Thank you to the faculty who have so willingly and graciously been interviewed for some of the stories on this page! We thank you also for your dedication to Fairview High School and to the students you taught. We were indeed very fortunate to have met you and to have been educated by you!
Alumni, the website would like to feature your thoughts, memories or stories about faculty and staff at FHS. Please submit your memories for consideration. See how at the bottom of this page.
This article about Dorothy Herbst was originally in the Dayton Daily News and written by staff writer Meredith Moss. Meredith was a 1960 graduate of Fairview High School. We found the article in a FHS Class of 1967 Reunion booklet. Enjoy the two pages shown here about a skillful Fairview teacher many students admired.
Mr. Reynolds, FHS 1965 yearbook
Siri, What Is Camera Film?
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted August 14, 2017
Tell me you can still remember cameras before they became part of smartphones! In your misspent youth they were black boxes that shot twelve black-and-white pictures … assuming you could remove the film from the camera without exposing it before you got it to the drugstore for developing.
Then when you were into that era of conspicuous consumption, you had one of the fancy thingies with the exchangeable lenses and dials and switches and buttons … all the better to over or under-correct any of twenty different parameters. Are we having fun yet?
And come twenty years ago, you probably were the first on your block to get one of the digital cameras. So small and light and golly, gee, one entire megapixel to make sure you could see your beady little bright red eyes in high def.
Now it’s two thousand and whatever and don’t you just have the newest smartphone that can do everything. It takes pictures effortlessly and sends them by mistake wherever you didn’t mean to. It slices; it dices.
Well, tell me you also knew you could take a class in photography during your senior year at Fairview and wouldn’t we just have to measure your nose to see how badly you’re lying.
Photography was a discipline that fell roughy under the umbrella of industrial arts along with the potpourri of courses we typically referred to as “shop.” These classes were taught in rooms in the hallway under the gym. As both my older brother and sister had convinced me that trolls lived there, I did my best to avoid it.
To the best of my knowledge, the shop teachers did not have home rooms, for the first fifteen minutes each morning, so unless you actually took one of their classes, you wouldn’t get to know the likes of Messers. Allen, Stooksberry, Todd, Kling, Kuzma … and our very own R. Douglas Reynolds.
Doug and Janet Reynolds, August 2, 2107
OK, fine, we’ll call him Doug, since his current license plate is “DOUG 31.”
I’ve always found it interesting to explore exactly how someone comes to be a part of little world that was Fairview High School in the 1960s. It’s not like in the third grade he raised his hand when asked what kids wanted to be when they grew up and said, “a photography and printing teacher at Fairview.”
While Doug Reynolds is well shy of twenty years older that we are, like so many of the generation of our parents, he was born at home, rather than in a hospital. Tipp City was the scene of that particular crime and, like the license plate says, in 1931.
Ten years later, as the crow flies, the family bought a 103-acre farm in Harveysburg. Its location near Waynesville could well be considered part of a Jeopardy question. The senior Mr. Reynolds was not a farmer, but worked at Frigidaire, so it fell to the kids to milk the chickens and pull the plow. And speaking of falling, one day during his sophomore year at Massie Rural High School, he had the misfortune to fall off the barn roof and sustain back injuries that he still copes with today. Now since I know you’re nosy, that nicely explains the hospital bed you can see in their living room above.
While he did not say in so many words, I suspect that injury took farming off the table of possible careers. Being both nearby and affordable, Wilmington College was, for all practical purposes, a teaching college.
Yes, yes, I see you all smug and self-assured that you are starting to connect the dots and see how Doug became our Mr. Reynolds. You’re not as dumb as the sign taped to your back says you are.
But in this case, higher education came as part of a seven-year plan. After his first year, he took time off to save money for a car and tuition. And in-between his junior and senior years he managed to get drafted. Yeh, it was that whole Korea thing. But riddle me this … how is someone with a significant back problem, not 4F? I guess smarter people than you and I made those decisions.
Lest I forget, the best thing that ever happened to him was during his junior year when he started dating Janet Doster, the future Mrs. Reynolds. They’d known each other since their elementary school days. I’ll forego the cheap shot about him being a cradle robber since she was four years younger. Strangest thing … she still is!
When the army infantry was done with him, he made it home for his senior year … graduating in 1956 with a degree in industrial arts education. They married that summer, just after Janet had finished her RN degree in Cincinnati. That fall Doug wasted no time becoming gainfully employed. For the next eight years at Randolph High School and what became Northmont, via a consolidation of three smaller schools, he taught it all: wood, metal, electric, drafting, photography and printing.
In June of 1964 he was approached by DPS to fill a vacancy at Fairview High School. Maybe you’ve heard of it. While it meant uprooting tent and tea kettle, he was lured by better pay and better equipment with which to ply his craft. As we all know now, but wouldn’t have admitted it then, Fairview was a good place to be. Doug got along well with both Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer.
And he was amazed that she seemed to be able to run the place like it was second nature. Forty-plus years of OJT will do that, huh? So when Miss Folger came asking for favors, who was Doug to decline?
Remember all those pamphlets, instructional booklets and event programs that came your way all through the year? Me neither, but it was Doug Reynolds and his knowledge of offset printing that made them possible and since he didn’t have any direct involvement with clubs, athletics or special shindigs after school, he was available to knock out whatever was needed.
Those publications were clear and clean and professional in their presentation, unlike the Tower News which sometimes looked like a refugee from an explosion at an underground mimeograph camp. Did that sound harsh? Don’t take my word for it. Go up into your attic, dig out the box that says, “Mom & Dad … Ancient History” and compare the production qualities of what he did to anything he didn’t. It’s not pretty.
Another harsh reality was that the Fairview we knew did not last. By 1970, Doug was starting to see “beer cans in the hallway” one too many times. Since the superintendent of Northmont hadn’t forgotten him, he accepted the open invitation to return. And there he spent another sixteen years teaching photography and printing, happily ever after.
Do the math and that comes out to an even thirty-year career. Can you say, pension?”
As we’ve learned along the way, none of our teachers were one dimensional. While Doug enjoyed teaching, or so he says, he also enjoyed the underlying crafts upon which the teaching was based. Take a look at some of the beautiful furniture in their home and you can see that the wood shop in the basement has been put to good use. And if that weren’t enough, with the help of Janet and their four kids, he managed to take all the photographs at over 700 weddings and such. Have no doubt that list of satisfied customers even includes some names we would recognize in our yearbooks.
Recent health issues, still courtesy of his ill-fated attempt to fly off the barn roof, now leave him less mobile than he’d wish and none the happier for it. The good news is that he’s still sharp as a tack.
Have no doubt that one day when your great-grand-demons are our age, there will be chatter in the nursing home about whether anyone remembers smartphones that were cameras and everything else.
That was before everyone had computer chips implanted under the skin at the base of their necks.
Arlene Calico and Dave Gates from the 1966 FHS yearbook
Once A Teacher . . . by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted June 2017
Did we all look that way back in the ‘60s … monochrome and grainy? Ohio must have been just like Kansas before the Wizard gave us color.
June the 14th is a day that somehow slipped a notch in the public consciousness. That’s what happens when you don’t reward yourself by assigning it to a Monday so you can have the day off. It happened almost as a matter of fashion sometime back between then and now. But Flag Day still does mean something in rural Ohio; it’s just that it might be hard to tell it from any other day this time of year. Go to the city or the suburbs and the vistas are awash with bright new flags unfurled especially for the day … only to be put away in the evening until the next “special occasion.” But take a ride up Ohio St.Rt. 29 and as you escape the urban malaise of central Ohio, you can still find your way back to what used to be. By the time you hit Mechanicsburg, it starts to dawn on you that the statements of patriotism and the sense of country do not feel the need to be so formulaic. Winding your way up to Urbana, you are no longer surprised to see the occasional front-yard expression of pride that a son or daughter serves in the military.
Out here, flags work for a living.
And like those flags. the road heading northwest out of Urbana has to earn its keep. Agricultural equipment shares the two lanes with cars and trucks. There are plenty of turns as the path finds its way around the edges of family farms rather than assertively staking its claim to dominance of the landscape as eminent domain would have it. Here and there the land starts to display the subtle bits of contour, courtesy of what the last ice age did or did not do.
Heading into western Champaign County, you can still expect to see those postings as you enter a small town that announce what churches, clubs and civic, social and fraternal organizations still call it home. What few bumper stickers there are make more of a point of what someone is for, rather than against. And as you let some of your divisive and/or negative baggage fade, you notice your surroundings more … sights, sounds, and even smells …and there seems to be a certain quality to the very air that defies assignment to any of the five senses we learned as kids.
Or, it’s cow manure … one or the other.
Once you’re into Shelby County and enter the county seat, Sidney, it’s almost as if it’s still the country. The grand courthouse and turn of the century architecture seem so organic as to not be an affront to your newly honed rural sensibilities. You’ll note that I did not bother to say the turn of which century.
My lunch get-together with Arlene and David Gates had been a good while coming. It should have happened a few years ago, but the stars did not seem to align.
Depending on just when you placed your date-time stamp on Fairview, you may or may not have encountered these teachers. Arlene brought her newly-minted certificate of teaching from Eastern Kentucky State to Fairview for the 1964-65 school year. David, fresh from Otterbein, started the following year. As both were general science teachers, it would not be a stretch to see this as yet another statement of how important education in the sciences was to a country in the grip of two wars … one hot and one cold.
Even though Fairview was not on then-Miss Calico’s short list of schools she would have preferred for her inaugural effort in teaching at the secondary level, there was no hesitation when asked who her mentor was in learning Fairview’s ropes. It seems Miss Folger took special interest, since now at last there was a young lady teaching science at her school. That mattered, and rightfully so, because role models are what it’s all about.
Similarly David Gates did not have Fairview in his sights initially until midway though the summer before he started. He was already seemingly destined to teach eighth grade science locally when he asked a friend if he should entertain an offer from our Fairview. The advice was so overwhelmingly enthusiastic that he felt obliged to change plans. David credits Mr. Kaenzig for reading him into the science curriculum, but no less a figure than Ron Bradley became his role model for what really mattered … how to get the job done right. As young Mr. Gates also had a passion for coaching, that bond was cemented when he offered to help out in the athletic department on a completely volunteer basis. Ron Bradley saw that as a genuine commitment.
No doubt there are many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten Fairview lore recounting the myriad love matches between Fairview students. We know so much less about relationships between teachers. It was not long before David asked to be introduced to the other young science teacher, one year his senior, and the occasion of a Fairview-Meadowdale basketball game became the perfect opportunity for a first date.
Enough chaperones, you think?
He, she, we. It’s called the propinquity effect … how we tend to form relationships with those we work with or otherwise meet often. You’d know that if you’d been paying attention instead of passing notes in Mr. Gallaher’s psych class.
In the early ‘70s and in the midst of starting their family, Mr. and Mrs. Gates moved to other teaching opportunities, but let there be no doubt whatsoever that Fairview was singularly important in their careers. Had that experience not been so profoundly positive, for all the reasons we know to be true, they both could have so easily joined the ranks of teachers who, despite a passion for their craft, would have looked outside those ranks for fulfillment. Seeing that they could teach students how to learn for themselves was Fairview’s gift.
I mean how could you possibly want to leave the turmoil of Dayton Public Schools’ court-ordered student and teacher homogenization to teach at Graham High School nestled in pastoral St. Paris, Ohio? What sound? Oh, that’s just me biting my lip.
With sixty-eight combined years of teaching under their belts, it took a chance encounter while vacationing in southern Florida to open their eyes to the next chapter of their work-in-progress. Before they knew it, they were spending their next twelve winters volunteering as rangers at the Big Cypress National Preserve. Talk about presenting educational programs and giving tours being right up their alley!
I guess if you like ranger-ing somewhere hot in the winter, it doesn’t tax the imagination much to want to find a similar gig where it’s cold in the summer. That’s how they found themselves doing the same work for six summers at the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Imagine how much fun they had being able to continue their craft in a less-structured setting, while still being able to keep learning along the way. Somehow it’s inescapable to see this service as being anything other than their lot in life to keep giving back to a system that had allowed them to have the best of all worlds.
Hey, as long as they were back in Ohio for the autumn and OSU football, wherever they had a chance to be together and answer their calling, life was good. I’ll go out on a limb there and say that that mattered just a little bit more to Coach Gates. Credit Arlene with one eye roll.
But summers these days find them back in Shelby County. It was home for the last twenty-plus years of their teaching careers and it still is. The take-away from this casual get-together for lunch was that a conventional retirement would not ever be in the works for this couple. Whatever they do in life, they’ll be finding a way to continue sharing what they learned and perfected at Fairview.
Arlene and Dave Gates June 14, 2017 Sidney, Ohio
Funny, they’re not pixelated any more.
The whole way home, I was thinking about how best to tell their story. It was not lost on me that this might well be the last chance I’d have to sit down with teachers who were a part of our experience at Fairview. I believe the word is poignant.
I was just outside Plain City when I saw a sign in a front yard. “She Lost: Get Over It.” And I felt an inexplicable urge to turn right around and head back to where that sort of thing seems to matter less.
Lloyd Gene Stooksberry. Photo taken from the Fairview High School 1966 yearbook.
An interview with Lloyd Gene Stooksberry . . . 8/9/12
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted August 2012
Do you remember the hallway under the gym? It ran from behind the cafeteria out towards the exit doors near the tennis courts.
Oh sure, if you were a girl, you could have spent your entire four years at Fairview and never would have needed to go there. But boys had to run that gauntlet to get to the locker rooms at “their end of the gym.”
I’m guessing that as a freshman, I might have walked a little faster than usual to get to the other end. I was convinced there were trolls lurking in those rooms, because my older brother told me there were -- maybe even torture devices in case normal detention didn’t work. For sure there were strange noises to be heard as well as the occasional smell of something that rivaled the corridor outside the chemistry classrooms.
No trolls, just the likes of Mr. Lloyd Stooksberry. Yeh, go ahead and check your yearbook; I’ll wait. From 1955 to 1970 Mr. S. taught what we used to call shop at Fairview. Actually there was a wide range of vocational education classes, including woodworking, machine (metal) shop, printing, plastics, electronics, and engineering drawing. And those classes changed over time, reflecting the demands of the marketplace.
But our Mr. Stooksberry’s time at Fairview didn’t begin with his tenure as a teacher. As a Dayton boy, born and bred, and after stints at Cleveland Elementary and Madison Township Elementary, he plugged into the Fairview-White High School system. As those of us with older siblings will remember, this harkens back to a time when the White Building, aka Colonel White, handled the early years and what we know as our Fairview took over for the junior and senior years.
In a telling remark, Mr. Stooksberry (or Gene as he was known in those days) said that it was a different time back then -- going to school in the midst of World War II. Kids grew up quicker then; they had to. Higher education was much less a given. Six months after you graduated you might well be in combat.
But as fate would have it, graduation in 1945 was a good thing, even though sixth from the bottom of his class didn’t dazzle anyone. After struggling for a year at Miami University, he spent the better part of two years in the Army before returning to Oxford with a “new and improved” sense of how the world worked. Three years later, with a 3.8 GPA and a B.S. in Education, he came back to Dayton.
In 1952 and newly married, he began his teaching career trying to fit math into 7th and 8th grade brains at Whittier Elementary. Since two years of that is enough for anyone, he spent another next two years as a traveling practical arts teacher. (The napkin holder I made in those days was something only a mother could love.)
That position made him a natural to fill the opening at Fairview in industrial arts in 1955. Imagine what teachers like Miss Herbst, Mr. Nisonger, Miss Neilson, Mr. Mayberry, Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Prugh thought when they saw him come back in the door. But having been a problem student here ten years before, seemed to give him a positive perspective on getting his “cream of the crop” to come around to his way of thinking.
And just because having home room in the same space with a bunch of saws and drill presses might not have seemed like a good idea, he wasn’t exempted from that duty. And perhaps exactly because he didn’t seem to ever have any disciplinary problems, he would “get stuck” having a large and full study hall room for the fifteen minutes at the start of each day. Sounds like teacher purgatory.
But even if you didn’t take any shop classes, you were able to enjoy the handiwork of what went on there. Do you think the scenery and sets in the class plays just magically appeared? Not so much. He worked hand in glove with both the faculty supervisor and the kids creating the illusion that took place on stage. Say, “Thank you, Mr. Stooksberry.” Back then, there was always an expectation that you would participate in extracurricular activities.
Once he got settled in, he said he didn’t see much of Mr. Longnecker, Miss Folger or Mr. Feuer. Other than popping in to watch him in action once in a while, administrators back then could tell how a teacher was doing just by listening to what peers and students were saying. Now you know why you’d see them standing at Third & Main during class breaks.
Mr. Stooksberry enjoying retirement in the area near Traverse City, Michigan during 2012.
And in case you were wondering if any girls ever did take those classes, I was told that it only happened once. One year three young ladies wanted to take wood shop, so he had a class with them as the only students. Apparently co-ed shop would have just been too liberal for the ‘60s. Really?
These vocationally-oriented classes of our time were more than a mere extension of your home repair merit badge. I took a look at a screwdriver my brother made back there back in the late ‘50s. The tip is made of steel the students tempered themselves and the handle has a machine-grooved pattern on it to ensure a good grip. The tool still sees use all too often when he has to fix something he has broken, but that makes him smile inside with each turn. That’s something Craftsman doesn’t give you.
Since Fairview was not exempt from the turmoil of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, our Mr. Stooksberry let the B of E talk him into going to the Montgomery County Joint Vocational School to start an FAA-approved aviation mechanics program that offered an airframe and power plant certification, accreditation very much in demand by both the military and civilian sectors. It is interesting to note that as job-ready as such programs were, Dayton didn’t seem too interested in sending students from its eighteen feeder high schools to their vocational counterparts.
Because his family has had a connection with the boonies west of Traverse City, Michigan since 1933, it only made sense that retirement in 1985 allowed him and his to head north, and turn a childhood vacation spot into a year-round residence. What started out as a depression era, do-it-yourself house trailer, built by his parents has become “living the dream” for our inveterate handyman.
Mrs. Jean Booker on March 24, 2011
Going out in Style Interview with Mrs. Jean Booker on March 24, 2011 by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65
I asked Mrs. Booker if she ever had a chance to have Fairview all to herself—walking the halls after hours, with only a few lights on, thinking about whatever she wanted. I was giving her a chance to wax romantic and tell me a story of how being FHS’s final principal was a childhood dream come true or maybe about walking where Don Longnecker, Theresa Folger and so many thousands of students had before was such a humbling experience.
Not so much. Ever the pragmatist she remarked that all too often she had to wind up her school days walking those halls in search of some door ajar or uncooperative sensor that was keeping the alarm system from being set. Nonetheless, I’m sure the warm and fuzzy thoughts about everything good that Fairview meant did manage to sneak their way into her mind plenty of times during her forty-six years of service to the Dayton Public Schools.
For this website, why would I want to write about someone who didn’t even start at Fairview until 1968? Since I’m sure so many of you now have wisdom beyond your years, you realize how a better understanding of events after a time can help bring about an appreciation for how that preceding time came to be. Nod your head.
Our acorn certainly didn’t fall far from the tree. Born in 1926 (when Miss Folger was already assistant principal at FHS) Jean Eleanor Daly grew up in South Dayton View and attended Jefferson Elementary. She recalls being in the seventh grade, hoping that she would be going to Fairview High, but the vagaries of districting of the times saw her instead at Colonel White for several years and then Roosevelt, graduating in 1944.
She gained her B.A. in physical education, with a minor in psychology, from Oberlin College in 1948. It might be seen as prophetic that Oberlin was the first school in the country to be both co-ed and racially integrated.
On returning to Dayton, Miss Daly spent two years teaching phys ed at Grace A. Greene Elementary and Edison Elementary (both within walking distance of her childhood home) before becoming Mrs. Booker in 1950. And when the opportunity came to teach phys ed at her alma mater, Roosevelt, she jumped at it. Keep in mind, Roosevelt in its time was nothing short of a fabulous school. Can you say not one, but two ceramic tile swimming pools? Roosevelt in the 50s was already racially mixed because the surrounding neighborhoods were, so the challenge to kick it up a notch on the make-a-difference scale caught up with Mrs. Booker in 1960 when she became assistant principal at Roosevelt.
And speaking of challenges, 1968 was the perfect time for someone with honed racial diversity skills to become assistant principal at Fairview. At that time Mr. Feuer had recently taken over as principal from Miss Folger and Mr. Ron Bradley was also an assistant principal. Mrs. Booker brought with her the ability to earn the respect of parents, black and white alike. If you’re taking notes for the next test, you’ll want to underline and highlight that last sentence. Essential to that trait was accepting students for who they were, rather than tearing them down in order to build them back up to some preconceived idea of who they should be. Noticing what color someone’s skin is doesn’t work. “Tough but fair” does.
In our part of the 1960s we remained blissfully ignorant of concepts such as neighborhood schools, open enrollment, bussing and paired schools. But in the early 70s Dayton public schools were on the front line of a battle over racial diversity in education. Several nearby schools, not the least of which was Colonel White, erupted into violence, yet somehow Fairview managed to keep the lid on, thanks in no small part to the likes of Mrs. Booker who practiced what she preached. I felt like I was a student again and Mrs. Booker was the teacher and if I came away from the class with only one thing, it should be that communication is essential to understanding.
Not only did Fairview survive, but it still found a way to flourish. And what it might have given up as an academic powerhouse, it more than made up for in developmental prowess There’s always a risk when you consume so many resources avoiding conflict, that there’s little left over for anything positive—like leading youth towards healthful, broadminded, service-seeking adult lives. But talk to students who were Bulldogs in the late 70s and early 80s and their memories are just as wonderful as ours. Believe it.
Oh sure, plenty of things changed after we left. Corporal punishment was legislated out of existence. Basic Concepts and May Day, which seemed to have a place in time with previous administrators, no longer found their way into memories of later students. Take a look at a 1976 yearbook and if it weren’t for the stained glass windows and Bruiser, you wouldn’t know where you were. That might also be a good time to notice Fairview had a new principal, Mrs. Jean Booker.
When I asked her if she had a strong sense of legacy about what she was inheriting from previous principals at Fairview, at first I was surprised to hear that was not the case. While she had great respect for what they had accomplished, she was the first to say that maybe our Fairview was too much about going to college. Think about that. Was there a potential to fall into the crack if you weren’t college-bound? Her Fairview traded that luxury for the real world practicality of doing what was best for each individual student. If that was college, fine, but if it was doing right by a scared pregnant fifteen year old, then that’s fine, too.
Talking to Mrs. Booker was a dream come true for me. The last time I talked to a high school principal, there was a phone conversation underway with my parents and for some strange reason I was unable to set down. It was never clear to me just what principals and assistant principals did. At least at Fairview, assistant principals spent much of their time dealing with disciplinary issues and it was no coincidence that there was one male assistant principal and one female assistant principal. (thus dispelling the myth about young girls being all sweetness and light.)
Principals on the other hand spent much of their time on more strategic matters. They were responsible for scheduling classes and teachers. On the surface that might not sound difficult, but you need to remember some courses might only be taught once or twice a day and yet with students needing different classes to complete their coursework, there was always the risk of someone needing to be in two classrooms at the same time. Evaluation of teachers was also the province of principals. Sometimes that was done, as you might imagine, by observing teachers at work in the classroom, but it also might take place by listening to students in the hallways between classes. It can also come to no one’s surprise that money was increasingly tight as quality education was held hostage to fiscal realities. Top it all off with a dozen or so phone calls with Billy’s angry mother, Susan’s perplexed father and an inquisition or two with the folks up the food chain downtown. There’s a reason why no one raises their hand in the fourth grade saying they want to be a high school principal when they grow up.
All of a sudden it was 1982 and candidly, white flight had taken its toll on suburban high school enrollment. Take a look at the class picture in 1982 and you’ll see somewhere around a hundred students. You don’t have to be Alan Greenspan to understand the brutal economic reality that there were too few students in too many schools. Schools such as Roosevelt closed in 1976, instantly changing the racial profile at Fairview while giving her an infusion of students, but that would only postpone the inevitable. The ax fell in 1982 when seven Dayton high schools closed—Fairview along with Nettie Lee Roth, Wilbur Wright, and Kiser.
Mrs. Booker took a bit of time off before attending Leadership Dayton, something of a local Ph.D. in what makes Dayton tick, before once again heeding DPS’s call. She would spend the next twelve years on the Board of Education, serving as its president for three of those years. So, that sounds like a pretty full plate for any two or three lifetimes.
Yes, it’s forty six years of giving back to a community. And no, it’s more. She’s still serving—helping us understand Fairview after our time.
Mr. Stephen Sydor, June 2010
Mr. Stephen M. Sydor…Ever the Contrarian by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted June 2010
It would be so easy to dismiss Mr. Sydor as an anomaly, someone who didn’t fit the idealized mold of a teacher at Fairview High School. After all, his behavior was, at times, a bit eccentric. Take it from me — I had him for homeroom both my sophomore and senior years.
But don’t be too quick to relegate him to the dustbin for lightweights, just because he might have been outside the bell curve of what we came to expect from our faculty and staff in the ‘60s. Yes, he had his share of foibles and yes, he almost seemed to wear them for all to see, as something of a badge of honor. Well, grab another mocha frappé and let me tell you about the man I now know a bit better after my visit on 6/29/10 to the long-time Sydor residence on Philadelphia north of Main.
When you haven’t seen someone for 45+ years, you hope you don’t start to introduce yourself to the wrong person and get off on the wrong foot. No worries. I’m barely out of my car in the driveway when he starts the conversation quite loudly from this chair on the front porch. When I first sent the letter asking if I could come for a visit, his wife of 60 years, Marjorie, and I spoke and she confided that his hearing wasn’t the best, but she would be on hand to help out and make sure he got the dates and details right.
I decided at that juncture to presume he was the same Mr. Sydor that I knew those many years ago and my return greeting to him while climbing the stairs to shake his had was to compliment him on his fine taste in hats. When I asked if the stylized “S” stood for Sydor or Superman, he remarked, “Yes.” That set the tone for a delightful and entertaining two and a half hours of “no quarter asked, none given.”
I’ve found that the best way to get the ball rolling on these interviews is to put yourself into context. I always take my ’65 yearbook so that the teacher can understand a bit better about who and when you were. Not like I was such a stellar student, athlete, do-er of good deeds, or anything else that my reputation preceded me! It is also good to let the person see who their faculty contemporaries were, just in case I might stumble across another bit of contact information for someone.
Stephen Michael Sydor came into the world on August 24, 1923 in Alliance, Ohio into a family of Ukranian extraction. Alliance is about two brownfields and one EPA Superfund site east of what is now the Akron/Canton continuum, just for those of you who don’t own maps anymore and just GPS their way from A to B.
There was no silver spoon to be had growing up during and after the depression. When he wasn’t in school at AHS, he was finding whatever work there was to be had in the local heavy industry economy — steel mills and the like. No sooner was he out of high school than along came WWII and he served as a private in a field artillery unit in the European theater. Keep in mind that being in the artillery is actually worse than being in the infantry, because you’re even more of a target. His unit had the distinction of liberating Buchenwald because it arrived there before the infantry unit it was supporting.
Upon discharge from the military in 1946 he found his way back home and again worked at such jobs as could be found to save up enough money to attend OSU. He started at the Big Farm in 1950, hooked up with Marjorie and came away with dual degrees, a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Education.
His first attempts to peddle his newfound skills in the secondary education arena met with only qualified success, to be charitable. Troy Ohio, two years, fired. Then off to Covington, Ohio where he met a similar fate. He’ll be the first one to tell you, he spoke his mind a bit too much. Telling your boss that his school is “too much 4-H and not enough 3R’s” didn’t go a long way to engendering warm fuzzy feelings in small town USA in the 1950s. Just a wild guess here, but I’ll guess that he might have seen “doesn’t play well with others” a time or two on his early report cards.
But it was the Red Scare at that same time that made money available for him to go back to school and take Russian as part of a Masters program at IU. With a stipend for living expenses, he actually made more money as a student than he did working as a teacher.
Turn over a new leaf? Get religion? I don’t think so. He lasted exactly one year teaching Russian at Euclid High School in 1961 before being fired, only to head way west for another bad experience teaching English and Latin for a year in Central Valley, CA.
That’s four, if you’re keeping score. I wonder if the Guinness Book of Records people documented the streak.
Down and out and living with Marjorie’s family back in Columbus with no prospects. Running on fumes. Being a teacher with no job lined up in August is not a good thing. Then a family friend called the Dayton B of E and asked if there were openings. Mr. Royer, a name we’ve heard before, took the call and said there was an immediate opening for a Latin teacher in a nice school in upper Dayton View. Either they didn’t believe in resumés back then or Steve Sydor was one helluva salesman. He started the next month.
Funny story. When it came time for his review at the end of his first year, he sat down with Miss Folger and she informed him that his evaluation would read “average.” Well, he went off on the lady. “How can you say that? You’ve never even been in my class. I suggest you change that to “superior.” What’s more, she did! And, even more of a surprise, he was granted tenure at the same time. Whodathought?
Add to his storied career the fact that he became the de facto shop steward for teachers at Fairview. In addition to money issues, there was a level of discontent that teachers could be dismissed without recourse.
The Mr. Sydor we remember taught Latin at Fairview. He ardently believed (and does still believe) Latin to be important. Its value does not necessarily lay in currency, but in relevance. We can trace much of our vocabulary and syntax back to Latin. Even more significant is the way it teaches a sense of structure and logic. It is an elegant and finely crafted language where meaning does not come from word order as it does in English, but rather from gender, declension and conjugation suffixes. The fact that it is immutable and both concise and specific, speaks to why it still finds purposeful usage in the sciences. It means the same thing today to an American as it does to a Russian and it will mean precisely the same thing a thousand years from now. That matters.
However, somehow people smarter than you and I decided back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s Latin no longer mattered. It was to be phased out of the curriculum. That left Mr. Sydor reading the Roman numerals on the wall and realizing he had to find another way to make himself indispensable. Since Mrs. Fabian, Fairview’s longtime librarian, was about to retire, it was suggested that he might be the person to replace her. Even with an M.A., it was necessary for him to take another 35 credit hours of Library Sciences at Wright State to be accredited.
As the ‘70s wore on, he became disenchanted with his position at Fairview. He felt the school library was not being used for its intended purpose, but rather was a dumping ground for discipline-challenged students. And if a teacher didn’t feel like doing his job one day, he’d send the whole class packing to the library to do “research.”
He served in that capacity until February of 1977 when a sudden attack of diverticulitis sent him to Good Samaritan Hospital. While he and his intestines were recovering, he commiserated with a fellow patient by the name of Mrs. John Maxwell, who just so happened to be the wife of the DPS Superintendent. Well, close your eyes and click your heels three times and the next thing you know he’s the librarian at Kiser. I think it went something like, “John, you need to find this nice man another job.”
In 1992, with 36 years of service, he retired. Ask him when he thought was Fairview’s high watermark for excellence. The ‘40s with the strength of tradition? The ‘50s with Mr. Longnecker starting the accelerated programs? The ‘60s before bussing and integration brought an end to the “neighborhood” school template? No, actually it was whenever the last day Latin was taught at Fairview. No doubt in his mind.
So, you decide. Was he just an oddball, a misunderstood loudmouth, nothing more than the local union activist?
Mrs. June Fahner, December 2009
Mrs. June Fahner…
Fairview High School’s first fulltime counselor by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted December 2009
Like any number of Fairview High School’s excellent faculty and staff, Mrs. Fahner was recruited…it’s that simple….hand picked by the best to do the best because she was the best.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that Miss Folger actually had her guidance certificate. Along the way it became all too obvious that there was an increasing need for that skill and she managed to incorporate those duties into her ten to twelve hour days. But there came a point when that was no longer possible and she refused to let something so important lose its priority to any other equally essential administrative task. Someone had to be found to take that function off her plate. But not just any first rate counselor would do. It had to be someone who shared her sense of purpose.
June Mary Hockey was born right here in Dayton in 1929 at the Miami Valley Hospital.
Does that make her a Valley Girl? Somehow a simple NO, doesn’t convey the absurdity of the reference.
It is noteworthy that she went to Wilbur Wright High School, an institution of considerable academic prowess in its own right (or should that be wright?). Well into the ‘60s Wilbur Wright and Fairview ran neck and neck in terms of success in being the best school in the area. And perhaps it was the very nature of the rivalry that served both schools in pushing to the limits of creating higher and better levels of opportunity.
Cool. She looks the same in her Wilbur Wright senior picture as we remember her at Fairview in the ‘60s. And since everyone likes to hear another “small world” bit of trivia, she was in the same class as Jamie Hawks, the future wife of Mr. Bruggeman,
Knowing all the while what she wanted to do with her life, she studied at Lake Forest College in Chicago for her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Her passion to learn all she could about the discipline then took her next door to Northwestern for her Masters in Educational Psychology, before returning to Dayton. And, no, she didn’t have a free ride on her parents’ purse strings; she saved and put herself through.
It’s all too easy to think that such smarter-than-smart people with these advanced degrees have everything in life figured out, but our Mrs. Fahner is still the first to admit she didn’t. Nothing in school could have prepared her to deal with a husband who twice dropped out of seminary and then became an alcoholic. The marriage failed so quickly that she has trouble remembering being a wife and to this day her strong sense of independence doesn’t let her entertain the idea of ever again making that commitment.
Now single and very over-qualified, she had no difficulty becoming an elementary school teacher at Meadowdale in the late ‘50s. But her focus and goals were not diminished by adversity and while teaching, she got her guidance certificate. That allowed her to supplement her income counseling children at night and all the while keeping her fingers on the pulse of the newly developing field of adolescent guidance counseling.
We’ve always suspected that school principals chat among themselves. I’d even go so far as to guess that there is an underground newspaper. So, it wasn’t long before the principal at Meadowdale called Mrs. Fahner to the office to say that Miss Folger at Fairview wanted to talk to her.
Now I’d wager that Miss Folger already knew pretty much everything she needed to know about Mrs. Fahner, even before the interview, but ever the perfectionist she wanted to make sure there wasn’t any character flaw that hadn’t made itself evident. Certainly you can’t have a counselor who needs a counselor…except in Hollywood.
At the end of the grilling, Mrs. Fahner demurely, yet confidently, asked to be considered for the post as Fairview’s first fulltime counselor. Miss Folger said she did intend to request Mrs. Fahner for the position, but “They usually want to give this sort of job to a man.”
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the remark was just part of Miss Folger’s desire to test Mrs. Fahner’s mettle.
All together, now. “Miss Folger gets what Miss Folger wants.”
A week later the official envelope came in the mail, but only after a small bit of melodrama played itself out late in the year in a staff meeting at Meadowdale.
With stern face, the principal pronounced, “June, you won’t be coming back next year,” followed by a pause that must have seemed interminable to our heroine.
“You’re going to be a counselor at Fairview.”
I’m sure the crowd went wild, as everyone knew how driven their June Mary was to follow her star to counsel highschoolers.
This was her dream job. Now she would counsel the way she felt it needed to be done…working for someone who understood the type of support that was essential. She saw her task as encompassing the broadest meaning of counseling and whatever it took to solve a problem was what she was prepared to give. There could be no limits.
Rightfully so, some teachers needed to draw lines, not to be crossed. If you aren’t prepared to deal properly and constructively with someone’s problems, then you probably shouldn’t. Personal and family problems, career concerns, intimacy issues, college assistance, peer pressure, stress…anything and everything. It was all fair game. There was no, “It’s not my job.” She was there to remove hurdles that stood in the way of not just learning, but developing as young adults.
Sounds like someone took to heart the mission statement on the arch above Third & Main
She worked at Fairview for the next twenty years until it closed as a four-year high school….always making it a point to stay current in her profession thanks to Northwestern’s excellent continuing education program. To say that there were lots of changes in counseling and guidance from the early ‘60s to the early ‘80s is a profound understatement. Imagine how our world changed in those years and you begin to see what challenges faced a counselor.
Sure, Fairview had “good bones,” but that didn’t make her immune to societal turmoil from without. Those changes had to be magnified many fold in the crucible of adolescence at Fairview as she struggled to survive, endure and thrive. To the benefit of everyone she encountered at Fairview and her final years at Colonel White, Mrs. Fahner continued to do her job the way she knew it deserved to be done.
“You listen, you ask, you listen. You’re not in a hurry to answer. Listen to what is being said…what is really being said…and what isn’t being said.”
Folks like Mrs. Fahner were there to make sure you could function well enough to use the other tools Fairview had provided. Even if you never met or talked with her, she helped create that climate of security, caring about others and nurture that was so integral to what Fairview was really all about. Just knowing you had someone to talk to if you ever needed to, mattered so very much.
Trust me. I’m right on this one.
If you think back fondly on Fairview…if you turned out to be a decent human being…drop Mrs. Fahner a note and say thanks.
Mrs. Melva Gorham, April 2010
You Do the Math
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted April 2010
“Mrs. Gorham? This is Dan Wolfe, Fairview, Class of 1965. I’m following up on a letter that I sent last month and I see that I’ll be in Dayton next Friday around 2PM. I was wondering if I might stop by and visit with you then.”
“Oh, no. I have my hair done Fridays at 1PM.”
“Would later be OK?”
“I should be home by about 3. That would be fine.”
Like the comedy line goes, that was déjà vu all over again. Suddenly I was remembering my grandmother’s visits every other Wednesday afternoon for a malted milk after she’d been to the beauty salon for her shampoo and set. Like clockwork. That was very much part of a social ritual for older ladies then and apparently still now.
At 96, Mrs. Gorham is the most senior of all of Fairview’s faculty and staff with whom I’ve been able to re-connect in the past year or so. She lives in her own apartment in a very nice retirement community in northwest Dayton and she is still the picture of health. The only concession to her age that I noted was a walker in a corner of her living room, but I never saw her use it.
It was also nice that she looks just about the same. Put her picture next to the one in your yearbook, swap out the black hair for white, and it’s the same lady.
Tell me you remember Mrs. Gorham by her maiden name, Pickering, and I’ll put an asterisk next to your name. Since this is 2010, this math teacher hopes your computational skills are still sharp enough to figure that she was born in 1914. That’s a lot of water under the bridge. In her hometown of Defiance, Ohio she attended grade school, high school and college — all going by the name of Defiance., before teaching math for two years at, you guessed it, Defiance High School. (If you don’t know where Defiance is, it’s in Defiance County.) While doing post grad work in education and mathematics at the University of Dayton she met and married Ernie Gorham and they settled into life in the Cornell and Philadelphia neighborhood.
Depending on the setting on your time machine, you could remember their children, JoAnn, Class of 1957 and Jim, ’62. (Maybe the walker belongs to one of them?) In fact it was quite common for the children of our teachers to go to our school. As parents, they wanted to make sure the school system offered the best possible education for their children. As teachers, they were in the best possible position to ensure that it was. It was all part of the neighborhood school template of that time.
Apparently math was in her family’s blood. Her father worked in the tool & die trade, which relied heavily on ciphering, as it was called. It was the frequent topic of conversation at the dinner table. Young Melva was just comfortable with all things math and she enjoyed absorbing and sharing the skill as she grew up. So, put two and two together and her destiny as a math teacher was secure. Her younger brother put the same DNA to good use as an engineer.
In 1958, with the business of parenting and wifing under control, Mrs. Gorham was able to once again indulge her passion for teaching math.
As I speak with our teachers from the ‘50s and ‘60s, I never tire of learning how they came to practice their craft at our Fairview. We all subscribe to Fairview of that era being a Mecca for the best and brightest — across the board — administration, faculty, staff, students. And unless you believe that all happened by blind luck, it will come as no surprise to you that another Defiance College grad made sure Mrs. Gorham ended up where she belonged.
It so happened that Mr. Melva Gorham worked as an HR Director at Inland Mfg. in Dayton. In that capacity he had acquaintances in government, business, fraternal, social and community service circles of the time. And it was through his contacts with the Board of Education that he came to know Mr. Don Longnecker, Defiance College, ’14.
This is where I’ll trust you to do the math.
From 1958 to 1971 she did what she did best, taught math and helped us come to grips with the myriad developmental challenges of becoming adults. Chances are you would have been in either her Algebra I, II or Geometry class. Since she left the accelerated math courses to the likes of Mr. Ashworth and Mrs. Rinehart, her job was arguably more difficult. Exponents and polynomials don’t come easily to those of us outside the rocket science bell curve. Understanding often comes kicking and screaming and then only if there is an extra measure of patience and the teaching is so fundamentally inspired.
While no one doubts Fairview’s excellence as a college preparatory school, teachers like Mrs. Gorham serve to reinforce the reality that the same superb education was available in the general curriculum as well.
It is telling that her favorite course was Geometry, since it afforded her the opportunity to watch us develop logical and structured-thinking skills. Remember Geometry? Proofs and theorems? It wasn’t about solving for unknowns. As often as not, you already knew the answer; you just had to show you knew how to get there. It was critical thinking — very much a skill set that comes in handy pretty much every day.
Her husband retired in 1971 and he left no doubt in her mind that that meant Florida and fishing. When he died all too soon in 1979, Mrs. Gorham stayed down south with her new circle of friends. As with age, they too passed away, she returned to Dayton to re-kindle even older bonds of friendship, community and church affiliation — not to mention making sure her favorite hair salon was still there.
Nothing says more about commitment to staying connected with family and friends than the small e-mail computer on the desk just off the living room. She uses it daily.
Don’t believe for a minute that our Mrs. Gorham is old. She just happens to be 96.
Mr. James Binkley, photo from a 1965 class yearbook
Dear Mrs. Binkley…Vivian… by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted January 2010
Thank you again for the opportunity to visit yesterday and start to understand and appreciate the James Binkley I never knew.
In addition to a full stomach, I came away with a reinforced sense of what made our Fairview unique—consistent with what I have heard in other recent interviews with staff and faculty, yet now from the slightly detached perspective of a surviving spouse. You told me several times how sorry you were that I could not have had the conversation with him, but at the outset I want you to know that you did an outstanding job of impressing upon me how intensely your husband felt about his craft, his students and his school. The concern is now mine that I can translate his story to reflect due credit on his contribution to making Fairview, Fairview.
I always enjoy hearing the biographical background of our teachers. It helps us to understand them as people, before they were our teachers. The Reader’s Digest version is that he was born in 1923 in Bellefontaine, Ohio and went to the local high school. I’ll take a giant leap of faith here and guess that was Bellefontaine High School. Both rooms, right?
It’s also not much of a stretch to understand that when one graduated from high school in 1941, chances of being drafted were flirting with 100%. College and marriage to a young Vivian Bennett would have to wait until 1946 and five years of service as a combat engineer. I found it interesting that both he and I share the thought that military service is a profoundly formative experience, teaching us to work as part of a team to accomplish a mission and that perhaps all human males should be probationary until they have been so imprinted. Or maybe it’s just that misery loves company.
The GI Bill and a scholarship allowed him to attend Georgetown College for his BA in English. I sense that perhaps his love for theatre could be traced back to courses he took there and I can see how a bit of training in drama would serve to round out a comprehensive study of English, even if it wasn’t mandatory. Then it was off to Wittenberg for his Masters before settling into life as an English teacher back in Bellefontaine. Do I have that right?
So how does our hero come to wind up in the big city? I love this part!
In 1963, as part of what was known as Teacher’s Day, he was obliged to spend time observing teaching in another school system. Comparing notes, so to speak. He was given the option of Fairview or Colonel White, but had no basis to decide which. As luck would have it, an acquaintance who worked at CW advised him that Fairview might be the better choice. Duh! And if you’re still inclined to believe in trusting to luck, he somehow ended up observing in none other than Room 101—that would be Miss Herbst’s Senior English, aka The Humanities.
Your Jim quickly understood he was somewhere special and he lost no time in connecting with Miss H and discussing all things English, I suspect. He came home to you that very evening and was overflowing with how impressed he was by the program at Fairview. While he was happy enough in Bellefontaine, he now knew there was something more that really good teachers were doing
Now this next part has a bit of speculation, but I dare you to fault my logic. Close your eyes and you can just see Dottie stopping by the office the next day to chat with her good friend Theresa. (Yes, I know I’ll go to Hell for that, too…thanks…just add it to the list.) She tells her what an asset this engaging, like-minded fellow would be to the program and no sooner than you can grab your Cliffs Notes for The Old Man and the Sea, Miss Folger was on the phone to Mr. Royer, Superintendent of Schools for DPS at the time. The next thing you know, the phone is ringing at BHS and our young man from Logan County is on his way downtown to interview.
Maybe the line in Harry Potter is true. The wand does pick the wizard.
So now the round peg is in the round hole and Mr. James Binkley starts at Fairview in the fall of 1963, teaching Junior English. Since I was having ever so much fun with Mr. Detrick’s Advanced Composition and Literature, I now see why our paths never crossed. I found it of note that you mentioned he was given the option of teaching both regular and hi-test English. That speaks volumes to how this new hire was trusted with FHS’s best and brightest, right off the bat.
I hadn’t intended for this thank-you note to turn into a book, but you told me so much about how completely connected our Mr. Binkley was to everything Fairview. As you attempted to share with me how he thought, you were good enough to explain it a bit differently each time. So what, repetition is the soul of education, or something? See, like your husband, you’re a fine educator.
Here was a teacher who, like others I’ve talked with recently, was prepared to use every resource at his disposal to help us develop as people. Education was important, but it was just one part of what needed to happen. To achieve his ends, he seemed most comfortable in relating to us in many different ways…whatever it took. If he needed to be a substitute parent, a friend, a counselor, a confidant, he was ready. Now in hindsight it’s clear to me how he was able to parlay his interest in dramatics into a vehicle for relating to us on yet another level—teacher, sure, but not the sort who taught only in a classroom. There is a picture in my 1965 yearbook where a dozen or so of my classmates—a drama club, I’m sure—are horsing around with Mr. Binkley. Not taking themselves seriously, just having a good time.
All part of the plan.
You used the word “cohesive” to good effect. He taught by forming bonds with his students and the two of you were both essential parts of that chemistry. If there was something going on at the school, you were there, seeing and being seen, and allowing us to see new dimensions of our teachers. Now suddenly they were people, too. They laughed at jokes, wore shirts without ties, and had their own families. Who knew? They even danced. Eeeew!
All our teachers were role models, but I can’t imagine a more positive influence on our little pea brains. I did not know your husband, yet I surely benefitted from that type of exposure.
I especially like how you were able to put his outlook on teaching into a nutshell for me. “Good teaching…it is the response to the seed that counts.” This is where I tell myself to shut up and not try to amplify what is already perfectly clear.
It will come to you as no surprise that my favorite part of our three hours together was your response to my question about what you thought your husband would have done if he hadn’t become a teacher. You thought for a good ten seconds and then, without even knowing it, put your hand on top of mine on the dinette table and I knew it was time to answer for you, even though your silence had been the best answer possible.
Be very proud, Mrs. Binkley. I’m sure he is. Please stay well and know how much we appreciate all you have shared with us…helping us fill in the blanks.
What better tribute than to share an understanding?
Very truly yours,
This is a very sad intro to write. Mr. Ashworth died in April 2010, only a few months after this interview. Dan Wolfe has captured the essence of Mr. Ashworth's success as a teacher and many of you have reiterated what a terrific teacher and man he was. He was respected, kind, humorous and patient. We were indeed fortunate to have a such a man devote his time to teaching us Fairview. He took great pride in the successes of his many students. Enjoy this brief journey into Mr. Ashworth's life! We hope the story renews your appreciation of him.
Mr. Darrel Ashworth, December 2009
Solving for X by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted December 2009
The mere mention of the word could bring us to our knees. It was the stuff of nightmares for early teenagers.
OK, even for us adults.
If sitting next to the cutie in homeroom was at one end of the scale, taking an Algebra test was certainly at the other.
Arithmetic, well, maybe, as long as it’s just simple addition and you’ve got a pencil and a big eraser that won’t shred the paper. Then there was math. Somehow that meant complicated arithmetic, didn’t it? Now you’ll probably expect me to do long division and isn’t that why we have computers? But Algebra, that was something all together different and infinitely more complicated with a good dose of scary and my brain instantly locks up so don’t bother even trying. You had to be some sort of real genius to fathom that.
Well, at the very least, it took a real teacher and that’s why Mr. Darrel Ashworth taught at Fairview High School. He understood that youngsters don’t necessarily bring into high school the requisite sense of structure and reasoning to deal with Algebra. It’s something that has to be explained and developed. And he was more than willing to do that. He also understood that the different “feeder” elementary schools, Fairview, Cornell Heights, Loos and Gettysburg with their different teachers and priorities may have not given everyone the same skills. And in fact they may have even imparted an incorrect or incomplete approach to problem-solving that needed to be dismantled before rebuilding.
It would have been so easy for a teacher to just take the text book du jour and start to force-feed the class. Some would get it; some wouldn’t. It took a special discipline to overcome the problem.
Unless you sleep with an atlas under your pillow, you probably don’t know where Daniels, West Virginia is. Well, in 1921, when our Mr. Ashworth was born, it didn’t have a stop light. Then it was on to Welch High School and, no, I don’t know if their mascot was the Fighting Grape.
By the time he was 16, he was one of those kids who could fly small Piper Cubs…almost certainly not something the FAA knew about. And it wasn’t long before that ability would be important as the dark clouds of global conflict were looming.
That would be Global Conflict II.
He chose to serve in the Navy because of their flight training. He cut his teeth on bi-plane trainers, then mastered more contemporary single and then multi-engine fixed-gear, retractable and pontoon-landers. As an officer he was flying combat patrols in both the Atlantic and Pacific…fun stuff like reconnaissance for Axis submarines with early and primitive sonar detection equipment.
After the war, he attended Marshall College (became a university in 1961) in Huntington, WV for both his BA and his Masters in math and education followed by advance work at OSU and the University of Chicago. His words…“I liked teaching young kids and seeing them reason it out.”
Get it? He enjoyed watching the learning. That made the difference with Mr. Ashworth and he was prepared to deal with whatever was in the way of that learning. He got up in the morning wanting to teach college prep math.
Math is a discipline. That’s the secret. If you really want to learn math, your thinking has to be clear. There can’t be distraction. If there were personal problems, you dealt with them constructively so you could get on with the teaching. It was part of the job.
Here for the first time young minds had to master a different way of thinking. It was about structure, order, analysis, reasoning and sequence. It was nothing to be afraid of as long as your teacher knew that…it wasn’t always intuitive to the tiny little freshman braincells. Mr. Ashworth did understand that and he took the time to build the necessary way of thinking.
“You already know all the arithmetic you’ll ever need to do well in Algebra and beyond. I’m just here to help you think about how to use it.” What a concept. Tell us we already know something and then build on that.
Once the mechanics of Algebra were in order, Mr. Ashworth liked to use story problems as practice. “Life is a story problem. Why not kill two birds with one stone.” Here’s how the magic happened.
“If Molly has 6 more oranges than Polly and Polly has half as many oranges as Molly, how many oranges does each girl have?
OK, first thing. Don’t panic. It’s simple. Just look at it, step by step.
1. Write down what you know: Molly has 6 more oranges than Polly. Poll half as many oranges as Molly. Right?
2. Think about what you want to find out: How many oranges does each girl have?
3. Put what you know into algebraic form. This is the part that lost some students, but it just takes practice. Let’s call Molly “M” and Polly “P.” Deviously clever, so far, huh? If Molly has 6 more oranges than Polly, would it se safe to say that if you took six oranges away from Molly, they’d both have the same? Still with me? Then how about saying that as: M – 6 = P
Now onto the second thing we know…Polly has half as many oranges as Molly. Isn’t that the same as saying Molly has twice as many oranges as Polly? Sure it is. So, wouldn’t that be like saying M = 2P?
4. Now just a little sleight-of-hand. We know M = 2P and we know M – 6 = P, right? What do we do with this information? We manipulate it a bit. One approach is to equate equals. If two things both equal something, then they must be equal to themselves. Duh. So, to do that let’s get just M on one side of both equations. M = 2P is already done. M–6 = P needs work. We want to get the M by itself on the left of the equation. How do we get rid of the -6? To get rid of -6, just add 6 to it, OK? But remember, since it’s an equation, what you do to one side, you have to do to the other. Sounds fair, so if you add 6 to both sides you get M – 6 + 6 = P + 6... or … M = P + 6.
5. We’re almost done and your brain still isn’t bleeding, that’s good. So if M = 2P and M = P + 6, isn’t it safe to say 2P = P + 6? Wow, what happened to the Ms? Patience, Grasshopper. Now we have a nice simple equation with only one unknown, P. Mr. Ashworth used to say, “Now, just turn the crank and solve for the unknown.” If 2P = P + 6, then that higher mental function that separates us from our primate brethren tells us to subtract P from each side and, voila, P = 6.
6. Now just clean everything up. P = 6 means Polly has 6 oranges. Then you can put that information back into either of the equations developed earlier and see that Molly has 12 oranges. You’ve done it!
This is exactly what Mr. Ashworth did. No more, no less. And he would use every tool on his utility belt to make sure every one was on board. He was very good at not moving on until all the heads were nodding in the same direction. The secret was usually practice, lots and lots of practice. Homework, samples in class, quizzes and his favorite, practice up at the blackboard so he could help you in real time.
That’s called teaching.
That’s called learning.
Like I said, math was a discipline for Mr. Ashworth. He didn’t tolerate bad behavior in his classes. It got in the way of the process. And he wasn’t one to send anyone “down to the office.” He dealt with everything right there in the classroom. Think about that. Would you smart-off to a buzzcut former military officer? Not more than once!
Mr. Ashworth taught at Fairview from 1955 to 1969…at first, garden variety Algebra, then a more college prep oriented, accelerated Algebra I and II and Calculus curriculum was called for. That’s the 100 octane stuff.
Mr. Ashworth and his wife Arvada are both very proud of Fairview. It was a very good education for their five children. Some of us will remember their oldest, Donna, was valedictorian in the Class of ’69. Wow! He also has fond memories of socializing with the boys…fishing with Mr. Barger and Mr. Barker…and I suspect maybe, just maybe, the three of them knew how to open a bottle of beer together. I also doubt it was a 6-step process.
After fourteen years at FHS, he taught ten more at Oakwood before finishing up his professional teaching career at Sinclair College and Wright State.
I’ll leave it to you to do the math as to just how old Mr. Ashworth is now. OK, find the paper and the pencil with the big eraser. He’s still in good health and his children and their families all live here in Ohio. Don’t act too surprised when I tell you that he lives in a house with an American flag flying out front.
He has a lot to be proud of.
Most of us probably remember Mary Marts as the ever busy, helpful, cheerful, confident women who was comfortable with filing cabinets, phones, typewriters and a pile of work on her desk daily. She was an integral part of our life at FHS. We knew we respected and admired her, yet some of us did not know much about her. In this story, see why she was such an important part of Fairview.
Thank you Mary, for all you did!
Mary Marts Weishampel, March 2010
Lunch With Mary
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted March 2010
If you want to know about what made Fairview tick, who better to talk to than the school secretary.
Talk about the ultimate fly-on-the-wall! For six months now, I’ve been re-connecting with Fairview faculty and staff from ancient history—way back in the 60’s. I’ve met with Mr. Robert “Call me Bob” Bruggeman, Mrs. June Fahner, Mr. Howard Schumacher, Mr. Darrel Ashworth, Mrs. Dorothy Culp, Mr. Norm Feuer, Mrs. Felecia Rowe, Mr. James Binkley’s widow, Vivien, and Miss Barbara Minton. I have talked on the phone and will be arranging visits with Mrs. Melva Gorham, Mr. Phil Prather, Mr. Peter Bard’s widow, Virginia, and Mr. and Mrs. David Gates (Miss Arlene Calico). By way of daughter Julie, I’ll be talking with Mrs. Nettie Kitzes and I’m still trying to track down a few others, like Mrs. Lynn Johnson Olive. Throughout all this dialogue, I’ve heard the same thing. “If you don’t believe me, ask Mary.” “Check with Mary. She’ll know.” “ I really can’t remember, but Mary Marts will.
Alright, already. But initial on-line searches came up empty for Mary Marts. Eventually it was Mr. Schumacher who ratted her out. He told me that she re-married back in the mid-70s and was now Mary Weishampel. Sure enough, zabasearch.com confirmed there was a Mary Weishampel age 79, living in Huber Heights. So a few weeks after the obligatory letter of query went out, I followed it up with a phone call. It was one of those good news, bad news calls. The goods news was that I’d found our Mary Marts. The bad news was that she’d just lost her second husband and it just wasn’t the right time for idle reminiscence.
But in early March I took the opportunity to call her back to check and see how she was coping with life and yes, see if I might be able to wangle an invitation to visit and chat about our favorite subject, Fairview. Well, the gods were smiling on me that day and she said she’d be delighted to have me stop by. She had just finished wading through a mountain of her husband’s paperwork and had managed to find everything she needed to have her taxes done. Now she could take a deep breath and relax. My timing was perfect. Why, she said she even had a stack of yearbooks from the 20 years she was at Fairview that was all mine for the taking.
I spent the next week formulating the questions I wanted to ask her. Of course I wanted to learn about Mary Marts the person, but also this was a chance to access the mother load of information, both factual and anecdotal, about the internal workings of Fairview. Who, what, when, where, how and why. The scripted questions I’d been asking our teachers were no longer appropriate if I wanted to learn as much as I could from this unique perspective.
The young lady we remember as Mrs. Marts, was born Mary Secrist, right here in Dayton and, yes, like all good story lines go, she attended Fairview, taking college prep courses, even being in the National Honor Society before graduating in 1949. One day in her senior year she remembers Miss Folger stopping her in the hallway and asking what her plans were for the next year. When Mary said she planned on going to Wittenberg, Miss Folger seemed less than thrilled, as if to say Mary wasn’t setting her sights high enough.
Well, in fact Wittenberg wasn’t her cup of tea and in 1950 career options for young girls were not unlimited. Nursing, teaching and secretarying pretty much took care of it. Nursing required way too much college. Teaching, I don’t think so. And off to Miami Jacobs Business College it was and along the way in 1951 marrying James Marts, who was in the National Guard.
A lot happened in a hurry then. During a brief stint as school secretary at Colonel White she became pregnant. I understand they know what causes that, now. Husband James got orders for a posting in Louisiana enroute to Korea. Check your history books. The early ‘50s weren’t the best of times to visit Korea. (As I recall, Fort Polk, Louisiana wasn’t much better.) There were complications with the pregnancy and while she was in the hospital at WPAFB, James was granted emergency leave and ultimately a hardship discharge. Fortunately they had a fine son, Thomas, to show for their troubles
So now it’s 1954 and she has enlisted the aid of an employment agency to help her find another job. Here’s the part for all of you who believe in fate. Fairview’s secretary was retiring and somehow the grapeview let Mr. Longnecker, principal from 1920 to 1962, know that a Fairview grad with school secretary experience was available. He hired her on the spot, much to the chagrin of the Board of Education and the employment agency. I guess when you’re The Mr. Donald D. Longnecker, you could get away with it.
$25 a week, 7:30AM to 4:00PM, just so you don’t have to ask.
For the next twenty years she would spend her typical day dealing with people. More often than not, there would be 2 or 3 student office assistants helping with the chores of answering the phone, typing, filing and running hither and yon at the behest of any of those folks up the food chain. That allowed Mary to do pretty much whatever needed to be done. In no time at all she won the complete trust of Mr. L and Miss F and she returned the favor by becoming an extension of their authority and will. She was another set of ears and eyes to help them keep a pulse on their extended family of well over a thousand. She told them what they needed to know and was happy to handle whatever needed to be dealt with on a day to day basis. If that meant stopping two boys fighting in the hallway, OK. Suspend a mouthy and unruly youngster and then call the parents and tell them about it, no problem. Probably even locked horns with an intransigent teacher or three. That freed the principal and assistant principal to take care of the arguably more important tactical and strategic issues – making Fairview the academic and developmental powerhouse that it was.
Mary will be the first to tell you that her years at Fairview were the best and most fulfilling of her life. She served in the same capacity for Mr. Longnecker, Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer. Secretary evolved into a position that defied conventional description. It was at once enforcer, guardian, foil, confidant, gatekeeper and advisor…part executive, part legislative and part judicial…and, as luck would have it, friendship followed. “They were family.”
When Mr. Feuer left Fairview in 1974 to become Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, he asked her to come along as his assistant. She stayed there until she retired in 1984, all the while hating the politics that permeated pretty much all aspects of business as usual at the Board of Education. It sure wasn’t Fairview, she said.
Along the way James and Mary Marts did the extreme cruelty and mental anguish thing and in 1975 she upgraded to being Mrs. Howard Weishampel for thirty-five years. If you ever have the privilege of talking with her, be sure to congratulate her on being a 20-year cancer survivor.
And then there’s all the neat stuff that I learned about Fairview and the teachers now so indelibly etched in our minds. Unfortunately, I had to take an oath of silence and a vow of extreme retribution about certain personal revelations.
What did Miss Folger say when Jack Berkemeier was so happy about it being Thursday?
How did Mr. Feuer train his most trusted teacher cadre to detect the smell of marijuana?
What did Mr. Detrick and Miss Oliver have in common?
Was Miss Herbst really a CIA operative?
And one more thing. Maybe, just maybe, I understand a bit more about magic.
P.S. She also gave me her Rolodex cards. Yes, the ones with all the handwritten notes and I know scary things about each and every one of you.
Miss Minton had us a bit puzzled when we first met her. How could someone
who looked so young be a high school teacher? She seemed almost like a classmate, yet we knew she had backbone which was something we were still forming as high school students. We quickly grew to respect and admire her and became aware that she would certainly be there for us if we needed her assistance or advice. Like so many faculty at FHS, she was definitely a step above average and we sensed it. You'll certainly enjoy this story about Barbara Minton.
Barbara Minton, March 2010
Barely Older Than Us by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted
No question about it. The youngest teacher at Fairview in 1964-65 was Miss Barbara Minton. All of 21 and just out of college, she was all but indistinguishable from many of the students. In fact, the first week there she was told once to go to the office for being out in the hall between classes.
Barbara. There I said it. Barbara is the first of the dozen or so teachers I’ve spoken with in the past months who I’ve felt comfortable calling by her given name. It isn’t like I respect her any less. Far from it. It’s purely an age thing. People who are as old as my parents would have been, automatically get the obligatory Mr. or Mrs. title. Barbara Minton is still a youngster, just like us!
Born in Winter Park, Florida, she moved to Athens, Ohio with her mother shortly after WWII when her parents divorced. That was home then and still is today. Following local primary and secondary schooling she went to Athens Senior High, also known as Ohio University, where she pursued a degree in English with plans to work in the publishing field.
It was only at the pragmatic insistence (insert your favorite synonym here) of her mother that she agreed to get her teaching certificate, but teaching was the last thing on earth she wanted to do with her life. Part and parcel of that certification, however, was student teaching, so during her senior year she found herself walking into an eighth grade English class. Sensing an opportunity to test Barbara’s mettle, the teacher greeted her with, “Today’s lesson is on page 84. They’re all yours.” Lesser people might have run screaming from the room, but Barbara Minton relished the challenge and was quickly bitten by the teaching bug.
Back in the ‘60s there was a teacher shortage and urban Ohio school systems routinely went to college campuses to recruit graduates. That’s how still-wet-behind-the-ears Barbara Minton came to interview at the Dayton Board of Education and subsequently be hired and assigned to Fairview High School.
Another It’s a Small World story: During the summer of ’64, she decided to stop by Fairview and introduce herself to Miss Folger. It’s always nice to put a face with a name. She remembers waiting patiently outside Mrs. Rowe’s summer Civics and Social Problems class in Room 122. I would have been in that very classroom at that time, no doubt being a source of considerable frustration for Mrs. Rowe.
Barbara Minton’s first year at Fairview was not the stuff of fond memories and scrapbook clippings. There were those who felt she was too young, as in “How did you get this job?” At the first PTA meeting she was cornered by one parent and asked, “Why are you qualified to teach my child?” Welcome to Friendly Fairview, huh? After a less than sterling interim evaluation, she was taken under the wings of Mrs. Mary Marts and Miss Dorothy Herbst and quickly learned the ropes.
In no time at she rallied to become one of Miss Folger’s favorites, initially doing whatever “odd jobs” the likes of Mrs. Culp didn’t have time for and accompanying Miss Folger to this, that and the other event—all on top of teaching a full schedule of English literature and composition to each and every grade in the school. She quickly came to enjoy teaching Honors classes as they gave her the latitude to teach whatever and however. Nothing speaks better to the level of trust and respect she enjoyed than the fact that when Miss Herbst retired at the end of the 1971 school year, Miss Minton was chosen to teach Senior Honors English. Very big shoes, indeed.
But then that was why she got paid the “big money”—$130 every two weeks as she recalls. That was just enough for an apartment on Hillcrest within walking distance of the school. Car? What car? TV? What TV?
Don’t ask me how, but she also found the time and energy to handle adult night school for Miss Folger and eventually advisor duties for the Tower News, The Tower of Memories (yearbook), cheerleading and Student Council. Throw in a few tours as Class Advisor, too, just for good measure. Be mindful that none of these responsibilities paid a dime extra and could have been passed off to someone who didn’t care as much. But also realize the different time and place we’re talking about here. Mr. Longnecker, Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer created a climate where excellence was the expectation and that translated from the administration to the faculty and staff and, in turn, to the students.
Barbara Minton taught at Fairview until it closed as a four-year high school in 1981-82 and saw a lifetime of change. But in the very next breath she will be the first to tell you that Fairview was more than up to the challenges it faced. Fairview remained Fairview and was able to fulfill the expectation to the very end.
Her final two years at FHS were spent as a “teacher on special assignment.” That is the polite way of saying the school system didn’t have to pay her any extra for being the Acting Assistant Principal. Starting in the fall of 1982 she returned to the English classroom at Meadowdale for two years before heading off to Kaiser. There she served as Assistant Principal for a year and a half and then Principal until 1992. To round out her 30 years of service, she spent her last year as Building Administrator at the Career Academy in downtown Dayton. Who knew?
Even while Barbara was able to be a part of Fairview’s glory days, she was aware that there may have been shortcomings. Not being blind to an obvious fault is an important part of what made the best Fairview teachers so special. In the ‘50s the idea of college as part of the American dream became integral to our psyche as a culture and nowhere was that more profoundly embraced than at Fairview. “Who wouldn’t want to go to college?” For its part, Fairview became all about preparation for college. The Upper Dayton View demographic demanded no less.
But the fact of the matter is that college was not and is not a perfect fit for everyone. And Barbara Minton added her assent to the comments of other Fairview teachers who felt that some students ended up being caught up in that gold rush, only to find out too late that it was the inappropriate choice. And in a similar vein, you have to ask yourself if there was the same commitment to excellence in developing courses of study for business and vocational students. Maybe some of the trees could not be seen for the forest. The fact that Fairview’s dropout rate was very high among such students speaks volumes to the likely truth of this assertion.
To hear Barbara tell it, change became the rule rather than the exception beginning in the late ‘60s, but it was so much more than the one-dimensional shift that you might want to attribute to changes in the school’s racial profile. Fairview could no longer remain a microcosm of excellence for the upper middle class. Television made sure that the problems of the world would be Fairview’s as well. Call them problems, call them challenges, but drug abuse, lack of funding for extracurricular activities, proliferation of teen pregnancy, teachers who were unable to adapt to change and myriad other eventualities became part of a daily dynamic that would cause anyone’s head to spin.
But I have it on good authority that Fairview not only survived, she thrived. Fairview continued to evolve to be what her students needed her to be. That can come as a surprise to no one.
How lucky we were to have experienced the wonderful gift Mrs. Rowe gave to us.
To graduate from FHS we were required to take Social Studies. However, in the end it did not seem like a requirement. We wanted to be in her Social Studies class. Immediately stepping into her class, we knew we were fortunate to have Mrs. Rowe for a teacher. Social Studies with her taught us how to think and act in a world full of people with very diverse perspectives. She helped us realize how to interact in the real world. She prepared us for the future by helping us develop into more mature thinking young adults. What a gift that was.
Mrs. Felecia Rowe, February 2010
Mrs. Felecia Rowe A Study In Relevance by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted February 2010
Conversation among Fairview High School alumni invariably turns to which teachers were our favorites or the best or had the most impact on who we are as individuals or a generation. One name is on everyone’s short list: Mrs. Felecia Rowe.
I’ll admit to a mixture of excitement and concern about my get-together with Mrs. Rowe — excited that I was going to meet with one of my favorite teachers and concerned that I would be able to ask relevant questions. As it turned out, relevance seemed to be the operative word for the day.
OK, while you were sliding your finger along the screen reading the last paragraph, did you pronounce her last name like row, row, row your boat or like ouch I just hurt myself with an “R” in front of it? Actually she would respond to either. Or is it either?
Down south, in her husband’s family, it was “ow” but as Mr. and Mrs. moved north, they saw it become the long ō sound. Just so you don’t agonize over it.
Felecia Payne was born in 1929 in Charlottesville, Virginia and for those of you in need of a social studies refresher course, that was a very segregated time and place. Nonetheless she remembers primary and secondary schooling in her hometown as enjoyable and competitive.
“We wanted to do well and we were encouraged by our teachers. It was a complete educational experience, including sports, music and after-school activities.”
North Carolina A&T College with its “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” philosophy was the ideal place for young blacks so motivated. She graduated in 1948 with a baccalaureate degree in Social Studies and promptly returned to her hometown to teach the social sciences at Albemarle Training School. For consecutive summers while teaching, she attended Boston College for her Masters in Social Sciences.
Why teaching? Teaching was one of a very few significant career options for black women. Why Social Studies? There was a potential to help and a way to explain social differences. Relevance.
1955 was a “Dear Diary” year for Felecia Payne, as she received her M.A., married James Rowe and followed him to Dayton, Ohio where he would be teaching at Dunbar High School. She remembers vividly a Sunday drive where they went past a school in the suburbs and her husband told her, “That’s Fairview. It’s the best school in Dayton.”
It made perfect sense that she submitted her teaching credentials for a position with the same school system. So when she hadn’t heard anything from the Board of Education by late summer, she took time out from a downtown shopping trip to stop by the Board of Education to see what was what. The man who called the shots at the time was Mr. Royer and he was puzzled that he had not seen Mrs. Rowe’s paperwork. He promised that he would find the missing application and get back to her promptly.
True to his word, Mr. Royer called her back that very evening to say that he had just been informed that Fairview’s longtime Social Studies teacher had had a stroke and wouldn’t be returning. So her second interview went pretty much like, “When can you start?” Sounds like there was just enough time between the two encounters for Mr. Royer to have had a heart-to-heart with Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger.
The strength of the relationship between Mrs. Rowe and the administrations of Mr. Longnecker, Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer to follow, was paramount to her ability to be the teacher we remember. She still smiles when she thinks of them. “Mr. Longnecker said he didn’t have to visit the classroom to know how a teacher was doing. He could tell from the students he talked to every day in the hallway.”
One day in the midst of a pang of frustration and insecurity, Mrs. Rowe complained to her boss that she felt she wasn’t getting across to her students, that she just wasn’t making a difference. He consoled her, saying that she was, on both counts, but that it might take years for her to realize it. She didn’t want to wait, but she trusted his counsel and was inclined to believe him.
Fast forward to 1964. Since my senior year schedule was full of math, science and Miss Herbst, I was obliged to take Civics and Social Problems during the preceding summer. And I would be less than truthful if I said that I did not come to my first day of Mrs. Rowe’s class without that bit of prejudice embedded in us by our families and our exposure to the world at large. All that became irrelevant in the first five minutes. Her intensity and enthusiasm didn’t leave any room for unfounded prejudices.
So for a summer’s worth of Sundays we had to read The New York Times and be responsible for substantive discussion wherever conversation on Monday would lead. How’s that for current events? And through such conversation we would weigh in with opinion on how we felt about various issues: capital punishment, civil rights, politics du jour, you name it. Once she knew where we stood, she would turn the tables on us. Pros became cons, cons were now pros and we were obliged to support the position contrary to our stated views. And she made sure we did it with compelling sincerity and force of conviction. Just a little something to help us appreciate the opposing perspective.
Social studies? Sure. Relevance? Absolutely.
While young people usually tended to be more accepting of her than adults, she recounted the day when a student, who shall remain nameless, went so far as to say he didn’t think blacks should be moving into white neighborhoods. He embellished his opinion with the standard rhyme and reasoning of the time: blacks should stay in their place, see what problems it causes, property values plunge, we don’t like them and they don’t like us. When she then pressed him about how he would feel if she moved into the house next door to him, “Well, that’s not the same,” was the best he could counter.
Game, set, match.
Race, like all the other biases out there: gender, sexual orientation, wealth, popularity, religion, did not matter in and of itself. It only became relevant when it affected the way you thought and acted. That was the final exam.
Her view as a minority served us well again this year in our conversation. She pointed out that the sizable Jewish community in Dayton View was significant in motivating Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger to make Fairview the academic powerhouse that it became. As did all parents, they wanted their children to succeed and passed along the expectation for them to be challenged in high school, get into good colleges and do well once there. This political lesson from their constituency was not lost on Mr. Longnecker or Miss Folger and they promptly started to translate it into advanced level courses, taught by bright, young teachers.
She also went on to share another thought from the disadvantaged perspective. In its rush to improve its college preparatory status, might Fairview have done so to the detriment of students for whom that was not the appropriate path? Did the vocational, arts, domestic and business programs suffer in the process? Were young adults unintentionally left behind before it became the catchphrase for the current educational model?
Just as Mrs. Rowe brought change to Fairview in the ‘50s and taught us its relevance in the ‘60s, she continued to embrace it into the ‘70s and beyond. Drugs and welfare went from being abstracts to a relatively privileged demographic to realities of life in a more urban setting. Relevance. She admitted that she wasn’t always able to stay ahead of the curve and sometimes it was left to her students to tell her the facts of life as Fairview evolved.
We barely scratched the surface in our four plus hours of conversation, but I left the encounter a different person than I had been, just like forty-five years before. In parting, and on behalf of all of us, I took the opportunity to tell her that Mr. Longnecker was right. She did reach us and she did make a difference. And she’s still relevant.
Mrs. Dorothy Culp, just the name brings back fond memories. To many FHS alumni she was most certainly one of our favorite faculty. We were fond of her. She was a true role model. Someone you quite simply admired to the utmost. We sensed her wisdom. She was a teacher, a mentor, a counselor and sometimes it felt like she was family, if only wishing could make it so. She is remembered dearly by many of us, not only for her teaching and counseling but for being a such stabilizing influence on us during our youth, just by being herself.
Mrs. Dorothy Culp, December 2009
Mrs. Dorothy Culp…a very nice lady
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted December 2009
If you want to understand why Fairview was such a wonderful place in the 1960s, just get to know Mrs. Culp.
I do, so I did.
At the outset it has to be said that she is all about family and it is nothing more than that passion that allowed her to be the person we remember at Fairview. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
We all recall her as the nice middle-aged English teacher…not a mean bone in her body, always had time to talk about something on your mind and always there after school doing those thousands of things that mattered to us…organizing, chaperoning, assisting…mainly just being there for us. Like I said, nice.
So when I first started to explore my interest in what made Fairview, Fairview, it became obvious that answers would certainly lie in understanding why some of the faculty and staff are part of that first mental picture that forms in our minds when we indulge ourselves and think back to the time. And when I was told that Mrs. Culp was still living in the Dayton area, there was no doubt that her 94 years would be able to fill in a lot of blanks in the story.
Look, there she is again, that nice lady. I didn’t have her as a teacher, did you? No? Then why is it everyone remembers Mrs. Culp?
Patience, patience, my young Padawan Apprentice, Obi-Wan will teach, but you must let the Force surround you.
So quick, do the math, Jeri, when was she born? Time’s up…1915. Born in New Bedford, PA and calling Youngstown home, Dorothy Cowden was educated at Wittenberg and got her credentials to teach a diverse curriculum of English, speech, drama, fine arts…you know, stuff. Back then there wasn’t that brutal specialization attempting to make you an expert in a tiny little niche. You had a more general skill that students in the real world needed to know…to get where they were going. Nice.
As luck would have it, she met Howard Merritt Culp while at college and in 1936 they came back to Dayton to help manage the family business….Culp’s Cafeteria….the enterprise that Mr. Culp’s grandfather started as a tiny lunch counter in the Dayton Arcade when it opened in 1902.
Tell me your parents never went to Culp’s Cafeteria and you’ll have to explain to me why you are some sort of foreign spy sent here to infiltrate us and learn all our secrets.
While Mr. Culp was running the business outside the home, Mrs. Culp was taking care of business inside the home, living in Dayton View and raising John (Jack) and Jan. Part of the daunting task of being a good parent was making sure children got the best possible education.
OK, OK, put your hands down. I know you see where this is going, but not so fast. With children at Fairview High, Mrs. Culp become the consummate school parent, helping out there with whatever needed to be done….volunteering to help make all those extra curricular activities happen….safely, with just the right touch of parental supervision…never obtrusive, just there to make sure. Think Scotchette Mom.
It wasn’t until Jan was graduating in 1963 that Mrs. Culp felt comfortable thinking about becoming a teacher. That summer she took the necessary courses at Wright State to renew her teaching certificate and off she went to the Board of Education to interview. When asked if there was a particular school where she wanted to teach, you be surprised to learn that she did not mention Fairview. Of course she knew Mr. Longnecker, Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer so very well, but felt it might not be right to presume on those relationships built as a parent, now as a teacher.
Think about that. She was happy to go wherever the Board wanted to send her. And while it might be such an idyllic fairy tale ending to think how wonderful it was that she was placed at Fairview that very year, perhaps we know better. Mr. Longnecker before her and now Miss Folger were so established as icons of excellence in the Dayton Public Schools going back to the early ‘20s, that it would be naïve to think that Miss Folger would ever let someone like Mrs. Culp end up anywhere but Fairview.
Go ahead and tell me that once that interview downtown was over, the phone didn’t ring in the office at Fairview. Can you say fait accompli?
In the fall she started teaching English to sophomores and juniors. It was the usual mix of grammar, rhetoric, composition and literature what we all still remember from our nightmares. Remember seeing papers come back with two grades at the top…one for form and one for content?
Sorry, but I had to bring that up. Why should I be the only one to run screaming from the room?
Then it happened…November 22, 1963. When Miss Folger and Mr. Feuer got the word over the phone about what was happening in Dallas, they asked Mrs. Fahner and a lady who they trusted implicitly to give them good counsel, to come to the office. That would be our Mrs. Culp. There was discussion…whether to tell and then how to tell…and then with the four of them all in the little room off Miss Herbst’s class there was that ominous click of the PA system that froze a moment in time for us all…just after 1 o’clock.
There was concern over what to say and how to deal with it. Of course there was. Quickly a consensus was formed that the students would be told the story as it was unfolding and then they would be sent directly home, but in a staggered fashion to minimize any hysteria that might come from too many being in the hallways at once. With that plan in hand it was decided that it should be the strong voice of a man to try to offer some reassurance to students and teachers alike who could never be prepared to deal with what they were about to hear.
Mrs. Culp related the story how Mr. Feuer was uncertain what to say and with trembling hand, took the microphone. Then he felt a wonderful feeling of calm that comes from knowing how important it is to say what needs to be said…the right thing in the right way. And he did.
It wasn’t long after that that Miss Folger approached Mrs. Culp with a request. Miss Folger, or as she was known to the rest of the staff, Miss Folger, wanted help organizing the myriad special projects and events that dotted the year. And knowing how involved Mrs. Culp had been as a parent, making sure those events came off without a hitch, it was natural to hope that she would once again be able to rescue Miss Folger and free her to ensure that Fairview was staying the course of academic excellence that was now in full bloom.
Remember College Night? Good grief! Fairview had such a reputation that schools from the East made it a point to come here to talk with the students. Your don’t think those things just happened without hundreds of hours of planning, phoning, letter writing, and begging, pleading and calling-in-favors, do you? And there was Career Night with the same sort of formula. Bring in professionals from every imaginable career field to give short summaries of what they do for a living and then field questions. And it was good stuff…not some sort of idealized description of the jobs, but what sort of work was done, day in and day out. These mega-projects truly required a level of intense planning and organization if the event was to happen according to expectation.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. There were events, meetings, projects, social functions, community efforts, and traditions that needed a practiced hand to guide them from just being someone’s bright idea to successful completion. She even was in charge of making sure that if a teacher had to make a meeting or appointment during school, someone else would be asked/told to fill in for them…even if it meant losing their free time between classes.
Talk to Mrs. Culp about the very first Earth Day. Guess where. Guess who.
But pressures from the Board of Education didn’t allow Mrs. Culp to divest herself of her teaching duties. When Miss Folger retired, she continued wearing both hats for Mr. Feuer. In the early ‘70s it was being noticed that students no longer had the reading skills to handle the level of courses available at Fairview, so who do you think was part of the effort to assess reading and comprehension levels and then start the necessary remedial teaching to deal with the problem?
Bingo…that nice lady, Mrs. Culp.
That’s exactly what she was doing in the middle of the 76-77 school year when once again her family needed her. She had to take what she hoped would be only an extended leave of absence to deal with a marked decline in the health of one of her parents and one of her husband’s. That period of care giving did not allow her to return to teaching.
There was never any decision to be made. It was family that got her here to us and it would be family that called her away after thirteen years.
In chatting with Mrs. Culp I learned so much about Fairview…things that only now make sense to me in the light of her explanation….factual and anecdotal. I now have a much better sense of what drove the excellence of which we were the beneficiaries…and in time we will endeavor to help you understand it more fully. We all deserve to know why we are who we are.
Ok, so maybe some of us did not participate in Mr. Howard Schumacher's Physics II class. Certainly by the name of the class we knew it had to be taught by someone very intelligent. We knew the students taking the course were on the top of the list scholastically and probably taking home 4.5's on their report cards. Mr. Schumacher was an example of one of Fairview's finest faculty members and very importantly, we knew if we had excelled in the prerequisites, his class would have been available to us. The opportunity was there. If you did not meet Mr. Schumacher during your years at FHS, please meet him now.
Mr. Howard Schumacher, 2009
Icing on the Cake
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted December 2009
If Algebra taught us to quantify our world in terms of numerical relationships, and basic Physics used that math to generate models for the natural, physical world, then accelerated Physics II with Mr. Howard Schumacher took those skills to yet another level…allowing us to synthesize how the real world, independent of its biology and chemistry, reacts to changes.
That’s usually all it takes to clear out the classroom and send everyone scrambling to change their schedule.
In order to take the class, you needed to have four years of high school/college math under your belt. That means Calculus, boys and girls…instantaneous rates of change, areas under curves…fun and games. Since you needed that skill set as a prerequisite for the class, you had to have either started Algebra back in the eighth grade or gotten ahead of the curve by ruining at least one perfectly good summer.
As you might imagine, the classes were small, even tiny and populated with students who really wanted to be there. No one had to take Physics II and if you weren’t fascinated by trying to understand how we relate to the physical world, you didn’t have any business being there. Classes were loosely structured to allow for the flexibility to study whatever seemed to be a good fit. How’s that for a lesson plan?
And who better to teach a select bunch of the best and brightest than someone who was himself the best of both worlds…teacher and physicist?
“That’s a rhetorical question, right Miss Herbst?”
Howard Schumacher was born right here in Dayton in 1934 and attended Kaiser High School. In retrospect he considers the experience to have been quite good. Then it was on to U of D for his B.S. in Education with a concentration in math. No surprise there. Back then that was quite enough education to land a job teaching…starting at Fairborn High School. While there he received a grant to pursue his Masters in Physics, so for three consecutive summers it was off to The College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Physics is all about context. We don’t live in a vacuum. We are surrounded by forces that interact with us and change our “resultant vector.” You need to understand the late ‘50s and early ‘60s…the early days of the space race. Sputnik in 1957 caught the military-industrial complex off guard and started a crisis driven rush to grab the brass ring. Supremacy in math and science seemed to be the way to do that. The generation of our parents understood that we couldn’t win by resting on our Manhattan Project laurels. It would take another generation of committed and impassioned scientists, teachers and students alike, to ensure success. And as Howard Schumacher was the immediate beneficiary of that thinking by being fast-tracked to teaching high-powered science, students at Fairview were the end game winners in the strategic contest of “might makes right.”
In 1963 while living in the Ft. McKinley area, he became aware that Mr. Farnlacher, FHS’s very fine Physics teacher, was planning to retire. He knew Fairview had a splendid reputation and was well underway in putting together a “dream cadre” of teachers who were as good at their area of expertise as they were good at being educators.
As fate would have it, he had something of an “in” on the job since he had done his student teaching at Fairview and knew Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger well enough to know what mattered the most to them. I can’t imagine that it hurt to be able to do some name-dropping when he interviewed for Physics Guru downtown at the Board of Education.
Similarly, you have to wonder if Miss Folger had the office bugged or if she had to wait for the verbatim interview, ink still wet, to be hand-carried for her review. In any case, I’m sure that consenting adults had their way. Win-win is what they call it these days.
So in 1963 he started teaching Chemistry and Physics at Fairview High School. He loved it and he was good at it. In only one year he was given free reign to start the second year of Physics as part of the “advanced and enriched” program. Support from downtown wasn’t a problem either. First year Physics just needed the standard demonstration equipment so that each student could observe and perhaps replicate a phenomenon. The equipment needed for this new regimen had to allow the students to go wherever the science took them. It needed to be real laboratory equipment, not just “for show.”
Mr. Schumacher was good at going downtown, explaining the need and justifying the expense. And the desired equipment followed. It was as if Nikita Khrushchev himself had signed the check.
This was science. It took abstracts like exponents and logarithms from Algebra and gave them context. These constructs live in nature, so they live in Physics. When you derive a formula right along with your teacher in a lab, based on what you actually observe, the math comes alive. It becomes relevant. You no longer need to memorize the relationships; you only need to re-think the experience in the lab and visualize how they came to be. Slide rules and calculators came in handy, but they didn’t supply the answers. Those came from your brain and your imagination.
Mr. Schumacher knew all too well that he needed to retain Miss Folger’s support. While she may not have understood the intricacies of the science, she knew good results when she saw them. The SATs don’t lie and she knew understanding when she saw it. Throw in enthusiasm and fascination and you have education.
“She was very aware of what we were doing. She respected teacher integrity and let us follow our own lead. And the respect worked both ways. We understood what a privilege it was to teach our own way and we didn’t take advantage of the trust. There was no micro-managing and no need for it.”
Go ahead. Read that last quote again and think about how groundbreaking that must have been in education. You might not have taken science with Mr. Schumacher, but you benefitted, even if only indirectly, from that sense of trust that worked in both directions.
“Were you ever asked questions that you couldn’t answer?”
“Sure and that was the absolute best. I would just say I did not know the answer, but I would make it a point to find out and get back with something. That was very important. Every question had to matter because understanding mattered. Or sometimes I would ask how we might go about finding out the answer together. Both approaches worked well. It was all about understanding.”
A student not knowing an answer was just as valid as knowing the correct response. Both were opportunities to explore an alternative. Quite often, Physics isn’t as black and white as you might think. Since Nature is all about gray, you better be very careful before you say anything is wrong.
No always. No never.
So why does someone who has science and education credentials as long as your arm, choose to teach Physics at a suburban high school? Hopefully by this time, that’s another rhetorical question.
I could tell you why Mr. Schumacher left Fairview and why he doesn’t teach anymore, but where’s the good in answers that don’t come from sound research founded in empirical science?
I will tell you that he has the same passion and enthusiasm for what he does now as when he was in the classroom.
And the next time someone tells you that “It’s not rocket science,” take a moment to think how exciting it might be if it were. Mr. Schumacher would.
Pat Jessee has written beautifully about Fairview's much admired art teacher. Miss Julia Sharkey was a favorite of many students and Pat expresses why perfectly. Miss Sharkey left a lasting impression. She seemed to love teaching art and helped us explore all the art she could possibly bring to us. She brought out the best in her students. Thank you Pat for making Miss Sharkey step right off the page!
Miss Julia Sharkey, photo from Fairview 1966 Class Yearbook
Thinking About the Arts by Pat Jessee, Class of '66, submitted November 2009
No matter where or when I am making or teaching art, Ms. Sharkey is there. She had numerous funny things she would do when she was excited about something class members did. I can hear her voice cascading, “Wonderfulwonderfulwonderful” with her hands clasping together right up under her chin — hands resting on her heart. When you heard that, you would giggle — but it did give you a lift and as it turns out it lasted.
I do recall wondering, “could it be true that Julia Sharkey had been a tennis pro?” Many students thought it was unlikely because she did not seem to be the athletic type. I know I was always tickled when she would stoop over to pick something up off the floor — it was a sight etched into my memory — and to my horror, I find myself often doing it now occasionally — and I always straighten up — with a hard laugh and shake my head and say, “OH NO!” She had been a tennis enthusiast in her day but I am so thankful the arts netted her instead and became her racket. As I went off to the Dayton Art Institute and then graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans, I had no idea of how really unique and special our arts training had been. Really, now I can say it was truly full of variation that most areas of the east coast did not have at those grade levels. Example: Ms. S. had a floor loom for weaving in her small back room off the regular class area. When we got to experience weaving it was so special and it has served me well as a professional arts administrator to have had so many varied art experiences enabling me to understand and talk about various art mediums with artists or funders. Recently I was doing research for a fiber arts studio and I was so comfortable with the idea starting from this early experience with her. I do believe that loom was hers although I do not know that for a fact — I’ll later explain how I came to that conclusion*.
FHS students were fortunate to have use of this large loom.
After I moved from New Orleans in 1993 to Virginia — I attended a Dayton Art Institute reunion. While our gang was visiting and having such fun, I happened to get into a discussion with one of my instructors, John Emory. In passing, I mentioned something about high school and loving my art teacher and all she taught me — and he asked, “Where did you go?” You went to Fairview? YOU had miss Sharkey?!!!!” I couldn’t believe one of my teachers in college had Ms. S. when he was in high school. He loved her too and we reminisced about her. I said I had not seen her since the early 80’s and I often wondered — is she, was she still alive? He shouted — “I had dinner with her last night. I am calling her now.” When she answered I said, “Miss Sharkey!” — she said, “Pat, is that you?” I almost fainted. How could she recognize my voice after all these years? After that we talked several times and made plans to trade a piece of art — her weaving (that was her favorite medium*) and mine would be a painting. We were going to meet in the spring. A month or so later I received a note from someone handling her affairs that she had died. I was so sorry we had not made our trade because I would have loved to have had her weaving in my home. My Mother, Anna had saved the weavings I got to do with Julia at FHS — so I am enjoying them now. I tell my students now of how I hear Miss Sharkey to this day reminding me to hold my art up to a mirror — and note what looks off will be magnified in the reverse view and it will be easy to correct. I remember her teaching that you need to move the eye of the onlooker around the canvas by use of color or contrast — not having it drawn to one place and stuck there. I suppose the fact that mother kept many of my framed HS works up in her home helped me recall these teachings too. Surprisingly, even though they have not been my style for many years — I still like them.
Julia lived with her sister up until her sister's death, which preceded Julia’s. I am glad knowing that John Emory and many of her students still in the Dayton area did keep up with her. I think back now how her voice was a bit like Julia Child, her hair was in a tight roll under around mid neck length with her glasses held by a thin chain — and what others thought was a bit of a wandering mind — was in fact her thinking about how to creatively get us all to realize the importance art would have for us. How she wore a dress every day and kept so neat in the art room with all our messes I’ll never know. That I did not inherit from her but her striving to inspire everyone to the importance of the arts has been my lifelong challenge too and I it enjoy immensely. Thanks to her and classmates like Jeri Jones, Alan Colley, Pat Crume and others, those art making days were something memorable!!
Pat Jessee creating a handwoven project.
Notes: Honestly, looking back like this makes me again quite proud to have been born in Dayton and educated in four schools, Longfellow Elementary, (near DAI and my home on Belmonte Park. N.), Cornell Heights, Fairview High and the DAI . All of them provided such well rounded education and experiences in the arts. Mom and Dad started me in Saturday art classes at the DAI and dance classes when I was 5 -13 and those loves have been parallel and often overlapping throughout my life — even now. I still am battling — first in New Orleans and now for 15 years in Virginia — for the arts to be in the schools, not as a footnote but as a serious part of life to know about and more importantly to experience. I can tell you now that if it were not for the skills of improv learned thru the arts, I wouldn’t be able to be caretaking my father who lives with me while being “sculpted by Alzheimer’s.” I think back to our classmate Murray Horwitz — and how good his book reports were — how he kept our attention, made us laugh — his theatrical talent showing strongly then — and I know just what tune to whistle or what drawing to do with Dad to bring him back to the present moment. When I painted five, 6’ paintings on stage live to the Symphony — with three audiences of 600 each — my grit to dare it came from the confidence instilled by Miss Sharkey and the friendly praise throughout school from my classmates and my supportive family.
We had it good guys and aren’t we blessed to know it!!!
SUPPORT the arts but especially experience doing it — it’s the best!!!
Have a great 2010 and hope to see all of you at our next reunion in 2011!
(Editors Note: Miss Sharkey made certain her students were entered in the yearly Scholastic Achievement Awards In Art . The students were consistently recognized and received awards for which we had Miss Sharkey to thank. Miss Sharkey was definitely a favorite of mine. She is part of my life everyday. Everything I look at, I actually think I am seeing it through Miss Sharkey's eyes. She taught us how to see all we possibly could. The inside, the outside, the positive, the negative, the object and the space around it. She made our eyes move to take in everything. She was remarkable!)
Mr. Norman Feuer was Principal of Fairview High School from 1967 - 1974. Many of us, of course, remember him as Assistant Principal. He was always ready to greet us as we walked in the main hallway of FHS. Dan Wolfe was inspired, after meeting with Mr. Feuer on December 9, 2009, to write a story which brings back important memories about Mr. Feuer and how he helped create an atmosphere at Fairview for personsal growth and excellence in education. Thank you Mr. Feuer.
Mr. Norman Feuer pictured at his home in Columbus, Ohio on December 9, 2009
Mr. Norman Feuer by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted December 2009
So, the gods lived on Olympus, right? If that’s the case, they worked in Fairview’s first floor offices, just north of 3rd and Main.
I’m just old enough to remember Mr. Longnecker, started teaching in 1921 and became principal of the newly built Fairview High School in 1929. You didn’t speak to him, other than to smile, say a perfunctory greeting and answer whatever question was posed…simply and directly…making sure to include the word “sir” at least twice in each sentence. It was more like agreeing with him than actually answering the question.
When he retired at the end of the 1960-61 school year, Miss Folger took over and with seamless continuity continued the policies that the two of them had developed over the preceding 40+ years. And why would you change? If it works…..
But clearly Mr. Longnecker’s departure left a vacancy in the administration and who better to fill it than a bright young Dayton boy, Norman Feuer. There is no doubt in my mind that back in the early 50’s Mr. L and Miss F recruited Mr. Feuer, fresh from a Bachelors Degree at OU and a Masters at Miami of Ohio, to teach science…all the while knowing that they would not be there forever and wanting to make sure that the seeds of good stewardship were planted, nourished and well on their way to flourishing before they left.
My first recollections of Mr. Feuer were as a precocious eighth grade brat, coming up from Fairview Elementary to take a course during a ninety minute lunch period. My parents knew Mr. Longnecker since my sister Lois and brother John had preceded me at Fairview. That would be as in, “Oh dear God, no. Please tell me it’s not another Wolfe.” On my behalf they got permission from Mr. Longnecker that if, on occasion, I got to the high school early, would he mind if I sat in on whatever classes caught my fancy…in the back…no interruptions...just a fly on the wall? Of course, the gentleman was happy to oblige, since he was all about getting the most out of school.
Ever since I tried unsuccessfully to burn down the family’s house with my chemistry set, I had been fascinated with science…all science...any science...and since there happened to be a General Science class immediately next door to the class I was there to attend, I snuck in one day in September of 1960. Imagine what it was like to be an impressionable 12-year-old child learning about bits of chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and biology. Heady stuff.
Teaching that class was Mr. Feuer. At first glance he seemed a bit puzzled, but didn’t miss a beat. Ten minutes later, as the class ended, he stopped me on my way out and asked if I might be Dan Wolfe. I confessed to the sin and he acknowledged that Mr. Longnecker had mentioned at a staff meeting that some tiny FES student might be ducking his head into classes on one side or the other of lunchtime.
Wow, name recognition…couldn’t that at least wait until my first detention next year?
After that I became a regular. Mr. Feuer enjoyed teaching. His eyes sparkled and I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. He took General Science, usually an entry-level freshman course and gave it life. There was a textbook, not one of the Dayton Board of Education’s best efforts as I recall, but it only served as a springboard for discussion. I would sit quietly and absorb…almost not even wanting to blink for fear of missing something. This went on several days a week well into the year…just little hit-and-miss 10-15 minute visitations as time allowed.
Then one day it happened. He was asking the class a question and seemed a bit frustrated that no one was raising a hand. The subject was Cosmology...what the universe was, how it started and where it was going. Keep in mind this was before The Big Bang was much more than a sparkle in physicists’ eyes. Why we hadn’t gone much beyond the Milky Way being pretty much all there was. As if to send that message to the class, he called on me. Me? Somehow OMG does not begin to express my feeling of complete shock and disbelief.
I guess he knew I was fascinated with the subject. He took quite a chance asking me the question…investing considerable political capital…hoping that I would have the correct answer…and telling the class, not so subtly, that if an 8th grader knew, why didn’t they.
No, Dan, it’s not necessary to put the answer in the form of a question.
“Thank you, Dan.”
The next year I took Biology from Mr. Vance and while it was fascinating, I missed the magic of learning science from someone who was genuinely thrilled to be teaching it. Mr. Feuer would often ask questions that he didn’t even want students to answer. He would ask, smile and then just leave them out there…letting the following conversation surround you with information…never bothering to make it back to the question since the answer was now all too obvious.
That was teaching.
That was education.
That was Fairview High School.
Thank you, Mr. Feuer.
I visited Mr. Feuer and his wife, Barbara, at their home in Columbus, Ohio on December, 9, 2009. He is 83 years old and in decent health. It would be less than truthful to say that his memory of his years at Fairview is good. He struggles to remember specifics. What he does know is that his time at Fairview was special and special people made it that way.
“Other schools could only try to compare themselves to us.”
And yes…his eyes still sparkle when he says it.
Dan Wolfe, class of '65, was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with Mr. Bruggeman. They toured Fairview together. Take time to read this engaging story. We would like to thank Mr. Bruggeman for sharing his thoughts about teaching with us and for all his memorable years at FHS. He was a role model many of us gladly remember and a perfect example of one of Fairview's finest faculty members. He cared about teaching and about us. Note that the sparkle in Mr. Bruggeman's eyes and that large warm generous smile are still there.
Mr. and Mrs. Bruggeman pictured at their home of over fifty years in Dayton, Ohio on October 1, 2009.
Maybe You Can Go Home by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65, submitted October 2009
“Call me Bob.”
“I don’t think I can.”
That’s how my first face-to-face conversation in 45 years with Mr. Bruggeman started. I didn’t explain and he didn’t ask why. Something about respect, I’m sure.
Rewind to the first day of the 8th grade. Having walked from FES, Jim Swank, Susan Fisher, Peggy Miller, Bart Schwartz and I were sitting in Room 206, of Fairview High School to take first year Latin. As was obligatory in the day, the teacher wrote his name on the chalk board. But after he printed it with his left hand, he wrote it in cursive with his right hand. Then he did the same with his left hand. Then both hands at the same time. Then backwards.
Such sensory overload would be my constant companion for the next three years. Mr. Bruggeman didn’t just teach us Latin, he imbued us with an appreciation for language and communication. To a person, we learned as much English as we did Latin. Every day he’d go off on tangents to explain the derivation of a word, the origin of a cliché or idiom, how the connotative value of a word came to be or how the announcer on Channel 2 had butchered the mother tongue the evening before during the 6 o’clock news.
Who knew learning could be fun without Muppets? Not a rhetorical question, since the answer was Winnie the Pooh. Make that Winnie ille Pu. Hot off the presses, the Latin translation became our textbook. The tortures of ablative absolutes and passive paraphrastics faded to insignificance in the realm of Pooh Corner. In any case it sure beat, “Omnia Galia in tres partes divisa est.” Ad nauseum.
Fast forward to 2008. Find stack of ancient k-to-8 class pictures…start to name the kids I could remember…Google Fairview…meet Nancy Marker Steinert, Class of '66…and the next thing I knew millions of unused brain cells that hadn’t seen service since childhood were being called up for active duty. But as one thing will inevitably lead to another I started thinking about the teacher who had had the greatest impact on who I am…Mr. Bruggeman. A quick trip to the ’65 yearbook confirmed my recollection….almost no hair, 5 o’clock shadow and that you-won’t-know-the-answer-to-my-next-question smile.
Mr. Bruggeman. That was all the caption said. Why then was I remembering that his name was Robert Joseph Bruggeman? I could barely remember what I had for breakfast today and it wasn’t like I ever referred to him by his given name.
Would he still be alive? Where would he be living? Would he have any interesting opening a dialogue? Would he remember me? And what did I have for breakfast this morning?
With expectations diminished by pragmatism I typed his name into the search engine. Nothing. Then on to whitepages.com and there it was…Robert Joseph Bruggeman…complete with a phone number and Dayton address. In no time at all I was staring at a blank Microsoft Word screen…wanting to compose an elegantly concise query as to whether this particular Robert Joseph Bruggeman had been a teacher at FHS in the 1960s. Instantly there was a fear that he would open my letter, start to read it, spot some error in syntax, put a B- at the top and return it to me.
Into the mail it went and two days later the phone rang. “It’s Mr. Bruggeman,” said the wifie. I initially thought it would be A Mr. Bruggeman just calling to say that he wasn’t the one I was looking for. I wasn’t ready for it to be The Mr. Bruggeman. I didn’t have any prepared witty remarks…no script of engaging questions.
“Call me Bob.”
And this is where I came in. Thirty minutes and 45 years later we agreed to get together to fill in the blanks, compare notes and maybe accomplish some revisionist history. In the week between our phone call and the visit I thought a lot about what I wanted the meeting to be. I even went so far as to jot down notes of questions I should ask. I didn’t want there to be any dreadful lulls of silence typical of reunion encounters…when all the recollections have been exhausted and, as there is no longer any common thread, there is nothing more to say.
On the drive from Columbus to Dayton I had the opportunity to have a good talk with myself. Lose the notes and don’t have any expectations whatsoever. Let the conversation go where it does. Enjoy the ride. Good advice, Dan.
Mr. Bruggeman’s wife of almost 60 years, Jamie, was a good buffer helping us work through some initial hesitation about how to begin, but soon the floodgates opened. He had been teaching Latin at Beavercreek when he was “recruited” to Fairview in 1958. FHS, under the guidance of Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger, needed to offer Latin if she were to be the Mecca for Dayton View’s best and brightest.
Our conversation was a delightful mix of memories and opportunities to discuss how language and communication continue to evolve. Back in 1960 I remember him telling us that it didn’t matter what was correct. If the majority spoke or wrote something “incorrect,” it became the new correct. This time around he said that communication is determined by the listener, not the speaker. Same message, different words.
We may not like e-speak, but get over it, right? Pretty much.
During lunch at Bob Evans I asked Mr. Bruggeman if he would be interested in a trip to Fairview. I hadn’t planned it; it just seemed right. He wasted little time in saying that he’d enjoy that, as he had not been there since the early ‘80s.
Parking in his favorite spot outside what I remember as the Chemistry and Physics classrooms, we entered via the door where the language labs had been, hung a left, then left again at the cafeteria…heading for the office to introduce ourselves.
The staff of what is now the Edison preK-8 School at Fairview was most cordial in sending us off to the principal’s office...the room we remember as the teachers’ lounge. Did I detect a hint of lingering tobacco smoke smell? Ms. Antoinette Adkins was happy to chat with us for a while before arranging for one of the custodial staff to take us on a tour. Given our emeritus status, nothing was off-limits and we were allowed access to locked classrooms, the kitchen, backstage…even areas currently boarded-up, like the wing where the shop classes and gym used to be.
Did the $.35 plate lunch include milk?
We were both somewhat subdued driving back across town to the Bruggeman home. It was unspoken that the significance of our shared Fairview experience was the people and their interactions, yet that was conflicted with the reality that so many memories would be losing their brink-and-mortar home to demolition, most likely after this school year.
We both enjoyed the visit greatly and now that we have the nostalgia out of the way, we will continue to get together via letters, phone calls and visits to keep the relationship growing…as any good teacher/student bond does.
Can you go home? Not sure. I did, but I was lucky. I guess it’s all about expectations.
And no, he’ll never be “Bob” to me, but at least I’m not “Danny” any more.
Dan Wolfe and Mr. Bruggeman on October 1, 2009
Mr. Robert J. Bruggeman was honored at the Fairview High School Alumni Homecoming Banquet
on August 13, 2005. The article below appeared in the banquet booklet.
THINKING OF RETIRING?
Learn Again From Mr. Bruggeman
View this Dayton Daily News article from April 12, 2012.
You may click on the article to view a larger image for reading.
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