I am delighted to be here this evening. I have been in the Broadcasting business for 30 years. If you are not sure what business that is, I will tell you about a cartoon I saw. It was a man on a dock, with fishing gear, clothing, boots, and all. He was casting his line out and attached to the line was a BROAD. That's Broad - Casting. I am in the broadcasting business.
In another introduction, it was stated that I was the co-author of 8 children. That's true. My wife, Judy, is the other co-author. The eight are all ours together. Upon hearing that, I am often asked if I am catholic. No, I'm not. I usually explain that when I lived in Mt. Brook in the 50's and went to Indian Springs, I practiced involuntary oral contraception. I asked every girl I went out with, to go to bed with me and they ALL said NO. So, when I got married at age 20, while at the University of Alabama, I suppose I suffered from a slingshot effect. Now, eight children later, I think I have adequately recovered.
Like Most Freshmen, I enjoyed a bit of fun and wacky stuff. I had been restrained at Mt. Brook Grammar school, but Indian Springs allowed me much more freedom. I loved that. [Slide #2 Pic of Faculty]
I remember specifically in Mr. Fleming's English class, we were working on selecting our GREAT MAN for a 4-year study. I picked Benjamin Franklin. Charles Gaines picked HITLER. Charles later changed his subject when coached by the faculty. I remember it was Mr. Fleming who used colorful illustrations for making a point. He was trying to teach us why it was important to avoid AMBIGUITY in the English language. I remember the story about the days of the rush to build the first intercontinental railroad:
It seems they had to hire hundreds of local laborers to build the railroad. In this particular mountain and hills area, they hired some "mountain men." The foreman was trying to instruct this giant of a man. The mountain man was not too bright, but very strong. The foreman was showing him the way to drive cross-tie spikes into the boards. "Now watch me carefully," the foreman said as he handed the sledge hammer to the man and bent over the tie with a spike in his hand and put it on the tie. His back was partially to the mountain man holding the sledge hammer. As the foreman held the tie carefully next to the rail on the wood he said, "NOW, WHEN I NOD MY HEAD, HIT IT!" Those were the last words the foreman ever spoke.
But Mac Fleming was not the only one to use a bit of humor to illustrate a point. [Slide #3 Pic of Science class & Ted] Ted Cobun was our science teacher in 1955. We were in class in the bottom front of the "Temporary Gym" and were discussing the correct spelling of Pneumonia. Mr. Cobun said, "it is spelled with a silent P, as in swimming." Well naive me, spoke right up and said....."there is no P in swimming." The class chuckled a bit. Mr. Cobun looked at me not sure if I was serious or joking, and he said, " Well, maybe not in YOUR pool. " I got the joke and I learned about subtlety.
[Slide #4 Pic of Coach Cameron] Who could possibly forget Coach Cameron. He has had many nicknames over the years. When I was at ISS, he was fondly referred to as "CHROME DOME". He just wanted to get us involved in activities. Almost any activity, but just participate. He observed that "MANY OF US HAD THE RIGHT AIM IN LIFE . . . . HE JUST HOPED WE GOT AROUND TO PULLING THE TRIGGER."
[Slide #5 Moore ] And I remember Mr. Bob Moore, who was featured on the front cover of the catalog he helped produce that year. He was instructor for shop, mechanical drawing and drafting as well as creating a table here and there. His eyes would twinkle when he talked to students. I recall him observing that, "LIFE IS LIKE A BAGEL. IT'S DELICIOUS WHEN IT'S FRESH AND WARM, BUT OFTEN IT'S JUST HARD." He also observed that, "LIFE IS LIKE A JIGSAW PUZZLE, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE THE PICTURE ON THE FRONT OF THE BOX TO KNOW WHAT IT'S SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. SOMETIMES, YOU'RE NOT EVEN SURE IF YOU HAVE ALL THE PIECES." In the 34 years since I left Indian springs, I think I am still missing a few pieces.
In my Junior year, I ran for commissioner of recreation (for the coming senior fall term). I wanted ALL of us to have more fun. [Slide #6 Poster] I called upon Charles Gaines again, and with the help of Hubert Goings we worked up a spiffy campaign. Using the old purple spirit master ditto machine, we made handouts proclaiming that Smith would produce more FUN if elected. Hubert Goings created a poster with all these Mad-Magazine-like characters in black leather jackets having a raunchous good time. I told Hubert it might present a bad image of me, so he drew in this little character holding an Emily Post Book in hand, and labeled it Smith. I won the election without a runoff against 3 other candidates.
I promptly set about planning super dances and movie parties. Along about November of 1958, I engaged (Fredrick Earl) "Shorty" Long and his rock & roll band for our fall dance in the gym. Shorty was imbibing most of the evening and by about 9:15 was playing the piano with his feet, and it sounded great. It was a WILD group. The faculty took a dim view of the example that was being set, and in their traditional, fun-stifling ways, sent Shorty and his band home early and the party ended. All those who were at the springs at the time say it was the BEST dance party ever, and the SHORTEST. (note: Shorty was from Birmingham, 5 feet tall, and only 18 at the time (born in May 1940, same year I was), but in 1962 he went to Detroit, started recording on the Tri-Phi label, and in a few years became a Motown recording star, but he died in a boating accident in Detroit at age 29. His music still lives today.)
Indian Springs Guided our learning in all areas. All of our class remember the D-DAYS at the springs. We affectionately called them - - DOOM-DAYS. The faculty preferred, Development Days. That's when the faculty got to play Tom Sawyer. Tom got his friends to beg to whitewash a fence. The faculty got US to BEG to clear out the woods under a power line right-of-way. We almost fought over who would use Ax, Bush Hook, Sling Blade, Crosscut Saw and the like. We worked like beavers and at the end of the day were completely physically drained. . . . and believed we had a great time.
One of the most memorable differences at the Springs from other schools, were the enrichment projects. We were told passing normal work would get you a "C". Doing the enrichment projects would get you a B or an A.. I remember the 8 file drawers full of Purple Ditto Sprit copies of projects in the Math Room Alone. There were 4 more drawers full in the Science room, and so on. Actually, being able to pick the ones we liked, they were a lot of fun, and valuable at the same time. The one I completed on the Slide Rule served me all the way through college, in the days before anyone had ever heard of a portable calculator. I still have the spiral binder of the science project I did on "Seed Germination" and a second one I did on "Plant Stimulations To Light and Gravity."
However, the non-classroom work aside, there are still some very fond memories of classes. Mr. Fleming's ancient history class was like a living historical novel. It was nothing like the boring history text books. I still remember him graphically describing how, "old Hannibal came down through the Alps with his Elephants, just having a great time, enjoying himself all along the way. And Boy, did those folks get out of the way of those elephants when he came." We all loved history made alive like that.
Well, almost all of us loved it. Some of our class were more into Math and Science. [Slide #7 Allan ] Once such person was Allan Cruse. Allan specialized in Math and Science. He was great in these classes. He looked a lot like the mascot of Alabama Power company, Reddy Kilowatt. So that's what we called Allan....... Reddy Kilowatt and sometimes just "light bulb." But he had these brilliant ideas that would spark his mind. (Allan was also Mayor of ISS the term that I was Recreation Commissioner, so he was well respected). At our 30th reunion in 1989, Allan left his post at the University in San Francisco where he is dean of Math & Computer Science to DRIVE to Birmingham and back again. I asked him why he would drive all this way, and the said he didn't like to fly very much. BUT WHEN HE DID FLY . . . HE CARRIED A LIVE BOMB IN HIS BRIEFCASE. (Pause) Well, That got my attention! (Pause) He said, AFTER A WHILE, HE WAS STOPPED BY THE AUTHORITIES AT A SECURITY CHECK AND ASKED WHY HE DID IT. "FOR MY OWN SAFETY," HE TOLD THEM. (Pause) He said, "ONE NIGHT, I CALCULATED THAT THE ODDS OF SOMEONE CARRYING A LIVE BOMB ON AN AIRPLANE WERE 1 IN 100,000. THAT FRIGHTENED ME, AND I DECIDED THAT I WOULD NEVER FLY AGAIN." (pause) "THEN I REALIZED THAT THE ODDS OF THERE BEING T W O LIVE BOMBS ON A PLANE WERE 1 IN 500,000,000. AND EVER SINCE THEN . . . I'VE ALWAYS TAKEN MINE WITH ME." I always admired Reddy Kilowatt and his impeccable logic.
[ISS Cover Slide # 8] The ISS Motto is DESCRE VIVENDO, Learning Through Living. We learned a lot about "creeping maturity" as it was called. It reminded us of the, then current movie, called the BLOB . . . it sort of crept up on you too. We also learned about positive mental attitudes. We were taught the glass is NOT half empty, it is half full. ( To this day, I have instructed our TV weathermen, to refer to a partly sunny sky instead of a mostly cloudy one. )
I want to close this evening with an illustration story of how Indian Springs has left me always leaning toward the positive attitudes. If Mr. Fleming did NOT tell me this story 35 years ago, he should have.
Pete and Zeb were two mountain men, trapping for a living in the days of the Indian wars. In those days, there was a bounty of $5 each on Indian scalps. That was a cool piece of change at the time when beaver pelts were only bringing a dollar each. On this particular evening, Pete and Zeb pitched their tent on top of a bald mountain. They could see around in all directions. The next morning, Zeb wandered out of the tent and what did he see, but hundreds of fierce Indians surrounding the entire mountain top and their tent. They were dressed in war paint and carrying spears, bows and arrows and tomahawks. Upon grasping this picture, Zeb dashed back into the tent and screamed. . . . " Pete! Pete! Wake Up! Wake Up! We're RICH! WE'RE RICH!
Thank you Indian Springs for my good humor and positive mental attitude.
And thanks to all of you, you have been a wonderful audience.
After Dinner Speech for
Indian Springs Alumni at the
Birmingham Civic Center, May 22, 1993
by M.D. Smith, IV (V. 9.30520)(updated 4-1-08)
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