Miss Morgan

A teacher affects eternity. You can never tell where their influence ends.
~~ Epictetus ~~

I’ve reflected here on a few occasions my school days as a self-appointed class clown. A couple of other companions were as equally gifted in our quest for attention. Their stories have been shared here as well. It wasn’t until many years later I came to realize, the attention I sought was a misguided attempt to make up for other things lacking in my life.

I’m not proud to admit, in my pursuit to be noticed, I was especially brutal to my Jr. high school music teacher, “Miss Morgan.” In hindsight I deeply regret how I mistreated and disrespected her … all to get a cheap laugh from classmates, who did provide a few. The woman was a Saint and despite all I dished out she showed me uncompromised patience and encouragement. I didn’t realize it at the time… she really cared, but few kids notice those things.

With time my behavior in school actually improved. I began to understand there were better ways to find the recognition I wanted. I started to take my studies a little more seriously. For some reason, if only for a brief moment, I found myself suddenly on a roll… My grades had never been so good. I made the school’s Honor Roll.

It was during that semester, when Miss Morgan gave me an “A”. She’s the only teacher, before college, I ever received that high a grade from. I had a few Bs and B-pluses that earned me that Honor Roll status, but only once did I get an “A”. Not sure I earned or deserved it, but I got it… and Miss Morgan gave it to me.

Dawson, Margaret Morgan (Miss. Morgan)

Margaret Morgan Dawson

I wish I had told her then… but many years later I came to the decision, I wanted to try to locate and apologize to her for my inexcusable behavior. That likely would have been a wonderful, memorable conversation but, as often is the case in such matters, it wasn’t meant to be. In July of last year, in an effort to learn more about her, I discovered her 2005 obituary. Miss Morgan died 13-years ago today.

How surprised I was to read about her life and her numerous accomplishments. I shared it among my school friends on Facebook and the reaction was much the same. In addition there were many positive comments about this remarkable woman. A few of us shared our regrets, youth wasted on the wrong people. Regret is an awful word.

She was a well-educated, gifted and dedicated musician. One who shared her talents, as you’ll see. Of all the many teachers I had in those days, she is truly the only one I remember well. All the others are literally… just a blur. Despite all the years and distance, I’ve never forgotten Miss Morgan, and throughout my life have often been reminded of her. She made a difference and because of that, her story deserves a place in this blog. To that end, I share it here, with a grateful heart for having known her. God bless Miss Morgan.

NOTE: Comments from her students and others who knew her would be appreciated. Please add yours below.

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Misfits: Rudderless and Restless


If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me,
because I’d like to hear it again.
~~ Groucho Marx ~~

My old friend Al Bello was, to say the least, one-of-a-kind and among my oldest friends. We met in 7th grade dishing out our own brand of trouble to our teachers and others. Al was among my small circle of class clowns, birds of a feather.

Aloysius

“Al” – School Days

In our quest for attention, we were especially brutal to our music teacher, Miss Morgan. I’ve come to realize, the attention we sought was our misguided attempt to make up for other things lacking in our lives. No excuses though. In hindsight I regret how we treated her and by the time I wanted to apologize she was gone. She was a fine, gifted woman and her story deserves a place of its own here in this blog.*

Over a period of 45-years Al and I lived our lives separated by time and distance. He stayed in Maryland while I moved west. We managed from time to time to reconnect, only very occasionally, via phone calls. I had spoken to Al several years ago when I learned he was suffering with COPD. He was the same guy, the same sarcasm and still the jokester I remembered from our times together so long ago. Despite all those years of separation and little contact I remember thinking: losing him would be a bitter pill to swallow.

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The Year in Review

2017

Once a year go some place you’ve never been before. ~~ Dalai Lama XIV

My life has seen some major changes in the last 2 1/2 years. Not only did I retire early but I moved here to Las Vegas in September of 2015. Strange in a way, as I had no family here and only a few acquaintances. But I wasn’t deterred, as I was assured of sunny, warm weather and I knew there’d be new friends and experiences just ahead.

Seven months after my move I left for an extended road trip in the spring of 2016. I expected to travel around 7,000 miles and to be away for 40-45 days. A long time certainly to be on the road, but I had plans, lots of them.

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The Old Familiar Carols Play

The Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is based on an 1863 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was  the nation’s preeminent poet of his era. The song proclaims the narrator’s despair, as he heard Christmas bells in the distance.

He bows his head, “There is no peace on earth,” [he] said,
“for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men.”

But then the carol inexplicably changes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among mankind.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So why the change and how did the poem come to be?

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Howard Thayne of the 463rd

Today Italy’s Celone airfield has returned to nature and agriculture. One couldn’t know the activities, the machines and the hero’s who once occupied this Italian countryside. Only from the air can be seen the faint scarring of the landscape. Hidden are the fading remnants of taxiways and the 6,000 foot runway that gave pathway to the heavy B-17 bombers, their crews and payloads of America’s 15th Air Force.

Celone Airfield Today

The faint runway (center), taxiways and other roads of what used to be Celone Airfield.

One of those crew members came from Salt Lake City, via Canada, then England. His name is Howard Thayne. He is my children’s first cousin, two generations removed. Their maternal grandfather and Howard are first cousins. Born on March 23, 1919 in the coal mining camp of Kenilworth, Utah Howard’s  family would move to Salt Lake where he was the typical American boy, sociable and popular among his peers. He graduated from West High School and at the age of 19 served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in Canada. Soon after his return home, with the outbreak of World War II, Howard enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

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Bill Lear – Father of the Corporate Jet

Since I was a young adult I’ve always been an admirer of Bill Lear. The inventor of the car radio, the 8-track music cartridge and, among other things, the business jet that bears his name. Lear, who was born 115 years ago today, had a notable sense of humor, naming his second daughter Crystal Shanda (who they always called Shanda).

Bill Lear

Bill Lear – Inventor & Aviation Pioneer

I came to know about Lear in the early 70s when I was in the audience at a taping of the Merv Griffin show in Los Angeles. Lear was a guest on the show along with the McWhirter twin brothers — Ross and Norris — founders of the Guinness Book of Records. A few years later in 1975 Ross was murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In 1977 Lear would die in Reno of Leukemia. He was 75.

Bill Lear was a creative genius, a self-taught radio engineer with an 8th grade education. After a nearly 50 year career he received well over 120 patents. Shanda said of her father, Dad was always scribbling ideas and designs on restaurant napkins and table cloths, all the while telling jokes and discussing the infinite possibilities of the mind.

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Music Monday – My Father the Singer, Songwriter

Next Saturday June 17th would be my father’s birthday. I don’t remember him. I was two years old when he died, but I think of him often, a lot more so as I’ve grown older. It seems he’s never far from my thoughts. Over the years I heard a lot about him. Of course he was loved by his family and he exemplified love as a devoted son, brother and uncle. People said he was kind-hearted with a great sense of humor.

Richard Delmont Lines (1924-1955)

Described as tall, good-looking, broad-shouldered and physically strong he was also blessed with musical talent. It was said he was a gifted singer, well versed at playing guitar and a songwriter.

My dad, like his nine other siblings who lived into adulthood, had a rough life growing up. Coming from a broken home, they struggled through the years of the depression. At a very young age they often had to fend for themselves… just to eat. And on occasion some found themselves at odds with the law.

In talking about those days and their tough, undisciplined childhood an uncle described one of his brothers as “one rough character, eleven years old and packing a thirty-eight revolver.” That young boy, through his own determination, overcame those beginnings, and even before the war, was well on the road to turning his life around. He would go on to honorably serve his country as a combat soldier. He was one of the most respected, admired and finest men I’ve ever known.
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