Create wants our school memories. Here's an artistic blast from the past.
Joy, with Morning Shod
When you were in school, did you participate in plays and pageants? Your Editor is ashamed to remember his early thespian efforts. There was the Talent Show recital of Marco Comes Late, a long-winded poem by Dr Seuss. And then, of course, there was the Betsy Ross story, complete with faux folklore…and the pageant about Tennessee, full of 'fun facts'…parents were proud, kids cringe to recall the awkward moments. Education at work.
The Library of Congress records Miss Mackay's stellar effort at Washington Irving High School in New York. The year was 1916. It was during those halcyon years when every school celebrated Arbor Day – that festival of spring, and nature, and such. They planted trees and had pageants.
And somebody, always, would recite Joyce Kilmer. 'I think that I shall never see/a poem lovely as a tree.' No lie.
Arbor Day pageants offered an opportunity for teachers with poetic longings to get creative. Miss Mackay is really into it here. Her pageant, 'Children of Sunshine and Shadow', was probably a big hit. We'll bet there was a 'light collation' after the memorable performance. Pretty teacher, too – we bet her kids didn't play hookey.
As a school subject, Arbor Day could be rather fraught. You see, nature – and natural longings – tended to clash a bit with what GB Shaw called 'middle-class morality'. We recall an eyewitness account from around that same time. Our informant was the teacher involved, Miss Lindquist, a humorous and intelligent lady.
Miss Lindquist was tasked with producing an Arbor Day pageant at Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsbrugh, Pennsylvania. As the children were rehearsing one day, Principal Winkler, a rather pompous individual, graced them with his presence. Just then, the lead girl announced:
For lo! The winter is over and past,
The time of the singing of birds is here,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.
'Ah,' beamed Principal Winkler. 'I do love Shakespeare.'
Miss Lindquist bit her lip, and said nothing. Afterwards, she explained to the children that confusing Shakespeare and the Bible was sort of common. Privately, she suspected that Mr Winkler would not have approved, had she mentioned the fact that the quote in question came from the Song of Songs.
The moral of this story: we suspect that a lot of those lady teachers had a lot more on the ball than they got credit for. And we'd love to have seen that pageant. We bet it beat a recital of 'Trees' all to blazes.