Saturday, April 4, 2009

Reason #17,643 Why I Am The Way I Am

I am looking at a picture of myself at age 15, sitting in front of an upright piano. The year, if you must know, is 1956. I am wearing a light gray suit, a white shirt, and a snazzy bow tie. My hair, helped along by a liberal dab of Brylcreem, is neatly combed into its usual pompadour. My hands seem to be caressing the keys. A thinner, younger version of myself looks at the camera. I am smiling. I am not at one of Mrs. Alyne Eagan’s annual spring recitals. Those were always held at the First Baptist Church so her students could play on the big, shiny, black grand piano. No, I am somewhere else.

Jumping forward to the present, I am hopelessly out of date, techologically speaking. I own a television set, but it is not one of those new flat, high-def ones. My version of Old Man River just sits there in its corner but it still keeps rolling along. I do own a VCR (I can hear you laughing) and a CD player and even a DVD player, but I do not own a DVR or a TIVO or a Kindle or whatever is the latest thing on the market. I do not own a Camcorder or a digital camera, an iPod or an iPhone, nor do I own a special drive or device that uploads instant photos into my computer instantly. Therefore, I cannot show you the picture.

I know. It’s pathetic.

Yesterday I rummaged through a cardboard box in a corner of the spare bedroom and found a fifty-year-old scrapbook. My mother put together three scrapbooks when I was young to record my every move, it seems, for posterity. The two earliest scrapbooks have disappeared, but I still have the one covering my high school years. I hadn’t looked at it in a very long time until yesterday, when I found it while rummaging through that cardboard box in a corner of the spare bedroom.

Today, therefore, I could tell you, if I wished, about my Junior prom or my Senior play or the time the Future Teachers of America Club went to the District V FTA Convention at North Texas State College in Denton. But instead I am going to tell you about Municipal Building Dedication Day in our small Texas town on September 15, 1956. That’s where the photo of me was taken. It appeared a few days later in the center of a half-page collage of eleven photographs in our town’s weekly newspaper. Mansfield had never had a Municipal Building (or, as it turns out, a police car) before, so it was a really big deal.

I wish I had a handy-dandy digital camera so I could take a digital picture of the yellowed newspaper page, and I wish I had one of those fancy-schmancy uploading devices so I could upload to my computer the digital picture taken with the handy-dandy digital camera so you could see it. But, alas, I do not have a handy-dandy or fancy-schmancy anything. Well, actually, I do, but this is a G-rated blog. lists five proverbs that start with the word if:

1. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
2. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will go to the mountain.
3. If the shoe fits, wear it.
4. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
5. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Can you guess which one of those proverbs applies to my situation? The fourth one, of course. Just because you guessed correctly, don't think you’re going to get any sort of prize from me. I am not that ranch woman in Oklahoma who holds contests that hundreds of commenters enter hoping to win one of her prizes.

So anyway, lacking the handy-dandy digital camera and the fancy-schmancy uploading device, I am forced to do my best imitation of Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls (“Picture it, Sicily, 1922”) and describe the collage on the yellowed newspaper page using words alone. What a concept! Here goes:

Picture it, Mansfield, Municipal Building Dedication Day, 1956....

I just can’t do it justice. Instead, I will reproduce the captions under the collage, highlighting Reason #17,643 why I am the way I am.

“DEDICATION DAY IN PICTURES. (1) Serving as program chairman for the Council Women was Mrs. E. C. Harris. (2) Mr. Anderson, speech and drama teacher in Mansfield High School did a wonderful job as master of ceremonies. (3) Mayor Halbert made everyone feel welcome. (4) Mr. W. A. Lamb, Chamber of Commerce president, complimented the city officials on a job well done. (5) The main speaker, Mr. June R. Welch, paid homage to the past, respect for the present, and pointed avenues for the future. (6) Teen-ager Bobby Brague shown at the piano. The piano got a fresh coat of paint for this special occasion. (7) Ex-Mayor Harrison gave an interesting historical background of Mansfield. (8) City Chief-of-Police, Gene Cannon, proudly showed off the first police car purchased by the city. (9) Standing by the cornerstone is Lynn Ellis, president of the Mansfield Jaycees. (10) Seated by the resuscitator in the new Tarrant County Mobile Unit displayed by the Volunteer Fire Department is Rev. Charles Sullivan. (11) Police Chief Cannon demonstrated the strength of the bars in the new city jail to Mr. McBride and Katherine Peterson. Since it was their first visit Chief Cannon gave them permission to go free.”

It occurs to me that I really didn’t need to show you the collage. Just think of the entire cast of The Andy Griffith Show and you’ll get the picture.

Perhaps I should have highlighted the entire paragraph.


  1. Who needs pictures with sparkling reportage like that?! Perhaps it's something about liking to keep things simple that I too, ban blog pictures; though I do own several cameras (one digital), DVB/VHS recorder, flat screen TV, record deck, tape to tape recorder, two tambourines, a digital keyboard and a swanee whistle. None of which necessarily mean I am of the 21st century....But I wish I could email you, after you leave such long comments on my post, for a little quid pro quo.

  2. Your wishes, unlike my own, are instantly fulfilled. To be specific, I have edited my profile to include a way to contact me by e-mail.

    I hope I don't live to regret it.

    I am fascinated that you own two tambourines and a swanee whistle. You would fit right in at certain churches in our area.

  3. At least you have a computer. The other things will follow.
    You must hsve been a good piano player to play at such an important occasion particularly since the piano was newly painted.

  4. Wonderful reporting, RWP. That was quite an occasion. I'm glad you came across the scrapbook. We had no scrapbooks, although mama kept a couple of boxes of photos of family members. She bequeathed the boxes to my younger sister, who carried them away to another state. Sister has since had a stroke and no one in her family seems to know what she did with the photos. Since I do have a fancy dancy thing that will scan and copy photos, I would love have our family photos long enough to make copies. Ah, well. None of us every did anything as exciting as playing the piano at the opening of the Municipal Building.

    I shall refrain from inundating you with emails.

  5. You were playing a painted piano?!

    Its wonderful that you have the scrapbook! What a treasure!

    Those fancy-dancy things that upload photos to the computer cost less than $20.

    You have added your email address?! Golly....there was something I wanted to email you awhile back, but can't remember what it was.

  6. 1952 and my last three blogs were 1965, 1967, and 1971