The story of the anti-semitic substitute teacher drew plenty of comments from readers, many of whom were outraged. I’ve thought a lot about the incident since I posted the story. I think it happened in the third or fourth grade, when I was nine or ten, which would have been only a decade after the end of World War II. The teacher in question was an older woman, likely raised and educated in small town Texas during an era of racial, ethnic and religious segregation and suspicion no longer acceptable in today’s world.
I grew up at a time when people weren’t shy about asserting the intellectual and moral inferiority of Negroes or openly questioning whether they would ever be capable of handling equality. It was an era of Jewish quotas in higher education, the corporate workplace and government service. Crackpot theories of eugenics and inherent racial disparities were commonplace. In short, she probably was not all that far outside the mainstream in the mid-1950s.
Here are some reactions to the story:
That’s incredibly dreadful. So good that your mom called the principal.
Oh my gosh, I can’t believe she said that!!! Let’s hope that teacher never was allowed in the classroom again.
Humans have an innate need for hatred of different, failing to recognize that different is neither good nor bad but different. How much greater to live and to learn difference from others, enriching our own lives. My grandpa used to say you can learn from everyone, even the elevator operator, and I have found that to be true. I lived in Mexico for seven years and learned one of my best lessons from a taxi driver. My buddy asked him if he got bored driving the same roads every day. He replied No, rather he looks always for what is different, for what he missed last time around.
Stephanie had a simpler response, but no less profound:
Finally, Rita, who knows from experience, had this to say:
The only thing worse than having a sub is being a sub.
My Labor Day blog post on the subject of what I learned from my father about work brought these comments:
I have similar memories of my mom and dad and how hard they worked to provide for us. My dad’s little café at 9th and Franklin provided our little house on Trice Avenue, a new car every five years or so and a vacation to Corpus Christi for a week every year. Dad would hang a sign on the café door…..GONE FISHING…BE BACK IN A WEEK….and off we would go… always stopping at Charlie Toole’s meat market to get some fresh boiled ham, sliced cheese, bologna, fresh bread, lettuce, tomato and onion.
Mom always driving and dad sitting in the passenger seat with his shoes off and whistling along the way. My sister and I would sit in the back seat and play the games kids played back then…who saw the first red car…who saw the first Burma Shave sign etc…somewhere around 50 miles out Dad would say “who wants a sandwich?”….and the fixin’s were on. The ice chest was in the back seat with my sister and I so we would do the passing to dad as the head chef. There will never be sandwiches as good as the ones that were made on the way to Corpus. the concrete bulkhead.
So this is what I think of on Labor Day…that little café and those long hours that my mom and dad put in there provided the income for us to live our little lower middle class lives….and it was a good life.
God bless all the hardworking moms and dads out there providing for their families on this Labor Day.
Wonderfully wise words about the era. Don’t know that we were as ennobling as our parents and am pretty sure our children fall behind us in that respect. Different life experiences, I’m sure. We didn’t have to face the hardships of those who preceded us nor go through the Great Depression. Could we have been the first generation to have things too easy?
I sometimes wonder that myself, Chet.