I am an inveterate collector of “stuff” – from reading and TV and Facebook posts. Occasionally I run across an idea that blossoms into an entire article. More often, however, it is a single fact, a new word, or some unique thought that catches my attention.
For example, I saw a commercial introducing the new Weight Watchers logo: two blue W’s stacked on top of each other. Saying “double-u/double-u” does not roll off the tongue as easily as Weight Watchers, but marketing is marketing. I have become accustomed to saying KFC in place of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the change from the International House of Pancakes of my college days to the current IHOP makes perfect sense. But I have yet to wrap even a couple of brain cells around the Hidden Valley Ranch change to HVR. I must quietly mouth the original title to myself in order to correctly arrange the letters of the new acronym. And somehow I keep thinking of heating/air conditioning (HVAC) or plastic water pipes (PVC) whenever I hear HVR. Go figure!
Other TV observations helped me make three additions to the running list of new vocabulary in my brain. The owner of an area construction company mentioned his business is a leader in scattered-site, stick-built houses. I correctly figured that scattered-site refers to individual structures not part of a housing development. However, I had to check the dictionary for stick-built: a wooden house constructed on-site. The term differentiates traditionally-built wood homes from modular ones constructed in factories and assembled elsewhere. I understand the difference, although stick-built still sounds rather primitive and rickety to me.
From The Great British Baking Show on PBS I have learned that biscuits in the UK are cookies in the USA and bread bakers across the pond place their dough in proving drawers. My mother always just let the dough for her homemade yeast breads rise. A couple of weeks ago the baking contestants were required to produce traybakes. Turns out a traybake is a batch of bar cookies similar to brownies and blondies over here. Yum!
My reading of Gone with the Wind brought to my attention another unfamiliar food: beaten biscuits. According to a couple of websites I checked, beaten biscuits are a Southern food, firmer and drier than my mother’s fluffy baking powder biscuits with the texture of a soda cracker.
Often just a photo or a quick bit of video can pique my interest. Of late, I have been watching TV weather reports, longingly searching for hints of spring. Through all the alerts and advisories, especially for really low temperatures and their related wind chill warnings, I have been perplexed by the number of female meteorologists wearing sleeveless dresses while predicting thermometer readings of minus 25 degrees. B-r-r!
Another piece of video has popped up several times on Facebook in the past couple of weeks. At one of the district wrestling tournaments, no one was available to sing the National Anthem. When the announcer asked for a volunteer, Mechanicsburg wrestler Isaac Bryant stepped forward to sing a beautiful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He has since been interviewed on national TV, but I will remember the simplicity and grace of his initial appearance: a young man in a T-shirt, microphone in hand, sharing his patriotism and talent in an inspiring acapella performance.
Speaking of music and photos, I saw in the UDC a picture promoting Mechanicsburg’s annual musical; this year they are presenting Grease. At the same time, West Liberty-Salem announced their musical plans: James and the Giant Peach. According to Facebook, the Graham Music Department will stage The Music Man. And individuals in the know informed me that Cinderella will grace the Urbana High School stage, with Legally Blonde playing at Triad. These local performances that bring Broadway to Champaign County are by no means small undertakings. Local theater enthusiasts are fortunate to be entertained by students and their hardworking teachers in these elaborate and time-consuming productions.
A couple of pages in a book I just finished provided with me yet another small but fascinating item. The author is Mary Norris, a magazine query-proofreader for The New Yorker. Her book, subtitled Confessions of a Comma Queen, contains chapters about hyphens, semicolons, apostrophes – and pencils. She mentioned a museum in the Hocking Hills Welcome Center located in Logan, Ohio. That museum is the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum, filled with 3,441 pencil sharpeners in every imaginable shape and form. Sounds like a good addition to the list of unique roadside attractions across our country – including the Big Donut in California, Carhenge in Nebraska, and the Corn Palace in South Dakota. Only in America!
And then there are those short comments by kids that cause us to age much too soon. A former student of mine, Ryan Schlater, recently related one such utterance in a Facebook post. By the way, Ryan did himself proud at GHS in the classroom and in athletics. His current school and his students are certainly fortunate to have such a fine young man as a role model. Now thirty years of age, Ryan was set back a bit on his heels when a student asked him what Franklin D. Roosevelt was like as a president. That means I should know what Grover Cleveland was like as the top guy. See, Ryan, it’s the little things…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.