Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Return of Hobart Pumpernickel

Following the popularity of Hobart Pumpernickel in Mr. Lerz's World History class in my sophomore year, it was inevitable that Hobart would return when the new school year began. This time, however, there were three venues for Mr. Pumpernickel's mirth: Miss Schwimmer's American History class, Mrs. Cox's Spanish class, and Miss Hart's English class.

From October, 1967 through January, 1968, not a week went by without a Hobart test turning up in one class or another. Like Mr. Lerz, all three teachers were willing to devote a bit of class time to reading them aloud. (In fact, it was not until I delivered a test to Mr. Lesowitz's math class that Hobart's efforts were rejected. Despite cajoling from my classmates that he read it, the teacher said, "This is a waste of our time" and tossed it in the wastepaper basket.)

As the first half of the school year was winding down, I realized that I had worked myself into a rut. Questions were becoming repetitive and I was producing tests simply because it had become part of the routine. So I stopped. Cold turkey. Much to the dismay of Hobart's fans, there were no more pages left on teachers' desks.

Reprinted from Isn't This Ridiculous?, "published" in 1968:

One day in February, when I had nothing better to do, I wrote a story about my English class entitled "Miss Smart's English Class." (Clever title, isn't it?) I took the story to school and showed it to Miss Hart, Miss Smart's real-life counterpart. She read it to the class. The class liked it. Hobart had struck again!
Soon, there were more stories. Three superheroes, the Snap, the Crackle, and the Pop, made their debuts, along with Hobart Pumpernickel, Master Detective. (No relation to my alter-ego. In the stories, Rob Boozakis uses the pen-name Opart Pumpkinpickle.) In two plays, King Hobart and his Knights of the Lunch Table fought the evil Queen of Harts and her Knights of Evil, and the staff of the school's illiterary magazine. The Moose, had adventures with their advisor, Miss Smart.
Not satisfied with just writing stories, I produced an issue of The Moose and two issues of the Clemont Boracle, the school newspaper. I made up a Regent's exam about all the stories, presented the Hobart Awards in Miss Hart's class, and held graduation ceremonies at the end of the year.
Mr. Pumpernickel's fame spread throughout the school. He was not only listed as a member of the staff of The Muse (the real-life Moose), but he also had a short story printed in the issue. Hobart's birthday was even noted during the school announcements one morning.

As you've probably inferred, everyone and every place in Hobart's stories had their names changed "to protect the innocent and keep the guilty from suing me." For example, Elmont, New York became Clemont (pronounced CLEE-mont) New Pork and Mrs. Cox became Mrs. Clox. Transpositions changed Gerry Hariton, Alan Ginsberg, Dan Raider and yours truly into Harry Gerriton, Ginsy Alansberg, Ray Dander and Rob Boozakis. Some were word plays, such as Gary Hecht and Bob Szel becoming Whatda Heck and Pret Zell and Miss Schwimmer becoming Miss Sinker (who would remind her students that they would either "sink or schwim" in her class). And then there were the totally off-the-wall ones, like Steve Machtinger becoming Peeved Matchklinger and Harvey Jacobs becoming Charvey Makeups.

During the remainder of my junior year, I wrote more than two dozen Hobart stories -- tales of students who gained super-powers and battled super-villains, detective stories that parodied Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, and recountings of actual events that required little, if any, exaggeration. All were warmly received and they set the stage for senior year... and a future blog installment.

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