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WHAT TO DO BEFORE CLASS? STOP AND PRUNE THE ROSES!
by T. J. Williams (Miller), LHS Class of 1986

"Today's the day, I'm gonna flunk you out today. . . ."

{short description of image}Those 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.

{short description of image}I 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.

{short description of image}I 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.

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all images and information ©1998 David Hocking - all rights reserved.
Article ©1998 TJ Williams - displayed here with owner's permission.