Middle school grandson Benjamin receives a surprise academic excellence award prompting me to recall two surprise school award events of my own.
The first comes about when I am in the 8th grade at the then brand new Whitehall-Yearling High School in Whitehall Ohio (enclave of Columbus). It is near the the end of the school year and several of us are on stage at an assembly receiving some sort of forgotten award. When he is finished acknowledging the awards, Principal Peel whispers to me to remain on stage which of course I do. Later my friends laugh at me saying they thought that I was choosing an odd time to ask our principal a question.
With me standing clueless by his side, Mr Peel gives a speech about a new academic award, the Charles Palmer Davis Award, going to the student who has the highest grades in history in the eighth grade. He then turns to me and presents me with a beautiful bronze medallion. I am flabbergasted. I have good grades but none of us knew we were competing and I am always beat out by my friend Carol Brenning anyway (she gets to go to Girls’ State when we are in high school, I am the alternate. She was third in our graduating class, I was fourth).
But this achievement is mine. And it is a complete surprise. It has always puzzled to me what Charles Palmer Davis had to do with history or current events but I never asked. In doing research for this post I discover that he was a newspaperman from Pennsylvania where he started a publication called Current Events for his middle school age daughter and classmates. Later he joined forces with The American Press in Columbus to publish The Weekly Reader, my go to reading material as a kid!
Before I move on to my next surprise academic achievement story a tiny addendum. The school year is coming to a close. We only have to come to school the last day to pick up report cards. We have a strict dress code. Shorts are on the forbidden list. Several of us decide that Bermuda shorts, the current rage, are okay for such a short time at school. We even talk some of the guys into joining our fashion protest. Our teacher (self contained classes in those days) will have none of it. She refuses to give us our report cards. We need to get them from the principal’s office. Mr Peel in not amused. He gives me the once over muttering, “You of all people,” as he reluctantly hands us our freedom.
My second surprise award comes during an assembly my junior year at WYHS. Still a new school (we are not the first graduating class but close enough being the fourth) we have yet to establish a National Honor Society. I actually do not even know what National Honor Society is. This assembly is poorly timed by my account as I have last minute homework to polish off. Nevertheless I do my best thankful for my homeroom’s seating assignment near the back of the auditorium under the balcony. I am deep into it, ignoring all going on around me. Suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder. Rude, I think and do not respond. This time the tap is harder. I look up. Standing behind me is some strange teen indicating that I should follow him. I shove my books and papers under my seat, climb over a row full of classmates and proceed to follow this person to the stage where I join a very small gathering of recognizable students. Four seniors, three juniors including me.
We are the newly formed chapter of our high school’s National Honor Society. We have been tapped into service by students from an established chapter at a neighboring high school. In those days you did not apply, you were chosen by faculty members. We look at each other quizzically. The top two academic leaders in our class are missing. As we listen to the requirements of scholarship, leadership, service and character, we understand how lucky we are. First to be tapped as juniors, as a much higher academic standing is mandated, and second, despite heavy schedules, we take the time to join clubs, run for office, volunteer for interesting school projects, and occasionally even study.
Surprises awards really are a lot of FUN. Congratulations Ben!