Friday, September 20, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Why did the teacher cross the road?


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a tribute to the International Day of Peace and to Peace Education.

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was well aware of both violent and peaceful demonstrations supporting civil rights and women’s rights and opposing the war in Vietnam.  Love-ins and Sit-ins were common enough as people sought to advance their cause through non-violent means.

My freshman year in college awakened me to the world of liberal thinking.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of expression.  Do your own thing.  These were new guideposts on the road to becoming an adult, an educated thinker, a positive force in making the world a better place.

Wilson Hall James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Wilson Hall
In 1970 I had a chance to do just that. When several of the “hippie” professors in the English department went on the chopping block, students rallied in their defense.  A sit-in in Wilson Hall would surely get the attention of the president, the deans, the Board of Visitors, and anyone else who could reverse a stupid decision not to renew their contracts. 

I made up my mind to join in.  I admired my hippie English professor with his long hair and beard and his choice to wear cowboy boots and a cape to class.  I managed to laugh when he showed up one afternoon with bloodshot eyes and wrote “Connery O’Flanner” on the board.  That didn’t matter.  He was brilliant.  I would defend his rights. 

Eh.  Who was I kidding?  Since my dormmates took no interest, I wasn’t about to go by myself.  I was shy.  I was also Chicken.  Yep.  That’s me all day.  But thank goodness for that yellow streak because the non-violent protestors who refused to leave Wilson Hall were promptly arrested and charged with trespassing.

Oh, my parents would have snatched me bald-headed had I been carted downtown and fingerprinted.   

Fast forward to the late 1970s.  I marched in peaceful protest.  And my mother marched with me (although she would have been appalled at my thoughts of doing such a thing ten years previous to that).  We were both teachers for Portsmouth Public Schools.  Our beef?  What else – pay! 

Portsmouth Public School teachers protest march
Momma carried a sign:  "Excuses Don't Pay Bills"
That's moi to her right.

Don’t ask me what the specific issues were.  I can’t remember.  Probably we had gone several years with no pay raise.  But that year we had had enough and we weren’t going to take it anymore.  The teachers were united.  We were committed to walking out of the classroom if City Council and the School Board didn’t pay attention and come through with more money. 

We must have gotten a little something because we didn’t have to walk out.  Democracy in action!


This past school year, my nephew Joel likewise made the newspaper marching as a teacher for Portsmouth Public Schools. 

Joel Pollock and students May 31, 2013
Colonel Crawford leads students across High Street.
A Union soldier stops traffic.
Joel Pollock with his signature Top-Siders and sunglasses walks with his students.
But he wasn’t marching in protest.  He was marching his middle schoolers across High Street on a field trip to learn about the history of their City.  Instead of reading a history book, the students toured important landmarks including Trinity Church and the Courthouse.  They heard the story of Portsmouth’s early beginnings from its founder, Colonel William Crawford (portrayed by Eric Price who was known as “Ricky” when we were in high school!  Guess “Eric” is more dignified for someone who has made quite a career of wearing a powdered wig and gold brocade coat). 

The old newspaper clipping of his aunt and grandmother taking a stand is displayed on the bulletin board of Joel’s social studies classroom at Churchland Middle School.  Now he has his own newspaper clipping of the day HE crossed the road.  Perfect bookends.

For now, Peace Out!

Christmas 1970
Christmas 1970
Momma, Mary Jollette and Moi
I don't know why we're on our knees!


I invite you to make your way peacefully to Sepia Saturday.


27 comments:

  1. A very happy Christmas photograph of the three of you

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  2. Ah it brings back memories for me of all the peace marches I went on in the 60s and 70s. We may have been idealistic, we may have been naive - but given the times and given the issues I would be marching again tomorrow.

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  3. As a retired hippie and protest-marcher, I can see I'm in good company! I'd be right there with Alan, but I just don't have the energy any more -- it's time for the younger ones to do their shares. Great photos, Wendy...brought back lots of memories for me!

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  4. You and your Mom look great in that march. I enjoyed your description of your hippie English professor. I always wanted a professor like that!

    Hazel

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    1. I'm sure you had your share of stand-out professors.

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  5. I wasn't a "hippie" or even a protestor, but I admired those who were and what they stood for - most of the time. They changed attitudes about so many different things we had always taken for granted. It was a great era and I'm glad to have been a part of it - if only in small ways.

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    1. Yes, I remember how shocking the idea of "living together" rather than marrying was. Now hardly anyone bats an eye.

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  6. I'm with Deb, I just don't have the energy. There are plenty of issues to march for but I'm all marched out.

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    1. Kristin, you surprise me. It was a way of life for your family. I didn't think you were allowed to retire!

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  7. I like the way you put this story together Wendy. And the photo at the end is perfect.

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  8. Thank you for reminding me about these times of protest. I must admit I was someone who did not put her head above the parapet, and my student rebellion was confined to wearing a duffle coat. Wilson Hall is a lovely building - where was it?

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    1. Wilson was THE main building on the campus of Madison College (now James Madison University) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It held a lot of the administrative offices, but it was also the building for English courses. Some of the professors had offices there too.

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  9. I was in favor of civil rights and against war, but I never got worked up enough to protest.

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    1. I didn't march for any important issues either. They were usually dangerous places to be.

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  10. I could imagine your hippy English professor through your writing.

    I have never been on march or demonstration. I wanted to go to parliament house to support teachers back in the early 80s but my parents wouldn't hear of it. I am a chicken too.

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  11. I've never marched for peace either, so I take my hat off to you. I've done my bit by choosing this theme for Sepia Saturay and hopefully raised awareness - that's the teacher in me! It must have been a great feeling having your mother marching beside you.

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    1. Yes, you've done your part. You've helped all of us reflect on a time past and see how our lives have improved as a result.

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  12. I don't recall my parents marching for anything.
    I did march for Gay Pride.
    I did march for Occupy Montreal.
    Other than that, no, no peace walk for me...
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. Now there's 2 vastly different issues. But good for you. I guess standing up for a cause is much like voting: if you don't vote, you have no right to complain.

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  13. I remember the Veitnam protest at Iowa State University. The protesters would imitate what they saw in the news and were a small group but vocal.

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    1. Small? Really -- I guess my memory of anti-Vietnam protests is news reports of LARGE rallies and marches.

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  14. Great post girl!

    We were so hip giving the peace signs by the Christmas tree!

    Joel loves that newspaper clipping of you and Momma marching. He thinks that is the coolest thing!

    I participated in a sit in during middle school, but I have no idea for what. It must have been for something stupid and we were sent back to class.

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