Book 1: Me and The Professor Preview

PDBook1Cover250From the author …

1922 was a very different time in the world. It was a time just before a period of coming global transformations.

United States Prohibition had just been implemented two years earlier in 1920 and would last until 1933. It was when the U.S. alcoholic ban was lifted in 1933 when the first legal drinking age was established. Prior to that time there was no drinking age limit, as that was left solely to the discretion of the parents. It was the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages that was prohibited. Consumption of alcohol was however permitted, provided it had been in one’s possession prior to the nation-wide ban. Those with well-stocked wine cellars, for example, were legally permitted to keep and enjoy the fruits of their personal inventory during those thirteen years. Europe of course, never experienced a time of prohibition and alcohol flowed freely; and thus was a popular tourist destination for Americans especially.

The “Roaring Twenties” didn’t actually begin until 1926. The Jazz Age likewise had not yet been initiated; although those things were just around the corner.

Men were still gentlemen and women were still prim-and-proper and still kept to their ‘proper place’, as it were. Although those things would also be changing in the coming years ahead – where the young would set themselves free; especially, the young women. They would shock the older generation with their new hair style (a short bob) and the clothes that they wore were often much shorter than had been seen and tended to expose their legs and knees. The wearing of what were considered skimpy beach wear in public could get the “Flappers”, as they were known, arrested for indecent exposure. They wore silk stockings rolled just above the knee and they got their hair cut at male barbers. The President of Florida University stated that the low cut gowns and short skirts “are born of the devil and they are carrying the present generation to destruction”. The Flappers also went out without a man to look after them, went to all-night parties, drove motor cars, smoked in public and held men’s hands without wearing gloves. Mothers formed the Anti-Flirt League to protest against the acts of their daughters. But after the horror of the First World War, the younger generation mistrusted the older generation and ‘did their own thing’ which flew in the face of the establishment.

But again, those things were still a ways away. As mentioned, this was still only 1922, and such upcoming social and economic changes had not yet surfaced. The nightmare of the great Stock Market crash of 1929 was still seven years away.

Our story takes places just before all those changes started coming about. Europe was quickly recovering from the Great War and consumer confidence was high. It was a bright age. It was a golden age. It was the pinnacle of the Edwardian age, which had only recently superseded the Victorian age. It was an age filled with hope and dreams and idealism; and the possibilities of a prolific and prosperous future were on the near horizon.

It was an age of transition. It was a time following the Industrial Revolution and preceding the Atomic Age. It was a time of steam-powered ships and steam-powered locomotives, but also the birth of the gasoline engine. The age of the automobile was in its infancy but it was growing, and already in 1922, cities were working diligently to improve their streets with pavement to accommodate the amazing new form of transportation. ‘Horseless carriages’ they were called. And while the cities responded with improved roads, private individuals were building special houses for their automobiles. Even in 1920 and 1921, when the high post-war cost of materials limited construction projects, local residents began a garage-building spree which lasted throughout the decade. Virtually every family residence erected in the ’20’s had a special house for its automobile, and many occupants of older homes replaced the high stable or barn with a rectangular garage.

It was an age of world upheaval. Besides World War I, the French and Russian Revolutions were well underway. In spite of World War I, Adolf Hitler and the Rise of Nazism in Germany were already full steam ahead.

It was an age of education, learning and discovery. For the late 19th century and early 20th century was when the world-class schools and universities were born. Education was enjoyed by men and women alike, and was in fact, so highly regarded and sought after, that today’s modern day 21st century men and women will be completely shocked to learn what was required, just to graduate from the 8th grade back in 1922.

Just for fun comparison to today, I have included the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal. I wonder how many of you today would be able to graduate from the eighth grade?

1895 8th-grade final exam

Grammar (Time, one hour)

  1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.

  2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications

  3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph.

  4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,’ ‘play,’ and ‘run’.

  5. Define case; illustrate each case.

  6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.

  7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)

  1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.

  2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet Long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

  3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs, what is it worth at 50 cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs for tare?

  4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?

  5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.

  6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent per annum.

  7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft long at $20 per metre?

  8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.

  9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?

  10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

  1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided

  2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus .

  3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.

  4. Show the territorial growth of the United States .

  5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas ..

  6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.

  7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?

  8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour)
(Note from author: Do we even know what this is today?)

  1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?

  2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?

  3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?

  4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.

  5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.

  6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.

  7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.

  8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.

  9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.

  10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

  1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?

  2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?

  3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?

  4. Describe the mountains of North America.

  5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.

  6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.

  7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.

  8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

  9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.

  10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

*** *** ***

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete. I wonder if a modern eighth grade student in the modern high-tech 21st century could ever hope of passing such a test?

Nevertheless, this was the world of 1922; and things were very different. People were educated, smart and intelligent. Albert Einstein was already recognized in 1905 for his stunning equation: E = MC², for his theories of General Relativity, Special Relativity, Quantum Theory and Gravitational Field Equations, including such things as Black Holes and Gravitational Time Dilation; all of which were all developed between 1905 and 1915. The concept of a Wormhole was first developed by the German mathematician Hermann Weyl in 1921. Even such things a Electromagnetism and Electrodynamics were developed in the late 19th century by James Clerk Maxwell.

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because sometimes I think we forget how smart and intelligent we were, prior to the Computer Age. For even before the Atomic Age and before the Jazz Age and even just before the Golden Age of the late Roaring 20’s, people were very smart and highly intelligent. Before the Flappers and dancing and partying into all hours of the night began taking precedence over education and family and career, before the economic disaster of 1929 Wall Street and the ensuing Great Depression, before the world was plunged into yet another World War in 1939, the world was, in fact, a highly intelligent and incredible place to live, with new and exciting discoveries occurring every day.

This was the age in which the Professor lived. And this is the age where we begin our story.

Chapter 1

Dear Diary,

I just received you today for my seventeenth birthday. This is my very first entry. And I am in love with my Professor.

Okay, let me back up and try that again. My name is Emily G. Wells. I am an American, but I now live in London. Today is February 10, 1922. And I am in love with my Professor.

Oh, there I go again. I guess I cannot help it; it is all I can think about. Is it wrong to write about what is always on my mind? I am in love with my Professor. There. I said it again. Only this time without apology.

But then again, I am not the only one in love with my Professor. So is every other girl at school. Not that it is all that surprising. He is after all, tall, dark and handsome.

And very mysterious. You see, there is something very different and unusual about the Professor. Something … strange. Something I cannot put my finger on. He is also a bit peculiar and a bit eccentric. Besides being tall, dark and handsome, if you add in a dash of mysterious and a dash of broodiness and just a pinch of ‘dangerous’, the end result is a dish no girl can resist.

He is young for a Professor, somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties; none of us are quite certain, though we always talk about it. He has penetrating blue eyes and long eyelashes and a rich head of wavy jet-black hair. Hair, that I know every girl dreams of running her fingers through. I know I do. There is a slight bothersome curl of hair that always seems determined to hang upon his forehead, like the shape of letter ‘S’. It doesn’t seem to bother him, but it certainly bothers me as I cannot stop looking at it. It is very distracting for me. In physics class, I see him sometimes brush that nagging curl back and out of the way with his fingers. I wish I could be the one to brush it away. But I also hear the dreamy sighs of the other girls seated next to me as he does so, so I know they are thinking the exact same thing – that they wish they could be the ones to brush that nagging curl away.

Did I mention he was tall? At 6’4″, the eye level of even the tallest girl only reaches his chest. And it is a fine chest. Not that I have ever actually seen his chest, of course; but he is hardly a thin man. He has large strong hands and broad shoulders and stands tall, erect and confidant while he lectures. And though he always wears an old-fashioned Victorian suit and striped tie, and a top hat and walking stick whenever he is outdoors, there is no doubt in any of our minds that there is a strong and mighty fine chest beneath that proper suit and tie.

His jaw line is sturdy and anvil-shaped, and he has a cleft in his strong chin. He is clean shaven, but for the long dreamy sideburns upon his handsome face. And his smile? Well, he never smiles. Except on the most rarest of occasions. But on those very rare moments when he actually does smile? It melts the entire room. I wish he would smile more. I would give anything to see him smile more. Most of the time he seems … sad. And distant. Broody and sometimes a little vexed. Most of the time his mind seems to be in some faraway place, even as he is lecturing.

Like me, he is not British; at least as far as I can tell. He does not have a British accent nor does he use British slang. I don’t think he is American, either. His words are polished and proper, but there is a slight European tint to his speech. I don’t know where he is from.

He lives alone. I know, because I have followed him home. Okay, I confess, I have followed him home several times; from a distance, of course. He lives in a small charming two-story house made of cobblestone, situated about five blocks from my High School. The Professor’s house is likewise the same distance away from the University where he also lectures in the afternoons, after he teaches at the High School in the mornings.

I find his small house to be rather curious, however; as the salary of a UCL Physics Professor is generally substantial. The University College of London is no stranger to treating its professors like royalty and some of them live in near mansion-sized palaces. Why he would choose to live in a small house in a small neighborhood, is just one of the many mysteries surrounding the Professor. I know he lives alone, because I never hear another voice when he enters his home, and I have never seen evidence of anyone else coming or going.

One might think I am stalking him. I suppose that in a way, I am. But I am not alone in my curiosity about the Professor. Other girls stalk him, too. I have seen other girls follow him home; though no one has ever been brazen enough to actually walk up and knock on his door. Other girls have tried to talk to him at school, but once he leaves the lecture hall, the Professor doesn’t speak to anyone. He treats anyone and everyone as if they don’t exist. And if someone ever tries to corner him and push him into conversation? Their efforts are always rewarded with cold contempt and a silent scowl of irritation. He clearly has no desire to be bothered with social interactions and has no interest in two-way communication with anyone, not even his fellow teachers and professors. I have actually seen him become angry with another teacher, just for the sole reason that they dared to try and engage him in casual conversation. In the lecture hall, that is all that he does. He lectures. And then he leaves. He answers no questions, not even about homework, assignments, schedules or grades. All pertinent student information is written upon the blackboard or disseminated through monologue; all other information is soundly deferred without so much as a look. Raised hands are always ignored and greetings are met with barely a nod. He is civil, but cold, and always seems on edge. As I said, he never smiles, but only on the rarest of occasions. But it is on those very rare moments, when that smile of his melts my heart.

In truth, I have been ‘stalking’ him for years. For he has been my teacher for seven years; ever since the sixth grade. That is when I first fell in love with him. I brought him an apple every Monday morning and I always sat in the front middle seat. It was 1915, in a small one-room schoolhouse in Hampstead, just a short walking distance from London. Our previous teacher was elderly and had recently passed away, when Mr. Ravenwood had arrived to take her place. He was actually a Doctor, with a Ph.D. in Physics. Dr. Nicholas Cole Ravenwood was his full official name, but in the sixth grade he told us to simply call him Mr. Ravenwood. He didn’t start going by ‘Professor’ until High School, after he officially went on staff at the University.

He was the same way even then, seven years ago. He only spoke in lecture and in monologue, and never carried on conversation. He was obviously extremely intelligent and it was difficult to keep up with him sometimes; especially when one is distracted by his dreamy appearance. And of course, even in the sixth grade, I wasn’t alone in my enthrallment of our new teacher. All of the girls in school had a crush on Mr. Ravenwood, and mine wasn’t the only apple he would find on his desk. But mine was always the first one and I always made sure he knew it was mine. Those were some of the few and rare times when he would smile – when he would arrive early on Monday morning and see my apple upon his desk, and myself sitting there in the front row; oftentimes the only one there that early before class. And those few and rare smiles made it worth all the while for me, and I was determined to set an apple there for him, for all of the Mondays, for all the rest of my life.

Of course, such were the dreams of a silly little eleven-year-old girl and to her way of thinking. Granted, I am now an seventeen-year-old senior in High School, and I haven’t missed a Monday apple day since the sixth grade. But that’s beside the point.

Now, do not misunderstand me. I have a life. I have had boyfriends and I entertained my first kiss in the eighth grade. I am active, I am outgoing and social and I enjoy doing all sorts of activities; the more varied the better.

I came from a home with four very active brothers, of which I am the youngest. My mother died of pneumonia when I was a toddler and I can barely remember her; but my father did an admirable job trying to raise five children on his own. Our family is originally from Virginia in the United States, where my mother died and where I was born. We moved here to London just before I started the sixth grade. My father is a train engineer for the Great Western Railway which links London and Wales, so he is often gone during the week. But he was always around on the weekends and holidays and spent every spare moment with his family. He never remarried, though he has courted an occasional woman here and there. I don’t think he ever will marry again; because he still loves our mother. He always did his best to try and keep the house cheery and not depressing. I know he would sometimes drink himself to sleep at night because he misses Mother, but that is the only reason and those are the only times. My brothers are now married and have lives of their own; but we see them often. Hopefully my father will see grandchildren soon; I know that would make him very happy and perhaps help with his loneliness.

People sometimes tease me about my ‘American accent’; but that’s okay, I don’t mind. I’m proud of my heritage. For the most part, the British people seem to accept me just fine. I have sometimes been accused of being ‘forward’ and perhaps a little outspoken; although I think most Britons tend to perceive us Americans as being forward and a little brash and perhaps just a tad bit uncivilized. It is true I am outgoing and have been known to speak my mind on occasion; but my father did not raise me to be disrespectful. I know when to close my mouth. Usually.

The boys my age don’t seem to mind my unreserved and gregarious nature. I myself, am courted often, and I often accept. I have light ash brown hair and blue eyes. I am 5’4″, I presently weigh 116 pounds, and I am in fairly athletic shape, if not a bit on the skinny side. Like I said, I am a bit of a tomboy, and I am just as comfortable playing football, rugby and cricket with my brothers as I am with baking cookies on a Sunday afternoon. I am reasonably pretty. At least, everyone else seems to think so. I would never call myself a beauty queen; but at the same time I seem to have no problem with boys showing an interest in calling upon me.

I have never courted the same boy twice. Because they are all so boring. None of them are interesting, like the Professor. Granted, I have never once carried on a conversation with the Professor. But still … what can I say? I have been in love with him since the sixth grade, and no boy can hold a candle to his mystique.

Why am I writing all of this? Because next Tuesday is a very special day. It is Valentine’s Day. After school, and after the Professor gets home from lecturing at the University, I am going to do the unthinkable. I am going to walk over to his house, and walk up to his door. And then I am going to knock on his door, bearing a Valentine’s Day gift – a plate of freshly-baked cinnamon raisin oatmeal cookies, wrapped with a big red bow. And I am going to look him straight in the eye, and say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, Professor Ravenwood’. And then? I am going to kiss him.

Okay, maybe not the kissing part. A girl can dream, can’t she? I am hoping I can retain the nerve to at least say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ without falling apart. Actually, I am hoping I can retain the nerve to go through with it, at all. Just the thought of walking up to his house and knocking on his door gives me goose bumps.

Wish me luck, Diary. My intuition tells me my life is about to change. I hope it’s for the better. Or maybe it is just my imagination. But something tells me, that come Valentine’s day, everything is going to change.


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