Stories of Shipley School – For An Occasion

August 26th, 2014

I recently have been exchanging stories about our girls school experiences with my classmates – they had similar but distinct experiences. And I’m learning about how great some of them were – and I never knew those aspects of their characters. Till now. Fascinating.

Here are some of my stories from then:

Miss Watson in 5th and 6th grade I believe, taught Bible. The usual stories. I remember Miss Watson – mostly because my father remembers her from Father’s Day – she wore very red lipstick. It seemed odd: she had never worn it otherwise. How funny! Was she trying to snag a husband – was there a divorced father then in the class?

Each summer, in lower school, (4th through 7th) we had a reading list and we had to memorize a certain Bible passage to be ready to recite on the 1st day of class.

Well, this will surprise no one. I couldn’t remember which passage we were supposed to learn for 7th grade and couldn’t get a hold of anyone. We used to go to the shore for the summer, never saw any classmates in the summer.

I thought I remembered. I showed it to Mom, and she said doubtfully, “Are you sure?”

I was sure.

So I memorized it. Well, fortunately for 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Allen, a tough middle-aged woman, – with the dog that peed on Priscilla’s bookbag – I wasn’t first.

A few went before me and it wasn’t what I had memorized.

(I think it was our 7th grade teacher. If it had been Miss Watson – she would have fainted. Or maybe she would have surprised us.

What I had memorized was about fornication. I had NO IDEA what it meant at the time. And Mom didn’t say, nor did I look it up. . .

I think I had heard the joke:

Knock Knock

Who’s there?

Fornication

Fornication who?

For an occasion like this…

I didn’t get it.

But that was not unusual for me. They used to joke: “Don’t tell an Englishman a joke on Saturday night, he’ll burst out laughing in church in Sunday.” Well that was my reputation with my family, too.

After much deliberation, it was determined I hadn’t tried to pull a fast one on everyone. How would I know it was a bad word – it was in the Bible.

Would that I were that clever and brave. It did provide some amusement amid the monotony. The school said I could skate re reciting it in front of the class thankyouverymuch – and could just write it down from memory. But DON’T show it to anyone else. (Of course without punishment – for truly an innocent mistake – it became hilarious).

I remember also that with Mrs. Allen, we had all recited the same poem. She liked my recitation because I put meaning into the words. (Can you imagine listening to the same regurgitated poem 20 odd times?)

It was The Listeners by Walter de la Mare: (still a favorite of mine as I just reconnected with it)

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
    IS THERE ANYBODY THERE?’ he said.  (Victoria’s emphasis added).

I think I just woke Mrs. Allen up. 

Here’s the whole poem:

The Listeners

BY WALTER DE LA MARE

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.
Beautiful.
At least I memorized the right poem.
Shipley teachers would have been apoplectic if I had “remembered” some poem about “for an occasion…..”
c. GCYI

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