Monday, October 31, 2011
THE BRAIN TRUST
My brother Norman and his high school friends Jim and Mike were so cocky they referred to themselves as "The Brain Trust". Kenneth Craig was their history teacher and of course they took their title from FDR's cabinet which was known as the Brain Trust. One day, Mr. Craig told the three of them that he wanted to conduct an experiment and he had them stand together in the front of the room and he handed them a paper bag and told them to grab hold of it. The boys took hold of the paper bag and waited. The class was nearly over when Mr. Craig announced, "You see, that's how the Brain Trust was left holding the bag!"
I think their cockiness was a bit diminished after that!
Mr. Craig was good at having contests and one year, on the first day of class in September in my class, he announced that there would be something the same about himself all year and if, by the end of the year, if anyone noticed what it was, then that person would receive a prize. Of course everyone's interest was piqued and for several weeks we'd be quizzing each other to see if anyone had noticed what it was that was the same. Around Christmas time I believed that I had figured it out and I kept a daily record. By Easter, a friend said, "I know what Mr. Craig is doing." I said, "So do I!" The next day we told him and asked if there could be TWO prizes. He said that PERHAPS we had compared notes to arrive at the same conclusion. I piped up, "But we haven't told each other WHAT it is!" He said, "Write your answers on a piece of paper." We did and he looked at them and said, "Sorry, neither one is right!" We were both crestfallen. However, I kept jotting about the same thing that I noticed was still occuring! I asked my friend and she said she'd quit looking.
In those days if we received straight A's all year long, we were excused from Final Tests and had those two days off from school. Mr. Craig announced, "If anyone isn't going to be here, leave your answers to the contest with me and I'll let you know if you receive the prize." We had to go to school the final day to pick up our grade cards and Mr. Craig announced, "There's a winner for the Most Observant Person and it's Phyllis Shirkey." Mr. Craig handed me an envelope and didn't say another word. Someone in the class asked, "Aren't you going to tell us what it is?" Mr. Craig answered, "No, I think I'll use it next year--if Phyllis can keep a secret." The others were grumbling but I wouldn't even tell my friend.
The answer: Mr. Craig wore the very same outfit every Tuesday for the whole year: same jacket, shirt, tie, handerchief, slacks, belt, socks and shoes.
When I opened the envelope there was $20--that was a lot of money to me--my friend and I went to Lazarus and I used the $20.00 to buy an album, a book, cologne and lunch at the Copper Kettle Restaurant! I still have the album, the book and the envelope and note from Mr. Craig about being the Most Observant Person!