Monthly Archives: September 2017

Turkey for you, turkey for me

Call a person a turkey, and you might be using fighting words. But I can make an exception and even construe the moniker as a compliment.

Let me explain:

My mother, Marie, served two two-year terms as San Miguel County Treasurer back in the early ‘60s. It was customary (maybe it still is) for bankers to gift elected officials on Thanksgiving for their services.

Mom died early this century and is therefore unable to explain things in detail. But suffice to say that the three main banks in Las Vegas customarily delivered a frozen turkey for Mom and her family to enjoy. I assume other elected county officials also dined on gifted turkeys for the occasion.

Mom and my dad, J.D., would have been thrilled to have greeted the generous bankers bearing gifts and would have demanded they sit down and join us for homemade tamales — the kind only Mom could make. Continue reading

Executing the ‘J.D. Slam’

A simple act of closing a car door inspired this column. Even I find it hard to have so many memories conjured up from this basic action. Let me explain:

Cars built this century generally have door-closing mechanisms that require only the slightest bit of energy to assure a tight seal. Cars built last century ­ ­— and that covers a wide span — often failed to close completely on the first try.

Well, in my family, the first car we owned was built in the first half of the past century, but it behaved as if Ben Hur himself had been on the assembly line and in the driver’s seat. In the ‘50s, neither men nor women needed gym memberships, as the effort expended in closing a car door helped develop bulging biceps and bigger triceps.

Let’s be more specific: My sister-in-law, Gina, came up with the term “The J.D. Slam,” in honor of my dad, who owned those initials, and who almost never shut a car door quietly or gently. The ‘49 DeSoto we owned routinely sprung back open each time I tried to close it; it was as if there were nothing to make it latch on to the car body. Nothing. Continue reading

A great memory for names

One of my dreams as a teacher was to be able to greet students years after they’d moved on, and to be able to address them by their names, not just “Hi, there.”

That lasted through the first week of my 8 a.m. class at Highlands University. As hard as I tried, there’d always be a set of twins with almost identical names and looks, or a Señor Muy Tarde who either failed to show up most of the time or signed his name illegibly or failed to articulate.

In the 30 years that I wore my teacher hat, I didn’t have much luck earning the praise of students who I hoped would marvel at my ability to remember names.

If you’ve taken classes or worked at Highlands, you probably know where this is going. You see, not only was Dr. Robert (Bob) Amai a superior college professor but he also had that kind of memory that could recall names.

Amai died earlier this month, leaving his wife, Pat, and daughter Wendy. Continue reading

Don’t ask us any questions

A half dozen of us sat nervously in the advanced English classroom of Mrs. Ruth Shafer, a veteran teacher who, many had heard, ran her students through the paces.

Mrs. Shafer, wherever she is would probably fault me for using such a cliché (“through the paces”), but even as I write this, I think back more than five decades to the favorable impressions she left on us.

Let me explain:

I believe I saw Mrs. Shafer for the first time the quarter I graduated from Highlands. She was never my teacher, as I attended Immaculate Conception School, where my English task master was Sister Mary Correcta Grammatica. In order to complete a major in English education at Highlands, in the ‘60s, we needed to report on a half dozen class observations of teachers in our discipline. Continue reading