Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mark Twain and Bridgeport, Connecticut????

In the 8th grade at Blackham School in Bridgeport, CT,  Mrs. Tripoli who was the English Teacher assigned the class to read Mark Twain's book:  Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.   Until that time, I had never really enjoyed grammar school or middle school including English class:

Grammar school years Kindergarten and Grades 1-6 at Madison School in Bridgeport were tumultuous for me, personally.  Perhaps I had a hidden learning disability.  Yet, kindergarden was marked by a teacher who criticized me for my lack of artistic ability.  Get that!   In 1st Grade, the teacher kept me after school every day for a few weeks because I could not grasp phonetics.  This 1st Grade teacher even spanked 1 or 2 other students in front of the class.  I was amazed, believe me.   It was around that time that I was tossed out of the school's girl scout Brownie troop for being a nonconformist.   Years later in my adult years, the thought did occur to me that this bunch of teachers at Madison School were left-over nazis or communists from the 1940's.  All of them were at retirement age by this time which was the 1960's.  In 6th Grade at Madison School, I had trouble with mathematics.  Turned out this was the time that I had to get my first pair of glasses for myopia because I could not see the blackboard.   In any event, when I questioned the 6th Grade teacher about my math grade on my report card, she showed me her personal grading book.  Her original grades were erased and she had entered lower grades over the original erased scores.  I never said that I noticed.  Later, in college, I successfully completed 4 semesters of Calculus including a summer session of advanced mathematics with Fourier Analysis.  So, this was my rebuttal to the 6th Grade mathematics problem.  What a gross year of school 6th Grade was and I was glad to move over to Blackham School for 7th and 8th Grade middle school.   Mrs. Ray, my 5th Grade teacher at Madison School, was a saving grace in grammar school.  She and her husband lived in a house across the street.   She was an old time school teacher, however, she understood grammar school kids and something about learning and motivation in city schools.

At Blackham middle school with modern teaching techniques, Mrs. Tripoli had a way of teaching literature and grammar that got my attention. Those were the years when strict, traditional teaching methods were being replaced by a modern teaching style.  Mrs. Sullivan was the first modern mathematics teacher in 7th and 8th grade and for the first time I enjoyed mathematics.  Mrs. Carroll was the ever present science teacher in 7th and 8th grade and she was another important influence in my middle school years.  Occasionally, I was a substitute newspaper delivery girl to the old apartments on Main Street (across from St. Vincent's Hospital) in Bridgeport where Mrs. Carroll and her husband lived.

While reading Mark Twain's book Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court during Mrs. Tripoli's class, I was amused by style of verbiage which was used in the book from the knight's era.  I realized even in middle school that there was a jocularity and intended humor in the witty use of the author's period language style.  There is one reference in the book to Bridgeport...(see page 7) in the following book link:

when the protagonist awakens from an unconsious state after hitting his head.

In late 2009, I went for a walk with my dogs, Sassy and Montana, to an area of a local city park that had been closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic since the late 1960's because of construction in the early 1970's of a highway connector (Rt. 25/8).   For many years, I had avoided walking my dogs into this closed-off, barricaded, original park area.  There was no particular reason for avoiding this off-limits area and I often saw other people walking down the barricaded road.  It is not as if this was Area 51.   So one Sunday morning, Montana, Sassy, and me went walking down the closed-off road.  I had my cell telephone with me and took some photos.  They are found in the following Flickr photo stream which include the river photos and the old castle style stone building:

Additional photos can be viewed in the following two separate Facebook photo links:!/photo.php?fbid=106530006029534&set=a.103869086295626.9396.100000176060762&type=3&l=d39ef6c910&permPage=1

Although Mark Twain lived at Stormfield in Redding, CT and died there in 1910 coincidentally during the appearance of Halley's Comet (1909 Thomas Edison video of Samuel Clemens at Stormfield in Redding, CT), my theory is that he traveled between New York City and Hartford, CT frequently in the earlier years and traveled through this park area.  The park area is located on old, now abandoned passenger railroad lines, as well as, old carriage travel roads.  One of my photos is of the old castle style stone pump house along the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport, CT which was present when Mark Twain lived.  This is located in the closed-off section of what used to be part of the city park before the 1970's and proximal highway construction.  An old stone castle building in Bridgeport and some fanciful creative writing:  "is that Bridgeport in the distance?".

Although there is no connection nor could anyone find any, I was canoeing on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park during the 1986 perihelion of Halley's Comet.  My canoe and camping partners and me awoke at 1 am from our tents and pulled-out telescopes and binoculars to view the tail-end appearance of the comet.   Sitting in this beautiful desert along a lonely stretch of the Rio Grande River and with no lights except the stars, Halley's Comet was easy to see.  Bridgeport, CT was just about the last thing on my mind that night.  The comet appeared slightly smaller, dimmer, and more distant than this photo of the comet in a southwestern desert environment: 

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) Stormfield, Redding, CT in 1921 for sale/lease by Bridgeport Land and Title Company Bridgeport, CT.  Stormfield is still in Redding, however, the estate has been renovated through the last few decades.

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