2/21/2012

GOT TO MAKE A C

Many of my muses are about my family when I was growing up.  This is another one about my dad and includes both myself and my brother Tom.  Joetta was not included so much in this situation; I am sure because she was not a male.  Yes, in those days, much more than now, male chauvinism ran rampant, even when it was to the advantage of the weaker sex, as it was in this example.

When I was thirteen, my family left my beloved Cimarron for the West Coast.  California had always beckoned to my dad and the year before we moved, dad bought The Rodeo Bar & Grill in Shandon CA, which was run by my mom’s Uncle Harry Spencer.  The bar did really well and the opportunity arose for dad to buy Ferdy’s, a bar and grill in the next town, Paso Robles.  After he bought Ferdy’s, dad knew he would have to be the operator, so he decided to clear his share of the salvage yard which he owned with his dad.   That last summer in Cimarron was the hardest physical work in which I have ever been involved.  We tore down over 100 tractors and sold the cast and iron in truck and train car loads.

Dad, my sister Joetta and my brother Tom loved California.  Mom and I, not so much, and as such, we moved back to Cimarron a year and a half later.  During that year and a half, I found out something about my dad’s philosophy on school grades.  Dad harbored a huge disapproval of male “A” students.

What I found when we moved to California was that Cimarron was a year or more ahead of California in education.  After testing that I was required to take when I arrived for school, they put me in the most advanced 8th grade class that they had.  I was unaware of the distinction, but the kids in that class were smart and I did fit in pretty well with them.  In fact, I was told that if I kept making good grades that I would have a full ride to UCLA on a math scholarship.  I thought that was alright, but I had never thought about college and it really didn’t mean that much to me.

I also found that my dad was not very happy with my making good grades.  I found that the less I tried, the better he seemed to think of me.  When we moved back to Kansas, I found myself in a mess trying to keep up with my classmates.  In the “long” year and a half that I had been gone, I had fallen way behind my classmates in Cimarron.   

My dad grew up in a different time that I will always try to understand, but I know I never truly will.  He had many “funny” ideas about life in general, and people in particular.  I know much came from his father, who I greatly loved and admired, but much of both of their ways were the result of the times in which they lived, and their own personal experiences; a time much different than now. 

The ‘funny” idea that I am writing about was Dad’s school grading system.  Dad, as I found out in California, had always had a disdain for "A" students.  His thought process was very simple when it came to "A" students.  They were simply inferior human beings.  They had no common sense and would end up spending the rest of their lives being supported by men like him; hard working, knuckle busting SOB’s.  Now if that makes you think about the money we pay many of our politicians and many Federal employees, that simply do little for us and live off of us, you know a little from where he was coming.   If you are a Federal Employee reading this, and are honest with yourself, you know whether that includes you or not.

The following was my dad’s grading scale.  A “C” was the best grade you could have.  A “D” was better than a “B”, and an “F” was better than an "A".  As such, it was difficult for us boys to please dad with our grades.  I felt like I had to try and make “C’s”.  Now for my brother Tom, it was not as hard for him.  He could have made “B’s” or better if he had wanted and studied hard, but he was the type that if you gave him a reason not to apply himself at school, he would take every opportunity he could not to.  If he got a “D” or an “F”, so be it.  He knew it was alright with Dad, so he was alright with either grade as well as a “C”.  I am not trying to belittle my brother; that is just the way he was.

I was different than my brother.  I wanted to make Dad proud, but I wanted to make decent grades.  Decent for me was being a “B” student.  I knew that being a “B” student was not going to make him happy, but that he would be OK with it.  I was never a brain, but for the most part, I could make good grades without studying.  That changed drastically when we moved back to Kansas from California.

In fact, I went to college for nearly five years and basically studied very little, if any at all.  I recall selling my books at the end of one term and turning in unopened books.  On the good side, those books brought good money when I sold them back, and I got to keep that money.  Fresh one dollar bills, one or two of which would buy a pitcher of beer back in the day.  The bad thing about the unopened books was that I did not maintain the minimum grade requirements I needed to remain in college.

Now with that bit of information, you can see where I get the title for this writing.  Sometimes you just felt you had to make a “C”.  At the same time, you may have a clue to one of my little known achievements.  When one tries to get “C’s” in college, you are probably going to get a lot of “D’s” and even a few “F’s”.  Does the term “Western Civilization” mean anything to you? 

What was my achievement?  When I tell you that my sophomore year in college was the best three years of my life, you may think it is funny, but it is also the truth. 

In the fall of 1965, I attended Wichita State University for my freshman year of college.  I was a Music Major working towards a degree as a band teacher.  I was, at least then, what you would call a “natural musician”, and as such, I found that first year was pretty easy to make decent grades.  However, living in a dorm for the first time in my life, I found that I was not good at taking ribbing from my peers.  The big joke at that time was that all Music Majors were queer.  OK, for you younger ones, the word now is Gay.  I did not like that label so I stopped taking music classes.  As such, especially without studying, my grades deteriorated rapidly, but remained high enough to pass that first year. 

My first sophomore year was at Wichita State University as well.  After those two semesters, I flunked out of WSU.  I applied at Dodge City Community College the following year.  I was turned down for admission until the Band and Vocal teachers discovered I had been a Music Major at WSU.  Even though they got me admitted with the condition that I would take band and chorus, I declined because I hated marching in Band.  When they told me that the Band rode on a flatbed trailer for parades and never marched, I was all in on that deal.

It took me two more sophomore years to get all of my bad grades covered and to receive my Associate of Arts degree, all the while for the most part, making minimum required grades.  As such, I had enough credits to be a senior right out of JUCO.  I went straight to Hays as a senior. 

Those first four years of college were some of the best times I have ever had.  They also helped me grow up more than any other four years of my life, including becoming a new father or managing a business.  So yes, being a six semester sophomore is one feat that I am not particularly proud of, but one I would not trade for anything.  I actually wonder sometimes if my going to college was dad’s method for me to really grow up.  Any degree I would get along the way was just a bonus and certainly for dad, not a necessity.

Near the end of my 5th year of college, our parts man at the John Deere dealership lost his father.  By that time, I was looking for any reason to quit school.   We were concerned that he might be leaving to run the family farm so I quit college and came back home to work.  Our parts man decided to stay so I started my brief stint as a Diesel Mechanic.

I eventually got married and had children.  My wife Jane was very good in all of her schooling.  Due to my great fortune of falling in love with a smart woman, it allowed my children to overcome my lack of intelligence.  As such, they made great grades.  I have always joked that the only thing my oldest son, my wife and I have in common is that none of us ever had a “B”.  I guess you can guess why that is true, although I really have made a few grades better than a “C”.  Like I said, I was a natural in music and as such, A’s were not that unusual.  The reason I bring up my children, is that it caused Dad to do a lot of re-thinking on individuals that made “A’s”.  All of his grandchildren, at least to my knowledge, made great grades.  As such, Dad did become more tolerant towards “A” students.

As I have said in earlier articles, I started writing these muses to better help my family know more about parts of my life they would otherwise not have a clue about.  However, there are lessons for everyone to learn in this article.  How people think and how they use or don’t use their abilities is the choice they must each make for themselves.  You can blame others all you want, but in the end it is you and you alone.

For me, my grades, other than making my dad happy, did not matter.  I knew in the end I was going to be the John Deere dealer in Cimarron one day.  But for those that don’t know where they are going to end up, a good education was then, and still is, very important.  Good grades are a huge part of a good education.  Don’t let anyone influence you against doing what you know is right.  Don’t look for reasons to be lazy in your education and life in general.  Use every chance you have to sharpen your learning skills, even as you grow older.  Life is tough enough without wasting time along the way.  

If I have any regrets in life, it is in not knowing how to rise up and handle certain situations that have come my way.  I eventually did learn how to handle most situations, but I know it would have been much easier if I had sharpened my learning skills in high school and college.   “Be all that you can be” for years was the motto of the Army.  It is a good creed to live by; a creed that I now try to live by and I hope all of my children and grandchildren will strive for as well.

Pete Thomas.

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COMMENTS

If you cannot reach me by clicking on the "COMMENTS" link, please email me at pjthomas@ucom.net with "MAKE A C" in the subject line.

Since I have known you for almost all my life, I super enjoyed this muse, and feel your children and grandchildren will "cherish" your wise words of wisdom. I smiled most the entire time while reading it, you are so very honest, and it brings back memories of your dear sweet dad - and your family in general. I also remember your "many" years of college and some of the "tales" that I heard about you while at WSU, all good of course. Thanks for such an entertaining muse. Janie.

Thanks again Janie, but don't believe anything Sam said, good or bad.  Some of the others you can believe if they were how good I was in college.  But you are right, I had great folks.  Next week I bring Jeffro back.  He gave me a choice of two so I will probably have problems picking one out.

Hello Pete,

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this muse. I guess if I was a male back then I would have made a father proud of my grades but instead my bad grades were due to parents who only ever asked about a report card once in the 7th grade & never cared after that. Never gave me speeches on how to better myself but that I was a nobody who was never going to get married because I was fat like a pig & so ugly that anybody would pay them to take me back once they saw me in the street lights & would never amount to anything. I married a man that loved me & convinced me I was none of those things that gave me the courage to get my GED & achieving my RN degree. It is a shame that sometimes it takes us to grow up & become adults to realize that some people out there who think they are the smartest thing on Earth really are the dumbasses of the world. LOL

I really liked your Mom & Dad while I was working at the Manor & enjoyed the talks at night with your mother. She was a delight to take care of & I will always treasure the time I had to get to know them better. Your Dad reminded me so much of my Grandpa & that gave me some delightful times visiting with him.

Take care & keep safe Pete & hope to catch you sometime in Cimarron page. Please forgive any typos or misspelled words. LOL I get finger farts sometimes. LOL

Cindy

Thanks for the note Cindy.  I was walking at the Gym today and although I try not to watch the kids, I noticed that some of them seemed to walk behind the groups or kept to themselves, never seeming to smile much.  It reminded me of school when I lived in CA.  I was popular enough here but out there, I was just one of several hundred.  I had my friends but we were never very close.  I wanted to talk to those kids today and explain how little of what was happening socially is a big deal if they just don't let it be.  None of them have the weight problem that I and evidently you had, they just didn't seem to feel part of what was happening.  I can relate to the problems of being overweight but guys have an edge if they have any athletic ability at all, especially as a football player back in the mid-sixties.

I am tickled you have done well in your life; you are right about the right person supporting you being a key to bettering oneself.  Evidently we were both lucky there, and thank goodness.   My folks were both very supportive of me throughout my life, so can't relate to your situation there; it does seem to be a rotten shame for that to happen to anyone.  Keep after it and thanks again for the kind words.  Pete..