Tuesday, March 23, 2004

AHJS Blog.

Periodically my mother sends me obituaries from the San Antonio Express-News, which is sometimes how I learn about the passing of former teachers, or parents of people I knew in school, or on sad occasion people I knew in school (for example, Stephen Humble, 1961-2002; much too tight a parenthesis). Recently she sent me a notice for Lawrence D. Williams Jr. (1918-2004), who taught Texas history at Alamo Heights Junior School for years on either side of the time I attended, 1973 to 1975.

I didn't have Mr. Williams as a teacher, but I knew who he was. The luck of the seventh-grade draw put me in Mrs. Carico's class (I'm not sure of that spelling). But she was seriously ill for I don't know how long -- six weeks, two months -- and one Mr. Nichols, whom I think had come out of retirement, filled in for her at the beginning of the school year. I remember very little about him, except for the story he told about sailing on a ship through the Panama Canal.

As for Mrs. Carico, I came away from her class with a good dose of Texas history; and she made us memorize all the states of the union in a peculiar down-and-up, up-and-down sequence beginning with Maine, even though I didn't need any help in remembering the states. I also vaguely remember her sardonic streak. Usually she would save her mocking for kids who deserved it. One time we had to pick, hypothetically, a business or job to pursue on the Texas Gulf Coast, and say our choice out loud -- and it couldn't be something someone else had picked.

I said I would open a hotel, an acceptable answer. Most of the other kids had answers, too. When it came the turn of a fellow named Kyle, he said nothing for a long spell. Kyle, as it happened, was a jackass in the way that only seventh graders can be, a fact probably not lost on Mrs. Carico. "So, Kyle," she said. "You're going to sit on your porch and collect welfare?" Now that I think about it, that was a really pointed barb in a wealthy and conservative place like Alamo Heights.

Lawrence Williams' obituary mentions his service in World War II and Korea, rising to Lt. Colonel in the Army; his years teaching seventh graders at AHJS; and his wife, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchild. It also has this to say: "He visited all seven continents, dipped a toe in each ocean, had his landing craft capsize at Pitcairn Island, and was shipwrecked in the Solomon Islands. He turned 82 in Borneo, flow around Mt. Everest, and went to seldom-visited lands."

So long, Mr. Williams. I'm a little sorry I was never in your class.


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