If you are obsessive about details, you might want to refresh yourself on the Mrs. Smith story from 2010, which is elsewhere on this site.
A meeting almost 50 years in the making!
The synopsis: I have always included my 6th grade science experience with Mrs. Marie Smith, who ended up leaving near the end of that year, for motivating some of my early interest in science. In particular, she used quite imaginative and engaging classroom methods, memorable (truly, I remember) in and of themselves, but more so for the striking difference upon walking into that classroom the day after she left and everything interesting had left the room. One part of the story I have told for years and years was how I associated her move back to California with her going to Santa Rosa because, in elementary school, I was a huge fan of “Peanuts,” and Charles Schulz’s home location in Santa Rosa was something I definitely knew of at the time.
Did I ever mention that I met Schulz, once, and he bought me lunch at the Snoopy Ice Arena (August 1997)? I was a tongue-tied idiot the entire time we were together.
But I digress.
Marie Smith and her family do live in northern California, and on my last visit to San Francisco, she and her daughter came over to SF and met me for dinner.
We revisited the details of the story, and conversations have a way of ferreting out nasty little details that lengthy email messages or phone calls do not.
I started 6th grade in September 1967.
Marie’s then-new husband, Rick, joined the US Army Agency in 1966 – a civilian government agency that audits army installations. Marie had just graduated from San Francisco State College with a biology degree. He was assigned to Boston, and during that 1966-67 year, looking for work, she took two fast-track teacher certification courses at the University of New Hampshire and a workshop on project-based learning at Harvard. At some point in the year, she applied for and got the position as one of three 6th grade teachers in the newly opened elementary school in my home town (1966-67, when I was in 5th grade, was the first occupancy of the building). During the Spring/Summer of 1967, Rick and Marie moved to my home town, from Boston.
Their life together in rural NH was quite short-lived. School started in September 1967… and in October 1967, Rick was drafted into the real Army… did his basic training at Ft. Knox and was then assigned to Ft. Campbell, KY. She made the request to leave her position as my (and, well, others’) 6th grade teacher, to be with Rick before he potentially shipped out. The school district approved, and she left in April 1968 after being separated from him most of the year.
My recollection of a few of her classroom designs was spot-on. I really did recall (in particular) activities related to pendular motion and understanding exponential growth.
You might have noticed, though, that she did NOT return to California, and there had never been a Santa Rosa connection (they were from the Oakland/Berkeley/SF area). This conversation was the first time that recollection was ever challenged.
And wait, it gets more interesting.
After Kentucky, Rick was transferred to Ft. Wainright in Fairbanks, Alaska, in September 1968, as I was starting 7th grade (Junior High).
Rick got out of the army in December 1969, half-way through my 8th grade class. And believe me, I am pretty sure I was not yet reflecting on my 6th grade experience with Mrs. Smith, nor was I in touch with anyone who could possibly have known where she was.
I say that because the month after he got out, in January 1970, Rick and Marie moved to (wait for it) Santa Rosa, where they had a home until 2002.
It was not until 2010 when someone challenged me to track her down. That story is down below.
Now you can queue up the Twilight Zone music.
The best explanation I can come up with that does not involve communicating with my younger self through time (although I am not ruling it out), would be (a) it might well have been known that “the new teacher” had come from California and (b) I really WAS a Peanuts fanatic (even drawing a regular Peanuts strip for the 6th grade “newspaper”) and so because all things California began and ended with Charles Shultz in Santa Rosa, so perhaps these wires crossed, permanently, and I just tagged her as going there. It is then simply a coincidence that they ended up living there, after all.
Here she is, from 1967-68.
I’ll dig up my picture from 1968…
And here we are in 2016, having last actually seen one another in April 1968.
Me and Marie Bauer Smith.
My fashionable SF hoodie purchased in Chinatown earlier that day because it was freaking cold in SF.
We were accompanied by Marie’s daughter, Lisa.