Apples For The Teacher

- jim Young

“In all our lives, there is a fall from innocence. A time after which, we are never the same.” - Gordie LaChance from the movie “Stand By Me.” 

Like most everyone, I have many fond and some not so fond memories of my school days. I leave it to you to decide which category this falls into. Either way, this story that takes me back to the 1960s when I was in Grade 5 or 6, remains one of my favourite stories to tell. 

This was of course pre-Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader but there was never a shortage of material to read in our bathroom when I was young. My father would bring home a variety of pocket books from his IGA that would be left behind for the rest of the family to enjoy. 

Now inappropriate for ALL ages!
They were books like the pocket book versions of MAD magazine, Andy Cap, Riddle-De-Dee by Bennett Cerf, The Strange World of Mr. Mum, Army Cartoons and of course Playboy’s Party Jokes illustrated with sexy drawings of Playboy’s trademark Femlin created by LeRoy Neiman. 

But then came the sick jokes fad of the 1960s which included “dead baby jokes” and “Little Willie” poems. 

Never mind that they may have been considered inappropriate for an impressionable young boy of about 10 or 11 back then, very few of them would be considered appropriate for people of all ages in today’s politically correct world. 

On the one hand, as a responsible writer, it would be improper for me to share any of them with you here. On the other hand, under the guise of being a responsible writer, I feel compelled to share a few of them to set the mood and help the reader fully comprehend their context within this story. 

I would like to remind you of the disclaimer that is printed in every edition of the Great North Arrow which reads: “The opinions expressed in the GNA are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the GNA.” 

So with that in mind I ask you to quit reading this article now if you are easily offended and prefer to pretend the past didn’t happen. And if you choose to ignore that advice and get yourself into a tangled mess of offensiveness, please don’t take it out on the Great North Arrow or Jim or Cyndi. It is not my intention to offend you but I accept full responsibility for the inappropriate jokes included here if I do.

We’re all adults here, right? 

These jokes are not intended to make you laugh. I reiterate that they are presented here solely for the purposes of illustrating the time and context of this story. 

Some of the jokes I was reading back then went like this. 

Kid: “Mrs. Smith, can Willie come out to play baseball with us?” 
Mrs. Smith: “You boys know Willie was born with no arms and legs.” 
Kid: “I know, but we need him for third base.” 

Kid: “Mommy, mommy, Willie won’t stop running in circles.” 
Mommy: “Then nail his other foot to the floor too.” 

Kid: “Mommy, mommy, why is daddy running across that field?” 
Mommy: “Shut up, I’m reloading.” 

Question: “What do you call a dog with no legs?” 
Answer: “It doesn’t matter what you call him, he ain’t coming.” 

Kid: “Mommy, mommy, I thought it was my turn to lick the bowl.” 
Mommy: “Shut up and flush.” 

“Little Willie hung his sister. 
She was dead before we missed her. 
‘Willie's always up to tricks. Ain't he cute! He's only six.’" 

“Willie saw some dynamite, 
Couldn't understand it, quite. 
Curiosity never pays; 
It rained Willie seven days.” 

“Willie in the best of sashes, 
Fell in the fire and burned to ashes. 
By and by the room grew chilly 
‘Cause no one wanted to poke poor Willie.” 

Lest I be accused of abusing my literary license I will quit here. That should be a good cross-section to give you an idea of the types of jokes I am talking about. 

One night, I mistakenly thought it might be a nice idea to share some of these with my teacher. I carefully copied what I thought were some of the best jokes and poems onto a sheet of paper, leaving it unsigned of course. 

The next day, while she was out of the classroom, I discreetly placed my gift on Mrs. Shannon’s desk. 

I watched while Mrs. Shannon read the note to herself, chuckling along the way. When she got to the end, Mrs. Shannon looked around the class room and said, “Who left this here?” When her head turned towards me and our eyes met she said, “Was this you, Jimmie?” 

I didn’t have much of a poker face at the age of 10 and I always wondered if the expression on my face had incriminated me or was it my handwriting? 

Regardless, I accepted responsibility with a nod of my head. 

Mrs. Shannon smiled, said “Thank you”, folded the paper neatly and placed it in her desk. I considered that she wanted to keep it a good sign. 

Nothing more was said about it… at that time. 

At the dinner table however, my parents decided to have a “talk” with me. “Mrs. Shannon called today,” my mother started, “and told us you shared some jokes and poems with her from your father’s books.” 

I cautiously acknowledged my mother’s statement. There was no question there and I had learned not to volunteer information. 

“It was a nice gesture,” my father continued, “but I think sometimes you may not fully understand some of those jokes.” 

Again there was no question yet, so even though I felt I had a pretty good comprehension of the jokes I had shared, it was not yet time to put a defense into motion. 

“Perhaps in the future,” my mother added, “before you take something like that to school, you’ll let us look at it first to be certain there will be no further misunderstandings.” 

“Okay,” I replied sheepishly. 

The defense rests. 

I was relieved this had been an at-the-table-suppertime conversation for my sisters to witness and not a more serious and alone, go-to-your-room-and-I’ll-be-there-in-minute talk. 

And that was the final time that nothing more was said on the subject. 

I’ve never been one to let things go, however, so immediately following supper I went to my room and pulled out my duplicate copy while clinging to the notion that there must be some mistake. I was certain I understood everything just fine but as I re-read the material the source of this talk was glaring at me as plain as day. 

“Willie with a thirst for gore, 
Nailed the baby to the door. 
Mother said with humour quaint, 
‘Careful Will, don’t mar the paint.” 

How could I have been so careless? I had to admit to myself that I really didn’t understand the word “gore”. I reached for my dictionary to undertake the research I should have undertaken prior to including this poem. 

As you might expect, this didn’t really answer any questions I had and I was left to wonder exactly where I had erred. 

Memories are a funny thing and the oddest remembrance will pop into our heads at the strangest times. Many, many years later, as I sat on the couch watching my children play, one of the poems from that collection a lifetime ago popped into my head. 

Thinking at the time, it was nothing more than an innocent compliment, the poem I had mistakenly included in my anthology went like this: 

“My teacher is so very nice, 
I always take her good advice. 
Her skin is soft as bunny fur, 
I think I’d like to sleep with her.” 

I sat staring off into space with my jaw dropped. “Oh!” was all I said. 

Yes, my friends… Those were the days. 
- 30 - 

Do you have some pictures or memories of the proverbial “good old days” that you would like to share? If so, please send them by clicking on this link, Those Were The Days, My Friend.


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