Miss George and my theatrical debut #AtoZChallenge

M is for Miss George and my theatrical debut. Thirteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Halfway there — wish me luck!

My fourth-grade teacher Miss Helen George entered my elementary years in September 1959 — a landmark school year for me with so many new  things to learn.

My memories of second and third grades at Hooper School in Endwell, N.Y. do not stand out in the same way, although I am sure my teachers were able and dedicated.

Miss Helen George, my fourth grade teacher. I remember Miss George holding forth and coaching us on one topic or another — from cursive handwriting to deportment — and writing and directing historic plays that we fourth-graders appeared in.

But I recall many details of fourth grade, which began when I was 9 years old.

Foremost among them is Miss George holding forth and coaching us on one topic or another — from cursive handwriting to deportment — as discussed in my previous series about her.

“She was just great,” my mom told me years later. “The classical type of person you think of when you hear the word teacher.”

I take to the stage

Perhaps my most vivid memory from my year with Miss George is taking to the stage in my first acting roles — once playing a character and a second time introducing a play in Hooper School’s new auditorium.

Ready for my closeup in Miss George’s fourth grade plays (1959).

Miss George was a history buff who regularly used stagecraft to impart lessons to her students. And in 1959-60 she created two plays about town and state history for my fourth grade class.

In her play Hooper’s Favored Site, Miss George created a drama set in the 1800s about early residents of Endwell (called Hooper back then) — which sadly left out the area’s original Native inhabitants.

Although her script is lost to history, I remember appearing in that play in an old-time dress (sewn by my grandmother) that my mom or her sister Aunt Rita had worn when they were in grade school.

I do proclaim, “Samuel D. Champlain!”

For my second appearance, I had to stand alone onstage in front of the curtains and recite the prologue to the play — before a packed audience of parents and siblings. Much more anxiety provoking than a role in the play!

I don’t remember the soliloquy. What I do remember is that as part of the introduction I had to shout Miss George’s required pronunciation of SAMuel D. ChamPLAIN — a key character in her melodramatically titled play Year of Glory.

My first theatrical review. Through online newspaper research, I was pleased to find this write-up of my performance. Not a review exactly — but still! Source: Endicott Daily Bulletin, Nov., 25, 1959.

My performance in the news

Fast forward six decades and through online newspaper research I was pleased to find the above write-up of my performance. Not a review exactly — but still!

There I am in the the third paragraph on the list of “principal characters” along with classmates I later went through high school with — some of whom I still see at reunions and on Facebook.

According to the article, our play was Hooper School’s contribution to New York State’s Year of History celebration. Well, leave it to Miss George to be sure we were connected to history!

Up next: N is for Norm: My thirty-something dad. Please stop back! 

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8 thoughts on “Miss George and my theatrical debut #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I remember doing a play although I think it was Middle School. It was about the pioneers and I was the narrator. My grandmother helped me make my costume. It’s a great way to teach children. Weekends In Maine

  2. Miss George sounds like a wonderful teacher. And good for you getting up on stage like that! I tried but…
    In about grade 4 our French reader was little plays, like Little Red Ridinghood but in French. Every week the teacher chose kids to act them out for the younger grades. In one of them I wanted to be the witch so bad, I practiced and practiced all week at home. I was great! I got up to do my audition in the class and I turned red as a beet, my legs barely held me up and I stumbled over each word. That was the end of my acting career!

    1. Too bad you got stage fright. I did better in her first play, where I had a part. It was much more nerve wracking to step out on stage to make the lone introductory speech — so I totally understand the warmly legs. I had them myself!

  3. What great memories you are sharing here, love that it got into the newspaper and that you have pictures of both you and the teacher.

    1. Thanks, Carmel. I have learned some great techniques in the course of family history research — and having so much more online, especially newspapers, really helps.

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