OAOY Award

ISS Alumnus of the Year Speech 10-29-04

By M.D. Smith, IV

ISS talk on October 29th, 2004 at luncheon held at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

I am grateful for this award. I am honored to be on a list with Charles Robinson '59 who was the first recipient in 1980, with Bill Slaughter, a genius with a command of English that is unrivaled as I know it, with Gray Plosser, current Chairman of the ISS Board, with John Badham, Filmaker and for whom the theatre is named, with Neely Bruce an outstanding composer and pianist, and with Roy Knight '59 Dean of the school of Architecture at Florida A&M.

Remembering Great Teachers: Mr. Cantey and his Math Class Enrichment projects.. on Ditto spirit masters, as they were called. I visited him last week. He's 93 and had a hip replacement this year, like I am having another done on Tuesday.

Ted Coburn, biology . . . Talking about the spelling of Pneumonia and Silent "P" as in Swimming, I spoke up and said there was no "P" in swimming, and after a brief pause and few class chuckles, he said, "Well, maybe not in your pool!" I finally got the joke.

Bob Moore - Drafting and Shop instructor. Box with 6 kinds of wood, cedar top, sides were oak, pine, birch and poplar & masonite bottom with cut-inset fitting ¼ " from bottom - 4 kinds of joints, butt, rabbit, spline and spline-miter and furniture glide buttons on the bottom. I have used the planning, drafting, designing and measuring before "cutting wood lessons" with me for life. I have Built a lot of speaker enclosures with my kids learning the same lessons.

I gave the box to my mother, I wish I knew what ever happened to it. It was odd, but still a work of art.

Doc Armstrong: Mel MacKay is a lot like him. That makes me happy. The Future of ISS looks Bright. I am glad to see in many ways the school being the same, but at the same time, much different, in a good sort of way.

Mr. Draper. I hated to have to sit at the French table and not understanding what they were talking about, but I did learn to say, Passe - moi, le lait (the milk) or passé moi and point to food. I didn't starve.

Some years later I met my wife, Judy, who also only knew one French phrase, vous-le-vous vous couchet avec moi? That's why she's my wife today.

Mr. Fleming - This reminds me of "The Book People." Remember "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury, written nearly 50 years ago? The leading man, Montag, is a fireman who burns books in a futuristic American city. In Montag's world, firemen start fires rather than putting them out. The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on "Seashell Radio" sets attached to their ears. ( Of course Indian Springs is the exact opposite of this, except for the earphone radios).

Montag becomes a rebel and reads some books and changes his view of civilization. Soon HE is reported to the law, by his wife, and his house and books are burned and he has to flee for his life.

The whole city watches as the chase unfolds on TV, but Montag manages to escape in the river. He drifts downstream into the country and follows a set of abandoned railroad tracks until he finds a group of renegade intellectuals ("the Book People"), led by a man named Granger, who welcomes him. They are a part of a nationwide network of book lovers who have memorized many great works of literature and philosophy. They hope that they may be of some help to mankind in the aftermath of the war that has just been declared. Montag's role is to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes. Enemy jets appear in the sky and completely obliterate the city with bombs. Montag and his new friends move on to search for survivors and rebuild civilization.

Mr. Fleming is a "Book People" He knows history lessons as though he has memorized the books…. But much more than that . . . He adds interpretations like the expressions on the Roman's faces when Hannibal came storming through the Alps with his elephants. This past December 9th, I visited Mr. Fleming's Military History class as he talked about events that led up to Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into WWII. He talked about the Japaneese Morse Code radio men having a rhythm that the American radiomen recognized, and putting them on stationary ships while the carrier fleet sailed for Pearl Harbor.

I video taped it and have placed the audio and a video recording in the archives and on the internet. He still has his wonderful, subtle and interesting way to tell history like a great story. He asks questions at pivotal points to wake class members up. A technique he has used for 50 years. At one point the class was silent after a question, and Mr. Fleming said, "Don't have a clue, huh?" and went on explain the answer and continued his lecture.


These are the SOME OF qualities about ISS as well as my memories that makes the school so special.


My Commissioner of Recreation story:

I caught turtles from the lake in the spring when they were selling for $1 each at Woolworth's downtown, but when I took 25 of them down there, expecting something close to $25, I was told the only paid 5 cents each for them, but could not buy them from me anyway, since they had a aquarium supply that sold them fish and turtles. At lot of baby turtles got put back in the lake.

When I was 11 years old, instead of a Lemonade stand, I got my folks' 8mm projector, some silent Mighty Mouse cartoons and had a movie party for neighborhood kids in my basement. Charged 10 cents admission and I cooked popcorn and sold small brown bags for 5 cents. Made several dollars and that was a lot in 1951. So, movie parties and dances were a natural for me later at ISS

My first two years at ISS was a lot of fun and games until I became a boarder the last half of my sophomore year. I took things a bit more seriously. Junior year, I was elected Commissioner of Recreation after a vigorous campaign and I basically promised MORE FUN if elected. I had great R&R & slow dance music I recorded on a reel to reel tape I played at movie parties (and selected great scary titles for the movies) and I was in charge of several dances with a band.

Story of Shorty Long and his band . . .He was certainly one of the best R&R black bands of Birmingham. They imbibed frequently and near intermission, he was playing the piano with his feet, Jerry Lee Lewis style. The faculty took a dim view and made him leave and ended the dance. It's remembered as being the shortest and best dance the school had ever seen.

I continued to organize reunions for my classmates and provide entertainment and music because I said I was not ready to retire from my duties as Commissioner of Recreation. I still organize them and participate except for our 45th this past April. While I planned it and did much of the work, I was in the hospital for 5 days with a blood clot that was all that prevented me from being there. But I got all my music, nametags, door prizes and scripts driven down the day before alumni weekend. I talked to many of my classmates on that Saturday night from my hospital bed and it was the next thing to being there. (Show my class photo and names on back.) They sent this back to me.

I am currently working on the Mt. Brook Grammar school graduating class of 1955 for our 50th reunion this coming April 16th , 2005. My earliest memory of first grade was the teacher asking me about my first name, Marcellus and I told her no one called me that, She asked me what my parents usually called me, and I said "Shut Up" or sometimes, M.D. Along with my wife and 8 kids, I have spent almost a lifetime being a "Commissioner of Recreation". The only reason it has not been a lifetime is because, "I AIN'T LIVED ALL MY LIFE YET!"

Thank you Indian Springs for everything, which includes getting me through college, my values as a human being, my woodworking skills, a certain amount of maturity that crept up on me, my sense of humor and much more than that. I would not be the person I am today without ISS.

--M.D. Smith, IV, Class of 1959