Junior High, or Middle School as it’s now known, is a difficult time for most people. When I think back on my three years there, it feels like Midnight Express to me. Perhaps I’m over-dramatizing it, but not by much. It was a daily descent into hell.
People beating the turds out of each other… Burned-out teachers smoking with the (13 year old) students outside… Scary-ass holler trash making-out (and more) behind Dunbar Printing during lunch… Rampant shit-talking, zits, funkiness, awkwardness… It sucked.
But up on the third floor of the old gothic, Addams Family-looking school was a teacher named Mr. Yerrid. He was different from the other teachers, and his class was like a safe-house in the middle of a bunch of wild jackals and mental patients running rampant through the halls.
Mr. Yerrid was a WWII veteran, big and loud and boisterous. He looked like Hemingway, and you got the feeling he knew his way around a barroom. He didn’t tolerate any nonsense, but allowed us the opportunity to express ourselves, if we wanted. He was gruff but lovable, as they say.
He used a battered pool cue as a pointer, and was sometimes stretched-out on a couch in the rear of the classroom when we entered. He was a great story-teller, and really funny. He made history interesting, to a bunch of sarcastic and cynical little shits. Not an easy task.
And he seemed to care about us… That was the big difference. Most of the other teachers were just trying to get through the day, and it often felt like we were on our own inside that madhouse. But Mr. Yerrid was an ally, and a friend. He signed everybody’s yearbook as “Uncle Nate,” and that was perfect.
Mr. Yerrid died earlier this week, and here’s a tribute someone posted beneath his obituary at a newspaper website:
Uncle Nate will live forever and fondly in the hearts of the many lives he touched. He was a strong, brilliant man. A teacher who genuinely cared, who always knew how to level the playing field and make the young and insecure feel important and valued – whether it was in the classroom, or floating around Rock Lake Pool. He was an icon at DJHS, and we were the luckiest students in the valley. This is a great, sad loss.
And here are three quick Mr. Yerrid stories, that jump immediately to my mind:
One day he was talking about a woman who’d crashed her car in Charleston, and somehow ended up in the river. When rescue crews arrived, they had a hard time getting to the woman, because rubber-neckers were blocking the way.
Mr. Yerrid was ranting, and talking about “all those idiots out there, saying, ‘Did anybody get hurt? Did anybody get their arms cut off??'”
I thought that was hilarious, especially the final sentence, and busted out laughing. And he looked at me, narrowed his eyes, and hollered, “Do you think that’s funny, Kay? That’s not funny, that’s sick! …YOU’RE SICK!!”
I’m laughing right now, just thinking about it. He was always screaming at us, but we loved it. It wasn’t a mean-scream, it was just part of his personality.
On another day some kid jumped up from his seat, said he didn’t feel well, and promptly vomited into the trash can beside the teacher’s desk. In front of the whole class.
Needless to say, we began howling in protest, and Mr. Yerrid went off again. “What’s wrong with you people?? Can’t you see this boy is sick?! What’s the matter with you?” He was fully enraged by our conduct. Then he told the kid to go to the clinic, and said he’d be there to check on him in a few minutes.
The puker left, and after a few beats Mr. Yerrid asked, “Is he gone?” Then he said, in a conspiratorial voice, “Oooh, God. Did you see that? I think it was a baloney sandwich and bean with bacon soup…”
The last time I saw him was in 2001, when my mom was having surgery at a hospital in Charleston. Bill from WV and I were in the lobby, and Mr. Yerrid walked through.
We greeted him, and he stood and talked with us for a few minutes. It had been almost 25 years since we’d been in his classroom, but he was exactly the same. He acted like he remembered us, but I don’t know how that would be possible.
He told us he was there visiting someone (I can’t remember the details), who was suffering from “that cancer that starts in the ass.” And I busted out laughing again, just like with the woman who’d crashed into the river. But he refrained from screaming “YOU’RE SICK!!” again. Too bad. I wish I could’ve heard it one more time.
He was great, a true classic. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like him. Some of the other teachers might have been jealous of his popularity, I don’t know, but the students loved him.
In the comments section, please tell us about the good teachers you’ve encountered. Most of mine were mediocre, and a few were flat-out horrible. But Mr. Yerrid was a rare exception. Did you come across any of the good ones? Tell us about it, won’t you?
And I’ll see you guys again next time.
Have a great day.
Now playing in the bunker
Read Crossroads Road on your Kindle!
Also, “Pop-Up Video” is returning to a small screen near you. Any videos you’d like explained?
I just saw the Go-Go’s “Turn To You” video for the first time last night (I didn’t have cable until 1997, what of it?) and Belinda Carlise looks like a present-day Leonardo DiCaprio in it. I’d like that explained.
Chuck in Belpre says
I am so there!
404 error on the Visit Site link. Don’t know what’s going on.
He scared the shit out of me my first at DHS. Asked me if ___ ___ was my mother When I said yes, he told me I better not talk as much as she did or we’d have problems.
He went to school with my grandparents, and some of yours too I’d bet and he taught both of my parents. That man was mean as all get out!
My dad was honestly the best teacher ever. He taught fifth grade and I was in another teacher’s fifth grade. Anyway, that man sat on each and every whoopie cushion that came his way, and some, I suspect, that he added for comic relief.
I remember one instance where a kid got nasty with him and he simply hung him on the coat rack. This was in the era or corporal punishment, mind you. He took the kid down and took him to lunch and damned if that kid didn’t straighten up and become a lawyer. I’d like to think that my dad was part of that.
RIP Mr. Yerrid.
My Mr. Yarrid was Mr. Bartofsky.
Civil Law and Religions teacher, he was DOWN.
Somehow as an adult, TOTALLY understood/remembered what it was like to be in High School.
If HE taught it, I signed up for it.
He was ugly, wiry, and gangly.
AND THE SCHNOZ… don’t get me started.
Also Mrs Sibberson Music Teacher
FORCING US in the 6th grade
to know the WORDS to the Star Spangled Banner
and there was a written test.
ALL verses and the spelling/punctuation considered
TY MRS SIBBERSON!
I will never be an embarrassed American
Mrs Griffith 9th Grade Geometry
She walked into class one day spouting off on how this was a BIG day for us! Because we would be learning the Pythagorean theorem and how momentous it was in our lives.
[this later turned into a litmus test for future suitors — YEAH I sifted the gene pool by way of knowledge of the theorem]
I could not go on about favorite teachers without mentioning Mr Henning. Back when paddling was acceptable
[even in Jr High]
A racquetball player
He gave me my 1st and only swat.
GREAT TEACHERS RAWK
Great post, Jeff.
It’s rough watching the good ones go.
He was formerly a vice-principal at Nitro. By the time I got there he was a sub. Rumor had it that he kept “Irish coffee” in his thermos. I’ll never forget one time he was subbing and left his thermos sitting on the desk. We all knew of the suspicion that it held alcohol. I’ll never forget “Bob” went up and opened the thermos and “tested” it, and “tested it “, and “tested it” again to see if the rumor was true. “Bob” got suspended from school for being drunk within an hour.
Hey Skippy, what year did you graduate? I have a firend here in Alaska who grew up in Nitro…he’s probably in his early to mid 40s.
Chuck in Belpre says
90 degrees and humid tomorrow. This shit ain’t right. 🙁
A couple years ago, my AC sprung a leak. I had the furnace and AC taken out, and a heat pump installed. What a difference. I can keep any temp I want, winter or summer. I’ll be racing tomorrow. Indy 500, then Coca Cola 600. At 72 degrees.
Chuck in Belpre says
Speaking of Indy…here is a great article about Danica and Dale:
72 degrees? go fuck yourself. and i mean that in the most respectful way. 🙂
Chuck in Belpre says
I thought Jim Nabors was dead.
He oughtta be.
A recent conversation with Tim Archer revealed the following: he installed my heat pump in August of ’06 for a cost of $4550. Between then and now, the feds have bumped up the required standards of the various components (mainly the outside unit, or compressor,) and the unit has to be much bigger, so it does less work, making it more energy efficient. So, what I paid $4550 for, now runs about 12 grand! Holy Crap! Glad I got in when I did! 72 was too cold. Had to bump it up to 73. (And I accept that in a most respectful way!)
It was 75 degrees here in Nome on Saturday. So, thinking ahead this fine, sunny Sunday afternoon, I wore shorts and a t-shirt to work. …And it turns out that, as I type this, it is only 38 degrees outside! Yesterday I was wanting an air contitioner, today I seriously am huddled in front of a portable heater!!!!!
Good Morning Surf Reporters….
My next door neighbor, at the moment, is a long time teacher and ‘retired’ but she is a very active and sought after substitute teacher. She told me just today she got a call to sub and then when she got there her note on her desk said, “I have no plan made out for you today and there’s another sub there today that I would like you to make her day’s plan too. I told her to go see you.” She told me her first thought was fukdat but she said the kids need a good day and the other sub needed her help. And this lady makes less than minimun wage to do this. I get the feeling she was a good one.
Happy Memorial Day to my friends in the US of A. I made the three hour trip south down the 416-401-I81 to Oswego Speedway for the Jimmy Shampine & Richie Evans Memorial this weekend and was happy to see fellow Canuck, Randy Ritskes take the checkered flag. NASCAR, Indy, whatever…they have nothing on Supermodifieds. Open wheel, 70% left side weight bias, 1850 lbs. and over 800 horsepower. Fastest short track cars. Ever.
Stopped for lunch in Alexandria Bay, NY on the way home, shared a few slices of pizza with my little girl while overlooking the St. Lawrence River and Boldt Castle. Good times!
Oh frickin’ cool, Kevindust!!!!! Wish I could have been there with you. I have a friend who recently moved back home to Syracuse who used to be a pit stooge for Double “O” Joe. My wife is from down south of Buffalo, and I have always wanted to make the trip up to Oswego,
Totally cool to have fellow race fans here…even if you are in the wrong part of Canada, lol! Lotta great Canuck racers…Billy Foster was great, but my all time fovorite Canadian driver was Roy Smith out of Victoria, BC. Canadian sprint car guy George Graham will always hold the 360 Sprint Car track record at Baylands out n California.