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).

5 comments:

  1. Great post!! I had a similar experience a couple years back. I walked into an estate sale and noticed a bunch of year books from my old school. I ended up plopped down on the floor, looking through them and seeing pictures of myself, classmates and old teachers I hadn't seen in eons. Very cool! Thank you for the beautiful story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, great post, Scott. I was one of Mr. Wright's appreciative students. I will always remember his commitment to having us learn The Canterbury Tales prologue in Old English! Rest in Power, Professor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You went to Northeast? What year did you graduate?

      Delete
  3. Great post Scott. I've never been to an estate sale of someone I know, but you never know, it may happen. My hubby is always talking about his teachers by name and I only remember one of my teachers. I came to the US from Poland in 1981. In Poland, I would have started kindergarden (Poland is a year behind in school). Since I was almost 7, they put me in 1st grade, but I had to go to the kindergarden class for reading/learning for a few hours a day as I didn't speak the language. And that teach was Mrs. Olds. I remember how kind and helpful she was to me knowing I didn't understand 1 single work in English. It was a traumatic time in my life. I always feel bad that she's the only teacher I remember.no one else from 1st grade to complete of my MBA do I remember. So sad. I don't have a good memory.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry for the loss of your teacher. It's odd when our lives intersect with people we know in an unusual way. I used to follow your blog when you had an exchange student and were setting up your first vintage booth. I always admired your writing. I stopped blogging a few years ago to focus on mystery writing. With three books published and #4 in the works, I decided to restart my reselling blog. I hope you will follow me back at http://vintagestuffnsuch.blogspot.com. Thanks, Lisa

    ReplyDelete