You know, when you live in one town from age 3 to 18 and attend school solely in that one school system, you are going to experience memories that stay with you for the rest of your life. I left Cleburne in 1959 and did not return until 2010, a separation period of 51 years.
However, Cleburne was always in my mind. I kept up with the football team through the Star-Telegram until Coach Conover left and the team’s record went downhill. Then years later, when Cleburne hired Chuck Curtis, my interest went back up. However, the memories that really remained with me occurred in those school years.
My five years at Santa Fe Elementary School, one year at Irving Elementary School, two years at Fulton Junior High School, and four years at dear old Cleburne High School still dwell in my mind. I have two particular memories that occurred in high school. One involved losing, and one entailed cheating.
As anyone who knows me can testify, I hate losing (just ask my wife). When I was about to enter my junior year in high school, my older brother Eldon suggested that I take typing. I asked him why I should do that, and he said that way I could type any papers that I had to write.
Now let me assure you that in 1958 boys did not take typing, if you know what I mean. Boy, when word got out that I was in a typing class, my buddies really gave me a hard time — “Oooh! Weldon’s taking typing!”
I replied, “Yea, me and Larry and 16 girls!”
I liked those odds. Little did I know at that time that I was going to go to college for eight straight years, type every paper myself (I wrote some 40 research papers), and I even typed my 81-page Master’s thesis.
Meanwhile, back to the typing class — the UIL competition was approaching in the spring, and there would be one girl representing Cleburne and one boy. O.K., it was going to be me or Larry.
At the time I had a slight edge on him. I was typing 70/3, which meant 70 words a minute with only three errors. Larry was at the mid-60s.
The day of the test came; Mrs. Cruce handed us our test paragraph, and I commenced firing. My little fingers were just flying away, pounding those keys until Mrs. Cruce dinged the little bell. I was confident that I had won — until she graded Larry’s and my two paragraphs and handed them back to us. I hit 72 words a minute, but I had eight errors!
That paragraph had contained three pairs of dashes. In typing, if your typewriter does not have a dash, you form one by typing two hyphens, back to back, with no spaces before or after each dash.
Unfortunately for me, I had skipped a space both before and after each dash, thus six errors right there, and I had eight errors total. That gave me a score of 64, and Larry had scored 67.
Darn! He got to go to Austin that next weekend and I didn’t. Trust me — I sure know today how to correctly type a dash.
My second incident I really wish I could erase from my memory, but it has remained for 61 years. Those of us Cleburnites who took Mrs. Gray for Latin remember her as one of the sweetest teachers in the school. I took Latin my junior year and made an A in her class.
It was not easy; I had to work hard for it, but I always worked hard in all of my classes. I was always trying to make good grades as my brother did, and he set a high standard. In my senior year, I signed up for Latin II and again was making an A as the semester progressed.
In the spring we started a wonderful assignment of translating Caesar’s Gallic War — oh, what a thrill that was!
I diligently worked on my translations at night and dutifully turned in my homework. I still was making A’s on each one, and then the Devil reared his evil head and tempted me.
A friend of my brother was over at our house one night, and I was sitting at the kitchen table, working away on my Latin assignment. This friend (whose name I cannot remember) walked over and asked what I was doing.
I replied, “I’m translating the thrilling Caesar’s Gallic War.”
He said, “Boy, do I have a deal for you — guess what I have at home?”
I asked what, and he said, “An interlinear translation of that Latin book; I’ll let you borrow it.”
Of course, I had to ask him what did “interlinear” means.
He said, “It’s a line-by-line translation; you have the Latin line, and then right below it is the English translation of that line. I’ll bring it over tomorrow.” Well, right then, as Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine said, “The Devil pulled a gun on me.”
I told the friend O.K.
So that next night I copied my homework right from the translation and turned it in the next day. Mrs. Gray returned it the following class period, and on it she had placed a grade of A+ and praised me for such a wonderful translation.
Folks, I felt lower than that snake in the Garden of Eden.
Before we turned in that day’s assignment, Mrs. Gray sometimes called upon one of us to read our translation to the class. Well, as my luck would have it, she called upon me to read the page and a half.
I did so, and then she praised me again for an excellent job. Oh, boy, didn’t I feel great! I never used that book again, but I always wanted to apologize to Mrs. Gray but never did.
Would you believe I still have that book in one of my bookshelves, and every time I glance at it, my guilty conscience stabs me, as it should? That’s why God gave us a conscience, isn’t it?
Mark Twain once aptly noted, “Man is the only animal who blushes — or needs to.” How true.
Weldon Reed is a Cleburne resident who recently returned to his hometown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.