I had a student named Bobby whose last name will go unmentioned. Bobby was a friendly, very soft appearing hulk of a kid like the character that often appears in movies as the somewhat slow but strangely wise side kick of the main character. He was everyone’s friend and craved the attention of all. He was the type of kid who would take off his shoes and socks and run barefoot across the playground in 12 inches of snow, without a dare, just to get attention. Bobby was an excellent example of what we used to call familial mental retardation(I know that description is politically in-correct but history is often that way). His parents were illiterate, his grandparents were illiterate and Bobby in 5th grade often times proudly signed his papers “Baby” or alternatively “Booby.”
I once received an excuse from Bobby’s mother for an absence from school printed in pencil on the back of an unfolded Winston cigarette carton with enough reversals, bad grammar and cross outs to make even the kindest of 1st grade teachers wince. The message on the cigarette carton said something along lines of, “Bus driver haint seen Bob on curb and gone on and left him there (Bobby weighed about 250 pounds in 5th grade and was about as visible as a Sherman tank. Later that same year I received a message from the office that Bobby’s mom had called to let us know that he had an emergency appendectomy…. In the early 70’s an appendectomy produced about a 9 inch scar and was followed by a week in the hospital for recovery. As we used to do the class set dutifully at work making get well soon cards to send to the hospital which were never used because unfortunately the news Of Bobby’s appendectomy was received on a Friday and Bobby showed up on Monday with no pain, no scar and one would assume an intact appendix.
Bobby showed up one day at school with a pet monkey which was allowed before our fears got in the way of real learning (kids were often allowed to bring pets to school back then for show and tell or just because). As an example of the wicked professional humor that sometimes gets bandied about in the teachers lounge I know it was suggested that after observing the monkey for a day his teachers thought they had a better chance with the monkey and voted to send Bobby home.