva Peron was idolized as well. I remember vividly the grief and worship, beyond Princess Diana’s funeral, the news reels and magazine articles. I was 8 years old.

    What I didn’t know was the mystery of her corpse disappearing when Peron was ousted. It was hidden and buried in Italy under an assumed name to be exhumed in 1971, restored, brought back to Argentina, restored and reburied.

    Fascinating story, both in life and desth.

  31. My take on “theme” is that it means the topic to be covered in a piece of writing (a bit different in music). While I would have known what my instructor wanted had I been told to “write a theme”, I believe the more common usage was its meaning as the subject.

    Like others, I also have never attended a reunion of any educational group. Since I found more than 15 years ago, though, I have enjoyed making contact and reading of others’ life events. As in any group of persons, some don’t wish to keep in contact and don’t; for others, I don’t keep the contact. No big deal either way.

  32. Debbe, no snow here, but temp going to single digits tonight and tomorrow for low. High tomorrow only 20. Auugghh! As Charlie Brown would say.

    Liked the cat picture! And its caption.

  33. We got snow yesterday, much melted away in afternoon. It must have started up last night as now there are several inches out there with more falling. Plenty of cocoa in the house 🙂 Like the links, folks- thanks!

  34. Well, here’s some of why college was so much better than high school. We were all there because we wanted to be, not because someone else said we had to be. And we were from somewhere else, and had to depend on each other to get by. This is not to say it was peace and love all the time, or that we all liked everyone else, but we got along.

    Of course there were certain professors that stood out, like Dr. Buhl, who taught English Lit. When she was a girl her father told her that she would never be pretty so she should be smart, and she took him at his word. She was frighteningly intelligent, quite formidable, and an excellent teacher to boot. No, she was not “pretty”, but neither would she scare small children.

    Then there was Dr. Lagow, who taught History. He was tall and thin and spoke in something of a monotone with a slight Texas accent. He told not quite funny jokes that we never quite got since it was hard to tell them from the rest of his lectures.

    And let us not forget Dr. Lewis Lipps, who taught biology and earth science. Her name was originally Emma Louise, but she decided she was not getting the recognition she deserved for her work in Mammalogy so she changed her name believing if people thought they were dealing with a man the situation would change. Whether it did or not I do not know. I do remember the day in Freshman Biology that she decided the young women in her class needed to understand the importance of breast self examination and how to do it, so she proceeded to teach us. It was an interesting class to say the least.

  35. During the time of year we’re usually digging out our driveway one or two times a week, we’ve consistently been having temps in the 40s with occasional rain here in the valley. The only real snow to come down to our valley was on Christmas Eve and Day. I just hope the plants don’t get too confused and blossom too early. 🙁

    Our local ski resorts are suffering, they usually have MUCH more snow up there by now. Sundance, the closest to me, has a base of only 24″ with 12″ at the top of the runs… and only 6 of the 45 runs are open.

    To those of you back east:


  36. Today is Martin Luther King Day. I throw that out wondering if it matters to anyone in the Village?

    I for one believe in equal rights for all races and nationalities, all sexes, disabilities or ages. Always have, always will.

    What have you contributed in life to make that happen?

  37. I have never seen Casablanca, it was before my time I suppose and I was not a Bogart fan.

    But I have seen lots of jokes, satires, attribtional art, cartoons, ads, sit com’s, other movies that play on the plot elements and characters, the music, dialogue, to point I thought it had entered common lbowledge.

    It would seem Jimmy thought so too.

  38. In general ed and intro biology, I often did one liners w/ a straight face. E.g., “That’s in married women. Unmarried women are fertile for the whole month.” Valerie Arganbright, a Mass Comm. major who did well in the general course came up one day after lecture and told me that half the students didn’t get these and were just taking them as straight biological info. Re that example, of course, it was just as well.

    I knew about Ilsa, too, same route as Jackie.

    As to MLK Day, it is well to remember that, historically, he was equally opposed to America’s actions in Viet Nam.


  39. OMC…just got home from grocery shopping…again…went last Wednesday as I knew we were getting ‘bombed’…, but I was not aware of this incoming ‘blast’. Roads are terrible here, probably have about 5 to 6 inches of that ‘fluffy’ white $hit outside.

    Had to leave Dad alone, as I made Ian drive. Told Dad if he got out of his recliner he would not get his chocolate milk. Got another 5 days’ worth of food (Dad loves his chocolate milk). When I checked out the 10 day forecast…they ( predict temps near mid fifties over the weekend…hahahlol. Now I need to get out and get some sunscreen 🙂

    Yes, Jackie, I did know it was MLK day….maybe some day his dream will come true….but, I’m not going to go any farther than that…I might get in trouble here. And I too have never seen ‘Casablanca’…I’ll add it to my “bucket list”….now that’s a good movie with Morgan Freeman and Nicholson.

    Having leftover Italian meatballs and spaghetti for supper…if it goes over as well as it did last night, the outside cats will have one heck of a supper. I hate cooking, my husband loves to cook and he’s 15 miles out in the boondocks. Took out a package of deer burger, thought I would make deer burger meat loaf…if not, (I really don’t care for deer meat) the cats outside will have a feast tomorrow….low tonight is below zero.

    I don’t know how Emb and Old Bear get through winters….I’m about to go nuts here. Last year’s January average temp here was mid thirties.

    Enough of my rambling on, and on, and on……


  40. Likewise, I never saw Casablanca in a movie house, but I have seen it on the tube. Some of Bogart’s films interest me, not all, and Casablanca is one of the better ones.

  41. Mark, just found your ‘camelflage’ link above. Good one-liner. As a former Camel smoker, I had to take the time to look closely for any pouncing lions or posing señoritas. But any hidden items eluded my eyesight. Had an additional laugh at myself for looking. Thanks.

  42. Morphy, you’re welcome. FB has an interest group just called Puns. When I get one I like, I share it here, like the camel. Don’t know how you could stand to smoke those things. My dad was hooked on them and I always said they must have been made from the sweepings of the camels stall.

  43. Mark, yeah I recognize what you mean. It is hard to explain, and I don’t mean to be glamorizing the habit, but somehow the smelly tobacco may have better flavor. Or may not. In pipes they discuss room-note and aftertaste, for what others enjoy while you smoke against what you like. Striving for balance, of course.

    Long ago, when Camel was something I liked, it was also specific to the original unfiltered package. When tried with a filter it would taste as bad as it smelled. But it is just a memory of the flavor, I don’t miss the habit or the associated social hazards.

    There is an unexpected irony in connection I made. I went to see if there was a list of the graphic details included in the artwork at Wikipedia. There was not one there, but I did learn that the successful artist turned his work into a wartime contribution by designing, that’s right, camouflage patterns.

    I was also surprised to read that Pall Mall had overtaken Camel in popularity. That was a brand I would not accept when offered, and would instead reciprocate with an offer from my pack. But taste around the world varies, as well as the composition of a given brand in different locals.

  44. My grandmother worked the Camel lines in Winston Salem rising from a minimum wage line worker to her retirement as supervisor. The stuff swept up off floors was indeed used but in a lesser no name brand.

    When she retired she was given an impressive silver tray with RJR initials that I inherited. People would exclaim at my family heirloom and I’d explain my descent from tobacco royalty.

  45. Debbe:

    1. You ramble very well.
    2. Thank you much for the Hypatia stone item. 23 M, of course, is little time at all in a 13+ BYA universe, the age, vastness, and other properties of which are not only fascinating scientifically but also theologically. I’ve wandered into that occasionally in print, lectures, and sermons.

    Went from the stone site into Juno’s photos of Jupiter [inferred that Jupiter’s wife has a smartphone], which are lovely. Will have to visit the NASA website therein.

    Tobacco: I hope my older son, and all others who’ve quit, quit in time. I likely did: 20 1/2 yr. [’56-’76] of irregular, occasional, non-inhaling pipe and cigar smoking. Mostly succeeded in roiling my gut enough to finally stop, no withdrawal symptoms. Looking back, I also befouled the atmosphere of others, and subjected them to 2nd hand smoke and maybe enticing nicotine. Guilt trip.


  46. TruckerRon, any thoughts o. How the lack of snow pack is going to affect secondary water? I was stationed at Hill AFB back in the mid-nineties. Loved the area, not so much the assignment. Volunteered to deploy to Middle East to get away from it.

  47. Chris, we are concerned about the snowpack… or more specifically the lack thereof. Unless we get some serious snow things will be tough in Utah before long. My area gets most of its water from some springs up the canyon, and we have set up some pumps in town to reach an aquifer about 600 feet below the valley floor so we’ll be okay. Other areas depend more on the water trapped each spring by local dams and would be affected sooner by an extended drought.

    I am troubled by the lack of concern by Utah officials regarding the number of people moving in because of our good economy. They talk it up, but I’m always the nag in the corner talking about water, especially since Nevada and California have long been trying to negotiate away water from us.

  48. Most of casseroles I encountered in Episcopal suppers had a can of cream soup, pasta, a green or red something, a protein, cheese and crackers.

    In varied combinations depending on what was in the pantry when lady threw together.

    Then they submitted it to the cookbook committee for the church cookbook.

    Apparently Southern Baptists did not have church dinners, not even dinners on the grounds, in 1950s or else my grandmother did not participate.

    Granny was a little weird like that. She was sensitive about her cooking skills or lack of.

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