The stuff of which memories are made

Published 6:33 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of our respective graduations from high school and some better and more patient folks than I have been for a while now literally and figuratively scurrying about, making plans for a joint 50th reunion for the 1969 senior classes at Clarksdale and Coahoma County high schools.

That effort includes the creation of a group social media page upon which a couple of the real troopers post old pictures from the school annuals in a valiant, if sometimes bewildering attempt to build enthusiasm for the event and provide a venue to folks, some of whom never connected much in the first place to ‘reconnect,” if so inspired, in their old age.

And last week, one of the photos posted was of Rose Weddell Scherck, about whom I have written in the past (a fact I noted) and about whom I was prompted to say a few things, among them the fact that if not for her, I might never have become a writer—the perceived merits of which, I realize, are debatable. But in that 50 years and 100 miles separate me from a lot of folks still here, a number of them who also remember Rose Scherck have expressed an interest in my thoughts of her, written and otherwise. So for them, and hopefully others, here goes:

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Mrs. Scherck, usually called “Miss Scherck” within that generation-spanning tendency of high schoolers to refuse acknowledgement that their female instructors might ever have been thought of “in that way” by any male, was in many ways a real life ink spot from Sinclair Lewis’ pen.

Mrs. Scherck was the prototypical Senior English teacher: mean, unreasonable, demanding. She did not buy the very best excuses regarding this or that assignment from even the more creative among us and did little to hide her intolerance thereof. Mrs. Scherck had a B.A. in BS recognition.

“Our Town” had one like her.

This town had her.

Mrs. Scherck approached the sadly lost art of diagramming a sentence (“At the board, young man, at the board.”), the proper placement of the world’s predicate adjectives, with a fervor and passion of perfected detail suitable for comparison with one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s blueprints.

She insisted that we read—the good stuff. The classics.

She told us that it was not only a good thing, but that it would actually help us in life to do so. Not a one of us ever let on that we really paid any attention to her about that, but, as she no doubt fervently hoped, a few of us actually did.

And she insisted we read the whole thing, too. Mrs. Scherck hated a Cliff Note like I hate a hypocrite, and for a while there, my adolescent concept of hell was not being prepared for one of her classes.

She had a certain stare in such an instance which could put frost on a fireplace log; she had a certain acidity of wit which could turn the big man on campus into the bad little boy in the woodshed.

She was a teacher.

She did not merely occupy a teaching position and receive taxpayer funded compensation for it. She was a teacher.

And like most of what now appears to be a near extinct species, she was extremely unpopular among those of us not yet old or wise enough to comprehend that concept. It was years after before at least some of us came to realize how much we owed her.

After all, she never sent a bill.

Practically through force of will, Mrs. Scherck forced us to borrow from her—to accept her knowledge of the English language and her recognition of the importance of knowledge, itself. She forced us, coerced us into taking that loan that she was never to ask us to repay.

But now, as “Old Blue Eyes” himself used to croon, as “the days dwindle down to a precious few,” I think I shall not be so lacking graciousness, so absent gratitude as to fail to at least thank the mean old woman turned oh, so wise, Southern lady to whom I owe so much.

For give or take a few years, I suppose I am now about of the age as was Mrs. Scherck when she set about the daunting task of trying to educate me, lo, those oh, so many years ago. But you know what? I can still diagram a sentence, and there are even a few people who seem to think I might can write a lick or two.

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.