Can You Spell Kat?

I have never been a good speller, but I was in a spelling bee once, when I was in the 5th grade. Not by choice, of course. I rarely play games where I have no chance to win.

I wrote about my spelling problems when I was a young reporter and got this note from my M.E.
I wrote about my spelling problems when I was a young reporter and got this note from my M.E.

My goal was modest: Don’t be the first one to misspell a word, the first one to have to sit down. With a goal so modest I might not even have to spell one word correctly. Maybe someone would miss before the teacher got to me.

But they didn’t, and it was my turn.  The teacher asked me to pronounce and then spell the word “said.” I pronounced it and spelled it just like it sounded:



Spelling remained a problem for years — thank goodness for spellcheck.

Karl Sawyer, B.S., M.A., Solid Geometry, College Algebra, Trigonometry
Karl Sawyer, B.S., M.A. He taught Solid Geometry, College Algebra, Trigonometry

When I was a senior at Garinger High School in Charlotte I took College Algebra from Karl Sawyer, a teacher who standards I did not meet.

He required all of us to fold and format our homework and test papers just so. He took points off if we failed to put a period after our middle initial, for example, or got the date wrong. 

One day he passed out test papers and then turned to the blackboard, picked up a piece of white chalk, and began to print, talking as he wrote.

“There is in this classroom a young man who thinks he is going to college,” Mr. Sawyer said.  “He can’t even spell college.”

 On the board he had written “C O L L E D G E.”  My classmates laughed.

I looked at my paper.

Mr. Sawyer had written “F” with a red grease pencil at the top of the page and circled the words I had written: “Colledge Algebra.”

Postscript: Because I failed Mr. Sawyer’s class I had to take College Algebra again when I got out of the Navy and enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  For the record, I made an “A.”

NOTE: I’m going to start the New Year –Monday, Jan. 1 — by posting  “Lucky’s Best Story.”  [Lucky is my trail name.]  There is also a video of this story, made on the Appalachian Trial in 2015 when the Hiking Vikings and I stopped for lunch one day.  Nate Harrington asked me to tell the best story I knew and I did.

Coming Monday: The [Sad] Carolers


You Parked Where?!

My wife, Donna Joy Hyland, and I began dating in 1959, when we were seniors at Garinger High School in Charlotte.  Sometimes –OK, pretty often– we parked on some quiet residential street after the movie, held hands, and counted stars.

Our senior year, 1960.
Our senior year, 1960.

Sometimes we dated in a 1951 Plymouth named “Suzie” that Dad drove back and forth to work. Sometimes we went out in her car, a heavier than lead ’49 Chevrolet she called the “Gray Ghost.”

One evening, after we had finished counting, her car wouldn’t start.

This was a problem, not because we were so far from her house —  we were only a mile, mile and a half away. It was a problem because of where we were parked. How was I going to explain that to her father, who had greeted me after one date holding a shotgun — Donna said he was just teasing.

The "Grey Ghost" looked a lot like this '49 Chevy, but not nearly so shiny.
The “Grey Ghost” looked a lot like this ’49 Chevy, but not nearly so shiny.

What I had to do, I decided, was push the “Gray Ghost” to a commercial area.

So I started pushing. Donna steered.

When we finally got to The Plaza, I thought, heck fire, why not push it on across Independence Boulevard?

And I did. And, by then, we were only two blocks from her street, Chesterfield Avenue.  And from there it was downhill most of the way. So I pushed her car all the way back home.

No explanation required.

Coming Monday: Jail Party