Today I saw a dr friend of mine. He was in my 4th grade class. He said hey, you want to run through the numbers? (to be explained in a minute). And that got me thinking about the 4th grade year.
I loved 4th grade. In every grade, there is a teacher that everyone wants, and we had him. He did some odd stuff that none of us thought about at the time, but we later recalled these odd things.
Mr R was the cool teacher to have. He did fun stuff, like every Wednesday he would take 4 kids to Manners (now known as Bob's Big Boy, although that one he took us to is no longer there). After lunch we would go to Hazel's, for penny candy. We so looked forward to these outings.
He made class interesting and fun. We were all assigned a number, based on how we stood alphabetically in the class. When I get together with my peers at reunions (or even, like today, just seeing the dr), those of us from this 4th grade class will stand together and go through each number. For some reason, over 40 years later, we still remember those numbers.
And the funny incidents will stick with us too. Mr R was also a very talented artist. One day, he made an art palette for the retiring art teacher. It was his intent to have the staff at the school sign their good luck wishes on the palette. He informed us that he was having the staff sign it, and we were not to touch it.. Well, G came back to school late from lunch that day and missed the announcement that we were not to touch his palette. So he walked in, spotted the palette with other signatures on it, and added his own signature to it (in what one classmate remembers as his "dorky signature"). Mr R was not happy. He was actually kind of irate. Here he had this beautiful palette, signed by all the teachers. And G. As young students, we all found the incident to be quite amusing, and we talk about it to this day.
G happened to be my boyfriend that year. He was always trying to pick up my dress. Yeah, we wore dresses in those days. In retaliation for him reaching for my dress, I threatened to pull his pants down. That brought us both a visit to the asst principal, Mrs. W. Mrs. W always referred to herself as Mrs. W. The first several times I was in classrooms where she spoke of herself in the third person, I wondered who was this Mrs. W. One day I asked another student "who is Mrs W?" and she told me that's her. And I realized the woman seemed to be incapable of using the word "I." Anyway, this incident with me and G ended up with us being sent to Mrs W's office. She asked for my version of events and I told her. She told me I must never threaten to pull a boy's pants down (like I really could have done that). She acted like the whole thing was my fault.
Mr R also worked as a DJ and you were cool if you hired him to DJ at your party. He was just the fun guy everyone wanted to have around.
Now for the weird stuff. When we did something bad, Mr R would send us to a tiny closet in the cloakroom, where we had to stay until he released us. OK, that was a little weird, but then Mr R did something weirder. He would hug us until our backs creaked. I know he did it to the girls; I'm not sure if he did it to the boys. We all thought it was fun at the time. Then we grew up and thought my God, that was kind of uh - inappropriate??! In today's world, he would have been outta there. At the time, tho, he was just the fun teacher that everyone wanted.
A few years ago, a classmate hosted a reunion of the elementary school. There was a good turnout, and Mr R's widow was there. After she left, many of the conversations focused on Mr R and what a weird guy he was. It's kind of discomforting to find out that the guy you thought was everything was - well - weird, to put it mildly.