When growing up in East Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s, my mother made sure that I had all kinds of lessons….piano, choir, and one that I remember quite fondly – “Expression”. Now, you younger readers probably never heard of such a thing, but it was a very important matter in my early days of development which has stood me well over the years.
“Expression” was a term used for the studying and practice of reading, memorization, and stage presence - sort of like an early version of the Dale Carnegie course. Many of my friends studied along with me in 1944 and later.
After my mother died a number of years ago, I was going through some old photo albums and scrap books of hers, and , lo and behold, what to my wandering eyes should appear but copies of programs of all kinds in which I had been involved as a kid. I began to think back to those days and memories began to flood back into my mind of these instructive programs.
Among the things I found was a “statement” from the teacher for my November and December lessons in 1944. The bill was for $5.00 for those two months. The $5.00 covered a total of eight lessons – one each week.
Another item caught my eye….it was one of my poems that I had to memorize and perform before an audience. It was entitled, “Take A Tater An’ Wait”. For those readers anxious to find out about this poem, it is copied below:
“Take A Tater An’ Wait”
When I’se a little feller – littlest one at home,
I used to always have to wait, whenever the Preacher would come.
“Now sit right down Bro. Johnson, and pass your plate.”
Then Ma would look at me an’ say,
“You take a tater, an’ wait!”
Then when they were through, tho it took them powerful long,
They started in with praying and ended with a song.
I felt like bouncing a rock on Bro. Johnson’s bald pate,
When he’d look at me an’ say,
“You take a tater and wait.”
When I get up grown, and have children of my own,
I’ll ask the preacher Johnson to come and carve the bone.
Then I’ll say, “Children, sit right down,
This dinner looks first rate.
Bro. Johnson’s old, he’ll take a tater an’ wait.”
Though I do not actually remember presenting this little poem to an audience, apparently I did.
I think it sad that kids now days are not being instructed in “Expression”. They need to learn how to memorize material, how to properly communicate it to others, perfect their diction, and then overcome their stage fright at an early age. Instead, most of them get to eat first, and make the adults “take a tater and wait.”
“SAY IT WITH FEELING”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972