My theme for the A to Z April Challenge is “In-Laws and Out-Laws – Friends of the Family.” I will be researching friends, colleagues, neighbors - those people who came and went touching my family’s lives in both small and large ways.
is for Harrison. Richard Harrison.
I must call him “Mr. Harrison.” Even though he was my mother’s friend from high school, I knew him too. He was my music teacher at Cradock Junior High School. His reputation as a student and his personality as a teacher couldn’t be more different.
When Mr. Harrison was a student at Cradock High School in the 1940s, his nickname was “Prof.” Pictures in the yearbook suggest the name was fitting. First of all, he wore wire-rimmed glasses, certainly a required accessory for that scholarly persona.
Secondly, he stood erect with an air of superiority, towering over most of the other students. While he looked like a candidate for the basketball team, he wasn’t athletic, apparently. There’s no mention in the senior yearbook of his ever playing sports. Instead he was active in all the music programs. He played in the orchestra and sang in the Glee Club all four years of school. He served as president one year.
The Senior Class recognized him as “Most Dignified” among the Senior Superlatives, and the Class Prophecy predicted he would be a famous star at the Metropolitan Opera.
The Richard Harrison I knew was still tall and imposing, and he still wore glasses. But somewhere between high school graduation and becoming a music teacher, he became fun and funny.
My junior high school included grades 5-7, so basically kids from 10-12 years old. Mr. Harrison taught music, but he also attracted a large number of non-singers like me for a before-school program that combined performance and music appreciation. We were known as The Early Birds.
Mr. Harrison introduced us to opera with “Aida” by Verdi. Every morning we listened to portions of the music which he always introduced with some plot summary and analysis of what we should listen for. He always called Aida “Toots.” Mr. Harrison made opera approachable.
Our class was blessed with a number of exceptionally beautiful voices, several angelic sopranos and budding tenors. We performed a number of Christmas pageants and we even made a record.
Looking back, I realize Mr. Harrison was truly a remarkable teacher whose contributions deserved more recognition than he ever enjoyed.
Hop, hurdle, or hustle to the A to Z April Challenge for hundreds and hundreds of posts on the letter H, and that’s no hyperbole!