My Woodshop Teacher
When I was in the 6th grade (early 70's), a group of my girlfriends and I decided we were going to take a wood shop class. But not just any wood shop class. An "all-girls" wood shop class. The teacher, a man who looked to be in his late 50's, was very gruff and seemed unhappy that he had gotten stuck with a bunch of little girls.
I cannot remember his name, but we used to call him Mr. Roley-Poley because he was so rotund and he was a bit mean to us. We were intimidated by his size and his stern manner. He would become so frustrated trying to explain to a class of girls what 1/16th of an inch was, or 1/4th of an inch for that matter. Bless his heart, the poor man probably spent a good week trying to teach us how to measure! In hindsight I'm amazed he didn't have a stroke since he would get so exasperated at us sometimes.
Then he assigned us a project and we had to use big machines we had never seen before. Band saws and jig saws and big drill machines and there were other machines that I do not remember the names of. We were around 11-12 years old, so most of the machines were as big or bigger than we were. We had no exposure to such boy-dominated territory before. I was very nervous when he gave me some chunks of wood and told me to mark them and cut them on the band saw. But I did it and got over my fear. He showed me how to use several of the machines and all kinds of hand tools. Eventually he let me use the machines on my own since I had gotten quite comfortable with them.
Somewhere along the line the old guy started to like us, and we started to like him too. We would chat up a storm in class, and he would tell us stories about his life that we enjoyed hearing. Just up the street from our wood shop classroom was a corner convenience store and he would pull money out of his pocket to give me and would open the side door so I could sneak out and dash up the street to the store to buy treats for everyone. I would come back with bags of candy to the girls' delight.
Then one day when I came to class early, I noticed he was carving something. I walked over to take a look and saw a beautiful ornate wood carving of grapes, vines, and leaves. He was working in silence. His steady hands whittling away as shavings of wood fell to the floor. I was taken aback by its beauty, and I think I was even more stunned that it had never occurred to me that this man was also an artist. That there was a whole 'nother side to him other than our Mr. Roley-Poley whom we adored. This teacher had taken a group of silly girls under his wing and had taught us much about a topic we otherwise would probably not have been exposed to.
If you go into my garage today, you will find a scroll saw, many hand tools, a drill, a compound miter saw, and a jigsaw. I'm not a wood worker by hobby, but because of him, I am not afraid to use tools and I can at least take care of some things around my house needing repair. And sometimes I can just make some stuff for fun.
Oh, and I can measure, too!! :-)
Thank you Mr. Roley-Poley, wherever you are!!