Wednesday, April 11, 2012

No. 785 – Jessica

Performer: The Allman Brothers Band
Songwriter: Dickey Betts
Original Release: Brothers and Sisters
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

I remember all of my grade-school teachers. But my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Sauer, was in a (ahem) class by himself.

Mr. Sauer was the only male classroom teacher at Greensview. (The only other male teacher I remember was Mr. Settles, who taught gym.) Beyond that, Mr. Sauer was hard to miss. He was an Upper Arlington alum and something of a Seventies mountain man—big tall guy, huge beard, longish hair, smoked a pipe—even in class.

But what I really noticed first about Mr. Sauer was occasionally he had his class out on the playground, playing kickball, while I was in third grade—looking on with complete envy. Extra, unofficial recess? It doesn’t get much better than that when you’re a kid.

Naturally, everyone wanted to be in Mr. Sauer’s class, and I remember running down to school a week before class started to see the room posting and seeing my name under Mr. Sauer’s name. Yes! My glee was tempered by the fact that my best friend, Marty, wouldn’t be in my class, but most of my other friends were. It was going to be a good year.

I just didn’t know (or fully appreciate at the time) how good. Mr. Sauer ran what was considered an open classroom. The desks weren’t in neat rows but arranged here and there. We had a back room with little couches and books for reading breaks. Class structure was loose, and I could have studied anything I wanted—as long as I truly studied. But I was all about goofing off back then.

As for that extra recess? It happened. Whenever we had a big test or after a huge project was due, Mr. Sauer would take us out afterward as a reward to play kickball.

Mr. Sauer kept music on the radio a lot of the time during class. He liked the easy-listening classics—particularly acoustic guitar, which he played (of course). Bob Dylan was his favorite. Every once in a while, he would hear a song and call out a challenge: “A milkshake to the first person who can tell me who does this song.”

One day, I was in the back goofing off (I remember I was specifically reading a book of basketball statistics—even then I was a numbers geek), and this song came on the radio. Dad bought Brothers and Sisters when it came out—mostly because of Ramblin’ Man—so I was familiar with it. I loved this song even back then, and I almost called out “oh yeah, Jessica” when it came on, but something in me told me to shut up. This could very well be a milkshake song.

No sooner had I clammed up, when sure enough, Mr. Sauer started his appeal. He barely got the word “milkshake” out when I called out as plainly and calmly as can be: “Allman Brothers Band.” That stopped everyone in the room cold, as I delivered my best know-it-all grin. I’m sure Mr. Sauer knew he had been had, but he never said anything—even when he paid off the wager at the end of the year.

Mr. Sauer also took me to my first two concerts (along with a few other kids from class), but that’s definitely a story for another time.

Sometimes, when Mr. Sauer would keep me in after-class detention for goofing off too much, a few of his “old-timers” as he called his ex-students would show up to chat. After I moved on, I became an old-timer, too. I stopped by a couple of times over the next two years to visit, and I’d notice with amusement the 10 words he had on the blackboard for a weekly spelling test were exactly the same 10 as I had suffered through once. I even think that on one visit, another wayward soul was suffering an after-hours detention, too.

Unfortunately, I lost track of him after he moved to Colorado—before anyone else from my family got to be in his class. Too bad. He was the best.

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