November 15, 2016 in 1950s-1960s
Since my major was English with a minor in psychology within the University of Kentucky’s College of Education, a new experience as a student teacher confronted me. I was assigned to Lexington Dunbar which was then a large all-“Negro” high school. I had no choice in the matter; UK made the decision. I was delighted, because I had never seen that many black students, teachers, and administrators in the same facility. In addition I was assigned to teach advanced seniors, an area in which I had been thoroughly prepared. My supervising teacher Miss Sally Moore was a great advisor. She gave me great experience because she just left the room and left everything to me. I really thought that was better because I never liked someone hovering over me. I worked hard for a whole year–unlike today’s student teachers who only practice for one semester–produced a play at my own iniative that all of the faculty and students really enjoyed. I continue to remember it today: “Beyond the Door” by Douglas Farr. I made a great reputation from that production. Best I can remember, I was the only student teacher pictured in that yearbook. Today, Dunbar is a Magnet school in Lexington.
Another caveat was there were quite a few black male student teachers from Kentucky State, Eastern, etc. So, to a degree, it was party and dating time again.
By that time UK had enrolled five black medical school students, two of whom I dated, and one of whom I dated regularly. I think he was looking for a future wife as he even brought his parents from Ashland to visit me at Ms. Bentley’s house. (I was too immature then, of course, as I became engaged three different times in later years before I felt that it was time for me to finally get serious enough about the possibility.)
In the spring of my senior year, I received a note from the Registrar’s office that in checking, they had no record that I had completed my Physical Education Service course! At that late time, they said I could not graduate without it. I got really busy, went to an older Dr. F. at UK who was nice enough to issue me an excuse. We came up with “pes planus” or “flat feet” which kept many men out of qualifying for armed services. (In high school, I disliked what those feet did to my new shoes—overrun them fast!—I was truly glad for them now.) But, that excuse did not satisfy whoever it was doing the checking at UK. They said I would have to have that excuse approved by another doctor. Woe was me! Hey, my family members had all being preparing and getting geared up to come to my graduation as I would be the first family member on both sides to ever graduate from college. My father had gone to Kentucky State for a brief period but had dropped out to help my widowed grandmother with four younger siblings. My extended family was huge. I finally found a doctor out in town who made the approval.
On graduation day they came in a never-ending caravan from Bowling Green. One uncle was driving a relative-filled station wagon of his boss who was running for mayor. It had a huge sign on top that said “Elect Pop Weis for Mayor.” The caravan drew much attention all the way into Lexington.
At graduation, we had fun. I could not believe that we could hide treats underneath our robes and turn around and wave to our families in the bleachers during the ceremony—a far cry from what students do today at Stanford University’s uniquely known graduation with all of the campus wide “Wacky Walks” all over campus. There were other dlicacies that I can no longer recall, but I continue to have the feeling and can emulate the steps to this day. All of these proceedings were a novelty to me, and I am fortunate enough to this day to have rounded out my college social life by attending Fisk University for one year.