Anthony Pavlick taught Agriculture to the boys in my seventh grade at Mentone School in Mentone, Indiana. He stayed in town just one year, never to be heard from again, until I found him on Facebook recently. Today is his 86th birthday. He ended up as an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin, has been retired for some time, but is still active and sharp.
One night back in the spring of 1952 he was hanging out at a Boy Scout meeting; these meetings were held in an upstairs room at the Methodist church on Main Street. When we had a break Mr. Pavlick -- as I called him then -- happened to be sitting next to me on a raised platform at the rear of the room. He was saying something to the effect that he recognized that I was bored with school and bored with Mentone and that I needed to realize that there was a great big world out there and that someday I would be free to explore it however I wanted to explore it. I was hearing him but I wasn't really listening, partly because my buddy Nick, a couple years older than me, had a pack of cigarettes, and he was over by the door waiting for me to join him for a sneaked smoke; and partly because Mr. Pavlick was trying to get me to think, to consider my future, and thinking wasn't something I was good at. I don't remember how I finally got myself away from my favorite teacher.
"We ain't got much time left," Nick said. "Let's just hide behind the altar downstairs."
The church downstairs was dark. What a good idea! We lit up, puffed away, and were chatting sotto voce. But not sotto voce enough. The Scout Master, Mr. Wayne Tombaugh, was suddenly glaring down at us from his adult height. Even in the dim light we could make out his anger-reddened face. He reached a pointing finger toward the door. "Out!" he ordered. "You should be ashamed of yourselves! Smoking! Smoking even in a church! On an altar! YOU ARE KICKED OUT OF SCOUTS!!!! RIGHT NOW!!! OUT!!!"
Our scout pack, obviously, was administered as a tyranny.
But I never forgot the gist of what Mr. Pavlick had said. I missed him when he left town and came to appreciate that this handsome man had tried to reach through to a kid who was, he could see, bored beyond bored.
I thanked him recently, on Facebook, fifty-seven years later.
(And in a subsequent post I'll relate the circumstances a few years later when Mr. Tombaugh practically begged me to re-join the Boy Scouts of America.)
(And this is my one hundredth post!)