The Dungeon

The Stephen F. Austin High School faculty met in the gymnasium and from there others dispersed to their various classrooms. (It was our first day to meet each other and it felt pretty strange. Marilyn and I were unknown quantities, much more than other ‘new’ faculty members simply because we had joined ‘after’ all the others had gathered in training. We had a lot to learn.) My first up-close-and-personal conversation with Principal H Wilson “Cheesy” Cook was held on the top row of the gymnasium while others were going to their classroom. It was common knowledge that the SFA choir program was excellent. From the early 30’s, when Dr. Euell Porter first organized the group, they were traditionally top notch. I had also been warned that choir members were expected to “read” and were selected by audition. I was also told that there was always a shortage of boys so it was easier for them to be chosen if the could match a pitch. Football players loved choir since it was a rather easy credit and they could pretty well do as they wished. Cheesy let me know just how the way things were to go right away. He said, “Austin, I don’t give a damn if you can direct our choir or not. I got you along with your fine wife and her reputation for being outstanding in physical education. Your predecessor couldn’t control the football boys. He had a great choir, but he was a bust as a disciplinarian! I want you to know that if I have one more of those young men brought to my office due to your lack of control, I will personally kick your butt of my campus. I am not a fan of “singing’, anyway.” (H Wilson Cook was an “All American” tackle while attending Texas University and he meant it)  I knew I could direct ‘his’ choir and I was not concerned that I would not be able to control the ‘football boys’. The choir and band met in the basement of the building, shared with the entire administration department of Bryan Public Schools. The band had windows, but the choir room had only a large window fan, thus I referred to it as “The Dungeon”.

My first day was interesting. I had not been involved in athletics in high school, but had been very successful as a member of our boxing team. I was awarded a ‘golden glove’ and took it, a quart bottle of milk with a nipple contrived from a plastic glove, a triangle shaped sheet and very large safety pin. I checked the role and displayed the glove and ‘diaper’. I said, “I am directed by Mr Cook to ‘never’ send one of you to the office for misbehavior. I want you to know you’d rather go bear hunting with a switch than mess with me. You do not frighten me and if you try any of your ‘traditional’ pranks, I will do everything in my power to pin this diaper and pop the ‘baby bottle’ in your mouth”. I held my breath and was relieved to see that they seemed to believe me. 

Carl J. Best had left me one of the most excellent high school choirs anywhere. I was in hog-heaven! I never had a problem with discipline and thought it evidence of my disciplinary excellence. (Later I had that bubble burst, however). 

That story and more about the 1958-59 Stephen F. Austin A Cappella Choir and other stories coming up.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

And, that’s what I get from MY box of chocolates.      AMEN

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