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Mr. Merriman
Written April 21, 2008


I'm a senior citizen now, and most of my schoolteachers from half a century ago have now passed away.  But one of them is still teaching.  In fact, he's the head coach of a high school tennis team.

John Merriman 1959John Merriman 2008

We're talking about John Merriman, seen here then and now.

The recent picture is from this article in the Marysville newspaper, forwarded to me by my classmate Lynne Glass Ledley.

It turns out that John is less than ten years older than me.  I wasn't aware of it when I entered his fifth grade class in September 1957, but he was only 19 years old and had completed only two years of college.

That didn't matter to me then.  He was an adult; I was a kid.  We 10-year-olds ate lunch at a certain time in the elementary school cafeteria, and a few minutes later the "big kids" from the high school came over to the same cafeteria for their lunch.  They towered over us.  Mr. Merriman was even older (and taller) than them, so he was definitely a grown-up.  Never mind that he was still six years away from his master's degree.

As a newcomer to teaching, he was willing to try new things.  He had us do calisthenic exercises, telling us that we were out of shape.  (I, of course, had never been "in shape" to begin with.  Still haven't.)  He used wooden pie-chart toys to teach us fractions.

I found myself in Mr. Merriman's class again the next year, for sixth grade.   He brought in a tape recorder and had us produce a radio play.  On the principle that it's easier to learn a foreign language when you're young, he gave me an introductory Spanish textbook.  I didn't get far; I remember the book's title (El Camino Real), the numbers, and the way that Spanish cleverly combines the preposition de and the article el to form the word del ("of the").

On May 22, 1959, the last Friday of the school year, he treated the class to a picnic.  I brought my camera.

We began by forming up a caravan of parents' cars on School Street.

Our destination was somewhere south of Richwood.  I think it was Mr. Merriman's grandmother's farm, or something like that.

Picnic at Merriman's farm, 1959
There was plenty of water for swimming,

for rowboating,

and for fishing.

While the parents conversed,

and the kids explored,

Mr. Merriman went for a swim himself.

I myself was neither a swimmer nor a boater nor a fisher, so I mostly amused myself by capturing the scene in these photos.

The following September, I moved on to seventh grade and junior high school.  Mr. Merriman became an assistant to junior high football coach Don Parsons, and I was a manager.  Our offense wasn't very good.  We didn't get the ball across the goal line until about our fourth game, and I still remember Mr. Merriman's big grin as he exclaimed, “We scored!”

As Lynne said, "He might have only been 19 years old but he was a good teacher, and I still remember that fifth grade year fondly!"

We saw him again at our 50-year high school reunion.



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