By Rich Tarrant
I’ve written about this dog “Mister Chips” (pictured) more than once [VPJ 04/06/06 – 06/24/12]. He was probably one of the worst and the best dogs I ever knew. I didn’t realize I had this snapshot of him until a few weeks ago when I found it inside an old souvenir book I’ve had since one of my school classes went to Cleveland to see the movie “Around the World in 80 Days” starring much younger versions of David Niven, Cantinflas and Shirley McLain. It seems like a million years ago. But it was probably about 1957 – only 60 years ago.
I don’t really have many things left from my childhood years anymore other than this book and another called “Bugs Bunny’s Birthday”. I received the “Bugs” book for my seventh birthday along with a music box with a crank on the side. I don’t recall what happened to the music box. But for whatever reason I apparently considered the “Bugs” book and, later, the “80 Days” book to be treasures.
To my surprise there were – fortunately or perhaps unfortunately – some grade cards from my high school years tucked away in the book. After reviewing them I can truthfully report that if I wasn’t the worst student in my class I was very close to it. Some folks like to say that they graduated somewhere near the top percentage of their classes. I am most certainly not among them.
In the past I’ve always told my wife and close friends that I could have probably skipped high school because I’d learned about all I needed to learn in the first 8 years of school; and that, as it turns out, is a bare-boned truth. Actually, during most of my high school years I worked from 4 to midnight at a local restaurant – and I loved every minute of it. Most simply stated, I had other priorities.
In any case, when I got to high school I was told from the start that I would never go to college. Financially speaking, that prospect was way out of reach anyway. So I was enrolled in “nonsensical” classes – most of which mirrored those of my first eight years in public school – and I, very literally, never cracked a book (with the exception of those I read outside school) during those years. Nor did I ever do a lick of homework.
When it came to testing – if the test was multiple choice, which most seemed to be, I simply filled in the little circles arbitrarily without reading any of the questions. Moreover, I never paid any attention to the results. Why would I? The odds were with me. I had a 50/50 chance of passing – or so I thought. But whatever the case, it was a very stupid thing for me to have done. Only the Good Lord knows what I might have learned if I’d applied myself. But I didn’t.
Several years later, after I’d served with the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War I met my wife who was, at the time, a student at Bowling Green State University. Eventually I followed. And suddenly, I was interested in academia. I really liked BG but didn’t graduate there because I transferred to Cleveland State University. At CSU, I continued my studies of English Literature while working a full-time job and eventually acquired a degree.
While I’ve seldom used that degree for anything professionally, just getting it was something I needed to do. I need to show, at least, myself that I was not a complete moron. Nor of course, was I a rocket scientist. In fact, I was often amazed by the super intelligence of many other students who were much younger than myself. Such eye-openers, very frankly, put me in my place. Happily that place was not at the very bottom.
Well, I’ve put all that behind me now. Or at least I did until I found these old keepsakes. And maybe it’s not a bad thing for any of us to look back and remember where we once were and how far we’ve traveled as the years have passed. To understand that because someone says you’ll never do something doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t – if you try. In fact, some us may even become a keeper of many keepsakes.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him