Write again … we have our memories

Published 12:33 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

“Backward, turn backward, O time in your flight.”

The first lines of a lovely song of many years ago, but we know we can’t turn back time. Or, as the tall fellow from Asheville once wrote: “You can’t go home again.” Thomas Wolfe understood.

Yet, our minds travel back a lot. I know mine does. Memories. Among my strongest memory peregrinations are my high-school days. My friends, athletics, choral experiences. The stuff of happiness. The flutterings of a teenage heart.

We were blessed to have some very good teachers at Washington High School. I wish I had chosen to be as good a student as most of my teachers were at what they taught.

Herb Carlton was a dynamic teacher who could make just about anything interesting. He taught me world history and geography. He later distinguished himself as a professor at East Carolina University.

Charlie Stevens was truly much beloved. He made choral-music classes the place to be for almost all of us. He’s one of the dearest friends I’ll ever have. When he retired at ECU, he was dean of the School of Music.

Jim Blanton was a master teacher. If he could teach me even a little about chemistry, he had to be good. I remember, quite well, the night he came out onto the football field at East Carolina (the old stadium, now long gone) at the end of our first-round state playoff game to offer congratulations. He looked right at me and said, “What’s H2O?”

“Water,” I quickly replied.

With a smile, he said, “You pass!”

A compassionate man, for sure. (He knew I wasn’t premed material.)

Howard Wortley was a very capable band director. When junior-high band members were considered for the high-school band, Mr. Wortley would meet with the student and his or her parents. Should a new instrument be purchased? Is the student really a good candidate for the band? Well, Mr. Wortley said to my mother: “I understand that young Bartow really is a good athlete.” He was trying to be very kind about it. As a trumpet player “wannabe,” I wasn’t a threat to Harry James. My band career was short-lived. Mercifully.

In geometry class Mr. Wagner told some of us football players, “I can look at you and tell what you know.” Uh, oh. That wasn’t good.

Joe Kornegay was a fine man and a good principal. Miss Squires and Mrs. Ayscue were wonderful English teachers.

I’ve often wondered if any of these good people were surprised that I ended up in their profession.

Well, we can’t go backward in time, of course.

But … we have our memories.