Sunday, August 28, 2011


Mr.Alford was a very young teacher my sophomore year at Ruskin.  He was young enough to still be in that phase of being friends with the students as well as someone in charge.  He was the coach of the cross country team and like many coaches did not teach heavy subjects in the classroom.  His chosen class was that of Health.  This class consisted of teaching us not to smoke or drink and the results that these activities could have on our bodies.  The class was basically a give me class that should be easy to pass.

Mr. Alford was a nice guy and to be perfectly honest he was a good teacher.  The one thing he was struggling with in those early years was a sense of respect from his students.  I respected Mr. Alford but let's face it.  Listening to his lectures every day were not a requirement to passing the class.  Read the book, use a little common sense and you can pass the class easily no matter how difficult he might try to make it.

Personally I don't think he ever really cared for me that much.  I was not one for participating in class very much and had many other things on my mind.  I was more interested in other things such as politics, math, and history.  During my sophomore year there was a great deal of activity in all of these subjects happening as I sat there learning the proper way to take a shower.

One of the ways I kept up with current events was through a great magazine with the title "National Lampoon".  It was a magazine built on a base of satire of current events.  There were plenty of topics to satirize too.  It was the time of the beginning of the fall of the Nixon administration.  The Vietnam war was coming to a climatic end.  The south had rose again as predicted in the form of the Alabama Governor George Wallace.  things were happening fast in sociology and it took a lot of attention to keep up with all that was going on.

The National Lampoon kind of took the edge and seriousness off of a lot of these topics and lightened things up a bit.  I use to save some of the ads in the magazine and even famed a few of them.  My absolute favorite ad from the Lampoon was a Volkswagen Bug floating in the water and the caption was "If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, He would be President today" in reference to the Chappaquiddick disaster that Kennedy had been subject to.

I soon found out that the best way to pass time in Mr. Alfords class was to sit back and read the Lampoon.  It was much more constructive and a lot more enjoyable. 

Mr Alford however had different ideas on how to pass the time in class.  His idea was to have our books open and listen to him recire what was in the book. I have got to hand it to him he did his best to make it as entertaining as possible.  He had a good sense of humor and used it very well.  Sometimes he went a little overboard with his teasing of some of the students.

It was in his class that I first felt the hard hand of censorship come crashing down on my little world.  I was sitting at my desk minding my own business while he was lecturing about who knows what.  I was reading the latest Issue of the Lampoon and it was a very good article.  It was what Winston Churchill might have handled the Vietnam war situation at this point in the war.

Of course, Mr Churchill would have been tough and taken no bull from the Chinese or Viet Cong.  It went through how he would make no threats but actually tell the enemy what we were going to do right before we did it.  For example he would say we are going to drop defoliate on an area covering these villages and an hour later we would drop defoliate on the same certain areas he had mentioned earlier.  We are going to go into cambodia and lous and bomb the holy hell out of the Ho Chi Ming trail and an hour later bombs would be raining down upon the areas of the "neutral" countries just as he said they would.

When the United Nations would protest against such measures, Mr Churchill would simply lift his hand and give them his famous V for Victory sign with his two fingers.... minus the index finger.  This was the picture that led off the article.  A full page black and white picture of Winston Churchill flipping off the world.  To me it was classic Lampoon.  I was making plans to frame this picture and hang it in my bedroom next to the Ted Kennedy in a Volkswagen ad.

On this particular day I must have really been enjoying reading my magazine.  I know I was totally wrapped up in it because when Mr Alfords hand came slapping down on my desk I was caught totally unaware.  I was then lectured on paying attention in class, studying for test, mainly al the usual stuff.  But then Mr. Alford added something new to the lecture.  He said I spent too much time reading trash.

TRASH????  The Lampoon was trash?  I could not believe what I was hearing so I asked him what was trashy about one of the most original magazines in the country at the time.  He picked it up and opened it up to the picture of Winston Churchill holding up his one finger to the Chinese, the Viet Cong, the United nations and the rest of the world and he indicated that this picture was trash.

I begged to differ but he was firm in his thinking and walked away from my desk with my Lampoon in his hands.  I sat there dumbfounded.  Had a teacher just stolen my property?  I decided that it was not theft as long as he gave it back to me.

When class was over I went to retrieve my magazine.  I was told I would not be getting it back.  I had broken the rules in class by reading it and as punishment I would not be given the chance to read this disgusting filth in his class again or any other class for that matter.

I turned and walked out of the class stunned and shocked.  I had just been censored from reading a perfectly legal magazine.  Of course I could have and should have picked a better time to be reading it probably, but still it was my right to read it whether it was disgusting trash or not.  Mr Alford was restricting me from reading what I wanted to.  A warning not to read it in class again may have sufficed ... maybe.  Well probably not but I should have been given the chance and besides the fact remained that it WAS my magazine that I had every right to read.  Mr Alford's opinion about the National Lampoon should have no effect at all on what I read.

In the end I decided I came up with what really happened.  Mr Alford was envious that I was reading such great literature and he wanted to read it himself.  He confiscated it for himself, to keep in the lower right drawer of his desk so that he could sneak a read of the magazine while his classes were taking test.  It was a classic for of censorship.  Take from the people what they want to read and keep it for yourself to enlighten themselves while keeping the people in the dark.

I have come to the conclusion that this was what happened and Mr Alford was a master censor.

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