Monday, February 29, 2016

The Great Gatsby

No, this blog isn’t about the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  OK, maybe it is, but only in a peripheral way.   It’s about the teacher who sat at the front of the class, and read the book to his largely disinterested students.
Reverend G. Lewis Wright.
I called him Mr. Wright.  My younger brother called him Professor Wright.  I had no idea that he was a minister.  I was in the 10th grade, pretty much self-centered (like most teens), and bored out of my skull as Mr. Wright droned on and on about Jay Gatsby.
So, I used his second period class as a glorified study hall.  My best friend Jim shared the class with me, and he had Ms. Echols’ social studies class during first period; I had the same class third period.  I would quiz Jim on what happened during his class, getting detailed notes about pop quizzes, etc.  It was a good arrangement for me. I got an A in Mrs. Echols’ class; Jim got a C.
But, I digress.
I guess that something must have sunk in because I somehow got an A in Mr. Wright’s class, and never really thought about the man again until Saturday.
The house was in a fairly affluent part of Macon, close to my alma mater, Northeast High School, and the estate sale sign beckoned as Ella and I pulled up.  You know, true estate sales are fairly intimate.  You get a peek into someone else’s life, and as I walked in and saw the bookcases full of literature and religious books, I should have known, or at least figured out, that the owner, or former owner as the case may be, was a teacher.
The shelf full of Northeast High School yearbooks should have been a clue as well.
I didn’t, though.  I was too focused on what I could scavenge from the house. Self-centeredness never really goes away, does it?
As I wandered into one of the bedrooms, I came face to face, figuratively, with a picture of Mr. Wright.   I was … honestly, I don’t know what I was, other than mad at myself because I couldn’t remember his name.  I could remember exactly where I sat in his class, and had a clear mental image of him sitting on his stool reading, including the look on his face and the sound of his voice. But I could not remember his name.
Oh, the picture had a price tag of $10, but Saturday was half-price day.  Yep, all of his treasured family photos were 50 percent off.
I asked a sale worker for his name, and kicked myself when they told me.  Of course, it was Mr. Wright.  Why hadn’t I remembered?  Of course, it had been 37 years, so I deserve some slack, don’t I?
Armed with that bit of knowledge, and despite protests from Ella that we needed to get a move on, I made a circuit through his house again, really looking at things, and trying to build a memory of the man who spent 35 years of his life trying to teach unappreciative students.
I learned that he liked music, especially classical.  He had a large collection of Reader’s Digest collections, including books and CDs.  He had a fair amount of travel DVDs.  He also was an amateur photographer, with a large collection of old cameras.  He also had taken, over the years, hundreds of photos with his students, all of which could be had for a bargain basement price on that day.
As Ella and I got to our van, I decided that I wanted to snap a picture of that framed photograph of Mr. Wright.  I hurriedly walked back up the hill to the house, only to discover that the photograph had been taken off the wall.
I was disappointed, but as I left the house, I hoped that both the photograph and Mr. Wright himself were in a better place.
RIP, Mr. Wright (1933-2015).