Wednesday, October 30, 2013


In my article A CURSE AND A BLESSING, I mentioned my favorite teacher Miss Digman. (R.I.P., B Cleo Digman, 1895-1983) I looked back on my articles and I have written about her numerous times. I had a special relationship with Miss Digman (CLICK HERE to see BLOG article SEMINAL INFLUENCES). Miss Digman came to teach in Ohio at age 75 because West Virginia had a mandatory retirement age! She insisted that "Cleopatra" be pronounced as "Cleo-pate-ra", with a long "a"!. Beauragard was her mother's maiden name.

Miss Digman was very influential to me and each time I hear T. S. Eliot's name I always recall her saying "Thomas STEARNS Eliot"; she was an admirer of his; I detested him because of his being an anti-Semite; Miss Digman said that didn't diminish his "greatness"; I countered with, "And Mussolini made the trains run on time!" Once, with a very patronizing tone, she said, "My dear, MISTER Eliot was the recipient of the Nobel Prize." I said, equally condescendingly, "AS was MISS Pearl S. Buck!" Miss Digman said, "TOUCHE!" She would preface nearly all of her private remarks to me with: "My dear..."

Miss Digman subscribed to The New Yorker and I felt honored that she would entrust me to devour them after she'd finished! [When I went to work, the first luxury I afforded myself were subscriptions to The New Yorker and The New Republic and I am still a subscriber.] Murial Spark's The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie was excerpted in the magazine; when I read it, I told Miss Digman that she was as "autocratic" as Miss Brodie. Miss Digman told me, "Oh, my dear, but I am neither charismatic nor a Fascist!" It was the first time I'd ever heard the word "charismatic" used, although it became commonplace the following year in describing President Kennedy. Miss Digman was nothing like Miss Brodie other than her total assuredness about her subjects and opinions. Years later, seeing the movie, I told Gerald, "Miss Brodie would never have allowed me to hate Thomas STEARNS Eliot as Miss Digman did!"

Last night, watching Jeopardy!, I thought of Miss Digman and it prompted this reminiscence. One of the correct questions was: "Who was Adlai Stevenson?" When I said, "Adlai EWING Stevenson the Second", Gerald gave me a look and I shrugged and said, "Miss Digman lives." Les asked, "The Second?" I answered, "He was named after his grandfather!" I don't understand the predilection of our saying the three names; Les says it's showing-off, but I know that it isn't; it's just MY THING! I always have to say "GAMALIEL" when referring to Harding, "BIRCHARD" with Hayes, and "ABRAM" with Garfield!

I worked with a man named Jeff Davis, who claimed to be a descendant of Jefferson Davis, and he fancied himself an expert on the "War Of Northern Aggression". He was a walking compendium of knowledge of his ancestor and his hero Stonewall Jackson. In our numerous discussions he would always refer to "Jefferson FINIS Davis" and "THOMAS JONATHAN Jackson" to which I would always counter with "Ulysses SIMPSON Grant". [I guess I will admit to a little showing-off that I know that Grant's original name was HIRAM Ulysses Grant but he was embarrassed by the HUG initials, and he changed it.]

BEAUREGARD CLEOPATRA DIGMAN would have appreciated the colloquy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know I've heard you say GAMALIEL! ML