Portland, Maine — Once upon a time, the State of Michigan was the world leader of the auto industry and the center of research, industry and innovation.
Within the center of the Auto Industry centers of Detroit, Flint, and Pontiac, 45 miles NW of Detroit, sat the small, but not sleepy little community of about 3,000 called Holly. In many circles of SE Michigan, Holly was the place to be due to an easy commute to any of the auto industry centers. It was also noted for an unusual nightclub called the Hawaiian Gardens, which attracted famous people from all over the world, including Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and many others.
I myself having grown up in Holly, never came close to setting foot in Hawaiian Gardens. That is because I grew up in a home of parents and teachers who dedicated themselves to the principles of training young people at a secondary school on the westside outskirts of town operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church called the Adelphian Academy.
At Adelphian, the motto was “Where Education Is Life.”
This little power house of a boarding school within the highly regarded educational system of the Seventh-day Adventist Church had a legendary principal/leader Mr. Roger Pratt.
Mr. Pratt not only was a great administrator, assembling the finest teachers and getting them to work together, but also possessed the uncanny ability to know how to motivate nearly every young person that walked the halls of this school.
I remember as if it were yesterday, during a Friday evening vespers program, Mr. Pratt leaving the platform during a worship service and marching a young student out of the auditorium by his collar for whispering during the service.
In my four years of attending Adelphian, my parents, both teachers, had the wisdom to place me in the boy's dormitory rather than have me live at home on campus where my status as a "Teachers Kid" would be emphasized. Although I had never really been in trouble, I resented being a "Teachers Kid.”
During my junior year I had one of my first steady girlfriends. Boy was I hooked. Of course, by the time we became seniors I wasn't as attractive and she found a new boyfriend who had graduated and lived "in town.”
It just so happened that in my senior year (when I was dumped), the new dean of the girls’ dorm was the sister of my ex-girlfriend.
One of my close friends, Dave, had a real talent for using the English language, had a great sense of humor and was a great orator.
One Saturday night, Dave and I were in my room with my pair of contraband binoculars. As we panned the windows looking for cracks in the shades, we saw a car drive up to the apartment of the girls’ dean. The driver (my ex's new boyfriend) went to the door of the girls’ dean (the sister of my ex) and was granted entrance.
What? How could this be?
We weren't even allowed to enter the lobby of the girls’ dorm, and here my arch rival had a pass to see his new girlfriend in the dean's apartment! How unfair. What is the world coming to?
Dave saw the pain in my eyes and says, "We're going to get these guys in trouble, Ted.”
With Dave's command of the English language and my angry spirit, we came up with a masterpiece of a document that we pecked out on my roommate’s typewriter.
It was addressed to Principal Pratt, and of course, it was anonymous.
During the development of this pre-law school thesis, we needed a witness to lend credence to our felony charges.
I called the girls’ dorm and who answered the phone but Demi, (the names have been changed to protect the guilty). “Demi," I said. "Are you aware of Ginny going into her sister’s apartment to see her new friend Carl?”
"Oh yes, they're in there alright, all alone.”
Now we have the proof, and we can now request summary judgement with the perpetrators receiving actual jail time.
"By the way Demi, this is top secret so not a word of this to anyone." "Of course, Ted, my lips are sealed,” she replied.
At last the document was finished, but we needed a way to get this letter under Pratt's door without being seen. Not to worry, my roommate Dennis had keys to all the buildings.
The deed was done. We just needed to keep our mouths shut. “Remember, Dave, I may be suspected but there's no way to prove I did it.” If asked, I'll just deny!
Monday morning came and I wore my favorite shirt, with colored print and long sleeves. I wore this shirt almost every week and really liked how the different colored prints came together.
I made my way to band practice, which was my favorite class. Dan Shultz, the band director, was the leader of a phenomenal program. He taught students how to excel in musical performance and how to work together which resulted in absolutely astounding concerts. I worked in the band department along with two of my classmates, Renee (first chair flutist) and Kathy, (first chair French horn). I had worked my way up to first chair in the Trombone section, and on this Monday, we were practicing the wonderful harmonious tune of “Yesterday."
"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, Oh, I believe in yesterday.”
The trombones had a great part in this song and I was enthralled with how all three sections of bones were blending together.
The sweet sounds of “Yesterday” were interrupted by a gentle tap on my right shoulder.
"Mr. Pratt wants to see you right now in his office.”
All of a sudden, I got this huge lump in my throat and I began to sweat. As I was escorted down to the principal’s office, I kept telling myself, deny, deny, deny. Every long step of the way, brought more and more beads of sweat down the sides of my shirt. You see, I wasn't used to doing things I shouldn't do.
After being ushered into the Big Guy’s office, I was seated in an uncomfortable vinyl chair.
Mr. Pratt placed the letter on the edge of his desk in front of me and asked me if I knew about the letter and who wrote it.
"I stammered out a non-convincing response by saying, “I've, I've heard about it but I don't know who wrote it.” At this point, any first grader let alone high school senior could see I was lying as every word out of my mouth brought more and more moisture into my beautiful shirt.
Mr. Pratt walked over to the entrance of his office, opened the door and escorted two people over to the couch next to his desk. Oh No! The girls’ dean and Demi sat down. The dean's face was fire engine red but she said not a word. Instead, my fellow classmate testified against me repeating every word of our phone conversation from Saturday night.
OK, Ted, you are dead meat! Tried and convicted. What would the punishment be?
Mr. Pratt dismissed the state’s witnesses and now it is time for the final judgement from the supreme judge.
Will it be death by hanging, the guillotine or the electric chair?
At this point any dry portion of my shirt that had been absorbing the flow of perspiration was totally gone and my shirt was now completely soaked. In fact, I could feel the moisture of my sweat on the vinyl of the electric chair I was sitting in. With the combination of water and electricity, no need for the guillotine.
At a minimum, even with the greatest amount of mercy, I'd probably have to dig a 6x6 hole, and/or would be kicked out of school.
Mr. Pratt leaned back in his chair with the sternest of looks and was silent for what seemed like an eternity.
Then he leaned forward, and his countenance changed to a smile.
“Ted, I've known you a long time. You're a good kid, and I'm going to forget about this.”
"Now get back to band practice!"
As I walked back to the band room I tried to act as if nothing had happened, but everyone I passed in the hall was staring at: THE COLORED PRINT SHIRT WHERE EDUCATION WAS LIFE.
Theodore Lewis is former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.