My reunion with my high school history teacher

My reunion with my high school history teacher

We called him Mr. Johnson. Today he is Bob. He was my high school history teacher in Monroe.

This was before Monroe had their high school fire and was thrown into emergency consolidation with arch rival, Prairie City. It would be called PCM — Prairie City Monroe.

Legend has it that Monroe wanted their name to be first, as in Monroe Prairie City, but since Prairie City was helping Monroe by taking in its students after the fire, Prairie City would be first. The two schools, however, did compromise on team names. Previously it was Monroe Wildcats and Prairie City Plainsmen. Now it would be PCM Mustangs.

One of my last vivid memories of Mr. Johnson was when he awarded me an hour of detention after school. This made me late for football practice, for which I received the privilege of running 20 laps, so my last memory of Mr. Johnson isn’t all that pleasant.

What was my infraction? My memory is vague, but it was either (a.) chewing gum, (b.) having my shirttail out, or (c.) not wearing a belt (called the Nobelt Prize.) Considering how students dress nowadays — they wear shorts to school for heaven’s sake — it’s almost laughable. It wasn’t funny then.

By the way, I was the class clown and had the second most detentions in the whole school. Who was first? That poor soul was on permanent detention.

So, how did I come to meet up with my 86-year-old high school history teacher?

Well, his wife, Suzanne (she’s 20 years younger than him), and I are friends on Facebook. She likes art, I like art. I forwarded Suzanne a notice that Cecile Houel, a world-famous French artist in Burlington, was having an open house. Suzanne was excited and wanted to attend.

I said, “Well, why don’t you and your husband, Bob, come to Mount Pleasant, and Ginnie and I will take you to Burlington to meet Cecile Houel.”

Suzanne jumped at the chance.

Voila. This is how I came to meet up with my old high school history teacher, Bob (Mr.) Johnson. He has quite a story. Teaching history at Monroe was his first and only teaching job. (By the way, he looks great and is in excellent health, his memory sharp as a tack.) He taught history and other subjects, like government and economics, at Monroe, and then Prairie City Monroe.

He came to Monroe at the tender age of 29, after graduating from the University of Iowa and a stint in the Army. The superintendent asked him if he would stay two years. Bob agreed and stayed 33. This was during the Vietnam war and teaching jobs were highly sought after as they were automatic draft deferments.

He met his wife to be while teaching school. Suzanne was a custodian. Bob and his teacher friends would meet after school and play basketball and lift weights. Suzanne would join in on the basketball playing and out-shoot them. Bob thought, “This is the one for me.”

He asked her out on a picnic lunch to propose. Only he didn’t bring the ring for fear of losing it in the tall grass. Fortunately, Suzanne was able to look beyond the absence of a ring and, knowing that Bob was frugal, would make a good husband. The rest is all history, so to speak. They’ve been married 41 years.

We had a great time in Burlington looking at art. I drove them down Snake Alley, the world’s crookedest street according to Ripley, in Ginnie’s car. (We didn’t take mine because it “smelled mousy” according to Ginnie.) Ginnie freaked because she didn’t think her car would “make the curves.” It did fine.

We took my former history teacher and his wife out to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River. Mr. Johnson now has plenty of stories to tell his coffee drinking buddies back in Monroe, and I have my revenge for that hour of detention.

Curt Swarm is an author, columnist, metal sculpture and photographer from Mount Pleasant. you can reach him at (319) 217-0526, email at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.


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