JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Mr. Ronald Paine

My first exposure to Mr. Ronald Paine as a teacher was in seventh grade, which was my last year attending the Richland school before the new high school consolidating the Eastern Lebanon County communities was built. That year he taught both English, for which he was qualified, and health, for which he was not.

Ronald Paine

I say he was not qualified to teach health because I’m not aware of any specific qualifications he may have had for the subject, and also because I now know that he passed along some quite inaccurate information. That he was required to teach the subject was not his fault, as the school didn’t have a very large faculty; that he passed along some bogus information was also probably not his fault because I think he was just reading it from the textbook that was supplied.

Skip ahead to my Junior year in high school, and once again he was my English teacher. He was also in charge of the Junior and Senior class plays, and in both years I managed to get only a relatively small part. But as the saying goes, there are no small parts, only small actors, so I shouldn’t complain, especially since the part I got in the Senior play was that of the narrator which had been taken by Fred Allen on Broadway and George Burns in the movie version, so there were some great laugh lines. I even got to double up as a reporter in a brief scene at the end of the first act where my reading of the line, “Yes, where did you spend the night?” always cracked up Pam Barry (who had the lead role) during rehearsals.

But I digress.

I have a number of little memories of Mr. Paine, but two main ones. The first occurred during an English class when he was writing something on the board as he was describing an assignment that he was about to give us. I’m not sure just what prompted it, but for some reason he was admitting that he did not assign us enough essays to write and that therefore we weren’t getting enough experience writing.

“You’ll curse us when you get to college,” he said.

From somewhere in the middle of the classroom came a voice, loud and clear: “We’re cursing you already!”

Mr. Paine stopped writing on the board. The classroom suddenly became eerily quiet. He turned around to see who had said that.

But I recognized the voice. It was Debbie Miller.

And for the next couple minutes Mr. Paine and Debbie Miller had a mini-debate about how he should be allocating his time teaching. I don’t recall exactly what was said, but I do remember that he mentioned that activities such as the Junior and Senior class plays ate up a lot of his time.

Ronald Lee Paine was born on 22 December 1937, the only child of Ethel Keener and Leroy Paine. That marriage apparently didn’t last very long, as the record shows that beginning in 1940 Ethel would bear the first of what would be six children with Charles Kreiser.

By the way, Ethel used to come to my mother’s beauty shop in Richland. She never passed along any tidbits about her son, but my mother repeated everything I ever said about Mr. Paine to her (which wasn’t too much or too embarrassing, thank goodness).

Sadly Ronald Paine died in 1998 at the age of 60, and according to his obituary at the time of his death he was an associate manager at Big Lots in Cleona.

The other memory I’m saving for its own blog post.

Mark Reed

Mark Reed was apparently quite a character.

He was my great uncle on my mother’s side, my grandmother Tillie (Reed) Zellers’ brother.

Philadelphia City Hall

And here’s the thing. I don’t know if I remember him or not, as he died when I was not quite three years old. They used to tell me that he would pick me up by my ears, and I have this very vague image of being in my grandparents’ middle room with a big man stooping over me and—picking me up by my ears. But maybe that’s an invented image based on being told what he used to do.

I also have a vague image of attending a viewing when I was very young. Based on the timing of his death, I would still have had my arm in a sling from my mishap with the washing machine wringer.

Mark C. Reed was born sometime in 1909 to Charles and Minnie (Coleman) Reed, the sixth of their eight children. The previous year Minnie had given birth to Mark Fredrick Reed, but he didn’t survive a year, so his first name was recycled, a not uncommon practice in those days of high infant mortality. [Update 22 August 2019: I’ve come to believe that there was no Mark Fredrick Reed and that Mark G. Reed (note the “G”) was actually born on 25 April 1908. Here is Mark G. Reed’s grave.]

I don’t have much information about Mark until sometime in the late 1940s when he invited my aunt and uncle Jane and Allen to live with him in his Philadelphia home as Allen worked his way through college and pharmacy school. Mark was an electric welder, and he helped get Allen a part time welding job, which also helped with their expenses.

This death notice from the Lebanon Daily News of April 2, 1952, incorrectly states that Mark Reed died in his home, when he actually died on the streets on Philadelphia

However, Mark’s wife’s increasingly erratic behavior made life uncomfortable for Jane and Allen, so they soon had to find their own place. Not long after that, Mark and his wife separated, and at some point he obtained a divorce.

On April 1, 1952, Mark Reed helped a woman get into the passenger side of his car. He shut the door and as he walked around the front of the car, he keeled over and died of a massive heart attack, right there on the street in Philadelphia.

Allen, being his closest relative, was summoned by the police to identify the body. When the police turned Mark’s body and personal effects over to the family, his wallet, which had contained several hundred dollars in cash, was empty. So corruption in the Philadelphia police department isn’t anything new.

Put On Your Sunday Clothes

Junior year (1965-66) in high school, Maryann Shelhamer and I were pretty good friends, and after school Maryann and I often called one another. If I didn’t call her, she would often call me.

Put On Your Sunday Clothes

In those days we had something called a telephone, a big black thing that sat on a small table in our hall. And here’s the thing. Unlike today’s cell phones, when it rang, it didn’t give any indication of who was calling.

So when the telephone rang that day, October 28, 1965, around 4:30 PM, I was pretty sure it was Maryann. When I picked up the receiver I was going to answer, “Hi, Maryann.”

But I must have been in a particularly good mood that day, and so without thinking, instead of speaking, I sang the opening line of a song from Hello, Dolly!

“Put on your Sunday clothes there’s lots of world out there!” I sang in my slightly off-key voice.

But it wasn’t Maryann. It was my uncle Curtis.

And he didn’t sound like his usual chipper self, in fact he was downright somber. I quickly found out why.

“Pop died today,” he said.

“Pop” being his father, and my father’s father, and thus my grandfather. If I didn’t feel two inches tall before, I certainly did now.

He gave me some more details, and I said I’d have my parents call when they got home.

My grandfather John Troutman (2 January 1895 - 28 October 1965)

My mother was the first to arrive. That’s when I made my second faux pas of the day.

She was barely in the door when I blurted out, “Pop died.”

And I realized by the look of shock on her face that she thought I meant her father. In our family “Pop” was the name by which all grandfathers were known. Still is.

I quickly added the context that I should have started with. “Curtis called.” And I gave her the details.

She told me to leave it to her to tell my dad.

A smart decision on her part.

It had been a good day for me. Two hard lessons well learned.

My Conducting Debut

I attended school in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, for first and second grades as we were still living on my grandfather’s farm just outside the borough in those days. My recollection is hazy, but I seem to recall that the school held two major events each year, one in the fall and one in the spring (May Day, I think), where all the classes participated.

I only have a relatively clear memory of one of them, which occurred during second grade, probably in the fall so this would have been in 1956. Our music teacher, Mrs. McLean, prepped everyone in our class with percussion instruments of one sort or another and rehearsed us to play them at designated points in sync with a musical selection that she had on a 78 rpm record (remember 78s?). Once she had us sufficiently rehearsed so that we knew our parts, she decided it was time to select a conductor.

Womelsdorf School

Several of us auditioned for the part, including me. I’m not sure why, but I recall it was extremely important to me that I should be selected. Maybe it was because my uncle Curtis was a music teacher and somehow I felt music ran in our family, I don’t know, but I really wanted to be the conductor.

There were maybe two or three other kids who tried out, and when I saw how they lamely tried to beat the time with the baton, I was sure I was a shoo-in. Because I knew I could do something they weren’t doing. My turn came, I did my thing, and I sat down, confident that the conducting position was mine.

Mrs. McLean turned to the class and asked them what they thought. There was some discussion, and then Mrs. McLean asked the pointed question that I had been hoping for, “What did James do that the others didn’t?”

The answer came quickly: “He pointed the baton at whoever had to play their instrument next.”


While all the other applicants were just trying to beat out the time to the rhythm of the music, I was also cuing the musicians.

Needless to say, I got the job.

Well, the big night arrived, and we were all assembled on the stage in the auditorium with me standing in front of them with the baton in my hand my back to the audience waiting for the music to start. Off stage to my right was our teacher, Miss Wagner, standing at the record player about to drop the needle on the 78.

Then the music started and—

Oh no! Miss Wagner had put on the wrong side of the 78 so the wrong music was playing!

We all erupted in laughter. Miss Wagner was waving frantically at us from the wings, and we were making motions to her to turn over the record, which just led to more laughter. The audience must have been bemused. (The next day in class, Miss Wagner explained that she realized that she had put on the wrong side of the record, but she was trying to get us to settle down before switching it.)

Then I saw Mrs. McLean moving quickly behind the curtains at the back of the stage. She reached the record player, righted the record, and finally the correct music was playing.

From that point everything went smoothly, and there were no more snafus.

Later on in the car on the drive home, I mentioned to my mother how funny it was when Miss Wagner put on the wrong side of the record.

“You all acted like a pack of animals up there,” she said. “And you were the worst of all!”

Not exactly the response I was looking for.

Mr. Donald Troutman of Sinking Spring, PA

Our ninth grade algebra teacher at Elco was Mr. Donald Troutman, and according to Suzanne Berger, he was related to us, Suzanne having previously informed me that she and I were some sort of distant cousins.

Donald B Troutman in 1963

He turned out to be a pretty good teacher, I thought, as he often assigned projects that weren’t necessarily related to algebra, just so long as they had something to do with some branch of mathematics or at least numbers. I remember doing a chart on large numbers going from billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion (that would be a one followed by 21 zeros), etc. all the way up to a googol, which was a one followed by 100 zeros.

Mr. Troutman (I call him that because although we were allegedly related, I never knew him from any family gatherings, just as a teacher) only stayed at Elco for that one year. My recollection is a bit hazy after that, as I recall he kept in touch with some of the other students (perhaps Suzanne) and I received some second hand reports. I know he joined the Peace Corps and went to Africa for a year, and I recall hearing that a subsequent class of his at some other school got a kick out of my big number chart.

Then perhaps 10 years later I ran into him in Reading of all places. I recognized him, but I’m not sure if he knew who I was. And 10 years after that, I spied him right here on the streets of Philadelphia. Once again our conversation was brief, as I’m not sure if he recognized me or if he was just being polite.

And that was pretty much it. My sister tells me that the year after I graduated he returned to Elco, and she had him as an algebra teacher. She wasn’t as impressed with his teaching skills as I was, but then she never liked math the way I did.

Donald B. Troutman was born on November 10, 1940 in West Reading. He was the fifth and youngest child of Frederick Elias Troutman and Tillie S. Bickel. He was a 1958 graduate of Wilson High School and a 1963 graduate of Kutztown State College. So his first year of teaching was at Elco.

From what I can gather, he lived a good part of his life in Sinking Spring. And I have been able to figure out that he was my third cousin, although how or if he was related to Suzanne remains a mystery, as I have not yet been able to trace a connection between her and me.

On August 19, 2009, Donald B. Troutman died of natural causes in ManorCare, West Reading when he was 68 years old.

The family tree showing our connection. Notice in the rightmost column that John B Troutman and Susanna Moyer (highlighted) are shown twice. Their offspring, Elias Troutman and George Troutman are brothers. Their respective offspring, John Troutman and John Jacob Troutman, are cousins. They in turn beget Frederick Elias Troutman and Arthur James Troutman, who are second cousins. And finally, their sons are Donald and me, who are third cousins. Click the image to enlarge.

Mr. Curtis Troutman of Womelsdorf, PA

We moved to Richland, PA, in June, 1957, so in September I started attending Richland School in third grade. At that time third grade was divided between two classrooms, the division being accomplished by alphabetical order. As my last name began with a “T”, I was in Miss Margaret Klopp’s room along with (and I’m doing this from memory, so I might have a name or two wrong) Skeet Seldomridge, Richie Spitler, Johnnie Steinbach, Steve Weik, Bobby Weinhold, and Pam Barry.

Curtis Troutman circa 1945

The astute reader will at once notice two anomalies: that’s an extremely small class size and Pam Barry’s name isn’t near the end of the alphabet. Both are easily explained. In addition to teaching that fragment of the third grade, Miss Margaret Klopp also had the entire fourth grade class to teach that year. And Pam Barry was scrunched in with us because her mother, Mrs. Helen Barry, was the teacher of the other segment of third graders.

One day shortly after the school year began, our little band of third graders from Miss Klopp’s room was shepherded into Mrs. Helen Barry’s room where I was shocked to see my uncle Curtis standing in front of the blackboard. (If you need a refresher on my uncle Curtis, I wrote about him briefly in the post on my piano teachers.)

As my fellow third graders were being seated, Mrs. Barry turned to me and asked me to do the honors of introducing this man to the class. As I walked to the front of the room, she whispered in my ear, “Mr. Troutman!” It’s good she did or I almost certainly would have introduced him as Curtis!

I had realized by this time that Curtis was there in his capacity as a music teacher; I just hadn’t realized before this that he was going to be our music teacher. So I introduced him to the class as Mr. Troutman. (By the way, Mrs. Barry taught both third and second grades; I don’t recall if her second grade class was present for the music lesson or if they had been shuffled off to parts unknown.)

It’s odd, given that I’m accused of having such a good memory for those days, but I don’t recall very much about Curtis’s music classes. What I recall most (well, besides the flutophone that he taught some of us to play one year) is the yearly concerts that he organized, and thinking back, it must have involved some major organizational skills on his part. I am retroactively impressed.

The concerts involved several classes from grades four, five, and six, I think, from several different schools being rehearsed separately for months. Each grade got to sing a single part of the harmony, with, as I dimly recall, the youngest class singing the soprano or melody line, and each succeeding grade being given the corresponding lower harmony line, with the sixth graders getting the bass line. As I said this was all rehearsed separately for months, once a week during the regular music lesson, until just before the concert itself when finally all the classes from the surrounding schools would come together for a joint rehearsal. The logistics of rehearsing and organizing and trying to control a bunch of elementary school kids in an endeavor like that gives me the willies, and I don’t know how Curtis managed to pull it off year after year.

I only remember one of those concerts, the one when I was in fifth grade. Each of the songs that the amassed students performed was accompanied on the piano by a fellow student, with Curtis (or perhaps I really should refer to him as Mr. Troutman) doling out the responsibility to a suitably worthy student. That year I was given one number to play; I don’t know what it was, but it was probably something relatively simple such as a hymn with nothing but chords to play, as neither Curtis (my uncle) nor Mr. Troutman (our music teacher) had any illusions about my piano playing abilities.

Curtis Troutman circa 1952

All the other songs except one were assigned to two extremely talented pianists, a girl and a boy, who, being that they were from a different school, were completely unknown to me. And if I learned their names then, I quickly forgot them because I don’t think I knew them until years later when the schools combined as Eastern Lebanon County (Elco), and I got to know Steve Sattazahn and Cindy Keller.

The one other song, “Oklahoma!”, that was assigned to another student was taken by multi-talented sixth-grader Carolyn Sonnen. That was the first time I had ever heard that song, and it’s the only song that I specifically recall us singing. I can still remember the thrill of singing “Okla- Homa! Okla- Homa!” over and over as the soprano voices soared over the top with the melody in the final peroration. We gave a thoroughly rousing rendition, I’m certain.

There was only one problem. Multi-talented though Carolyn Sonnen may have been (in addition to the piano, she also played the flute), Mr. Troutman was not satisfied with her piano rendition of that song. At the last minute he decided that he would have to play the piano part himself, relegating her to page turner. She was humiliated by this turn of events, and I’m certain that seeing Steve and Cindy playing all those other songs just rubbed salt into the wound.

The next school day, she took her disappointment out on me, as it was well known that Mr. Troutman was my uncle, not, of course, that I could do anything about it. For my part, I didn’t think her playing had been disqualifying, but it wasn’t my opinion that mattered, and for the record, I don’t recall being particularly uncomfortable when she expressed her displeasure to me.

Curtis Calvin Troutman was born on April 24, 1929, the fourth and youngest son of John and Edna (Moyer) Troutman. I don’t have any details about his early life, but he received a degree in music from Lebanon Valley College and during the Korean War he was drafted and sent overseas. He must have spent some time in Japan (I don’t know if he was stationed there or just went there for R&R), because when he came home, he had a lot of Japanese items and knew some of the language (as did his sister Irene, but I’m not sure when she spent time there).

He taught me three words of Japanese (which much later I was able to verify with someone who knows Japanese, although Google translate does not seem to translate them in the same way), and although he never wrote them down (I couldn’t read at the time anyway), I’ll do my best to transliterate: “skoh-shee” meaning “small”; “kahks-ahn” meaning large; and “voh-kah-teh” meaning “understand”. The last one became the most important, as for some time after that, whenever he tried to explain something to me, he would conclude with “Voh-kah-teh?” to see if I had understood what he had said.

Curtis Troutman as organist at Christ Lutheran Church, Stouchsburg

Somewhere around the time I was five, he made a tape recording of music from Chaikovsky’s Nutcracker (I don’t know if it was just the suite or if it included more of the music of the ballet) along with his narration of the story and tried to get me to listen to it. But I resisted. A story about a nutcracker just didn’t sound interesting to me. From the vantage of 65 years I think I can add another reason that I didn’t quite understand at the time. He was talking down to me, and I could feel that emotionally and I resented it, even if I couldn’t have put it into words at the time. It seems strange that he could have been so successful as a music teacher (and I think he was a good teacher), and yet couldn’t relate entirely successfully with his nephew.

There was one major downside to having Curtis as our music teacher during third through sixth grades, and that downside had a name: Mrs. Helen Barry. You see, not only was Mrs. Barry the second and third grade teacher, she was also Pam’s mother, and from time to time I’d encounter her in that capacity. And she and I would chat, usually just exchanging pleasantries, really about nothing important, but—

Absolutely anything that I said to Helen Barry would invariably make its way to Curtis who would immediately pass it on to my mother, usually entirely devoid of context. Need I remind you how even the most innocent remark when stripped of its context can take on the most embarrassing of connotations? And my mother always took things in the worst possible way. Actually, now that I think about it, this data transmission didn’t stop after I left sixth grade; Helen Barry was still passing info to Curtis and thus to my mom even during my high school years. You’d think I would have learned by then.

Curtis and his wife Arlene with my parents Arlene and Tuffy circa 2002

Curtis remained living with his parents on the farm until they sold it around 1964, I think. In fact, he was quite active on the farm; I remember during the auctioning of the livestock when the farm was sold, he played a very active role.

He continued to live with his parents when they moved into Womelsdorf until they died in 1965 and 66. Shortly after that he married a woman named Arlene Boltz; so not only was my mother named Arlene, but so was one of my aunts.

They lived in Lebanon, and after that I only had sporadic contact with him, chiefly at funerals or my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Curtis was organist and/or music director at a number of churches in the area, including Christ Lutheran Church, Stouchsburg.

His wife Arlene passed away in 2012, and Curtis died on October 27, 2015, at the Lebanon Valley Home in Annville.

Paper Scissors Rock

Sometime during my second year at Penn State, probably during spring term but I’m not really certain, I took a poetry writing course.

“What’s that?” I hear you say. “Why did you take a poetry writing course? I thought you didn’t like poetry.”

That’s true. I’m not particularly a fan of poetry, and I have absolutely no recollection of why I took that course. I didn’t have any aspirations to write poetry, no one else that I knew was taking the course, I don’t think it had a reputation as an easy grade. So it’s a big mystery as to why I found myself in a poetry writing course.

I’m sure I had a good reason, though.

Yeah, right.

As it happens, I don’t recall very much about that course. At our first class we were greeted by a substitute teacher who told us he was a drug addict. Recovering, but once a druggie always a druggie, as the saying goes. He went on to extol the virtues of cocaine, explaining that the greatest high he had ever experienced was from cocaine. Apparently he had had a wide experience.

That out of the way, I seem to recall he was a pretty decent instructor.

It was a small class, probably there were fewer than ten of us, and each week (I think we only met weekly), we’d read aloud whatever poem we had written, and the class and the instructor would offer constructive criticism.

My first offering was met with withering disdain. Which was all right because it was just something I had dashed off in order to submit something, anything, since I didn’t think I had any aptitude for writing poetry.

Remind me again why I was taking this course?

It occurs to me now that I should have submitted that “You’ll Drown” piece, but I suspect I had already forgotten about it.

Somewhere along the line I got the, well, inspiration seems too strong a word, but I got the idea to do a riff on the song “Paper Cup”. Written by Jim Webb (in the days before he definitively became Jimmy Webb), it was included on The Magic Garden, the second album released by The 5th Dimension (one of the many featuring Hal Blaine on drums).

That album was a concept album in that the songs told the story of a romance from first meeting to its bitter ending. “Paper Cup”, the concluding song (except for a brief epilogue), told of the jilted lover’s life inside a metaphorical paper cup and his descent into nihilism.

“I’m free and it’s so easy to get / The things I always wanted / Cause I don’t really want ’em anymore.”

But the despairing lyrics were sheathed in an upbeat, bouncy tune.

So I took that idea and added the concept of the old hand game, Rock Paper Scissors, and suddenly I had a poem. When I submitted it that week, everyone seemed to like it, or at least get it. Even the instructor commented that it had a “nice pop song feel to it.” And that was before one of the other students asked where I got the idea, which I explained pretty much as I just did above.

I don’t know how many other poems I may have submitted in that course, but this is the only one that I remember. I also don’t know what my grade was, but I probably passed.

Somewhere in all the papers that I’ve saved, I’m sure I have the original manuscript, but the poem is short enough that I can recall it, so here it is.

Paper Scissors Rock

They poured him and poured him
Till he flowed into a paper cup,
Never knowing which way his luck would spin.
And so he lived paperly,
And loved paperly,
But loathed with a pair of silver scissors.
And they—they looked on from atop their Plymouths and Gibralters.

You'll Drown

As I was going through some old papers, I found this single sheet, apparently something I wrote when I was a high school senior, although I have absolutely no memory of it. My best guess is that it was written shortly after our senior class trip to Washington, D.C., as it references the Lincoln Memorial. It appears to have been written quickly, with a couple crossed out words and the word “mire” misspelled.

I don’t know how to categorize it as it’s neither an essay nor a story, but I showed it to someone who called it poetic and further said it’s something that I could have written today. Which is true.

It surprised me to find out that I could be so downbeat back in those days.

You’ll Drown

My but things look rosy on the mall this morning. Lincoln Memorial never looked finer. A great supreme end honoring a great President. But before that supreme end, that’s the killer. There they are, our people all standing and looking at their reflections in the water. Perhaps that little pool would be better termed the swamp.

Oh, there are ugly ogres in there, just waiting to devour a courageous human. It’s sort of like the Christians and the lions in the arena. There’s not a chance in the world for survival, unless, of course, you can bribe a lion. Felix Feldspar, now he was a courageous one. He tried to reach that supreme end through the swamp. He shouted that he would break a path through that muddy mier [sic]. He felt like Moses leading the Israelites to Canaan. Felix came to a rather abrupt end. However, reliable sources say that his ghost sits on the bank and wiggles his toes in the water just for spite.

The people on the bank are not to be neglected. They consist of the trampling and trampled. Whether they be the lowly or the lower, they all peer at their distorted reflections and feel extremely successful and safe upon that bank. But somehow they are going under too. I think they realize it, but still they clamor and rush for their supreme end.

Please people, don’t let your masks drop and above all remember, you’ll drown.

The Speech Choir

Mrs. Esther Papson

At Eastern Lebanon County High School (Elco) in the mid 1960’s the first few minutes of the school day were devoted to a program presented over the Public Address system. Mrs. Esther Papson via her Public Speaking course was in charge of the program, and at our initial class during our Junior year, she appointed several students to take charge of the details of the program. We met at Debbie Miller’s house one evening, and while I no longer recall exactly who was at that very first meeting, besides Debbie and myself, it might have included Mary Lou Bliss, Maryann Shelhamer, Saundra Daniels, Gary Wells, and Randy Klopp. Maybe some others. Carol Hill, perhaps?

Anyway, we ended up calling ourselves the Irregulars because the plan was keep rotating the membership. That was the plan, but some of us didn’t stick to it.

Besides the regular Irregulars, we had to make sure that everyone in the entire Class of ’67 got to participate in at least one morning show to satisfy their Public Speaking requirement. We had a lot of fun with that show, and Mrs. Papson gave us pretty much a free rein most of the time.

As I dimly recall, there was a brief opening of some sort of inspirational reading; this was usually done by whomever had been chosen from the class to satisfy their Public Speaking requirement for that day. After that one of the Irregulars would take over with a book or movie review or a humorous essay of some sort. For our Halloween show, I adapted a short horror story by Ray Bradbury into a radio-style play; Gary played the part of the killer. A fair amount of our material came straight from the pages of Playboy magazine, though I’m sure Mrs. Papson would have been horrified if she had known.

That was the fun part of Public Speaking.

But Mrs. Papson also made us enter some speech contests from time to time. I’ve mentioned before that I apparently have a pretty decent public speaking voice. On one occasion there was a speech contest that I really, really, really didn’t want to enter, but Mrs. Papson insisted. It was one of those contests with a super patriotic theme, something like “Why Is America the Greatest Democracy in the Universe?” or some such. It was just not a topic that I felt comfortable with, so I intentionally wrote a bad speech.

The way that particular contest worked, we recorded our speech on tape (I think), and the judges could listen at their leisure. Even though I thought my speech was terrible, I made it into the finalists. Mrs. Papson was no dummy; she could see through what I had done. She made the comment, which found its way back to me that “Troutman seduced the judges with his voice.” Fortunately, sanity prevailed, and someone else won.

From the Lebanon Daily News April 12, 1966

But then there came the time when the Woman’s Club in Myerstown arranged with Mrs. Papson to put on a short program at one of their meetings. I don’t know how she selected us, but I’m pretty sure it was not voluntary; in any case she arranged for sixteen of us to form a speech choir to present a dramatic performance of a poem by Vachel Lindsay.

The sixteen consisted of myself, Larry Miller, Kenneth Biever, Delroy “Skeet” Seldomridge, Allen Maurer, Steve Sattazahn, Mary Lou Bliss, Pamela Barry, Saundra Daniels, Maryann Shelhamer, Deborah Miller, Sue Kohl, Doreen Kohler, Beverly Keller, Betty Kupp, and Lorraine Helder.

Mrs. Papson rehearsed us and had us chant some parts of the poem in a sing-song rhythm, at other parts we tried to imitate the beating of drums or make a dreamy effect by stretching out the syllables “hoo-doo” to “hoo-oo-doo-oo”, all to emphasize the varied moods of the poem, which had specifically been written to be declaimed.

I’m not sure that the good women of the Woman’s Club were expecting the performance that they received. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I’d swear I saw some wide-eyed looks of shock bordering on horror when we launched into “The Congo: A Study Of the Negro Race” by Vachel Lindsay

Fat black bucks in a wine-barrel room,
Barrel-house kings, with feet unstable,
Sagged and reeled and pounded on the table,
Pounded on the table,
Beat an empty barrel with the handle of a broom,
Hard as they were able,
Boom, boom, BOOM”

Go read the whole thing, if you have the stomach for it.

“Mumbo-Jumbo will hoo-oo-doo-oo you. Mumbo ... Jumbo ... will ... hoo-oo-doo-oo ... you.”

Miss Esther Mae Zug of Lebanon, PA

When her brother John L. Zug died, it was page one news in the Lebanon Daily News, May 14, 1965

The sixth and youngest child of Ephraim Zug (1867 - 1934) and the former Barbara Longenecker (1877 - 1949), Miss Esther Mae Zug was born on December 20, 1915, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, nearly a year and a half before the United States entered the Great War.

Census records show she was raised in North Lebanon, and sometime in the 1940s she went to work as a teacher at Fredericksburg High School for several years before transferring to Myerstown High School, where a February 2, 1950 article in the Lebanon Daily News reports “Miss Esther Zug then led the first teen talk discussion entitled, ‘Do I Count?’” at a Tri-Hi-Y meeting.

In June, 1950, her former colleagues at Fredericksburg held a shower for her, as she was about to marry a man originally from the Island of Cyprus who was several years her senior. It was to be her first marriage, his second.

She quit her teaching job to devote herself full time to her marriage, and in September, 1951, her first son was born. The following year she gave birth to twin sons.

Then in July of 1958 tragedy struck. Her husband, Christopher Papson, co-owner of the Fireside Restaurant, was stricken by a heart attack and died in the Lebanon Sanatorium. His death made the front page of the Lebanon Daily News.

A brief word about Christopher, or Chris as he was apparently known. From what I can discover, his parents were Michael and Sunday Papson, British citizens living on the Island of Cyprus. Chris came to this country in 1926 at the age of 22, and by 1933 he was working at the Hershey Estates, and for several years he was part of Milton S. Hershey’s personal staff.

Chris’s first marriage was to Margaret C. Heim on September 14, 1940, and from the marriage application we learn that his father was the Postmaster on the Island of Cyprus. I can’t find any record of what happened to that first marriage, but there don’t seem to have been any offspring. In 1942 Chris joined the U.S. Air Force. In 1946 he and his brother George established the Fireside Restaurant along 422 east of Lebanon.

Her husband’s death was reported on page one of the Lebanon Daily News on July 12, 1958

In September of the following year Mrs. Esther (Zug) Papson rejoined the faculty at Myerstown. Incidentally, that was Mr. Ronald Graybill’s first year at Myerstown. And of course, a few years after that, the Eastern Lebanon County (Elco) High School was built.

In May of 1965 tragedy struck once again, as Esther’s brother John L. Zug, owner of the the self-named feed mill in Richland, succumbed after a long illness to chronic pancreatitis. On a personal note, I had been a frequent visitor to Zug’s Feed Mill when I was young, as that’s where my grandfather did a lot of his business, bringing in the grain he had harvested and buying the seeds for the following year. Also, my father had gone to work for John Zug for a couple years after we moved from the farm.

Of course, Mrs. Papson needs no introduction to Elco’s Class of ’67. She was our Public Speaking teacher during our Junior year and our English teacher during our Senior year. I have many memories of Mrs. Papson, but there’s one in particular that try as I might, I cannot erase from my memory banks. It was in April, 1966, when she took 16 hand-picked members from her Public Speaking classes to form a speech choir to give a performance at a Woman’s Club in Myerstown…

On June 8, 1950 the Lebanon Daily News had an article about her wedding