Gulf Coast State College asked me to teach a class revolving around the history of Gulf County. I’m not sure if it’s irony or humor here. But it doesn’t make good sense no matter how it was derived. The flaws are obvious. I haven’t taught in a regular class room setting in 30 years. The little history I know about Gulf County is what I learned waiting my turn up at Cooper’s Barber Shop (You can ponder the reliability of that on your own). And I quit a perfectly good job so I wouldn’t have to work no more.
About the only thing I can figure is that someone at Gulf Coast thought I was old enough to have survived the yellow fever epidemic that wreaked havoc on the once thriving City of St. Joseph!
The program is really a good idea. The college is offering an array of enrichment courses entitled “Education Encore” to adults in the community. For a small fee the school has put together several classes that should peak most anyone’s interest in a wide variety of subjects. Several of the classes are “hands on”. I do applaud Gulf Coast for their continuing interest in our area.
But nobody is going to pay to listen to me!
Besides, I don’t need the hassle. I’d have to shave if I joined in on this venture!
And find a clean white shirt. It would definitely curtail my travel plans for a couple of months.
I remember teaching those high school kids. You may not believe this, but some days Danny Tankersley came to class with learning not the uppermost thing on his mind. Right in the middle of my lecture on how Hitler came to power, Janet (Hank) Murphy hit a couple of notes on her old guitar and broke out with a dang good rendition of “Delta Dawn”. Traci Middleton could talk the ears off a paranoid donkey. Kitty Core threw erasers at me. And Steve Lawrence and Pam Parker seemed a lot more interested in each other than anything I ever said.
That teaching gig is not as easy as it looks!
Those college guys were persistence. “We can’t pay you much, but then we’re not expecting a whole lot. Just talk about Gulf County and don’t embarrass the school.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement!
I meant to tell them “no”. I had “no” on my brain. I assimilated all the information, rolled it around in my head, weighed the pros and cons, and realized “no” was the only logical and intelligent decision. “Yes” came out of my mouth. The school hung up on me before I could take it back!
I immediately tried to think of somebody in Gulf County older than me. I needed some serious help. Why did George Core and Wesley Ramsey have to die! Those guys could have attended the Constitutional Convention held here in 1838. They certainly were walking encyclopedias on Gulf County history. I wish I’d paid more attention when they were discussing life, liberty and local stuff. Dr. Robert King came to mind. He probably held stock in The Lake Wimico & St. Joseph Canal and Railroad Company. It was too late to interview him now.
Paula Boyette leaped to the rescue. A former student, who actually listened to me on occasion, showed me through the Florida History and Genealogy Room in the local library. She brought out diaries and letters written during the Old St. Joseph period. I poured over Spanish maps and French fort plans. I studied Andrew Jackson’s movements during the First Seminole war. I viewed newspaper clippings covering parts of two hundred years pertaining to Gulf County. I read Jake Belin’s book on Ed Ball. I climbed up in a lighthouse.
None of this helped my nerves on the first day. It was scary to say the least. And daunting, with a little intimidation thrown in for good measure! Why couldn’t this be a class on Baseball Trivia in the 1950’s or early American Clock Making or World War II history. I’d have a chance.
I was hoping for six or seven interested folks so we could discuss this thing. Twenty-eight showed up. I was going to have to teach something!
It is definitely an “adult” gathering. There are people in this class older than me! Now, that is a feat in itself; but what a great group. They chose to come to Gulf County and their interest, care and love for it are obvious. They have “invested” here. I cleared my throat……and jumped in with both feet.
I skipped that part about “uncovering” most of my information for this class while getting a haircut. I didn’t bother to discuss my shortcomings or fears about the whole process. I was too busy marveling at their refreshingly eager and enthusiastic thirst for learning. They show up early, listen intently, take notes, ask pertinent and intelligent questions and call me to task if I stray a mite.
They have made this study interesting and alive! And they have given me, I can assure you, much more than I have departed to them. Learning is a golden virtue no matter the age…….or which end of the podium you are looking over.
You just wait till I get the call next year. Gulf Coast State College is going to have to pay me a whole lot more. I’ve got experience now!