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A Visit to Joan’s High School: U-High (Chicago Laboratory Schools)

Not only did I get to meet my publishers at Chicago Review Press in Chicago, but I also got to visit and teach at my mother’s high school:  the place she calls “U-High” in her diaries — the place now usually referred to as the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (K-12).

I first got to teach two classes of U. S. History.  The teacher and head of the History Department, Charles Branham, was so gracious and fun.  I imagine his classes are filled with wonderment and pizzazz!  They assured me that Joan’s $300 scholarship, that enabled her to attend the school in the fall of 1938, would have to be much larger today!

Here is lovely U-High!

Here is lovely U-High!

Then I spoke to a huge lunch crowd.  It seemed that in addition to the principal, Chris Janus, there were at least 50 students there!  They were good sports and laughed at all of my mom’s jokes.  And they asked good questions.

Finally I had a wonderful time in the classes of a kindred spirit, Cindy Jurisson.  The first class we focused on Medieval Women (one of my teaching specialties). Cindy had trained her students to take excellent, thorough notes and they had already covered a lot of ancient women writers and women’s history.  The next class focused on Home Front Girl.

Students were very happy to join in the spirit of Joan’s hi-jinks.  There is one fun “dialogue” in the diary that seems almost like a play. A male friend, Frazier, and Joan are walking down the hall together in early 1939.

He: “Do you believe in heaven and hell, Joan?”

I (overcome by conservation of matter): “No, I’m afraid I don’t. I suppose that disagrees with you?”

He: “No, it doesn’t. That’s good. I don’t either. What do you believe in?”

Me: “Oh, I don’t know—conservation of matter right now. It’s awfully compelling.”

He: “Yes, it is. I guess I believe in that, too. But doesn’t that disprove immortality?”

I: “Oh, I don’t know. It means we’ll live again in flowers, doesn’t it?”

He: “Yes . . . Mr. Mayfield (Bio Sci teacher) makes it all so personal, doesn’t he? . . . You know—I wanted to be cremated.”

I: “Oh, do you? I used to want to, too, but now it seems as though I’d be cheating the Earth . . . you know.”

He: “Yes, I know.”

I: “I did want to be cremated, but now I feel a sort of duty toward the Earth . . . Of course it seems awful to rot away in the . . .”

He: “Yes . . . but I suppose . . . I saw a cremation once!”

Me: “Oh—what was it like?” (I wanted to asked how it smelled, but he thinks I’m crude as it is.)

He: “Oh, it was behind a glass wall and it shriveled up and . . .”

I: “Oh—Oh!” (thinking rotting in the cool sweet earth is more natural)

He: “And then . . ..”

And so we reached the locker room and I staggered to Modern Dance.

Here I am with one of the wonderful students–he was willing to play “Frazier” and I was “Joan.”  It was really funny!

Here we are as Frazier and Joan.

Here we are as Frazier and Joan.

More hi-jinks!

More hi-jinks!

I hope we can have an encore performance!

A Visit to my Publishers

In March 2013, my family and I had the great pleasure of visiting Chicago, the Windy City!  It is also the home of my mother, Joan Wehlen Morrison.  And her diaries, now published as Home Front Girl, are set mainly in this wonderfully vibrant city.

Chicago Review Press is in Chicago.  I first made contact with my editor, Lisa Reardon, in November 2011.  And so for almost 1 1/2 years, she and I have emailed.  But we had never met each other!  Nor had I met the publicity folks, Mary Kravenas and Caitlin Eck.  But finally, I have!

Here I am in front of my publishers on a sunny but chilly day.

There is nothing like putting a face and a tone of voice to the people you’ve only corresponded with via email!  And what a pleasure it was to meet with kindred spirits!  I hope we’ll meet again!

By the door of Chicago Review Press.

By the door of Chicago Review Press.

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