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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Gaffney High's Miss Chadwick and Harvard Lit Critic James Wood

      I've told versions of this story many times before but it deserves a retelling. I was gonna devote my blog time today with a suggested book list for New Sec Ed Betsy Devos but this compulsion Trumps that one so Betsy is on hold.

       Miss Margaret Chadwick taught Advanced Composition for at least 40 years as the legend goes at Gaffney High School. If I was in her last class in 1971 that means she started in the early 30s about ten years after the school was built. Her tenure there deserves official examination but until definitive history of her stay I'm going with the legend.

     After all those years she still had that light in her eye in 71. I had a facebook exchange with one of her mid 60s students today, Jerry Shinn, retired editor of the Charlotte Observer. He said he Loved Miss Chadwick.

    Most likely Libby Harrill Mitchell was in her class in the early 60s, Libby, a Furman grad who ran for Governor of Maine not long ago.

    For a long time those of us in Advanced Composition were given seven short stories to read and critique. Up until say 20 years ago I could name all seven of my assignments, but now it was Kafka's In the Penal Colony, The Secret Sharer and Joseph Conrad's In the Heart of Darkness or a Chapter.

     I procrastinated and she threatened to hold up the diploma of the "Most Intellectual" of the class of 71 who had already gotten a scholarship to Furman if I didn't turn all my essays in. Mark Poole, Andy Gunn and I sweated a little but we all got em in.

    I think Rajesh Mehra was on time and of course Diane Sarratt. Woulda been good if Lillian Ashley had stuck around and Jan Palmer, woulda made an outstanding group of scholars who got a full page picture in the 71 Cherokeean even more august, but we were proud even so.

    Near the last day of school, which was the end of her teaching career, after the memorable trip to Greenville South Carolina to see a movie and a meal at the Morrison's Cafeteria in McCallister Square I bounced into her class before the bell and said: "Miss Chadwick, I'm one of the brightest students you ever taught, aren't I?"

     She said No Stephen, you are a charm but not even in the top ten. And she began to name Kathy Martin, the Sossamon girls, Steve Williams, Barty Sides, Margaret Callison and the Caldwell girl Jerry Shinn and she wasn't even warmed up. I said okay, I get it.

    But here, I'm gonna name myself in the top ten of lifelong learning. I think I'm her only student to have met Harvard Literary Critic James Wood and read at least two of his books.  Crashed the Sewanee Writers Conference summer of 07 or so and heard his lecture on Round and Flat Characters, a chapter from How Fiction Works. Had brief conversation with him there.

     The first book of his I read was  the Broken Estate, Essays on Literature and Belief; and in the last ten days The Good Stuff. Here is the challenge to my classmates of all those years at Gaffney High. I stumbled on The Good Stuff at Dollar Tree last Friday. Got it for  a dollar right after a happenstance delightful conversation with Randy Owen, Country Music mega star at the Ft Payne Cracker Barrell.

    Owen was an English major himself.

   But Wood's book is out there. I'm sure Ft Payne Alabama is not the only Dollar Tree shelving this steal. So Gaffney High lit fans and any who see this, go get a copy today. Great stuff and Miss Chadwick would be proud.

   Here is the Guardian Review


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