My favorite teacher in high school was Janet Hart, who taught 11th grade English. She was instrumental in the change of Hobart Pumpernickel from a purveyor of amusing tests to the author of dozens and dozens of stories about what went on in "Clemont High School." (You can find a bit more of the back history here
Janet was also the adviser to The Muse
, the school's literary magazine, the staff of which I joined early in my senior high career. In those days long before computers, the magazine was prepared as a set of camera-ready typewritten pages, with art cut and pasted into place. I became the Production Manager, possibly because I was the fastest four-fingered typist on the staff. (Turned out to be not the only time I was a Production Manager, though the next time required a lot more skills than fast typing.)
In the Hobart stories, she became Planet Smart, a sometimes beleaguered teacher but, more importantly, the worst driver in the world. This reputation arose in two ways: When Muse
staff meetings ran late, she would drive us home. On one of those occasions, possibly because my compatriots lacked any sense of direction but more likely because they liked to goof on her, she dropped off Ricky and then we went in a very large circle, dropping off Gerry on the way, to drop off Alan, who lived right next door to Ricky!
The other contributing factor to Miss Smart's reputation came from the times that she would pick me up and give me a ride to school. Our cul-de-sac neighborhood fell just inside the one-mile radius that determined who walked and who got bused; we used to joke that one kid actually qualified, but only if he slept in his back yard. My route was a long stretch down Elmont Road, one of the main thoroughfares of the town. One morning, I heard a horn honk as a car pulled up right next to me; it was Janet and she offered me a ride. Of course, Hobart's version of the story was that she had been trying to run me down and, when I jumped out of the way, she needed an explanation for her actions.
(This actually solved a mystery that had perplexed me the previous year. Lisa, who lived across the street from me, was two years ahead of me in school. We did not walk to school together but there were many mornings when we'd be en route at the same time, one a block or so behind the other. On more than one occasion when Lisa was in front of me, I would look up and she was gone. Turned out she was one of the Muse
editors that year and Janet would pick her
Anyway... (This has become one of my more rambling blog entries!) In the summer of 1968, my pals Alan Ginsberg and Steve Machtinger and I started making up a number of really bad Hart / Heart puns. Channeling our creativity, we put together a booklet, complete with illustrations, and sent it to Janet. I recently came across a copy of that booklet, which I have scanned, with, alas, some bleed-through from the other side. A few samples appear below but, be warned, some of these jokes really are groaners.