TO DO BEFORE CLASS? STOP AND PRUNE THE ROSES!
T. J. Williams
(Miller), LHS Class of 1986
"Today's the day, I'm gonna
flunk you out today. . . ."
of you who had Paul McCulloh for American History or U. S.
Government will no doubt recall that little ditty. He used to sing
it before giving us the mid-term or final exams we all dreaded, and
seemed to enjoy watching us fidget nervously in our seats. Who could
forget the times when he would chuck an eraser at an unsuspecting
sleepyhead at the back of the classroom, or tell someone that was
yawning to close their mouth because it "made him homesick for
his cave." And, as David Hocking pointed out to me, who could
also forget his badly clashing wardrobe of houndstooth checked tweed
jackets and pea soup-green polyester slacks. I call these things "McCulloh-isms,"
because we all can associate them solely with Mr. McCulloh. All in
all, he was, and still is, very well-liked by his former students.
He was eccentric and had peculiar mannerisms, but those are some of
the things that made him so special. This story is about an incident
involving me and a particular McCulloh-ism that I've never
forgotten. I hope readers find it entertaining and enlightening.
was a junior in early 1985, and had Mr. McCulloh for American
History. One spring morning, we students filed into his
second-period class and sat down. Ol' McCulloh stood up in front of
us after the bell rang, and proceeded to talk about some important
dignitaries that were going to visit the school later in the day. He
told us that we should be on our best behavior, and that we should
do all that we could to make the campus presentable. He reached
behind his desk and brought forth a very large pair of pruning
shears, and then called me to the front of the class. I had no idea
what he had in mind, and couldn't think of a reason why he would
want to pick on me. I was quiet and studious, and was never
disruptive in class. I went up to him, and he handed me the shears.
He then told me to go outside and prune the rosebushes by his
classroom's windows, so that they wouldn't be offensive to the
dignitaries. I, and the rest of the class, looked at ol' McCulloh as
if to say "You've got to be kidding, right?" But he was
dead serious. so I took the shears and went outside into the bright,
warm English sunshine. I was glad that he left the windows open, as
I was able to catch the first part of his lecture, which I seem to
remember as being about Andrew Jackson. I trimmed his rosebushes
nice and even, and then went back inside. The job only took about
fifteen minutes to do, but I was happy to have a reprieve from being
stuck inside a dark and dreary classroom. I gave back to Mr.
McCulloh his shears, and asked him if he thought my handiwork was
worthy enough. He inspected the job I did, said he was pleased,
thanked me, then went on to continue his lecture as I shuffled back
to my seat. Strange, I know, but true.
still don't know why Mr. McCulloh chose me to trim his roses. I
guess he liked me, or something. Perhaps he somehow knew about the
time, effort, and yes--even money, that I put into the yardwork I
did at my home in Lakenheath Village. He might have been rewarding
me for something I did, but I don't know what that would be. What I
do know is this: Mr. McCulloh may have taught us a lot about the
history of the United States, but I also learned from him another
important lesson--that it's all right to be different, and that
people can and do like others that are perceived as being "different."
Every time I think about him or one of his McCulloh-isms, I'm
reminded of those things. I'm proud to know Paul McCulloh, and I'm
glad he was my teacher. One of the best, in fact. To him, I extend
my full gratitude. I believe many of the other students he had feel
much the same way. He may be eccentric, but he's a pretty cool dude.
Strange, but true.