The Way We Were – 1942-45 and 1967-70

Part Thirty-three C By Warren Thomas

A few weeks ago I asked Eunice Pearson Olson whether she remembered Miss Marian Koehn who, some 70 years ago, was commercial teacher at Forestburg High School. Her only remark, obviously reinforced with a bit-memory, was only slightly exaggerated when she said, “All you boys were crazy about her.”
Eunice probably didn’t know any of the details, being involved in a romantic fandango of her own in the study hall with her future husband, Art. As I wrote previously, after the bus arrived around 8:30 a.m., a small gaggle of guys headed for the typing room for our morning visit with the typing teacher. She was always pleasant and gracious. If she had before-class preparations to do, we twerps didn’t seem to notice. What I know now is that she should have kicked the whole lot of us back into the study hall. The fact was, she didn’t. The fact became obvious, she liked our company.
The only junior I remember with certainty who joined me in our forays to the typing room was Bill Irving, who had transferred to FHS from Letcher. The leader of our morning banter and goofing around was the incomparable clown, Bill. I had not seen such an array of antics germinating from one teenage head. He had a repertoire of facial expressions, squeaky voice changes and endless jokes. He would flirt with Miss Koehn, wise-cracking about anything that entered his head. The rest of us more stodgy types could not compete in getting Miss Koehn’s interest or attention, but she seemed to love us all.
Actually, we were learning typing. In class, I was just one of the bunch and we were well behaved. We guys were able to transpose from being the teacher’s buddies before school to being just ordinary students in class, so what could go wrong? Life was good. It remained that way until one day one of our numbers, you guessed him, Bill, got a bit too big for his britches, as the saying was. We were all typing a class assignment when clown Bill rose from his typewriter and, with typing book in hand, approached Miss Koehn’s desk. He had violated a class rule in that we were all requested to raise our hands and get permission to leave our seats and approach the teacher’s desk. Most typing stopped, and most eyes followed Bill. With elaborated arm movement, he plopped his book in front of the teacher, and with squeaky voice addressed her, “Marian…” By that time, he had accomplished what was probably his prime goal, which was everyone’s attention. Then, as he proceeded to ask his ludicrous question, he dropped one elbow to the desktop and with the other arm around her neck, he bear-hugged her to himself in one swift motion.
Startled, the teacher jerked away, but Bill had anticipated her movement and pulled her closer. Equally startled, we watching students didn’t know whether to tackle Bill, yell for help, or simply do nothing. Mesmerized, we did nothing but watch as Miss Koehn attempted to fight him off. I don’t recall whether she grabbed him by the hair, but she finally broke his grips and pushed him away. He grinned on his way to his typewriter while she re-arranged hair and clothing.
I was appalled. I was open for good fun and was a bit of a flirt myself, but Bill was beyond the pale. No others in our class would have embarrassed Miss Koehn for the world. She was our teacher and our friend. It was only years later that I reminisced about the fool Bill had made of himself but, in particular, I realized that the friendly, likable teacher had set herself up when she freely socialized with some of her students. Some kids will take advantage of any leeway given them and do not have the experience to see where undue familiarity may lead.

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