My mail is so disappointing mostly catalogs and fliers and advertisements. I am sure that the people who send it all have visions of me reading their offer carefully and leaping into action to buy or call or contribute as requested.
Instead, I throw away most of it without a glance.
But there was something really good in my mail the other day. And I read it cover to cover, including every single advertisement. When I was done, I went through the whole thing again. Subsequently, I have been through it a couple more times.
You would have to admit, THAT is a pretty good piece of mail.
The envelope contained a 1956 Townsend-Wakeman school yearbook. My old friend Ron Nosack found it at a local antique store and mailed it to me, knowing I would be thrilled.
I was hooked before I got to page one. That's because the inside front cover featured a two page photograph of the old Wakeman school the building that used to stand three doors away from the home in which I grew up. It was torn down a few years ago, leaving just the front sidewalk and flag pole. But this photograph showed the building I remember so vividly. In fact, behind every single window in that school building photograph first and second floor is a room in which I had a class or study hall.
Really now, how many other places have you spent as much time as much truly memorable time as the school rooms of your formative years? That photograph switched me on like a light bulb in physics lab. And the rest of the book was just as evocative.
I was in third grade in 1956 so, naturally, I turned to that page. And there I was in Mrs. Bauer's class, shock of dark brown hair -hair! across my forehead. Of course I marveled at how cute we all were. I did the same with all the other classes, too.
And many things made me smile. Maurice Lenz was the superintendent of schools, but he also taught a general math class. Bill Bailey was quarterback of the football team, but beside his high school picture he also proudly listed two years as "projector operator."
The Boys' Glee Club was huge, as was the high school mixed chorus. I thought that was nice; apparently lots of boys including the sports heroes liked to sing in 1956.
The athletes played all the sports. The basketball team was awful during the season (three wins), but swept the Huron County tournament easily. The football team wore equipment from the stone ages. And all the players I remembered as being five-o'clock-shadowed MEN turned out, when viewed 52 years later, to be shiny-faced young boys.
There were 28 seniors, all looking very wholesome. My wife's sister, Leona Rew, was supposed to graduate with them, but she died after a lingering illness that year. The class ran a copy of the little card from the funeral service in the section with their senior pictures. The rest of Char's siblings were sprinkled throughout the book, as well. Char, herself, was too young for inclusion. So were my brother and sister.
All the pictures of my teachers from Pat Stoll to Martha Finley brought a wave of memories. Nellie Chandler, my math teacher from Townsend Junior High, was pictured a couple of times. Little did I know that half a century later, Mrs. Chandler's daughter, Shirley Berry, would be my next door neighbor.
And it is very weird to see the pictures of the high school sweethearts whom you now know ended up so unhappy together...the pictures of the vivacious young cheerleaders who are now pushing 70...the healthy young men who have died from diseases or automobile accidents. That's why we never want to know the future.
I told you I read all the ads. And there were pages of them. The yearbook staff must have been very motivated. Along with the Wakeman advertisers including Jenny's Tavern and Tina's Pine Bar there were ads from as far away as New London, Oberlin and Vermilion.
I was charmed by the ad from Norwalk's "Mary Anne Shoppe - 9 Whittlesey - Bridal - Millinery - Wearing Apparel."
I perked up when I saw the ad for "Wilkinson's Paint and Wallpaper," owned by the parents of another current neighbor of mine.
And I wondered where the heck was "Oexle's Restaurant" in Norwalk?
The last three pages in the yearbook had been blank. But in this particular copy one of those pages was signed by each member of the first grade class at Wakeman; one page was signed by the second grade class; and one page was signed by my third grade class.
The first graders all signed only their first names; all, that is, except the future valedictorian, teacher and public servant who signed his last name, too: Lynn Szabo.
And on the very last page, there complete with my trademark backward-looped J there in between Robert Slanczka and Lee Nagel was the signature I had penned so long ago. And even that had me shaking my head. In elementary school, I was "Jimmy." In high school and ever since I have been "Jim." But that day in 1956, for some reason I decided to sign the yearbook "James Busek."
I'm not going to worry about it, though. I have better things to do like going through that old yearbook one more time and hoping that I get something that wonderful in my mail again someday soon.