Herman Whalen died recently. He was my 8th grade math teacher. I think of him every time I make waffles.
He was a pretty strict teacher. He employed a disciplinary technique called THE VIBRATION that would surely get him fired if not arrested today. It involved grasping the offending student firmly by the shoulders, and shaking briefly but vigorously. I was never on the receiving end of a vibration, but it was sure alarming to be sitting next to someone who was getting one.
Anyway, Herman subsequently retired to Florida. After I moved down to Florida myself a few years later, he found out I was nearby and invited me over to dinner. After that he and his wife would invite me to dinner every couple of weeks, and would send me home with a big stack of Malone Evening Telegrams, and Chateaugay Records.
I was pretty miserable at the time. I was homesick as hell, and didn’t have much of a social life. Herman and Ruth were really nice to me, and it was a real morale booster to be sitting outside under the palm trees talking about the latest goings on in Franklin county New York.
I visited with them on the day that the Challenger exploded. We had both watched it happen. Even from a distance of 100+ miles away it was horrific. I watched from the doorway of the office where I worked. Herman had watched it with a group of school kids (he took a teaching job in Florida – some retirement).
I don’t recall why, but they gave me a waffle iron just before going back to Chateaugay for the Summer. I still have it – just used it a couple of weeks ago. It makes good waffles, and it makes me think of a good man who showed me hospitality and friendship when I really needed it.