Memory boxBy Jim Bishop
The parcel sat in a corner of my office, taking up space and collecting dust. But I ignored it, until several weekends ago, when I finally inspected its contents.
I unearthed a treasure trove, a documented narrative of the most formative period of my life — a stack of priceless art work by Jimmy Bishop; illustrated animal stories that I think match some of the better children’s books on the market today; essays from freshman English class (handwritten, not even typed, some even with decent grades and “clever” and “well done” notes in the margins from the teacher); a collection of columns for the Weather Vane student newspaper my junior year at Eastern Mennonite University and photographs from my college commencement in 1967.
How did I manage without this precious cache?
The contents included report cards from grades 1 through 6 from Doylestown Township (Pa.) Elementary School. I excelled in social studies — outside the classroom, that is.
I grimaced at the handwritten teachers’ comments. “Jimmy is a pleasant boy to have in the classroom. I wish he would be a little freer to help in discussions.” Then: “He has become too free. I’m sure he will improve.” And then at the conclusion of fourth grade: “It was a pleasure to have Jimmy in my classroom, but oh, what a loud voice at the wrong time.”
Somehow, I passed on to Lenape Junior High and from there to Christopher Dock Mennonite High School. A diploma documents that this ardent scholar “satisfactorily completed the Course of Studies prescribed for graduation from this high school, given at Lansdale, Pennsylvania, this fourth day of June, 1963.”
Three who signed the diploma are no longer living: Richard C. Detweiler, supervising principal; Harvey W. Bauman, principal; and Paul R. Clemens, president of the board of trustees.
What means even more to me today than that degree is the award I found with it, “in recognition of achievement in the field of creative writing” presented by the Franconia chapter of Mennonite Writers’ Fellowship, signed by Principal Bauman.
Looking back, that unexpected honor prodded me to start thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life after high school. I was largely concerned at the time with keeping my car on the road and a young lady next to me on the bench seat, having some change in my pocket and somehow landing in the catbird’s seat as a rockin’ jock at a radio station.
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