Friday, March 20, 2009

My Career as a Historian - Part Two

Installment two of this self-reflective narrative will cover the years 1985-1991, basically my middle school and high school years. This is probably the point in my life where I was least involved in history, oddly enough.

My family left rural southwestern PA in September 1985 to return to eastern NC. Looking back on things, I find it very interesting how the decisions my parents made really did effect my long-term track in life. I often wonder what I'd be doing had we stayed in PA? But even more minute than that, where my parents chose to live when we returned to NC determined a lot, including which school I would attend. Though we lived closer to Jacksonville, I attended school at Swansboro. We were so close to the district boundary that had I jumped the fence behind our house and walked 100 yards down the road I would have attended Tabernacle Middle/White Oak High instead. As it turns out, I found a number of mentors at Swansboro that greatly influenced me. In middle school we took World History in 7th grade and, of course, NC History in 8th. I don't remember much about 7th grade World History except my teacher was a very large African-American woman who spoke with a heavy lisp and her name was Ms. McLean. I also remember sitting at a table with a bunch of cut-ups who always got us in trouble. Finally, I remember that every Friday was current events day and each of us, with a partner, had to go to the front of the class and deliver a current events report, newscaster style. My friend Kevin and I, obviously not taking this assignment seriously, gave the WWF wrestling report each week. How I passed, I'll never know.

8th grade NC History was a different story. Everyone dreaded the possibility of having to take that class with Mr. LeCount, who was the football coach. He was terribly boring (though I loved him as a PE teacher), taught the whole class by putting up overhead sheet after overhead sheet, and yet his class was still extremely difficult. I lucked out and got Mr. O.B. Maxwell, my first Swansboro mentor. Mr. Maxwell was an older, country gentleman who came to school wearing Dickies work pants and plaid flannel shirts. His face was very rugged and he had a full beard year round. Though his hair and beard were gray, his mustache and part of his beard was stained yellow from chain smoking his whole life. He was also the girls' softball coach and in the summer he had a baseball card business. He travelled around to card and hobby shows and bought, sold, and traded baseball cards. He taught at both the middle school and high school, which at that time were right next to each other (in fact, the middle school used the same cafeteria as the high school). I loved his NC History class and made sure to take him for two more classes in high school. He took us on a field trip to Tryon Palace. Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, I don't remember a damn thing about it other than the fact that we went there. I apologize to my many friends at Tryon Palace, but it's the truth.

Freshman year of high school I met another mentor, Elaine Sioufi (who oddly enough, a number of years after I graduated, married O.B. Maxwell, who is now deceased). She was my Civics teacher as well as one of the two coaches of the Academic Derby team, of which I was a member for three years. She was a great teacher and a big supporter of me personally. Her coaching partner, Susan Casper, was the school librarian and also a wonderful lady. When scheduling classes for my sophomore year, I had an option to take World Civilization or World Geography, another favorite subject of mine. I was informed that it was the last year Geography would be offered and since Mr. Maxwell was the teacher I jumped on it. Junior year I had Maxwell again for US History. I had one other mentor in high school who, believe it or not, was a math teacher. I had him three of my four years and his name was Joe Hicks. He was a great guy, and still teaches at Swansboro today.

Throughout my middle school and high school years I was involved in other things as well, particularly music. From 7th-9th grade I was in band, and from 10th-12th I was in chorus. For five years straight I was involved in the annual high school musical (no Disney jokes, please) and even had the lead role my junior year. I was also active in my church's youth group, and youth and adult choirs. Most people who knew me during these years thought that I was destined for one of two things. Some thought that I would major in music and go on to become a music teacher. I loved music, but I knew I wasn't that talented, so the thought never even crossed my mind. A lot of other folks, particularly at church, thought that I would one day become a Presbyterian minister. I'm not sure what ever gave anyone that idea, but I've never seriously entertained it, so go figure. All along, I held on to this notion that I had formed in 4th grade of being a Social Studies teacher. However, I had modified that goal somewhat and decided that I'd rather teach high school than elementary school.

My senior year it came time to start the college application process. I had always wanted to go to a small private Presbyterian college like St. Andrew's or Montreat. Then I realized how much more they cost than state universities and realized that's the route I needed to go. I applied for the NC Teaching Fellows scholarship, which required me to apply to at least three schools. UNC-Wilmington was my first choice, but I was having trouble coming up with 2nd and 3rd. I wanted to apply to UNC-Asheville but my mother talked me out of it because she said it was too far away. I had no desire to go to a big school like Carolina or NC State, and I damn sure wasn't going to go to ECU because that's where EVERYBODY from Swansboro went in those days, and I wanted to get away from those people! So, I applied to UNC-Charlotte and NC Central. Yep, that's right, NC Central. That pretty much sealed the deal; no matter what happened, I was going to UNCW. In hindsight, I'm so very glad that I didn't get that scholarship. I would have been trapped into teaching for at least four years, and along about my junior year I decided I no longer wanted to be a teacher, or at least not in that sense. So in August of 1991 off I went to UNCW to embark on the next chapter. NC Central continued to pursue me, offering huge minority scholarships, well into my sophomore year, when they finally realized that I had no interest in transferring.


elektratig said...


I can't resist telling you that one of my wife's relatives moved from Long Island to Swansboro, NC about five years ago. A sister and brother and their families visited, loved it, and have followed her down, and as a result I've been there several times. A lovely town, but beware -- it's under attack by New Yawkers!

Andrew Duppstadt said...

"but beware -- it's under attack by New Yawkers!" Swansboro, and everywhere else in coastal North Carolina (ha ha). You know, there's a saying in New Bern that the Union occupied New Bern in 1862....and they're still coming! Glad your family enjoys Swansboro; it's a great little town.