I read the news today, oh boy.
In case no one recognizes the reference, that is the first line of a favorite Beatles song, “A Day In The Life”. It’s on the Sgt. Pepper’s album if you are wondering. I love that album, my sister bought it in the sixties. The glorious sixties, when I was a kid.
I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. Ashland “It isn’t the end of the Earth but you can see it from here”. When you’re a kid, the outdoors is almost the same as the indoors, you’re always learning.
I remember watching the birds flock together in the fall as the weather turned colder, which in Ashland is late August. The leaves changed color and fell to the ground, the nights and early mornings were cold enough for frost and eventually we would be up to our butts in snow.
It was the same every year. The weather turned colder and school started. Except for one year.
i was in the Sixth Grade at Beaser Elementary, or I was going to be in the Sixth Grade at Beaser Elementary in 1971. Except for one small problem. The teachers, who do not belong to WEAC but to the rival AFT, were on strike.
You know what that meant to us? Longer summer. No school and in Kiddom (kingdom for kids) that’s like, well it’s like free candy or a bunch of snow days all in a row. Can you imagine how great this was? It would be like Saturday morning cartoons except they wouldn’t end with Soul Train or American Bandstand, it was like a never-ending cartoons and your Mom is making homemade sweet rolls. Even now, I can remember how cool this was.
A strike and we were only missing school. It’s not like when the Coca Cola plant when on strike and we couldn't get Coca Cola in Ashland, Yes that happened. On the Channel 10 News from Duluth they made a big deal out of the fact you could get Coca Cola on the Great Wall of China and in Russia, but not in Ashland, WI. That was only funny if you didn’t live in Ashland and actually know someone’s family effected by that strike.
Back to the teacher’s strike.
I have never in my life more fully supported a work action as I did that strike. I didn’t really know anything about the issues and I still don’t, but I fully supported any strike that gave me a longer summer. When you’re a kid, summer is like when you’re at work and the power goes off only, you don’t have to sit there and try to look busy in the dark, you can actually go and do what you want. I won’t get into that whole power thing. It happened at work several times and yes, we had to stay there and try to look busy when absolutely nothing works. But, I love my former employer and if I could, I would be there right now, working at the job I loved instead of writing this. But that’s another story and it is not funny.
So there I was Sixth Grade was on it’s way, but it was delayed and it was just about the best thing in the whole world to have a longer summer with no school in sight. I remember we rode our bikes up to the school, and watched the teachers picket, we waved at them and they waved back. We went to “The Corner Store” and bought candy. No sense causing any problem for the guy who made sure every kid had candy. There was always a candy store right across the street from Beaser, Wilmarth and the old Ashland High School. We would sit on our bikes, eat the candy and watch the strikers. Cool, then we would go and play another game of wiffle ball or softball or go out to Prentice Park and look for frogs.
Well, as you may have guessed by now the strike ended and there we were back in school. And one day, something amazing happened and it, or I should say she, changed my way of looking at things and thanks to her, I am a devotee of the blue denim crowd.
I remember it was afternoon and the teacher brought in a new student to our classroom, a very pretty girl with long blonde hair ( I was immediately jealous of her hair). Her name was Amy Turner.
And this is the part that changed everything. The teacher gave her a Social Study book and it was kind of beat-up, but it was the same edition. Our teacher apologized and told Amy that he would get her a newer book and to just use this one for the day. And here’s the good part, Amy said “Well it has all the same content right?”
It was like a light bulb went on. It was exactly the same except someone had ruined the cover. There was no reason to replace it, she didn’t need a new one, it wasn’t for looks, the insides were what mattered.
That was the first time in my life, that I ever heard another kid use logic and reason to solve a problem. It solved the problem. I never, ever was any good at problem solving, but there it was, a solution and it was so easy. You just look at the problem and figure out what the real problem is or was. In this case, it’s the cover of the book. Amy didn’t care what it looked like, she was still going to use it and read it and it was fine.
And that’s when I noticed a lot of things. Like I hated wearing skirts and dresses every day to school. But I did it, everybody did it. There was no rule about it, but it was like church we all did it without even thinking. Well, Amy wasn’t wearing a dress, she was in jeans.
So there it is, Amy Turner is the reason I did problem solving for a living for many years, she’s the reason I wore jeans all through school and by the way, I’m wearing them right now.
I noticed so many other things. I no longer just blindly did things the way I always did, I started picking things apart and making changes on the way I did everything and everything I thought. I know that it was just a little thing, but when you have little confidence in your problem solving abilities, the new way to look at things, made a huge difference to me.
Learning things became so much easier. Instead of memorizing the answers, figure out the logic. It was in everything I read and everything I learned. It’s so much better to use your brain to figure things out and I didn’t even have to work hard to learn this one.
As I looked out at the birds flocking, I no longer thought they were just doing it out of habit, they were following the clues, they were solving the problem of the advancing weather. It was logic.
Amy Turner and I had a good friendship. I remember we went to see a movie about Bigfoot at the Bay Theater on a school night. Dad said it was ok because it was kind of a documentary. She and I split a whole big bag of black licorice. I never did that again. And the Bigfoot thing? obviously a guy in a fake fur suit, even back then no one really believed it unless they were stoned or drunk or both.
So I read the news today and oh boy, I was reading about how a goat in Wisconsin was nursing a baby horse and how a whole bunch of ducklings all dropped out of their nest and waddled to a river and I realized that it’s all learning. The ducks, the baby horse, they’re learning. They are problem solving and reasoning and figuring this world out.
Just like in Sixth Grade (when it finally started) and I met Amy Turner and I started to figure things out.
Thanks for reading, and thanks Amy.