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A different time, a different world

Tuesday mornings were blessed with a certain reverence back when I was in public school. It was the time each week when all high school and junior high students attended chapel service in the high school auditorium.

For junior high students, chapel marked one of the few times they were allowed upstairs in the high school building during school hours. This was a big deal. For the high school students, it meant a break in the normal school schedule. This, too, was a big deal.

There were two churches in town, so the ministers would speak on an every-other-week basis. All students, no matter their family’s religious belief, were required to attend.

As I remember, chapel began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted until 10. The demand for seats in the auditorium required high school students to sit with each other, thus vacating their desks for junior high students who, in turn, were forced to sit with one another.

Music played an important part in each chapel. A battered upright piano, occupying the northwest corner of the auditorium, served as the only source of accompaniment. Enthusiastically tapping the keys of the piano would be the pianist, a fellow student so delegated by the principal.

The role of pianist was not to be taken lightly. It was a serious appointment and usually lasted for at least the entire school year – often until the student graduated. That fortunate student not only needed to be gifted with special musical talent, he or she had to be of stellar character.

For as long as I could remember, Marilyn Newman had been the pianist. When she graduated, the position was turned over to Kenny Twit, one year my junior.

Kenny was a good choice. Besides being a gifted pianist, he was not a trouble-maker (unlike his older brother and first cousin were rumored to be.)

For most of his introductory year, Kenny did a fantastic job tickling the ivories, thus helping make each chapel service a truly rewarding experience.

I believe it was sometime in early April that Slick and I decided to liven things up a bit for Kenny. After school hours one Monday afternoon, we crept up the winding staircases to the auditorium. We popped the top to the piano and stuck thumbtacks in the cotton hammers on several keys, including middle C.

That Tuesday morning chapel service proved to be a bit unusual. At first Kenny had no idea what was happening. His face turned a bright shade of red as his shoulders drew up tight.

It didn’t take long for him realize what was taking place and, like a true trouper, Kenny continued on as if nothing was wrong. It did give the music a sort of honky-tonk twang.

That was long ago, ages before holding a religious service in a public school was no longer acceptable. You might say it was a different world.

(Ed Rood is the former publisher of Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.)

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