I WILL NOT RETIRE

We moved to South Carolina for different reasons than most people. Our friends were moving away or dying. My time as a lobbyist for rural schools has ended. I still have some contacts with legislators, but just sporadic phone calls. Those were the reasons, not the weather.

I live in adult Disneyworld (Sun City). This is an over 55 community. The overwhelming number of them has come down here to retire in the real sense of the word. There are so many activities here on campus that some people get sick joining everything that there is available. There are even two softball leagues and a great field to play on. Whatever your interest, there is a club.

You can hang around with interest groups, people from your state, and people with the same disease that you have and play golf to your heart’s content. Those are out retirees. They have worked hard all their lives and they deserve these moments in the sun.

I am not involved in any of those activities. I do belong to one club- the Doo Wop club. We listen and sometimes sing to old doo wop records. The leader of the club is the best doo wop historian I have ever heard. I can listen to him forever. Tonight there will be a doo wop dance and I am looking forward to it.

I do exercise here on campus. That’s about it. I have few friends that I have made here. My friends come from Harrisburg, where I lived before coming here. I have really no individual friend’s that I have made. Our couples friends go out with us, come to our home and play funny card games, and drink diet caffeine free Coke.

My life is outside the walls of Sun City. As it has been for most of my adult years, I advocate for rural schools and communities. My favorite times down here are when I meet with juniors and seniors from the Ridgeland Hardee High School and spend time with them. They fill me with joy and sometimes sadness. You can’t win them all, but when you get a text from a young man who I had to push hard to get to a college, it is all worth it.

Carol works with 10 young women. They are tougher than the guys. They are incredibly hard on each other. We have spent many hours with people who live here and understand that kind of culture. Carol has saved, at least 3 young women from going down the tubes. There is so much more to be done.

The kids here are the same as anywhere else in rural America. They mostly have not been out of their county, not have they flown, taken a train or gotten to other parts of the country or world. We try very hard to have them see that there are other places and other opportunities rather than making up beds in hotels on Hilton Head Island.

The students that we are working with are articulate, intelligent and soak up things like a sponge. Some are closer to me than others. There are those who shy away from either a handshake or an NFL hug (no touching). Some though feel comfortable enough to give me a big hug when they come into our meeting and then when they leave. Some are so big that they make me disappear in their embrace.

Unless some disease fells me, or I become senile, I will continue to work with the kids. I will not retire.

 

 

 

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IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO THE SAME THINGS, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO GET THE SAME RESULTS

Our new friend, Dr. Wesley Boykin is a well-traveled educator. There is literally nothing that he has not done both in this country and abroad. Talking to Wes is like talking to an education encyclopedia. We are fortunate that he has volunteered to be part of the staff of our nascent rural schools group, SCORS.

I could probably listen to Wes for hours. I have actually done it for two hours straight in our home about 2 months ago.  His understanding of education goes way beyond almost anyone that I have ever heard. He has experience in all kinds of districts, rural and urban, universities and research organizations. He has even served time with the ACT organization, producers of the ACT test.

Therefore, when Wes says something, I listen intently. Carol and I both found ourselves at a meeting in Columbia, South Carolina. . The meeting was part of a federal program called the Promise Zone. The idea of the program is go gather folks from many agencies and schools to work together to improve a certain area. In this case it is the southwest part of the state of South Carolina. It includes six counties and 10 school districts.

Carol and I have visited most of these districts and find their lack of funds and lack of proper teaching staff depressing. The meeting was well directed by a gentleman who has a long history in education and now serves as the education director of a children’s museum that caters to children from economically deprived schools.

Not that they don’t have children from wealthier schools, but as soon as you walk in, you know what they are about. It is called EdVenture. It is truly a wonderful place.

Marc, the leader, broke us into 3 groups to discuss what is going on in these areas and what might be some solutions to their problems. The discussions were lively and filled with interesting ideas. I kept mostly silent in the education group. I guess I was waiting for some sort of explosion of new ideas.

Carol was in the families and communities group. Wesley was in the Health and Nutrition group. After the groups concluded their discussions, they were asked to report to the larger group. There were some interesting points, but nothing astounding. I believe Marc expected that there would be some sort of product that he could hold onto and present to the people in charge of the Promise Zone.

As Wesley began to speak, a thought came into my head. Here we were, a group of professionals speaking at a problem. The problems inherent in these communities lay in the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. They are at the basic needs stage.

Wesley’s point came into sharp contrast to what had already been said. He pointed out that all of the proposed items were just overlays that had already been tried before. Simple used templates will not improve the Promise Zone. We are all restricted by what we know and what we feel comfortable doing. Therefore our solutions are circumscribed by our experiences.

These continual problems will not cure themselves with what we have already tried before. Just because you raise your voice to a deaf person, he/she will not hear you.

Looking at the all of the variables that were presented to us, it was apparent that what we have tried is not working. It was sad to come to such a conclusion. It is simple to say that either the people who live there do not want to improve, or that they don’t have the resources to improve, or that there are few jobs, or that the system is corrupt.

Have you ever seen someone take hold of an organization and make it sing? Have you seen one person lift a community by him or herself? Should we not be looking at unusual things done by unusual people? In a book that I am reading now, “My grandmother told me to say she was sorry,” one of the characters says, “The world is not changed by normal people.”

HERSCHEL, THE MAGNIFICENT JEW

(stolen from Old Jews Telling Jokes.com)

A long time ago, I was in Kenosha Wisconsin setting up a storage container manufacturing plant. That was in 1966. In the evening of the first night that I was there, I drove into town. In front of the Capitol Theater I saw a sign that said, Herschel the Magnificent Jew. I was very curious.

So I bought a ticket and went in and sat down. There was a pretty good sized crowd. The announcer introduced Herschel with lots of clapping from the audience. Mr. Herschel was a normal looking guy wearing a bathrobe. He took his bathrobe off and was completely naked on the stage.

Whatever large sized equipment you have ever seen on a man, this was four times bigger. Arrayed in front of him were three walnut shells on a table. He took his member and smashed the walnuts to pieces. The crowd roared and clapped. They were still clapping as they left the theater.

I did not return to Kenosha for about twenty years. By this time I was visiting my nephew in Madison. Would you believe when I went into town, The Capitol Theater still had the sign up, Herschel the Magnificent Jew. I was astounded. How could this possibly be?

I bought my ticket and went in and sat down. The crowd was still pretty large. The announcer introduced Mr. Herschel, who was wearing the same robe as he did twenty years before. When he disrobed, he looked exactly as he did twenty years before.

Arrayed before him were three coconuts. He took his member in his hand and smashed the coconuts to smithereens. The crowd roared and clapped as they did twenty years before. They continued to clap as Mr. Herschel put on his robe and bowed.

I was so curious, that I managed to go back stage and saw Mr. Herschel. I asked him about his switch from walnuts to coconuts. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “As I got older my eyes weren’t as they used to be.”

THE FAKE PRESIDENT

You may recall that at the end of the Republican primary season in 2016, the nominee of the party made an interesting proposal. It made the news media for a couple of days and then disappeared. The gist of the information was that the current president approached John Kasich, governor of Ohio about being his running mate. The discussion revolved about the president doing all of the public work, speeches, rallies and suchlike, and that Kasich would actually run the government.

Governor Kasich refused the offer. It was seen, at the time, just a blip on the screen of the candidate. He was doing so many other odd things that this event faded into obscurity. It did not dawn on me recently that it may well have happened.

There is no one, leaker or otherwise, who has actually seen the president sit down at a desk or other work stations to do anything other than tweet. That is what the president thinks is his job. All other normal presidential activities seem to be done by others.

As we have seen, he is good at sitting at a desk and signing his name to executive orders that mostly don’t mean anything. He still is in campaign mode and goes out and makes rambling speeches about nothing in particular. He spends a bunch of King Lear time fighting the forces allied against him in the Russia probe. He has gotten rid of staff who get more publicity than him.

His newest chief of staff is trying to straighten out the West Wing, but cannot reign in the Fake President. Kelly has little trouble with other members of the staff, just one. Steve Bannon’s leaving was directly related to his understanding that Bannon was getting too much publicity. Bannon also knew on a day-to-day basis that the Fake President did nothing but talk loud and say critical things about individuals, countries and groups. Bannon had to go.

As for the Adults in the Room (a new boy band), they know about the Fake Presidency. They know that the Fake President’s aversion to work, allows them to go off on their own and make decisions, even military ones. Have you heard about any other cabinet members, other than Tillerson and Sessions? The others are going about their nefarious ways without much leadership from the top.

What about Mike Pence? Can we understand what his role is? He rarely speaks in more than two sentences (most of which are high praise for the Fake President). Is it possible that he is running the show? If you remember the health care debacle, did you notice that the Fake President did no work on passage other than to say bad things about Republicans, especially now John McCain and the obstructionist Dems.

His lack of work ethic has allowed the secret service to run out of money. Has made his vacation travels cost more money than the total of the 8 years of the previous real president. Can we have any doubt that the object of the Fake President’s term is to have fun and to yell at all others?

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY=PART XI

We certainly went north towards the Scandinavian countries. Russ had taken an exchange trip to Europe during high school. He wound up staying with a Belgian family for a while. Our intention was to visit with them for a day or two and then head back toward Denmark and Copenhagen.

You may remember that Germany was divided into four sections after WWII. The Northeast was Russian (East Germany). The South was the U.S. The West was France and the North was the U.K. We headed north from our barracks in Baumholder. Our first stop, not intestinally was a place called Bad Durkheim, a gambling casino. I had never been to a gambling casino and had never had a mixed drink in my life. I had a beer when I turned 18 and drank wine at Passover time.

As we entered the casino, a gentleman in a tuxedo greeted us. I thought that he was going to throw us out. I was wrong. I guess we looked like we were going to drop some good old American cash. He asked us what we wanted to drink. I thing Russ ordered Scotch. I had no idea. I asked the tuxedoed gent what he suggested. He said that they made a wonderful gin and tonic. I did not know what that was. I ordered it and when he came back with the drinks, he said that would be one mark. One mark was a quarter in those days. I fell in love with the drink. I drink it to this day. I ordered another.

We then headed up to Belgium to visit with the family that Russ had stayed with three years before. There was a daughter who was about Russ’s age. She was a very nice person with a very nice friend, who was to be my escort as we toured around Belgium. We went to the beach, ate a meal or two, went to sleep and then took off the next morning to Copenhagen.

If you ever had a chance to go to Copenhagen in the 1950’s you were treated to a wonderful experience. My wife, Carol and I, were there about 4 years ago. It’s still pretty much the same. We wandered around found a room and found our way to Tivoli Gardens- kind of an all-around park with lots of activities and, at that time, entertainment. We saw Tommy Steele, the British version of Elvis. Had a ball of a time.

Next morning we were up early and traveled to the tip of Denmark to take a seven hour ride on the Friedrikshaven Ferry to Drammen, Norway. We knew we were in the right place because as we drove up the coast, we saw lots of young ladies doing calisthenics at a local high school. We stopped to watch all hour of their exercises. We had a ball.

THE OPENING DAY OF SCHOOL

I have many fond memories of the opening day of school, as a teacher, principal, superintendent and exec. Of a regional education service agency. There are also a few years when I probably should have stayed in bed. I know that many of you have had the same experiences.

On my first day as a junior high school principal, I watched, with anticipation, the buses arriving, the youngsters dashing into school. It was an exhilarating experience. These 600 students were in my charge. I was responsible for their well-being from the time they got on the buses till they got home.

Classes began at 8:15. I walked around the building trying to see how things were going. By 8:30, I thought that everything looked normal and I returned to the front of the building to look outside. As I was standing there, a lone figure approached the front of the building. It was one of the 7th graders dripping with water.

I asked him what happened. He told me that Mr. Darion, the science teacher had taken the class down to the stream with test tubes to get samples of the water to put under the microscope. Somehow, Marc, the student, had fallen in. This was not the beginning of the school day that I wanted.

The building that housed the junior high was terribly old. In a few years, it would be condemned by the Department of Labor and Industry (sound familiar to some of you). There was an old bathroom, formerly used by faculty members. I directed Marc to the bathroom and told him to take off his wet clothes, give them to me through the door and I would them into the dryer in the home ec. room next door.

The day went smoothly after that. I saw some things during that day that I knew had to be changed. It was 3:15 and I stood on the stairs at the front of the building and watched the buses leave and the walkers going into town. As they left, I realized that I had left Marc in the old bathroom for the entire day.

I tried not to panic. I got his clothes from the dryer, opened the bathroom door and gave the clothes to Marc. I told him to get dressed and to come to the office. I called his dad, whom I had met sometime earlier in the community. I told him what had happened. He laughed and asked if this time in the bathroom had improved his behavior?

My reputation in this rural town was elevated immediately. I was seen as someone who should not be trifled with, or you would be put in the bathroom jail.

The western part of Pennsylvania is entirely rural. In the 1990 census, the state had more rural people than any other state in the union. I was in charge of a 3,000 square mile 17 school district regional education service agency. Our biggest job was to run almost all of the special education classes in the schools. Eventually, we had 125 classes spread out over the area.

On my first day there, I was a complete novice about how things worked. I had been briefed by bunches of people, including 17 superin- tendents, 17 board members and the central office staff. This was going to be really hard.

If you can imagine what the bussing must have been like. I still, to this day, do not understand how it worked. There were no children anywhere near my office. They were all “out there.” I was very lucky to have wonderful teachers and supervisors. For the ten years that I was there, I could never thank them enough.

At about 8:30, my secretary buzzed me and told me that there was a really peculiar phone call. She sounded hesitant. That was not her normal voice. She was born and bred in the area so she had a handle on most things. This was not one of them.

I picked up the phone and said hello. The voice at the other end said, “Is this Hillman?” I said “yes.” He then said that there was a white van traveling around in Brookville and slowing down at every bus stop where there were children. I asked if he had called the police. He told me that there was no need to do that.

I was puzzled. Maybe I had heard him incorrectly. I asked him, “Is this person still driving the van around?” He said that he wasn’t. I was really confused. Why would this person, who would not give me his name, call to tell me about this, but not call the police? Did the van driver just go away to do the same thing elsewhere.

I believe that the man heard my questioning tone. He said, “We took care of him.” This is one of those signal moments in one’s life that engender horrible thoughts. I was about to ask him what that meant, when he hung up the phone.

I really had no idea what the next step was. I called the superintendent of the school district. He said that he had not heard about a white van. He was curious. I am not sure what he did. We never did discuss it. I called the supervisor in that area. She told me that there had been reports of such a van, but that nothing untoward happened and that the van and driver were gone.

I asked her about calling the police, she was noncommittal. Somehow, I was not understanding any of this. I finally called the local police barracks to see if they knew anything about it. They said that they would check. They never got back to me.

My thoughts at the end of the day were, “What have I gotten myself into?” I will remember that first day for the rest of my life.

IN WHICH I GO INTO THE ARMY-PART X

There are three things that I promised myself that I would never do after I left the army- wait on a line, camp outside, handle a weapon. The three things are a constant in my life with the 97th Signal Battalion. We were a mobile communications outfit. Whenever someone needed a mobile com outfit, we were the only ones in the European theater.

We spent a bunch of time out in the field, living in a rather small bunch of metal placed on a 2 ½ ton truck. Our sleep time was on an air mattress placed under ½ of a pup tent attached to the wheel well of our truck and power unit. Confidentially, I did not sleeping outdoors. We sometimes did it for two weeks.

Waiting on lines was common in my time in basic training and radio teletype training and sometimes when we were in Hopstadten. The not handling of weapons occurred in basic training. For some reason, although I am right handed, I could not shoot the M-1 rifle right handed. I shot left handed and kept on slamming my thumb against my lip. I am the only soldier ever to develop a purple lip by using a weapon.

The time we spent on base, saw me fulfill my role at supply sergeant and attend to those matters that the commanding officer and first sergeant wanted me to do. I also served at the religious clerk and later the outfit’s basketball coach. As religious honcho, I went to meetings and answered questions about religious activities. In that role, one of Catholic members asked if I would take confession because he was too lazy to go to church on Sunday or during a time for confession.

My basket ball coaching job came about when the first sergeant called us all together and asked how many of us could play basketball. About ten of us raised out hands. We met at a gym on campus and kind of shot the ball around and played some three man ball. The first sergeant was not a coach or a former b-ball player. After a few days of “practice,” First sergeant pulled me aside and said this, “Hillman, you are a shit basketball player.” I did not respond. He then told me that I was the  new basketball coach.

In truth, Sergeant Wolf was correct. I was no where near as good as some of the other guys on the team. This is so long ago now that when I played ball, white guys could jump. One of the guys on our team, white guy about 6-2 could dunk backwards with two hands. Another player had been on the freshman team at the University of Texas.

Eventually, this team won the 7th Army Special Troops championship. I was not there at the final game. I was on my way home.

My best buddy was David Stanton Russell. We still communicate. Russ was a three year student at Pomona College, who dropped out to be drafted. He later was actually a member of his local draft board during the Vietnam War. Russ had a couple of bucks and bought an old Opel. We took a real long couple of weeks and went North.