The year was 1953. I was in the third grade in Northeast Harbor schools, and it was Christmas break.

My mother was having a troubled second marriage and a decision was made that I would return to school after the break in Jonesport. This is where my father hung his hat on the weekends as he worked building housing for Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, where he shared an apartment with three other men.

I was to live primarily with my widowed Aunt Mary, who was 72 years old at that time. The living transition wasn’t hard for me as that was where I would go on some weekends with my father. The transition for Aunt Mary was far greater, I suppose. She however adored me and couldn’t do enough for me. My clothes were always clean, ironed and mended. Meals were always on the table, even though she was on a fixed income and my father helped very little.

The transition to school, however, was much different. I had been given a seat and introduced after school vacation. I had always had it easy at school and now found this new school ahead of where I had come from.

In this school all my classmates wrote longhand, while I had some introduction to cursive, I could only write my name longhand. While other subjects were more advanced, writing was my biggest challenge. It all came to a head when we were assigned to write a small report on a subject we had studied. We were to read this report aloud before our class. It was my turn and Mrs. Morris passed me my report to recite.

Well, the penmanship was so poor that even I, the author, couldn’t read it. I had to return, red faced, to my seat amidst my classmates’ giggles. My teacher didn’t say anything at that time but later she took me aside and asked me to stay after school.

In the next few weeks she tutored me in penmanship. She helped me to take pride in my written hand and also gave me some pointers and exercises to do in arithmetic and English. She made my transition to a new school so much better. I remember that school well even though today it is a vacant lot next to the cemetery and I suppose my teacher has passed as well. At that time being a busy 8-year-old I didn’t appreciate the attention or the delay after school.

However, now when I am complimented on my handwriting 66 years later, I say a silent thank-you to Mrs. Betty Morris.

Mike Dawes is a semi-retired salesman, contractor, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, now living in Fairfield.

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