As you might have noticed, I often take a moment to pay homage to teachers, those underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated heroes.

I express my gratitude because if it were not for a succession of teachers, I’d still be bagging groceries — my only other skill. (Some who have read my columns say it’s my ONLY skill...)

My mention of a time when ‘penmanship’ was valued brought this response from Frank Fronczek:

“Certainly sometimes a handwritten note is appropriate.

“I recently had the happy occasion to send greetings to my first-grade teacher on her 100th birthday.

“I took a No. 2 pencil in hand and wrote on a rough page from a Big Chief tablet in my finest first-grade script:

“‘Dear Mrs. Adams, You taught me to write, and look, I can still do it! Happy birthday.’”

Hunting season

I must be getting into a silly mood for the holidays, because this note made me laugh so hard I almost spilled my morning cup of Ovaltine:

Anonymous, of Central, wrote, “Dear Smiley: My wife has been wanting to make a mincemeat pie for the holidays.

“We were wondering if any of your readers would share their ideas on how to build a mince trap. Thanks in advance!”

School days

Richard Sherlock, of Baton Rouge, continues our seminar on old-time schools:

“Attending Bernard Terrace Elementary in the ’50’s, we also had cloakrooms. There was an alternative use for them, however, other than hanging your coats. If you misbehaved, you were sent to stand in the cloakroom until called back to the classroom.

“We also had the boys’ and girls’ restrooms, called basements.

“There was an actual basement at the school where the boilers were located, and it was a dark scary place with a lot of hissing sounds that we were all afraid to enter.

“We had steam radiators in all classrooms for heat, and we would lay crayons on the radiators in the winter months; they would melt and create a beautiful multicolor radiator. Fun memories.”

Edible art

Speaking of fun memories, Pat Alba, of Metairie, says, “In the olden days we children helped trim the Christmas tree with garlands of genuine popcorn. Mama threaded the needles, but we did the stringing, snacking and occasionally stabbing — what fun!”

Disco days

Tom Boone, of Gonzales, talks about an era I’d sooner forget:

“Talking about old bars and clubs brought to memory the times after ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ the disco era:

“On Florida Boulevard there was Boss A Go Go, and one on the West Bank was called the He and She, to name two.

“The dance floors were raised and lighted to change colors with the beat, plus the ever-present disco ball spinning and sparkling, hanging from the ceiling.

“Guys wore polyester leisure suits with bell bottoms and platform shoes. Some even had permed hair or Afros. What the hell were we thinking?”

Just the facts

Fact-checker Ronnie Stutes says the fact-checking site Snopes.com (which would be a handy site if this column dealt with facts) tells us that the old “pints and quarts” story about the origin if “mind your p’s and q’s” isn’t accurate:

Says Snopes: “At the time the saying became part of the English lexicon, beer wasn’t vended in pubs by the pint or quart. Instead, it was drawn from kegs, with patrons charged by the glass or tankard.”

Oops!

Speaking of fact-checking, R.H.O. comments on my comment about letter-writing:

“I totally agree it’s nice to get a handwritten letter, but it is surely on nice stationery (not stationary). I couldn’t stand still for that one!”

Special People Dept.

Joaquin Velasquez, of Amber Terrace Assisted Living in Baton Rouge, celebrates his 96th birthday on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Redina Robichaux Blanchard, of Baton Rouge, celebrated her 90th birthday on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Fighting words

Some more notable insults from readers:

Shelly says, “Coach C.B. Wheat, recently mentioned in your column for now being 98 years old, would sometimes (jokingly?) say to his students and ballplayers, ‘If ignorance was bliss, you’d be a blizzard.’”

Shooter Mullins offers, “If bull... was band music, you’d be John Philip Sousa.”

Marvin Thevenot says, “Growing up in Bunkie in ’50s gave us plenty of chances to develop insults about brains and looks:

“‘If I put your brain in a thimble, it would roll around like a BB in a boxcar.’

“‘If ugly was a religion, you would be a deacon.’

“‘If ugly was money, you would be a millionaire.’

“My all-time favorite had to be a reflection of an even earlier time: ‘If put your head on the road, I couldn’t lope a stick horse past it.’” (I have no idea what that means, but it does sound insulting...)

Contacting Smiley

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.

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