Thursday, March 13, 2008

The BHS Science Lab Was Fun

The science lab at BHS was lots of fun. We always knew we were going to see something different, amazing, or yucky. Dissection was only for the bravest. Worms weren't so bad to cut up, some of us had being doing that and putting them on fish hooks since an early age. Boiling water and adding chemicals to it to cause spewing and bubbling over into the floor was OK, but caused a big mess, and we sometimes wondered why that was necessary. But, if you reasoned about it, it became evident that there WAS some science at work that would be beneficial to you.

While I was there, Mr. Gaddis (hope I got that right) was the Science teacher and was he cool! He was, I realize now, a true redneck speech expert but only when he wanted to be. His teaching ability was just about average, but I could learn easier listening to him than any other teacher. He had an unusual classroom manner - he used the long room window shade ropes to fashion a lariat which he could twirl just as good as Will Rogers. It was, of course, too small for him to twirl around his big waist, but twirl he did nevertheless, sometimes around his head. There was usually a hangman's noose or two he made and left hooked to the shades, and he would state that they were for the guys that messed something up. Imagine a teacher getting by with that these days! Grover was really good in the lab, and Mr. Gaddis called him "Grover-Leo" a spin off of Galileo (the ancient physicist), I suppose.

We learned to do some things, and some things we learned not to do. One of the do-nots had to do with phosphorous. It has a low kindling point and will burst into flames at room temperature, so it's kept under water. After handling some barehanded one day, and wiping his hands on a cotton hanky, James Lominick went to the next class. In a short time he felt heat on his butt and pulled the hanky out of his pocket in flames. I don't recall him getting into trouble, but it took some explaining.

I did get into some minor trouble while in a class (not science) once. I was using a magnifying glass and the sun coming in a window to create a burn point (as I had learned in Science class) onto a big bug that had crawled across the floor. Just a few seconds of the burning caused the bug to explode with a very audible bang. Miriam Baker sent me to the office with a report that I blew up a bug. Just got a stern warning. Mr. Gaddis had no explanation of what caused the bug to explode.

And, I still have some notes that were written in a "Big Chief" tablet and some others in a "Write-Right" pad. There was another notebook brand "Blue Horse" that had a cut-out coupon for something. I can't ever recall getting anything with the coupons. These were all bought at the school store near the inside door to the boy's restroom. I probably bought them from Martin Howard, an attendant. I have looked and don't find those brands anywhere these days.


  1. I MUST remain anonymous on this one!
    The lab almost had a fire that got out of control once. Several students ran, but some came back and helped put it out. The hall fire extinguisher didn't work, either.
    I was one of the ones that "messed up" but no hangman rope was applied, thank goodness.

  2. Wyatt Weatherford was king of Blue Horse coupons; saved them until he graduated from high school before he sent them in and got, I think, a TV set. We gave him all of ours.

    Different subject: Baldwyn paper had article about Dr. Caldwell's nurse and midwife Johnny Smith who just turned 99 years of age.

  3. The only item we ever got with coupons (other than Quality Stamps and S&H Green Stamps) was about 200 or so Raleigh Cigarettes coupons we sent in for a nice clock to go on the mantel. Modern works, but a great antique-looking case.

    I am hoping that I got Mr. Gaddis' name correct. A couple of others thought it may have been Arnold or Davis.

    Can anyone verify "Gaddis" and the correct spelling?

  4. I took about everything Mr. Gaddis taught at BHS. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. I took his physics class and later had three semesters of physics at Mississippi State. Mr. Gaddis' class gave me a good foundation.

    He got a job in the math department at Mississippi State, I believe teaching calculus. I used to see him periodically here in Starkville. I remember going by his house once for some reason. When he did a few years ago I wrote a tribute on the web site set up for him.

  5. Gerald, is that tribute still available? I would certainly like to see it!

    Please advise.

  6. I had Mr. Gaddis (Wayne) for Algebra II at BHS. Several years ago, in one of my lost and confused periods (we've all had them--some of my friends think I never escaped mine), I wrote the following poem. It's not one of my best or favorites, I think, but it does pay tribute to one of the finest teachers I've ever known.


    Strange, that today,
    quite unexpectedly,
    I should remember Gaddis,
    and a high school algebra class
    at Baldwyn High School,
    in a building I haven’t been inside
    for years.

    At times he would sit,
    Buddha-like, atop his desk,
    above the steady murmurings
    of uninterested children,
    mixing talk of axioms and quotients
    with whispered gossip
    of football, proms, and steadies,
    or Cerberean, hang menacingly
    beside the doorway at the bell,
    demanding homework for escape.

    No problem was beyond his ken.
    He could take our greatest confusions
    and unravel them in bold white strokes
    across the stark blackness of the board.
    The slightest look of doubt transfigured
    his disheveled hair and unkempt clothes
    into the staccato sound of chalk saying,
    “See? Understand? Any questions?”
    There were never any questions.
    It was always as clear
    as the first command in Genesis.

    He’s dead by now, I’m sure,
    but I’d like to think he’s still out there,
    somewhere, hovering over the noisy din,
    diddling in people’s minds,
    begetting light and order
    on the lingering body of chaos.
    Whatever, I know this:
    while I’ve had no need of algebra
    for decades, if Gaddis were here
    today, I’d ask if he could find
    an equation to fit the variables of this,
    my polynomial existence.

    --Bobby Hamblin

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. RE: Algebra Poem

    You have him pegged, Bobby. Nice poem, I can see him more clearly after reading that!

    Thanks to all the readers for the comments about him. I have forgotten some teachers but he hangs deeply in my thoughts.

  9. Mr. Gaddis once told us that math was like sex, if you are going to be good at it you had to practice.

    Mr. Gaddis and Mrs. Vandiver were two of my all time favorites at BHS.

  10. Wayne Gaddis

    STARKVILLE - Wayne Quinton Gaddis, 79, died Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006, at St. Mary's Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn. A native of Lee County, he was a retired professor of mathematics at Mississippi State University. He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and a member of the First United Methodist Church in Starkville. He was preceded in death by his wife, Eva Jewell Peterson Gaddis.

    Services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Welch Funeral Home in Starkville with the Rev. Danny Rowland officiating. Burial will be in Oktibbeha Memorial Park.

    Survivors include one daughter, Merry Wayne Gaddis of Knoxville, Tenn.; one son, David Gaddis and wife, Kim, of Knoxville; one grandson, James Gaddis; one granddaughter, Sara Gaddis.


  11. Thank you for the Gaddis death notice, Milton! That just about sums it up.
    I would have thought he was much older.
    Good work on finding the obits for us.

  12. VBsays Gaddis is correct, his wife taught bookkeeping,shorthand and typing. She always told our class, when they made recess longer, they were going to start a family.
    They are both deceased.

  13. We are enjoying reading this blog and your comments. Surely brings back old memories. I graduated from Booneville High School in 1957. My typewriting teacher was Mrs. Gaddis.