Friday, May 19, 2017

The day a hurricane hit during school

Typhoon, actually. This was at one of my most difficult schools. Fifth grade. This was my third and last fifth grade in one year. The first fifth grade was at the same place as the end of the second fourth grade school, a dusty little fenced in afterthought with rough rudimentary military type buildings. Almost like, "Oh yeah, we got kids. We'll probably need a school." But that experience didn't last long.

Get this. I was seated in the classroom already in session at the back. There was a card on the wall with the word "Civilization." I asked a girl sitting next to me what that word was for. She told me it's one of their new spelling words. I told her it seemed kind of tough. This must be a tough school. She said, "Not really. See, its root word is civil, then that ization is added onto it." Now this was a profound insight. I told her, "Wow. You're really smart."

The second structure was brand new. A nice brick regular school building built on base at Tachikawa. Everything brand spanking new. Floors had never been walked on. Books never read before. Flags in classrooms new. Everything new. But that didn't last long.

We moved and our new school was large and established. Except, again, little afterthought adjunct buildings attached as need demanded. This whole rest of the fifth grade was inside a Quonset hut. With a rough hewn wooden porch running the length and sturdy windows jutting outward. Our teacher was a French national and he was a total no-funny business personality.

I told him I didn't like math anymore. He asked why. I told him "Because I was happy to finally get off the whole multiplication thing and onto long division and that turns out to be all more multiplication." I told him I'd rather not continue along these lines. He asked me what I thought I might become. I told him I might become a cake maker. Because I was big on making cakes at the time. He asked me what would happen if I had to double a recipe for a cake, or divide one, suggesting mathematics will be useful then and I admitted defeat. "You got me."

He caught my lisp. He suggested the school can correct it. I was all for anything that got me out of class. So I ended up skipping off once a week while everyone else toiled and I went inside the larger school building into a room with a speech therapist who taught me two ways to acceptably thay my etheth tho that I don't thtick out tho much along with another kid who couldn't pronounce R's.

Then one day a storm worked up while we were in class.  Within an hour or so the storm grew stronger, the sky darker, the wind more insistent, the temperature dropped, the rain heavier, the lightning and thunder louder and more interested than fearful we kept looking out the window to our playground beyond some incidental landscaping and the whole class became somewhat alarmed at the sight of sapling bent sideways, like this.


The gardeners give each tree a lot of attention. Everywhere that you go each tree is tended as if its a person. It's odd seeing all the pine trees in sight wrapped in straw mats and carefully bound up as with an obi. Then all that taken off later and burned as insect control. But the whole time the mats are tied on the trees through the winter look like they're wearing clothes. And now this tree is bent right over by wind. This is a serious storm. 

But not so serious to have kept us from school. They did have weather service.

Then everything suddenly stopped, wham, dead stop. We were all relived. Instantly. The tree returned to its upright state. Everything was calmed. No bird or insect sounds. No wind. No rain. The sun shone.


"So you think the storm has ended?" 

"Yes!" The whole class agreed. Duh. Obviously. It's done! It was perfectly quiet. Of course it was done. Great fun, exciting and everything, but we're all glad it's done. Very done.

The teacher said, "No. The storm is only halfway done. We are smack dab in the center of it. We are in the eye of the typhoon." Then he scribbled a series of large "O's" on the chalkboard showing an advancing typhoon as it moves over a spot. He told us the tree will bend in the opposite direction as the typhoon travels along and showed us that on the chalkboard. And sure enough the sky darkened again, the wind picked up quickly, the temperature dropped again, the tearing rain resumed and tree was bent dramatically in the opposite direction.


Actually, the tail end is a little bit stronger. 

And I must say his explanation fascinated all of us. It made perfect sense. And just as we and tree survived the first onslaught so too survived the second. We knew exactly what to expect. This is exciting, actually. The teacher did an excellent job managing us. I'm certain that incident became a story he tells. A Quonset hut full of rowdy kids when a typhoon hits dead on? It must. 

Things returned to normal and so did class. 

Much later Mum told me that the teacher discussed with them holding me back on account of my physical development, my distaste for long division and my many stupid questions. I'm glad my parents disagreed with his assessment. 


Because I would have really hated that. I earned that graduation. A fourth fifth grade school would be intolerable. Man, I'm glad my parents are cool. I dodged the bullet on that one.

12 comments:

Mumpsimus said...

We moved around a lot when I was a kid, until we settled down when I was mid-fifth grade. I've sometimes thought that should have Scarred Me For Life, but it didn't.

When we're kids, we accept a lot of things as normal that should really freak us out -- like our teeth falling out of our heads, for God's sake -- just because the people around us treat them as normal.

Chip Ahoy said...

That whole teeth thing did freak me out. I can still feel those things rattling around in there. When they're loose but still connected. So you keep bothering it and bothering it and lifting it with your tongue until boink it comes off.

Barry bit the white tip off from a Halloween candy corn and claimed it was his tooth. Of course I believed Him. Then another and another. The candy corn is sitting right there and I see him nibbling on it and I never put it together that he's faking me out. That's how credulous and unsuspecting I was. It's a pretty good joke for a 1st grader to think up. He faked me out all the time.

chickelit said...

We (my family on vacation) were in a hurricane in FLA in summer of '68 . At least I think it was a hurricane. I was only 8. It rained so hard that no one could drive because car's wipers could not keep up. The Florida people just took it in stride. We dried out and headed back to Wisconsin.

Sixty Grit said...

Hurricane Hazel, 1954. I was 4 years old. I knew it was a big deal because my father was at home during the day.

The trees in the back yard were bending nearly double. Impressed this 4 year old.

Hurricane Agnes, 1972. Fran, 1996. Matthew, 2016. Those are just the ones that hit my house.

Last night a severe thunderstorm. It was so strong I had to stop working outside and close the shop door.

ndspinelli said...

Sixty, We share Hurricane Agnes. While it hit several states, the most damage was in northeastern PA, particularly the Wyoming Valley, where the Susquehana River had epic flooding. It wiped out the city of Wilkes-Barre, PA. where I went to school. I spent the summer helping the family of a girlfriend. I spent days working Federal Disaster cleanup crews and evenings helping my girlfriend's family. It was an election year and Nixon poured billions of $'s into PA. I saw, at an early age, just how govt. money is uncontrolled and consumed by fraud. Hurricane Agnes hit the same month as the Watergate burglary. A metaphor if ever there was one. Were you in the Carolina's? As you know Agnes was a 1-2 category, but a slow mover w/ rain being the culprit.

Regarding children and trauma. I worked w/ young victims of crime when I worked for the prosecutor's office. While it broke my heart, I did see how resilient kids can be. They bounce back better than adults.

Sixty Grit said...

I was living in Pleasant Valley, Maryland, truly a beautiful place, and aptly named. We had 9" of rain in a day and all the little creeks overflowed, including the one that ran past our 2 acre garden. It was ruined.

The creeks led into the rivers and the Monocacy, Shenandoah and Potomac rivers all had huge floods. The damage was evident for years. That storm convinced me to pack up and move to the west coast - we had sustained losses that we just weren't going to recover, so we hit the road.

To this day when you walk in downtown Harpers Ferry you can see the high water lines painted on the buildings - Agnes was among the worst.

Kind of related, in the early '60s I used to visit my uncle who worked for the State Department when he lived in DC. He went back out on overseas assignment and years later I wanted to visit the quaint little street he lived on - it was right on the Potomac, you could watch the planes landing at National Airport on the Virginia side of the river when you were sitting on his back patio, and I just kind of wanted to take a stroll down memory lane. I asked my brother "Where is Uncle Ralph's house?" He replied "It's in the basement of the Watergate - they tore it down and built a hotel."

Sic transit gloria mundi and so on...

Mumpsimus said...

Pretty country indeed, Sixty. I used to spend time in the Middletown area; our Boy Scout unit maintained a shelter on the Appalachian Trail near there.

Sixty Grit said...

Aw, you know it - it is a pretty well hidden area, even for Maryland.

I started writing down my memories of that area but it is hard to choose just a few and I can't write a concise comment about my life and times in Frederick and Washington counties when I have over 50 years of experiences in that vicinity. Middletown valley has always been one of my favorite places, from Gathland to Wolfsville and points in between - Harmony, Ellerton, South Mountain, Braddock Heights and on and on. I was fortunate enough to have bicycled that area extensively including mountain biking sections of the Appalachian Trail back in the early '80s. Yeah, I was that guy.

Good times, good times...

Mumpsimus said...

I love the War Correspondents Memorial in Gathland. A crazy Victorian folly in the middle of freaking nowhere.

Mumpsimus said...

And the grandiosely-named "Washington Monument" near Boonsboro, which looks like a crude Neolithic fort, or a big stone milk bottle.

Sixty Grit said...

It is an impressive piece of work. The bike ride up to the top of Crampton's Gap made the name seem appropriate.

I used to commute from Pleasant Valley to the Village of Potomac, just outside DC, to build houses back in those days. One day, after traversing Spook Hill the brakes in my 1952 Chevy panel truck failed and I was unable to stop at the 4-way intersection in Burkittsville (where the Blair Witch Project movie was set) and rolled right on through. Fortunately it was Oh-dark hundred hours and no one was around. Once the truck stopped rolling I pulled over and topped up the brake fluid. Off I went.

Adventures like that these days would not end at all well. Also, my Tundra has dual circuit brakes. I like that feature.

It just dawned on me that at that time my Chevy was just about 20 years old. My Tundra is going on 18 years old - man, what a difference how those two trucks have held up. Thank you Kaizen.

Sixty Grit said...

I rode my bike up the the Washington momument, too. I always favored that one over the Clinton'esque one in DC as being a more honest, direct expression of the people to memorialize George Washington. Heck, the locals just marched up the hill and built it in dry laid stone. I admire their dedication to an ideal.

It has never been open to the public in my many visits there, but I sure would like to go inside and climb to the top - that would be the real experience.

Of course, I am old enough to have walked both up and down the stairs in the world's tallest masonry building, the monument in DC. There are plaques and sculptures lining the entire stair case - alas, now they remain unseen.