Brain Dropping #70
Blowing My Own Horn. I’m famous in a very modest way – a small fish in a smaller pond. That pond is called St. Albans, Vermont where for eighteen years I taught art at St. Albans City School to children from K through 8th Grade. Frequently these days, walking into Hannaford’s Super Market earnestly pushing a shopping cart, I hear my name called and I turn to face a young man or woman in their late twenties or early thirties. “Mr. Salzman, I had you for art in the Third Grade!” – they’d say – or the Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Grade. “Do you remember me? I’m ____________(fill in the name). I’m honest enough to admit that most of the time I don’t remember them, for after all they are a foot taller with most of their baby fat gone. I always ask the same question of them: “Did you have fun in the art room?”- knowing full well that the tedium of the teach-to-the-test academic classroom couldn’t hold a candle to squishy terra cotta clay. Often they mention the “story-telling-ladder” as being among their favorite memories. To introduce an art project I would often use a six foot wooden ladder as a pulpit to tell a story about a famous painter, say Michelangelo and his back and forth with Pope Julius II over the Sistine Chapel: “Buonarroti,when will it be done?” “When it is done Pope!!” Or, in introducing the use of charcoal to a Fourth Grade class, I would mount the ladder and tell the story of Ulla the little cave girl who stumbled upon a tree hit by lightening and in one fell swoop discovered fire and charcoal. Soon, she and her clan for the first time ate cooked meat, had light after the sun went down, warmed themselves during the prehistoric winter, and decorated their cave walls with marvelous murals of bison, mammoths, saber-tooth-tigers and other wild things that go bump in the night. Ulla, the cave girl was “The First Artist!” I’ve actually done a children’s book about Ulla and her friend Urik called “The First Artist.”
I’ve brought all this up because of what happened a few hours ago when Gail and I went out to eat at the “One Federal St.” restaurant in St. Albans. The Waitress taking our order looked at me in a funny way and asked: “Didn’t you teach art at City School?” We did our little reminiscence and she left with our order. In a few minutes she returned with a colleague – another former art student. On our way out after paying for our dinner, the hostess gave me a big smile and confessed to being yet another of the apparently legions of my former art students from St. Albans City School. Three admirers in one evening! Ahhh, fame! Gail and I chuckled all the way to the car.
Now, most teachers don’t like the idea of living in the community where they teach. They feel it infringes on their privacy, or, in the case of a failed, disgruntled math student may lead to shouted threats in the street, or toilet paper on the Lilac bush, but I have always gotten a charge out of meeting a six foot four linebacker of an adult on Main Street, who, looking down at me and in a bass voce reminds me of the fun he had in the Fifth Grade in the art room at St. Albans City School.