Do you run with the wolves or fly with the eagles?

Colin Powell Quote

Posted in Teaching Music

I made a difference to THAT one


Posted in Assistant Directing, High Schools, Personal experience, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: ,

My Advice For High School Graduates

By John Gardner

Pomp & Circumstance is over, diplomas are distributed and graduates are celebrating with Open Houses, a tradition new to me when I moved to this area. Parents spend days (weeks) preparing for food, getting the house ready or space reserved, sending invitations. The gathering consists mostly of the graduate’s family, friends and relatives — with an occasional teacher thrown in. This year I’ll be attending about 12. I would love to contribute to the significant cash cache of these deserving teens — but instead I write a personal note and usually share pictures from their years in band, hoping that the words and pictures will remain after the cash is spent.

Here’s some additional advice:


Read more….

Posted in Teaching Tagged with: , , , ,

Dream, Focus, Follow and Never Give Up

By John Gardner

DreamAnyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can find entries like, “Ugh, have to work today” or “only 2 more hours ’til I get off”. And many of these posts are from teens that have just entered the work force. If they say this after their first few months, can you imagine what life will be like after they’ve been at it for decades? They get it from their parents, though, who often make the same complaints. Stop doing what you hate.


Students often have to work jobs to help pay their way through college…. and sometimes those jobs provide encouragement to finish the degree. My college grunt work jobs included dishwasher, fast food handler and 3rd shift custodian. Summer work was in a stock room in a large Cincinnati department store. Those minimum wage jobs were not fun, but were temporary and served a purpose. Those jobs pushed me to succeed in college.

As seniors (and even juniors) begin to decide on college majors and career directions, I often hear variations of, “I’d love to do music, but I want to make more money, so I’m going into…..”

“God Bless, Good Luck, 
and may you and your money 
live happily ever after.” -G

But what do you WANT to do? Read more ›

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Job Search, Teaching Tagged with: , , , ,

And the band plays on – at Graduation

By John Gardner

graduationThe graduation ceremony can be one of the least favorite times for band students. First there is providing prelude music for the incoming noisy, uninterested and unappreciative crowd. Next comes Pomp and Circumstance over, and over, and over again…. how big is YOUR school?

Then…. they get to sit through an hour (or more) of speeches and the reading of names. Then there is the postlude music that no one is listening to.

Yeah, just another day in the life of a band student. It is the last official function of the current year band, with which many of the students also performed in:

  • parades. For some bands, that can be a half-dozen or so. Parades are typically short, but requires half a Saturday to get to school, travel or get ready to perform and then, afterward, putting things away and getting home again.
  • football games. 4-5 home games x two performances per game. Also, sitting through an entire game to periodically play the school song in support of the team, or to play some drum cadences to which the cheerleaders react (but no one else).
  • basketball games. 5-10-15-20. Including pre-game rehearsal and the game itself, that is about a 3-hr commitment per game. For how many band concerts will the athletes reciprocate?
  • marching competitions. For many, this is why they are in band. Sadly, most in the community have no clue what happens there.
  • concert band concerts / festivals.
  • jazz band performances.
  • school pep rallies.

Seniors are gone and school is out. Marching band, for many, is already up and running and the next year is under way. The local band has a parade performance two weeks after school is out.

…and the band plays on.

Posted in Teaching, Teaching Music

17 signs you teach in a factory school

I attended “10th District” Elementary School and an inner-city, public Jr/Sr High School that had three, 4-floor buildings. Then I went to a 40,000 student state-subsidized university and currently work in a 1600 student public high school.

Four factors contributed to my writing this post, designed as an introduction.

1. The first reference I recall to anything related to “factory education” was in a meeting between administration/school board and a group of concerned high school parents challenging the predicted negative impact of a schedule change on their audition-based ensemble. Responding to a passionate presentation, an administrative representative boasted,

We’re not here to teach the elite,
we’re hear to teach the masses. 

2. A grad school professor at Ball State was criticizing “factory education” and emphasizing the need to redesign the model and move away from mass production.

3. A colleague at my high school who was in on the planning and there when the doors opened, was describing how the building was designed like a factory — with the offices in the front and the different department modules.

4. My sons are involved with some non-factory setup educational models (a Classical Christian Academy, a School of Performing Arts and an a Boston area boarding school) and I look forward to utilizing what I learn from their experiences to help me (and you) understand why public schools are sometimes referred to as factory models of education, or education factories cranking out graduates the way assembly lines crank out cars.

The concept of the modern mass production factory was revolutionized by Henry Ford in the early 20th century, when he developed the concept of a revolutionary new process using skilled workers in specialized areas where the workers were stationary and the product parts were assembled as they moved from branch lines to the main line where the final product was assembled and completed when it reached the end of the line . Prior to that, automobiles were produced mostly by a group of individuals moving around a stationary vehicle. His approach was all about dividing the labor to speed up the line to produce more product efficiently. The person who inserted the screw was not the one who tightened it, for example. Every worker had a small part in the production until the completed product reached the end of the line.

Looking at these satellite views and floor plans, can you tell which are high schools and which are factories? I’ll share more points following the pictures.

Indiana High School

Indiana High School

General Motors Assembly in Fort Wayne, Indiana

General Motors Assembly in Fort Wayne, Indiana

Floor Plan A

Floor Plan A

Floor Plan B

Floor Plan B

Floor Plan C

Floor Plan C

Floor Plan D

Floor Plan D

Two of the above floor plans are high schools and two are factories. Can you tell which is which? I’ll give the answer below.

Indications that you might be in a factory school.


In the above floor plans, A & D are schools while B & C are factories.

My educational training has all been in public schools and universities. My sons experienced public education through high school. One went on to a public university, is currently attending a private graduate institution, plus involved in a private School of Performing Arts and a Classical Christian Academy. The other son went to private, top-tier undergraduate university, an Ivy-Leage graduate school and will be teaching in an elite boarding school outside Boston as a high school professor with his PhD.

A few of the questions I hope to address in future posts:

  1. Given today’s circumstances vs those in the 80’s when my children entered school, would I repeat the path of public education or go a different rounte?
  2. What are some of the differences in approach of the top-tier universities and elite boarding schools? Should you?
  3. Is it really all about the money, i.e. can those with the means really get a better education?
  4. Are there multiple worlds of education?
  5. Is life fair?
  6. What options do we have?

Thanks for reading. Please SUBSCRIBE to this blog and then RETWEET/SHARE/PIN it.

Virtual Music Office Word Wall 2

Posted in Factory Education, High Schools, Public Schools, Teaching, Types of education Tagged with: , ,

Fundraising and Fire Fighting

By John Gardner

When a business professor at Huntington University asked me to describe my management style, I called myself a fire fighter. That went contrary to his experience in management at Fuji, a Japanese company with a very methodical style. My father was a career fire fighter, which is why I chose that comparison.

Fire and Ice copyProduct fundraising (school food and gifts sales) in the Fall is a lot like fire fighting on the scene. Just when you think things are under control, hot spots flare up. Fire fighters must address them quickly and effectively. So must fundraisers.

School / Group Hot Spots

The fundraising group does take some heat from the community because they are selling  as well as what they sell; product selection, price, size, quality and usefulness. A local choir director referred to fundraising products as “trinket sales”.

The group can also find hot spots from faculty and staff. Teachers don’t want extra work or disruptions to the day. Unloading trucks, distributing product and disposing of the extra trash is not the janitor’s primary responsibility. True. Bus drivers have to transport the children and their fundraising products on product delivery day. Students carrying more move slower and bus drivers have a schedule to keep. True.

When I made a delivery for one of my reps and walked into the middle school office, I found a hot spot secretary rolling her eyes, but in conversation with her I learned she was the one going to have to count and account for all the money that was about to come in. Plus, she gets to field the calls to the office over the next few days from parents complaining about errors, breakage, shortages, etc.

Donuts or cookies can go a long way with secretaries, teachers and custodians. Bus drivers are more difficult because they don’t come into the building.

Late deliveries almost always spark a flare up. Schools have planned their sale as part of their overall school calendar, so when delivery is late, they end up delivering fundraising product when they were supposed to be inviting people to the book fair or selling chili supper tickets.

Salesperson Hot Spots

When they ask for a guaranteed delivery date, the good sales rep will use a calendar and worked backward from that date and then added an extra week to take care of the unexpected. Unfortunately, the rookie rep will sometimes promise things he/she shouldn’t to get the sale and then, as they say…..heat rises. So when the salesperson commits the company, the manager or distributor “takes the heat”.

Another hot spot are substitutions and back orders. When people get their [big store] ad, they rush to get that special deal only to find the item “didn’t come in” or came in “limited quantity”. Sometimes there is the “rain check” (back order?) and other times pictured items have been replaced (substitution?) The customer grumbles, but usually waits, lives without or takes the substitution.

There are the tally or packing errors, even if the error was that the dyslexic customer wrote the item number backward. And, of course, I noticed long ago that most of the ‘shortage’ claims were for chocolates, not candles. Hmmm.

Never mind that there are 300 orders containing 4000 pieces of product. Do you realize a 1% error in packing means that you could mis-pack 40 items? now, those 40 errors can include bad handwriting mis-interpreted or the human problem of ignoring the scanning system (scanning bar codes to verify order accuracy). My error rate is much lower than that….by the way.

Distributor Hot Spots

The fundraising distributor office gets the calls from the end customer, the group and the sales rep. That’s a triple whammy from the down line. Then there’s the internal employee problems (quitters, sickly, and even the dishonest). Here are some things I recommend to significantly reduce the calls (or at least the problems) from the end customer and the group:

  1. keep a copy of all orders. The multi-part order form makes this easy. When someone claims a “shortage”, we pull the order form and have found that we weren’t making nearly the errors previously accused of. instead of “short”, we find that many got what they ordered, just not what they wanted. Or they got what we interpreted to their non-existent item number…and since
  2. mark questionable items on the customer copy of the order form, they are usually apologizing when they call because they realize THEY made a stupid mistake.
  3. print YOUR toll free number on the pack slip or collection envelope. When they call the school and claim they’re short, 1) the secretary relays the message and we cannot confirm, 2) as soon as the school secretary takes the fourth irate parent call, you and your company have probably lost a customer. When the customer calls US, we can deal directly with the customer and 1) determine that it was a customer error, in which case customer is both apologetic and appreciative that we are handling THEIR error and 2) when we ask the school later how things went, we tend to hear,”I never heard a complaint.”
  4. scan for order accuracy verification on the packing line. When the school claims a ‘shortage’ or a ‘missing order’, we can show them a report indicating all orders were scanned and all orders scanned correctly. Few will ever question a bar code scanner.

Human Resources / Personnel Hot Spots

  • Temp Agency hires, including no shows, dishonest or undependable.
  • Senior Citizens – great workers, dependable….but consider extra breaks.
  • College Students – are you willing to work around class schedules?

I once had a team of 4 college students. They were great to have around and worked well — when they worked, but they were constantly calling me at the last minute to tell me about a study group or other conflict. I had told them I would try to work around their schedules, but at one point, brought them in to my office and explained that….

“You need to treat this opportunity as if it were a real job.”

  • Home School Students/Parents – good choices, but for only half days.

Supplier / Vendor Hot Spots

  • Didn’t order or produce enough product, even though sometimes that is due to distributor under-projecting or under-ordering too.
  • Have problems with their suppliers, raw materials, slow boat from China, etc.

Dealing with Hot Spots

  1. Put it in perspective. Fundraising is seldom fatal. You don’t have people inside a burning building.

    In the early ’90s, one of my sales reps had a daughter killed in a college van excursion. I took that October pre-cell-phone call from the police trying to locate a dying girl’s father.

    In 1996, at the end of September, my business partner had two of three children killed in an auto accident.

    Consider those perspectives when you encounter late deliveries, substitutions, back orders or computer/software problems.

  2. Keep your cool, especially when the heat is on. Can you imagine the Fire Chief screaming at the fire fighters even when the fire seems out of control? We can learn something from those folks, as well as from the 911 dispatcher or the airline pilot.
  3. If there is a fire on the river bridge, put out the hot spot, don’t nuke the bridge that you may need to get back across later. You never know who you might be buying product from or who may become your new sales rep — or your new customer.
  4. Don’t call in the 5-alarm to get the cat out of the tree. If you always act as if everything is an extreme emergency, those you call get accustomed to that and eventually react accordingly. Don’t call it an emergency until it really is. Don’t cry wolf until you see the furry animal at the door.  If you establish a calm reputation, then when you really are in a critical situation, you can know that your situation will get higher priority treatment.
  5. Most damage can be repaired, and sometimes the structure is even in better shape after the fire. One of my best long-time large sale school customers almost threw me out of the building the first time I met her. Some of our most loyal customers are those who had the most significant or problems, which we worked through together.

    I watched my dad ask his fire fighters to take axes and saws and cut into the side of a house — and asked him later why he was doing even more damage to the house. His explanation was that he had to do some minor damage to the house to get at the fire so he could save the rest of the structure.

    Always try to save the structure.

  6. Everyone is fighting the same fire from their individual perspectives and most are doing their best with the situation they have. They probably did not intentionally under order to cause damage. Vendors didn’t create dock strikes or problems with transport carriers in China ports. No one knew that the xyz widget would be so hot that it would be difficult to get adequate supply quickly. The computer programmer or IT guy did not intentionally cause a file, data or computer problem.
  7. Be positive when you can. Sometimes it seems that sales and customer service people only hear the bad stuff. Know that there is good happening as well.

Do you need help organizing your office?

VMO Word Cloud


Posted in Business strategies, Fundraising, Personal experience, Sales and Marketing, Small Business

Are teachers real people?

Teacher Student Love

By John Gardner

Do students see teachers as real people? I’ve seen posts and heard student comments about the weirdness of seeing a certain teacher at the grocery or department store or in a restaurant. For some, seeing that homework-assigning, discipline-distributing, command-issuing government employee from the mandatory classroom changing a flat tire, cutting grass, experiencing pain or tragedy, showing emotion or some other evidence of humanity is just plain “creepy”.

Creepy is official teen talk, by the way.

Teens see people over twenty as aging, if not old. Twenty-five is close to historic and anyone past thirty is, well, old enough for grandparent or senior status. Teen girls, no doubt, experience unsolicited, unwanted, inappropriate comments and advances by online creepers.

Yet knowing that, as a teacher over 3x their age, I enjoy (please don’t tell me if I’m wrong) a fantastic relationship with the teens I am around. Most give me more than the obligatory student response to a teacher command. I respect them and love their youthful enthusiasm and it could be their ability to sense that which moves them somewhere past polite and even into comfortable talking to this elder. Yes, some of them would still call it borderline creepy if I were to offer transportation to a walking-in-the-rain teen, but overall, unless I am completely be-fooled, I think I have earned okay status.

To those born to teenage parents who were born to teenage parents, I may be older than some of their grandparents. I have, in fact, been called “G-pa” (as well as G, Mr. G, G-man, G-ster, G-dog and more).

So, the question is, when I periodically see a post or hear a comment that goes something like… (not directed at me, I trust)

“You’re old enough to be my dad….don’t talk to me.”

….do teens really see teachers, at any age, in a non-humanistic way?

Enlighten me, please….and thanks for reading.

Recent posts you might want to consider, include:

11 Things that Fire and
Music Departments
Should Have In Common. 





Teacher Student Love




Is it ever ok for a teacher to LOVE students?



The most views of any post I have ever far.

The most views of any post I have ever published….so far.

10+ Values Marching Band Students Learn

Posted in Communication, High Schools, Public Schools, Respect, Social Media, Teaching Tagged with: , , ,

When the teacher hears this “L” word from the parent.

liarIn a previous century, pre-cell-phone, almost pre-historic era, I had a memorable exchange when a pastor parent called me a liar when I told him what his daughter had done.

How do you think I should have responded?


As I walked into the small high school office, two band students had their backs to me as they used the counter phone. I entered just in time to hear one of the girls explaining that she was going to get home late because

Mr. Gardner called a mandatory rehearsal.

The caller’s friend, who may have already made her call home, saw me first, displaying a shocked face as I approached and asked for the phone. In front of the two band parent secretaries who also heard the student, I simply shared with the parent….

Hello, this is Mr. Gardner and there is no after school band practice today.

I handed the phone back to the girl and went on about my business in the office, not listening to the rest of that conversation.

A few minutes later, in the hallway, with no witnesses, of course,….this normally smiley, friendly, terrific student and valued bandster unloaded some vocabulary on me to express her displeasure. I might have brushed off a temporary anger burst, but I couldn’t ignore what she said — and I knew her father would agree. So I went back to the office to use the phone. Keep in mind that I had just caught the daughter in a lie.

Pastor A____, this is Mr. Gardner again. I just want you to know that your daughter just used some bad language with me that is both unacceptable and disrespectful. Because this is the first time I’ve had any trouble with her, I’m not going to write-up anything through the school, but will be giving her some temporary extra band responsibilities as discipline for her behavior.

(Details shared.)

Pastor: My daughter doesn’t curse.

Sir, I’m not giving you second-hand gossip. I’m not telling you what I heard or what someone else told me. I’m giving you a first hand report about a face to face conversation to let you know that I will require your daughter to spend some extra time working in the band room as discipline for her behavior, and wanted you to hear it from me.

Pastor: You’re lying. My daughter wouldn’t say those things and you’d better not discipline her.

The daughter later apologized, completed her mandatory volunteer work around the band room, and hopefully learned and grew from the experience.

But I never visited her father’s church.


VMO Business Card

Posted in Communication, High Schools, Parenting, Personal experience, Public Schools, Respect, Storytelling, Teaching

My College Years with an Old Opera Singer

By John Gardner

Note: This is a personal experience story involving three years of my college life living in a home owned by a 1920’s New York opera singer. No points, no outline, nothing to teach….just a story I hope you will enjoy.

Dagley House

Not quite haunted, my college apartment was a hospital room during the Civil War. This was my college home for three years while attending the University of Kentucky. Only a two-minute walk from the music building made it convenient and the rent was cheap, but came with a price. Miss Iva Dagley, a 70-yr old former opera singer, rented five third floor rooms to college guys. Both the house and the homeowner were historic and unique. The straight parallel rows of huge trees that go out for several blocks from the house likely outlined the original entrance to the 1800’s estate. Miss Dagley (no one called her Iva) was a rising opera singer when the 1930’s Great Depression sent her home from the New York’s Metropolitan Opera.  She never talked about her life overseas or in New York, or how she acquired her wealth, but aside from the value (historic and monetary) of the house itself, the contents were priceless. I’m not surprised that she never married.

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 8.53.44 AM

Life at the Dagley house included an education UK could not match. She adjusted forever my dialect, diction, grammar and vocabulary.  I uncomfortably experienced how the élite deal with the ordinary, picked up breadcrumbs of how the rich keep, manage and spend money and cringed at her political prejudice and unapologetic racism.

Miss Dagley was legally blind and her cat was deaf…. which made for a hilarious combination. She couldn’t see the cat and it couldn’t hear her coming. From the 3rd floor, we would periodically hear the cat scream, often followed by a crashing pot or pan. When I ran down to check on her after one especially noisy event, she scolded me to never do that again.

Rent was cheap, but included one “errand” per month. Since there were five of us, that meant she could get out at least that often, or to get things done in or around the house. Sometimes our errand was to give a tour of the house to her guests. In my three years there I did a lot with and for Miss Dagley. I’ve highlighted a few of the more memorable.

“1791” Tapestry in stairwell. When showing some guests a thick tapestry…and noticing “1791” stitched into the lower right corner, I later asked her if it was a copy. Her blunt response, “Young man, please don’t ever again suggest that I have a ‘copy’ of anything in this house.”

Traveling with Miss Dagley was a trip. We drove her in a 20-year-old Cadillac. Faded pink, it must have been especially rare and attention grabbing in the 50’s. It was in mint condition as it was only outside the garage a few miles per month. Picture, as you read the following ordeals, how the other person involved would give her assistant a “is she for real?” look that they knew she could not see.

The bank. “She wanted to “cash” a check. She didn’t specify why….just handed me a money bag and an envelope for the teller. Imagine…. a college student approaching a bank teller with a nearly blind senior citizen woman, and handing the teller an envelope containing a check, a note to “cash it” with specific instructions of how many of each denomination – and a money bag. I was unaware of the amount of the check until the teller summoned security, which quickly, but politely, positioned around us. Can you say awkward moment? The exchange with the teller went something like this:

Teller: “Ma’am, are you sure you want to cash this….all of this?”

Dagley: “What does the note say?”

Teller: “Yes ma’am, but are you aware of the amount you are asking for?”

Dagley: “You mean the amount for which I am asking? (She was always correcting grammar and pronunciation). Is there confusion about the amount?”

I was not surprised that they were questioning her writing, especially if she wrote it out herself. More probable is that her attorney, a frequent visitor, wrote the check, and that her signature was all over it. When signing things, she would ask us to place the pen in the general area. Her signature was huge and never went in the intended direction.

Teller: Are you sure you have the right number of zeros?

Dagley: How many zeros do you see?

Teller: Ma’am that is ten thousand dollars.

Dagley: “Yes, it is. It is in my account and I want you to put it in this bag.”

Bank officer w/Security: “Miss Dagley, may we have a word with you?”

Dagley: “No. You may not. This is a simple transaction and I want you to complete it NOW.”

I never knew what she did with that $10,000 in cash.

The fireplace store.“She wanted an insert for one of her massive fire places (note the chimneys on the house). She was using her long-sleeved white gloves to feel shapes and textures. The biggest difference between her white glove inspection and that of a Marine sergeant was she was unarmed.

Me: “Miss Dagley, those stoves are dirty.” (Ignores me.)

Salesman: “Ma’am, you are getting your white gloves dirty.”

Dagley: “Why am I getting my white gloves dirty?”

Salesman: “These are sample stoves in active fireplaces and they have soot on them.”

Dagley: “Why are you displaying dirty stoves? Show me a clean one, please.”

At the gas station. (full service, of course.)

Dagley: “What are you putting on my windshield?”

Attendant: “Window cleaner, ma’am.”

Dagley: “Soap and water. That is all I want you putting on my car.”

Sending Christmas Cards. She kept a book and tracked incoming and outgoing cards.

Me: “Here’s a card from [whoever]. Shall I address one to them?”

Dagley: “Did they send me a card last year?”

Me: “Yes ma’am.”

Dagley: “What about two years ago?”

Me: “Doesn’t look like it.”

Dagley: “Then we shall wait until next year. Next?”

Some of the rooms in her house.

Hopefully someday I will find the pictures I took.

The SILVER Room.“Probably originally a dining room, this room had a remarkable collection of only silver artifacts. It was a large room with layers of added shelves. Badly tarnished silver (I’m confident it wouldn’t have been if she could have seen it, but it was not wise to criticize anything in the house. My mother commented,

It would take a full-time person just to keep this room shiny.

The TEAKWOOD Room. Every piece of furniture was hand-carved under water. The room had a very oriental look to it, with marble serpent eyes in the arms of some of the chairs.

The centerpiece of the SUN room was a massive marble table. The tabletop was no fewer than three inches thick and, according to Miss Dagley, took seven men to carry in. Nothing sat on it. No one ever used it. It was just…..there.

The Living Room, and all the rooms on the first floor, had approximately 20 ft ceilings and hardwood floors covered with ornamental not quite wall to wall rugs. The rug in the living room had to be 60-80 ft long and over 20 ft wide. I would never be able to afford even the frames that surrounded the massive paintings and portraits. She was stunning in her twenties during the twenties. The 4 foot urns looked like she picked them up in India. At the back of the room (went from front to back of the house) was a full-size grand piano (not a baby grand). On very rare occasions, when she thought we were all out of the house, she would vocalize. Given her age, I can only imagine the power and beauty of such a voice 50 years earlier. She gave a very small number of private voice lessons. I wish I could have sat in on some of those.

The Second Floor had four large, ornate bedrooms, each opening to a common foyer that provided several chairs and couches that I never saw used. Sometimes she would have an extended-staying guest in one of the other 2nd floor rooms.

The Third Floor had five rooms. Four rooms had windows that faced the side or the back, and those had normal, although old widows in them. The room that faced the front had only one small ornamental original window that couldn’t be changed because of the historical registry. There was an electric bell installed that Miss Dagley would use if she needed to “call” one of us, or if she needed to give us notice that she was “coming up”.

Diction and Dialect

Singers must carefully and correctly pronounce their words. So did people in Miss Dagley’s presence. I once asked if she wanted me to wash (pronounced worsch) the car. She kept asking me what I wanted to do to her car until I figured out her point. Another time, I mentioned something on the “nooze“. She asked me how to spell that and when I responded n-e-w-s, she encouraged me to pronounce what I spelled. During my three years in her house, she thoroughly negated my northern Kentucky accent.

Racism and Communism

There was an African-American man who took care of her yard. His transactions with her were always from the back door (which I saw only one time when I walked around the outside of the house), never the front. One time I called her on a reference to him and she silenced me with,

I have nothing against colored people…..they’re just not as smart as normal people.

Another shocker was when I had said something about how I liked the way John Kennedy spoke:

Democrats are communists and he was one of the worst.

Curfew, Girls and the Girl Apartment

We all had a key to her massive front door. But each night, once she believed we were all inside, she would apply the additional locks. I don’t recall a time-specific curfew, but we all knew she waited for us to get in before she would go to bed, which made midnight practicing at the music building problematic. She told us that we were to call her if we ever got to the house and found the door locked. No one wanted to make that call.

One night I missed the locking, which meant having to walk to campus to find a pre-cellular-phone. Instead, I elected to use the fire escape, which required the first ladder to get to the metal roof right outside her bedroom window and then climbing the second ladder to the window of my room. Unfortunately, I mistakenly thought I had the storm window locked open and when it slammed shut, the shattered glass made a terrible noise outside her window. I looked over the fire escape and saw her bedroom light come on. I climbed inside just in time to hear the bell ring and her call, “I’m coming up”. She never raised her voice, simply asking….

Why did you break my window?

Joan and I were dating by the time I moved into the house sophomore year. Miss Dagley liked Joan, especially since she was a vocal music major. Two of the five third floor guys would have girl friends over. The other three didn’t want to put their friends through Miss Dagley’s unofficial approval process, which generally required only the first few conversation exchanges. Only the best for her boys, of course.

There was a studio apartment out the back of the house that was probably originally a summer kitchen or servant quarters. She would rent it to girls, but not to just one. She offered it to Joan, but when the second renter fell through, Miss Dagley helped her get a basement apartment down the street the provided extra income to a nice elderly couple. I spent more time in that basement than Joan spent in my attic.

Church and misc

Miss Dagley was Episcopalian. I never saw her church, although I would have loved to hear her sing. I learned two fun facts about this church. There were only six members (left). And because of her Packard story, I believe it was of a rural country variety. The reason she bought her Cadillac was because her previous car, a Packard, was so heavy that it once “sank” in her church parking lot.

I regret….

… that I never returned to visit. I learned of Miss Iva Dagley’s death from the lawyer’s response to my Christmas card. She had no family alive and the gossip, while we were there, was that it would all be left to her cat.


Posted in Personal experience


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