Alumni Stories

Glee Club trips & Other stories

By Harry W. Mueller, III


On the Glee Club tours between 1959 and 1962, we normally stayed in the homes of people in the towns in which we sang. On one of those tours, we sang in a relatively small town in (I think) North Carolina. Four of us (I think it was Frank Carter, Frank Schabel, maybe Billy Boyle and me) had the honor of staying with the Mayor and his wife in a grand old home. It had obviously been a long time since they had dealt with high-school boys, so they had no idea (among other things) how big we would be. As a result, in order to forestall any problems, they had the two mighty four-poster double beds in the guest bedroom lengthened to accommodate the possibility of one or more young giants.

At the end of the evening, after a respectful goodnight to his honor and his wife, the four of us (none over 6' tall) turned out the lights and climbed into the beds. After about 15 seconds, the bed in which Carter and I were to spend the night started groaning. Two or three seconds later, the foot end collapsed. A few seconds later, before we could figure out how to get the lights back on, the head end followed suit. At this point, the foot and head of the bed were cantilevered over us like a wooden tent and we were about three feet lower than we had been. A few moments later, we made a sheepish pajama-clad pilgrimage to his honor's bedroom to inform our hosts of the reason for the "bump in the night". Fortunately, they were as gracious as one could expect a politician in his PJs in bed to be.

On another Glee Club tour, this one to Florida, we obviously impressed one member of one of our audiences, an internationally-known prize-winning author, so much that she sent every member of the Glee Club autographed copies of two of her books. While Hugh Thomas, our director, explained the situation to us, it was obvious that he was struggling between embarrassment and amusement. He finally admitted that the books were children's books, aimed considerably below the level of sophisticated high-school students. We were all asked to send the lady a thank-you note, even if we weren't too impressed. I guess that I must have been impressed, since I still run into those books every time I rummage through my collection of old stuff.

I was a day student for all four years at ISS. Alva Battle was the driver virtually every day that I was on the bus. The most excitement that I can remember in those rides was the morning that the engine blew a gasket or some such and the exhaust was pouring through the bus rather than through the exhaust pipe. In those days before so much concern about either environmental degradation or personal health and safety, Alva just kept on trucking and all of us in the bus had our heads hanging out the windows hoping that we would live to make it to school that morning. We all did and, if my current health is any indication, we never suffered any ill effects from the experience.

As far as I can remember, there was only one bus stop that had an unofficial name among both the students and the staff at ISS. One of my classmates was Herbert Martin -known in those days as Herbie. He lived out in what was at the time the open country between the south side of Vestavia Hills and the turn-off to Indian Springs from U.S. 31. He lived within walking distance of the highway, although I never knew how far that was. Every day, we picked him up from the side of the road and dropped him off at the same place - and referred to the place as "Herbie Holler".

As a 9th grader in Basic Studies, my first paper was on Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". I have long since forgotten what the paper was about, but "Doc" obviously thought that I took the book way too seriously. He went to considerable pains (in an interview in front of the entire Basic Studies class) to inform me, quite gently but also quite clearly, that he thought that Samuel Clemens' purpose in writing the book was just to have fun. Hopefully my sense of humor is more developed today than it was then - at least I laugh at myself more now than I did then.

Lee Watkins taught both biology and chemistry to my class. The chemistry course ended with a series of lectures and labs on organic chemistry. As an experiment, he gave us the lectures on tape so that we could listen to them as many times as we might need - and work at our own paces through the material. We were also at least encouraged to do some library research on each of the organic-chemical groups. When one of us felt that he had learned enough in one area, he would go to Mr. Watkins to take the test, which was given separate from the class and was not timed.

As I remember, we normally took several hours to finish the test - each of which was of the form "Tell everything you know about . . ." (e.g., straight-chain hydrocarbons). I was standing in the lab when Frank Carter turned in his first test after several grueling hours of writing. Mr. Watkins, without batting an eye, ripped the paper in half. Frank gave one of the most theatrical of astonished expressions that I have ever seen. After a brief pause, Mr. Watkins commented, "I shouldn't have done that. Now I'll have to tape it back together in order to grade it." Frank obviously recuperated from the shock.

Basic science and physics were both taught by Mr. Jones. My memory of him is of a serious academic with little, if any, sense of humor (I believe some, not including yours truly, referred to him as "old vector head"). So it was a real surprise, after the year-end discussion of sub-atomic physics (as it was understood around 1960) to be given the music for "The Meson Song" and invited to join in a rousing rendition thereof. My intellectual path has since swerved far from sub-atomic physics, so I don't know if the physics of the song still obtain, but I can still remember

"What?! No charge at all?
No, no charge at all!
A very small rest mass
And no charge at all!!".

There is much to do these days about Coach Woodard, and he has obviously been a successful addition to the school and contributed to making interscholastic soccer a going concern, not only at ISS but also around the southeast. However, in the late '50s and early '60s, the soccer coach was Bob Pieh (sp?). He may not have been as good a soccer coach as Woodard (I don't know if we ever had a winning season), but he had the ability to make it OK for teenage boys to be both intellectual and athletic, even when they had the athletic equivalent of two left feet. If I remember correctly, he had a masters degree in psychology and, although he didn't flaunt the intellectual business, I never had the feeling that being among the "intellectual" crowd was any detriment to being a successful participant in the soccer team.

Mac Fleming was (and, I presume, still is) an amazing teacher. He could make clear as a bell such erudite concepts as Keynsian economics with little if any reference to notes, answer random questions from a combination of intelligent, uninterested, sometimes bellicose, and always challenging students, and still, without ever looking at the clock, end the class 30 seconds before the bell with a deadpan comment like "Well, gentlemen, I believe I'll let you go a little early today."

Fred Cameron was one of the PE coaches into the '60s. He was not very tall and sometimes seemed to be almost as wide as he was tall. One of my enduring images of ISS (whether accurate or not) is of Coach Cameron riding his bicycle on the "PE Shirkers Patrol". I hope that someone who was on the receiving end of one of the "PE Shirkers Patrols" will give some examples of the extremes to which students would go to avoid PE and the extremes to which Coach would go to catch those miscreants.

My favorite Fred Cameron story may well be apocryphal, but seems to me to go to the heart of one of the great things about ISS as a "learning through living" environment. Mr. Cameron, in the story, was the faculty member with the dubious honor of taking those boarding students who had to fly home for various holidays to the airport to make their flights. For one young student, the concerned mother called up Mr. Cameron to give him instructions on how to handle insuring that her inexperienced son got home safely and with everything that he needed. Those instructions were of the flavor of: "the night before, make sure that he has his bag packed; make sure that his alarm is set for the appropriate time; make sure that he has breakfast in the morning; make sure that he is dressed appropriately for the flight; make sure that he gets everything out of his room that is supposed to come home with him, including his ticket; at the airport, take him to the counter and insure that his luggage is checked in correctly, then take him to the gate and wait until you are sure he is on the plane."

Mr. Cameron's entirely appropriate set of actions included telling the student "the car leaves at 8:00 AM - be there!" - and the student was. At the airport, Mr. Cameron drove up to the appropriate door and told the student "your airline's desk is in there, check in and they'll tell you where to go." Although the story, as I have heard it, does not include the reaction of the mother, my suspicion is that she never knew.

Harry W. Mueller, III
Saudi Aramco P. O. Box 12738
Dhahran 31311
Saudi Arabia
966-3-878-8530 (home)
966-3-873-0205 (office)