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February 28, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Paul Harvey

My third grade teacher, Mr. W.,  left me with many horrible memories…frequent repeated writings of a single sentence (I will not kick boys on the playground.  I will not kick boys on the playground.  I will not kick boys on the playground.).  He sent me to the principal’s office (twice) for something I did not do.  Mr. W. yelled a lot.  He was the first teacher I had that was not a pleasantly plump beskirted woman that smelled of paste.  I dreaded seeing his crabby face.

Mr. W. was always pitting the students against each other in contests.  Contests to fill out multiplication tables the fastest.  Daily spelling bees.  Races during recess.  Math problems on the chalkboard. 

He didn’t just foster healthy competition…he practiced a gladiator-style method of teaching.  Gold stars…to cliche for Mr. W.  Trophies, power, and recognition, that was his bag.  I bet that if he would have been allowed to serve up our eight-year old heads on silver platters to the strongest students, most of us wouldn’t be around today.  Instead of public execution, the reward for beating the other students came in the form of candy or Monopoly money.  The Monopoly money was used to bid on toys on the last day of school.  Yep, he had an auction for cool toys, ensuring maximum jealousy right up until the beginning of fourth grade, when we could all move our scarred, impressionable selves on, and he could start eating the next class alive. 

For all of his downfalls, Mr. W had one routine that left me with a warm fuzzy.  Every day after lunchtime recess Mr. W. turned the radio to Paul Harvey ‘s newscast.  Of course this was not exempt from becoming a contest.  As soon as Paul Harvey signed off with Good Day? a quiz would begin.  To ensure we were building competitive listening skills, Mr. W. asked ten questions that could only be answered by those paying attention to the radio.  The winner would receive the usual dose of candy and/or pastel colored cash.  I blame most of my past cavities on Mr. W.  

Today Paul Harvey died.  Hearing this news transported me took me back to my desk in Mr. W’s overheated class.  I can still see the green chalkboard with my name under “Principal’s Office.”  I can still picture ol’ what’s his face, hiding behind the art supply cabinet eating paste.  I remember the day Carli rejected me for the third grade mafia.  I remember playing marbles in the dirt and the disappointment I felt with recess ended, when we’d have to get in line to return to our desks, because it was time for Paul Harvey. 

I’ve heard Paul Harvey over the airwaves occasionally since those days.  I will never forget his voice and his friendly chuckle as he read the news.  To me, Paul Harvey was an on-the-air grandpa.  He made Mr. W’s wrath tolerable for an entire year.  His passing leaves a hole in the world that can never be filled. 

If Mr. W. is still around, I bet he is sad today, too.  I suspect that he made Paul Harvey’s radio show into a daily contest just so he would have an excuse to listen to that friendly voice.

I’m still pissed about the principal’s office, though.

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5 Comments

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  1. Carli / Mar 6 2009 9:00 am

    Poor Paul Harvey. I really never cared who I beat in those contests…as long as I beat you :)Somehow that became my main mission in those days. Now as for the 3rd grade mafia…do tell. I seem to have blocked that one out.

    Did you ever beat me? If so, I must have blocked THAT out…

  2. teeni / Mar 6 2009 8:27 am

    Aw, great post. It’s so sad to see someone who had such a big part in your childhood pass away. It’s funny how you probably didn’t think he had much affect until this happened. That stinks that you got such a yucky teacher who got you in trouble for things you didn’t do though. I can’t blame you for being mad about the principal’s office. 😉

  3. Madame Monet / Mar 4 2009 1:38 pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Harvey personally, when I was a freshman in college, and he came to speak at my university in Missouri!

    Madame Monet

  4. Romi / Mar 1 2009 2:46 pm

    Aww…an on-air grandpa, that sounds real sweet, Rest in Peace Mr. Harvey

    (and Mr. W reminds me of a male teacher I had who was rather no-nonsense, but I perpetuated his sternness by speaking out of turn from time to time 😉 )

  5. edbooked / Mar 1 2009 9:25 am

    You will enjoy reading The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, available via http://www.Xlibris.com. Search online bookstores by book title. Great insight into the real world of public education in America. Well worth the read.

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