Carl Keith Greene

Carl Keith Greene

Well the Chicken Festival is over. I’m sorry it rained, but at least the parade was preserved.

Twenty years of driving around the festival to get to and from home eventually becomes second nature, particularly because some weeks downtown London is blocked off to traffic seemingly every night.

Hey, I’m not complaining. The downtown events are good for the town. They give people a chance to be entertained and spend a little more money than they probably would spend without the event.

With more than 60 years of life in London, I feel like it’s my home.

I was discussing some of my life at London High with a former schoolmate, but not a classmate, the other night and the three “L’s,” as opposed to the three “R’s” of our tenure came up.

They were Leighton Watkins, Levi Spurlock and Leo Watkins, three of the finest men I’ve ever known.

Leighton Watkins was the school principal. To a young freshman such as I, who lived in dire fear of grade school principal Roland Mooney (who was actually a caring, wonderful educator), Leighton was even more fearful.

Of course, if you went to school at London High in that period, you know that by the time you got to know Principal Watkins, you learned he was gentle as a momma cat, sharp as a tack and as smart as Albert Einstein.

Sure, he maintained order, but he did it with care and concern and with every intent of keeping every kid he could, in school.

Even as principal, he’d teach at least one class a semester and I happened to get him in a business law class. I think that was when I was a senior. He’d have made a marvelous lawyer.

He was also a good tale teller. He enthralled us with at least one World War II story about how his military police unit entered some small Italian town after the combat units had sent the enemy running. He recalled how it was his unit that got the cheers of the townspeople, while the combatants had moved on to liberate another town.

Just thinking of Leighton Watkins cheers me up. He was a fine man and a super scholar.

Speaking of super scholars, the other two “L’s” are on the same list.

Leo Watkins, lanky, bald of pate and bushy above the ears, was a mathematics instructor. He nearly taught me algebra. I barely made it through algebra one and half-way through algebra two.

The X’s, Y’s and Z’s along with the digits, multiplication, division, square root and who knows what, became so complicated, I think that may be when I started to lose hair on my own pate.

The man could add, subtract, multiply and divide multi-digit numbers in his head in milliseconds. He had a marvelous sense of humor and would spend time after time leaning over some student’s shoulder and helping him/her with a quadratic equation or something like that.

I wound up getting the rest of my second math credit in Mae Anderson’s geometry class my junior year. She was one of those really good instructors also.

Then there was Levi Spurlock. Every student who was in his class can quote his favorite saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

I didn’t have much trouble making a good grade in his general science and physics class.

He taught slowly and was very specific about what he taught and tried to make sure every student learned about the simple machines, why electrons orbited the protons and neutrons and whether electricity flows from the positive position to the negative position or vice-versa.

One could even get into a friendly argument about questionable laws of nature and such with him.

Mr. Spurlock could tell you why water expands when it freezes and how water vapor expands to fill the existing space, or something like that.

The space race enthralled him and sometimes he would get on a rocket tangent. We learned escape velocity and orbit technology.

I was already out of his class when we landed on the moon. I wonder just what he said to his classes in the fall 40 years ago about Neil Armstrong.

Leighton, Leo and Levi, along with perhaps a score of other instructors, gave me information that has either enhanced my life or at least made it more comfortable.

The best thing they taught me was not information, but how to garner information and learn from it. That’s a skill that is always useful and special.

So I end this column with the first line of a song often sung on London High Band trips, “Beer, beer for old London High. You bring the whiskey, I’ll bring the rye. Send the freshmen out for gin. Don’t let a sober sophomore out or in. ...”

Carl Keith Greene is a writer for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at cgreene@thetimestribune.com

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