In my mind’s eye I can see him as he stands under the school waiting to give us directions to enter the building. Mr. Morgan is dressed in black trousers and a white shirt with both hands behind his back. His left finger is securely placed in one of his belt loops and his right hand is fastened to the tong of the bell. “Seis, hello there” he bellows as a late-coming student scampers to enter his classes’ line. A male recalcitrant student who is out of Mr. Morgan’s view shouts “Bullet Head”. Usually the principal ignores the insulting name calling, but this time he points and shouts emphatically at three unidentified hooligans: “You are a Bammy Head, You are a Bammy Head, You are a Bammy Head and I am a Bullet Head”. Confession is good for the soul. With a clang cla-lang of the bell we unceremoniously climbed up the stairs and entered our respective classrooms.
There were several wooden flower boxes measuring two feet by three feet which were kept on the outer window sills of two adjacent classrooms. Tragedy struck one day when one of the dirt-filled boxes fell at the same time that Mr. Morgan was walking under it. Sadly, the rotting flower box fell, crashed and shattered upon impact with Mr. Morgan’s head. Poor Mr. Morgan was covered with dirt, pieces of plywood, petals from the flowers and blood. In short, “the man was a bloody mess !” Notwithstanding this adverse and tragic accident, that flower box had met its match with a Bullet Head and it was no contest. If this were a horse race, it would have been “Mr. Morgan by a head”. He stood triumphantly, bloodied but unbowed. Most individuals would have suffered a concussion and consequently would have taken a few days off. Not Mr. Morgan; the following day he came to work as usual, with his laceration covered with a white baby’s diaper tied in a knot under his chin and it was business as usual for my favorite principal. Not only was he highly opinionated, but he was strong-headed as well.
One school year, I was constantly in Mr. Morgan’s office, thanks to the mischievous activities of Rafael Sandino Simon who sat behind me and was continuously talking to me or engaging in some other nefarious activity. The teacher once sent us to “The Office” and I received five lashes in each hand from Mr. Morgan’s belt ( a three inch wide, one quarter inch thick, brown, leather barbers’ belt ). If one’s infraction was particularly egregious, the belt would find its mark over the perpetrator’s back. Ouch !
interestingly enough, I never complained to my father about “child abuse”. Apparently our parents didn’t believe in child abuse in those days. As I end this paragraph, I must confess that I’ve been looking for Rafael for a long time. I have something special for him. I would like to greet him with “the right hand of fellowship”. If anyone knows his whereabouts, please contact me immediately.
I also remember the times Mr. Morgan would come into the classroom as a substitute teacher. He would lecture us on various topics ranging from Science to English Literature. “La gran cuestion no es cuanto dinero tiene en el bolsillo pero lo que va a hacer con el dinero”. This was one of his translations from Shakespeare. He really piqued my interest in science by explaining to us why the sky is blue. Although his explanation was not completely veracious by today’s standards, I thought about that phenomenon for a long time. We know today that as light comes from the sun, molecules in the atmosphere scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light. Blue light is scattered more than other colors because of its shorter wavelength.
I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mr. Morgan, Mr. McDougall and Mr. Cockburn because they motivated me to pursue a career in science, first as a researcher, then as a professor. They were excellent mentors for me. I am sure that my favorite principal also had a profound, positive and lasting impact on the lives of many of us from Gamboa/Santa Cruz. Was he the brain that launched a thousand minds ? If so, then let all God’s children say Amen !
Dr. Louis R. Browne, Ph.D