Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Birthday To Tony Pavlick, My Favorite Teacher

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!)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Fitzgerald:

    I too have had the experience to be greatly affected by the teachings of Anthiny Pavlik (those years as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in his macro- and micro-Economics course, circa 1981 and '82). John Maynard Keynes and supply side economics (a la Ronald Reagon's Presidency, "trickle down economics"; well, the idea was good anyway) was his forte.

    But he had just talked about economics matter-of-factly to us mere babes who could not fathom the subject. He would say, "oh, you may not be able to grasp the marginal propensity to save versus the marginal propensity to consume colossus(with their graph meeting points as the goal; hence, consumption and savings are equally utilized-bringing about "zero value".), but you go about it in your daily lives without even knowing it; you know, if we want a fair playing field we are going to have to look at our own reticent nature toward opening up our hearts and minds to others. And, then, economically, spiritually, etc., the world changes for the better even though there will be those who abuse our generosisty as we meet each other with our ideas candidly and hopefiully without pretense.

    Once, he had made a statement about how Adolph Hitler and his SS henchmen were being economically efficient in their methods to produce well-run death camps in Russia, Poland and Germany. His point was that they succeeded in their quest to seal the fates of millions. What Anthony Pavlik had meant was that, right or wrong, what you think is not the issue, it was about carrying out this mass extermination method with the least amount of effort at the least amount of monies spent (saving manpower and currency was its sole focus). Reflecting upon this statement, I think what he was really talking to us about was when we ourselves would venture out into the world and finally saw for ourselves that efficiency does not always translate into a fair and just world. That trip is up to each one of us to explore; and, many times no one will be there for us when we do make a stand. But we will know truly who will be there for us, heedless of which way the ball bounces. So, Mr. Anthony Pavlik taught about life; and, the subject, Economics, was only a part of that. Wholeness of truth is not a compromise in a world that is full of them--just listen to the speeches by politicians and religious leaders. Think of yourself when conventional wisdom tells you to sit down and stop rocking the boat. After all, "everbody succumbs to this fate anyway. I gotta get my piece of the pie...everybody else does it in their own way." We all know what is going on. The real question is "are we going to get off our buts, see ourselves for who we truly are and go out there and truly make a difference, not according to some creed, public acknowledgement or past master to pat us on the back but from that which resonates within our own humble and compassionate souls.

    May Anthony Pavlik reach his eighty-seventh birthday this coming April in a healthy and ever so vigorous presence as he did for us with his patience and understanding every day in his classroom, our New World, Today.