First Day of School – 1950s Style

Columnist:  Bob Grafe

One of the advantages of being a “senior” citizen is the ability to reflect back over at least a half-century of real time — and to finally be truthful about it!

About 55 years ago, my fifth-grade elementary school teacher, Mrs. Rumbleheart, was welcoming her new class of students back to school after our summer vacation.  She met us at the classroom door with her new class roster in one hand and, “Whack,” her 18-inch ruler gripped confidently in the other.

“Welcome back.” she said with her all-knowing voice.  Most of the girls smiled and said something nice in return while most of us boys just looked down to avoid that familiar teacher’s glare of suspicion.  

In those days we didn’t return to school until after Labor Day was celebrated.  Well, celebrated wasn’t exactly the way we looked at it.  We kids weren’t ever really sure what Labor Day was all about anyway; except we all knew that we were about to return to “slave labor” in that big building called a school where they made us “practice” all kinds of stuff like reading, writing … and that other one as soon as Labor Day was over.

We knew from experience that our only break from true forced “labor” at school was when we were allowed out for recess into “the yard,” complete with concrete flooring and a “protective” (very tall) cyclone fence all around — with school teacher “guards” at every gate.

Modern-day prisons have a resemblance to many earlier-day schools.

The first day back to school was always bad.  But, this one seemed particularly bad.

The teachers, Mrs. Rumbleheart included, were everywhere when we went out for that first recess.  My friend Bruce secretly showed us guys some cigarettes and matches that he brought from home.  Unfortunately, he also unknowingly displayed them in a way that Mr. Kling, the vice principal, could also see them.

A couple of hours later I saw Bruce and his parents leaving Mr. Kling’s office at the end of our hallway.  Mrs. Rumbleheart never called out Bruce’s name for the remainder of that day … or the next day for that matter.  It wouldn’t have made any difference since Bruce didn’t come back to school for a couple of days.  When he came back to school he said that Mr. Kling sent him home to “think about” smoking. 

That didn’t make any sense to us.  He could have thought about smoking while at school.  That way, we guys wouldn’t have had to choose a girl to be on our dodge-ball team since Bruce wasn’t there.

Soon, it was time for our first lunch.  My mother had paid some money so that on “special days,” like the first day of school, I could eat a “hot” lunch at school.  Usually, I would bring a bag lunch with a hand-sliced piece of bologna on thin white bread with mayonnaise and a leaf of Iceberg head lettuce sandwich in a brown bag with a cookie.

My brown bag had my name written on it and would sit proudly on one of the shelves in the overly warm cloak room until it was time to go to lunch.  The school provided a “free” carton of milk for all of us brown-baggers.

I think my mother let me have a hot lunch in the school cafeteria on occasion just to make those bologna sandwiches seem better.  I don’t know if the school cooks only knew how to heat up spaghetti or not; but, it seemed as if every time I ate the school’s lunch it was spaghetti and they always added way too much water to the sauce.

After lunch it was back to the books in Mrs. Rumbleheart’s class.  She told us that we would have a different teacher than her for music and art classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and that we “Best be good!” or she would hear about it … and so would we … from “Whack!”

Before the first day of school was over, Mrs. Rumbleheart had us read out-loud some pages from a book so she could check our reading ability.  We all read from the book except for Donald and Doreen.  Neither one of them ever said much in class either.  They had a really funny sounding last name.

After the reading time, we had to write some sentences about what we had just heard.  All I could remember was a couple of guys chuckling when I couldn’t pronounce some big word correctly when it was my time to read.  So, I wrote about them.  Mrs. Rumbleheart was not amused.

Finally, as the end of the first day of school was approaching, Mrs. Rumbleheart handed out a paper to everyone with a whole bunch of numbers on it in various forms and fashions with lines and strange looking symbols. 

“We still have some time to do a little math.” she announced.  Her voice had the same friendly ring to it as does the guard’s voice on death-row asking “Sir, what would you like to enjoy for your last meal with us?”

I recall turning in the paper empty to Mrs. Rumbleheart; and then, years later, having to re-take college algebra three times to finally graduate.

And, so ended another miserable first day back to school after completing a perfectly wonderful summer vacation. 

How long until Memorial Day?

Some things in life really never change … now, do they!

Obama Has No Clue About Running America’s Business

On a recent Glenn Beck Show, he had a graph that illustrated the percentage of each past president’s cabinet who had worked in the private business sector prior to their appointment to the cabinet.

You know what the private business sector is… a real life business, not a government job.

Here are the percentages discussed by Mr. Beck.  

T. Roosevelt…….. 38% Taft………………….40% Wilson…………….. 52% Harding…………….49% Coolidge………….. 48% Hoover…………….. 42% F. Roosevelt……… 50% Truman……………..50% Eisenhower………. 57% Kennedy………….. 30% Johnson…………….47% Nixon………………. 53% Ford………………… 42% Carter………………. 32% Reagan……………..56% GH Bush………….. 51% Clinton…………….. 39% GW Bush…………. 55%  

And the winner of the Chicken Dinner is…………..   Obama…………….   8% !!!  

Yep! Thats right!  Only Eight Percent!!!..the least by far of the last 19 presidents!! 

And these people are trying to tell our big corporations how to run their business? They know what’s best for GM…Chrysler… Wall Street…  and you and me?   

How can the president of a major nation and society…the one with the most successful economic system in world history… stand and talk about business when he’s never worked for one?.. or about private sector jobs when he has never really had one??!    

And neither has 92% of his senior staff and closest advisers.! They’ve spent most of their time in academia, government and/or non-profit jobs….or as “community organizers” ..when they should have been in an employment line.   


Worth repeating.  Thanks Glenn!!

Senior Citizen Businessmen Local Seguin Heroes

By:  Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Seguin, TX –  There are wars and rumors of wars around the globe these days.  Most of them I personally don’t fully understand and I certainly have very little impact on their outcomes.

  However, there is a little “unspoken” war going on that a few local senior citizens have been quietly fighting—the war to save our country’s economy.

  The verbal battles over which way the country’s economy should spin are being waged within the secluded and protective walls of government—but the real front-line warfare is taking place right at our local doorsteps. 

  While a few local seniors keep up the good economic fight—continuing to keep their private sector businesses operating, making payrolls, supporting community events, paying their business taxes—many other seniors this time of year go through the annual ritual of making new year’s resolutions.  Frequently, those resolutions are about speeding up their “retirement” date.

  They may be bored with their life’s work, mad at their boss, or maybe just impatient about “doing” all those things that they’ve always wanted to do—but can’t because they “think” their daily work interferes with their “preferred” schedule.

  Some foster the notion that “early” retirement is right for them … and they pull the employment plug early and head off into their anticipated retirement bliss.  Two months later they wake up and recall the advice given to them but not followed that someone provided years earlier saying, “Before you retire, stay home from work for one week and watch daytime television.”

  Even current dictionaries are largely in agreement that the meaning of “retirement” as a noun in part means “The age at which one normally retires.” and “The state of being retired.”  But, dictionaries also continue with their secondary (and often more stark) meanings such as “Withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.” and “A place of seclusion or privacy.”

  The Conference Board research group has been studying employment and retirement issues for the past 22 years.  In a new survey, just released, they found that only 45 percent of workers are happy with their jobs—down from 61 percent of workers who reported being content with their employment in 1987.

  Linda Barrington, Managing Director of Human Capital at the Conference Board noted in the study document that “It is two-way responsibility.  Workers also have to figure out what they should be doing to be the most engaged in their jobs and the most productive.”  Otherwise, the business will probably not be successful.

  For many years now, three local gentlemen (all senior citizens) have been waging serious battles to keep their small businesses operating.

  Joe Tocquigny of The Green Gate Nursery, Alfred Kolbe of Kolbe Flower Shop and George Ammermann of Right Way Lawn Service collectively have 230 years on Planet Earth—an average of 77 years.

  Would it have made any sense to conclude that at age 65 these three businessmen should have acquired sufficient experience to effectively lose their jobs?  That is what our country’s retirement “model” contends.  Even earlier retirement for some models where the thought is that the “old” must make room for the next generation.

  Keep in mind that none of these locals were operating their present businesses as they approached mid-life—a point at which so-called “retirement” was within view and reach.

  All of them voluntarily took on the responsibility of providing goods and services to our community through the daily operations of their small businesses knowing that they would probably have to forego viewing Oprah on television in the afternoon, long European vacations, and even golf each day at 9 a.m.

  Today, each of these private sector business warriors plans their business offense and defense strategies, engages the enemy (a sluggish economy) with precision strikes, defends and protects their business staff and local community homeland by “smart” decision-making, and by getting up every morning with all the aches and pains that the rest of us senior citizens endure—and mostly without making comment or complaint.

  The private sector really is the life-blood of our local community.  Without our local business men and women risking their own economic futures every time they switch on the “Open” for business sign, there would be little tax revenue gathered and paid for the benefit of those who provide the sometimes “needed” government services.

  Tocquigny, Kolbe and Ammermann are truly local senior citizen “heroes” fighting each day to keep our economy thriving.  As with our men and women serving in our military, please offer a tip of the hat and a sincere “Thank you.” for their service the next time you encounter one of these patriotic local businessmen.

  All three of these business giants remind me in some ways of George Burns who remarked on his blessing of being in show business all of his long life, “Retire?  I’m going to stay in show business until I’m the only one left!”

FOX News Should Fire Talking Head Uma Pemmaraju For Cause

By:  Bob Grafe, Columnist

© FOX News is beginning to look both foolish and ignorant in the presentation of their breaking news “facts” they purport to present.  The leader of the “Pack of Foolishness” is barely intelligible teleprompter reader Uma Pemmaraju.

Her latest fiasco occurred during her recent so-called “interview” with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-UT who is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  Repeatedly, Pemmaraju would attempt to restate what the Congressman had just stated–frequently stating the exact opposite of what Chaffetz had said concerning the use of full-body screening machines as part of airport security.

After the third or fourth time Pemmaraju just “didn’t get it,” the interview reduced to a farce.  Chaffetz kept his composure–even though he could have (fully within his rights) blasted Pemmaraju for her stupidity.

FOX News continues to use their favorite slogan of “Fair and Balanced” in their reporting.  Perhaps while Pemmaraju is still around the various FOX News sets the slogan should be “Impaired and unbalanced.”

For the sake of journalism, Pemmaraju needs to be fired with cause and sent back to wherever she came from “off shore” to go back to answering technical computer questions via the telephone for some large corporation.

Every Minute In Life Counts!!

By:  Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Did you know that you only have 10,512,000 minutes left to live?  That is correct if you are now a senior citizen age 65 and you expect to live to be age 85 – allowing for 20 more years of living.

  Put another way, you have 7,300 more wake-up calls and a little more than 1,000 weeks to get all those things still remaining to do in your life … done!

  Look at it this way:  You have the same time available and remaining to complete an entirely new career – the same as does a man or woman just beginning a 20-year career in the military.  And, you have the side benefit of no one actually shooting at you.

  There’s still plenty of time to get done what you want to get done – but, you have to go about the task with a well thought-out plan in place.

  So, where do you begin?

  Perhaps the first order of business is to inventory all of your personal time and financial expense commitments that now encumber your personal 24-hour day and your bank account.

  The financial expense commitments portion of the inventory will probably be the easiest to complete.  The personal time commitment portion is much more difficult because it is much more personal involving your emotional investment with many friends and relatives in your life. 

  As you review your personal time commitments be sure to ask yourself, for example, if you are committed to spending one weekend each month away from home with grandchildren, or a special civic organization’s project, or teaching special classes at your church, or with helping out with duties at your senior citizen center, or maybe committed to visiting dear friends and relatives in rest homes, or maybe working at a part-time job that you really enjoy, or maybe just spending a quality weekend at home with your spouse … or any number of other good things to do “one” weekend each month. 

  Well, something has to give because you run out of month before you run out of that special “one” weekend each month – it looks more like “every” weekend is taken up and then some.

  A high level of personal time commitments for on-going activities that are not considered by you to be “very” important may interfere with your desire to complete your list of things that you want to get done – while there is still time to do so. 

  Once that current inventory of personal time commitments is completed, take a deep breath and prioritize the inventory list into three areas:  Very Important; Less Important; and Not Important.  Keep the list private for a few days while you ponder what you have written down.  Then, review the list and make appropriate changes that you have thought about.

  Now, with a blank piece of paper, using the same inventory list categories of Very Important; Less Important; and Not Important, write down those things in life that you really want to accomplish during this “next” 20-year career of yours that is just waiting to begin.  Prioritize your list and then let those private ideas incubate for a couple of days before you make changes to your “final” prioritized list of things you want to accomplish.

  Like it or not, the “other” list of financial commitments that you will have to complete during this life’s inventory process will help to bring into focus those important items that you want to get accomplished – and that you can actually afford.

  For best results with your future list of accomplishments, be totally honest with yourself when you complete your financial commitments analysis.  Don’t be tempted to over-state or under-state either projected expenses or income.  

  These simple steps will help to un-clutter your life allowing you a better picture of what you want to accomplish with your remaining years – what is truly important to you.

  It will help the process along if you begin by placing all of the televisions in your house in the garage sale that you should have.  Garage sales help to un-clutter your life.  Or just drop all your “junk” off at a Goodwill Industries collection site.  Remember, one person’s “junk” is another person’s “bargain.” 

  Be sure to get a receipt for your donation since you also have another 20 or so annual IRS tax return forms to complete between age 65 and 85.  Maybe you’ll find some hidden tax right-offs among your treasures donated to Goodwill or other charitable organizations.

  To help with the “financial” un-cluttering process, you might consider canceling those subscriptions to unread magazines, special “discount” membership offers for “seniors,”  those “special” credit cards now infrequently used, and other commitments that may not provide you with the benefits once promised but seldom delivered – but still cost you that monthly or annual fee.

  Likewise, it is probably a good time to continue with your personal time commitment inventory tweaking by evaluating your membership in various worthwhile organizations.  Some community organizations may still offer you an opportunity to be of service within a specific area and some national organizations may continue to offer you an opportunity to contribute time or funds for good causes.

  But, some have outlived your ability to contribute either financially or with your time and they may need to be dropped from your list of commitments.

  Once your life is a little less cluttered, your personal time commitments and financial commitments inventory tasks are completed and well thought-out, your next 20-year career will be ready to tackle with gusto – perhaps just in time for the new year!

 Submitted by Bob Grafe for publication on Thursday, December 10, 2009.

A 1950s Thanksgiving Lesson In Miss Rumbleheart’s Class

Bob Grafe, Columnist

© Thanksgiving Day is a good day to reflect back on all of the many blessings each one of us has received in this life — especially for those of us old enough to recall both the good and the bad times and are wise enough to recognize the difference.

  I can recall back over half a century ago when the early-morning chill seemed to envelope the concrete basement classroom at my aging Lincoln Elementary School.  It was there that my also aging school teacher, Miss Rumbleheart, ran her third-grade class with the disciplined style of a very disgruntled Army drill sergeant.

  And even though Thanksgiving was the very next day, Miss Rumbleheart made it perfectly clear that she was there that school day for the sole purpose of teaching us the FOUR “R’s” … read’n, right’n, rithmatic’n and ruler’n.

  If you didn’t perform to her standard with the first three R’s, her 18-inch wooden ruler “Whack” would quickly move you back on task.

  Those were the days before school lawyer’n became popular and when long-reaching rulers helped make “no child left behind” a much easier goal to achieve.

  I still remember that late fall school day when for the first time I got the inkling that Miss Rumbleheart might actually HAVE a heart.

  It was mid-morning and the radiator next to the window across the room from my ink-well style desk had finally stopped crackling for awhile.  I noticed that Miss Rumbleheart seemed a little more odd than usual that day.

  Surprisingly, Whack the ruler hadn’t moved from her desk all morning — making all of us students very thankful as we prepared for a Thanksgiving school holiday.

  “Let’s make a list on the blackboard.” She announced.  “Tell me what you’re thankful for.  It’s going to be Thanksgiving tomorrow, and you’d better be thankful for something!”

  As she went around our third-grade classroom asking for input from each child, the blackboard quickly filled with such things as my mom and dad; new shoes; a new bike; cherry Coke; a new dress; my puppy “Buster;” a big radio; The Lone Ranger; grandma and grandpa; and the like.

  When the blackboard was filled to capacity, Susan, the girl at the desk next to me raised her hand to ask a question.  With a bit of annoyance in her voice, our teacher said to Susan, “Yes, what is it?”

  Susan shyly asked “Miss Rumbleheart, what are you thankful for?”

  With a silence in the classroom similar only to those times when Miss Rumbleheart was going to send someone to the principal’s office for doing something really bad, she sat down at her desk and seemed to be thinking without saying a word for the longest time.

  Then she began.

  She told us about how she almost married many years ago, but “things” just didn’t work out.

  However, she quickly added that she had also wanted children of her own — but  was very thankful to have had so many wonderful school children to teach and to keep safe each day for so many years.

  The Korean War had been going on for a couple of years, and Miss Rumbleheart told us how thankful she was for living in a country where she had freedoms that many other peoples of the world did not.

  She said that she was thankful for all those who were serving in the military and who fought for our freedoms and to keep us all safe.  “My nephew is in the Army, and he is fighting in Korea.” She noted.  “They say the war will be over soon, and I’m thankful for that.  We all, everyone in our family, really miss him.”

  “It always makes me proud to see the American flag flying high,” she said, adding that we were lucky to live in America and that we should always be thankful for “our special country.”

    She said that she was thankful that she felt safe to walk in her neighborhood and while shopping.  “People in our town are very polite to each other and we care about each other.  I feel safe here and I’m sure thankful for that.”

  Television was new then, and she said that she was thankful for being able to see and hear such wonderful things on television.  “What a blessing the television is.” She said.  “We’ll all be able to learn so many new things with it that radio just can’t duplicate.”

  With a smile, she recalled that it made her and the school’s principal very thankful to not have to hear “any foul language” from the students at our school.  Again, she told us how proud she was of us for our good manners.

  She said that she was thankful for all the families who raised such wonderful children for her to teach in school.  And, she added that she was very thankful to have had the opportunity to have “such a special job as a school teacher.”

  “I have been truly blessed.” She said.

  As she was about to finish talking, I remember seeing some tears in her eyes that she unsuccessfully attempted to hide as she told us how thankful she was for her family, her friends and her God.

  The rest of that day remains a bit of a blur.  However, the memory of those good feelings and precious teachings about the blessings of living, especially living in America that Miss Rumbleheart instilled in me and many others that day, lingers on even now.

  When we returned from our Thanksgiving holiday, Miss Rumbleheart was there to greet us at the door – “Whack” the ruler in hand.  Back to the four R’s we went — but, with a new appreciation for our master senior citizen school teacher.

  As for me, I’m very thankful for having been blessed with many wonderful teachers throughout the years while living in our great country — but, I’m especially thankful for Miss Rumbleheart and how she forever taught me about being thankful.