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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: 1801--101
By Marlene Bonney


My favorite subject was geography, probably because I was mesmerized with a map drawing. All of those differently shaped countries here and abroad with their quaint names, broken down into smaller sections of states and principalities and lands with even quainter names, tickled my fancy. I would imagine actual people living in even smaller environments of cities and towns and villages with various occupations, religions, customs, languages and personalities. Then, I would feel so overwhelmed with knowledge-overflow, a sneeze would erupt, blowing dust everywhere!

Ah, those were the good ol’ days; when I could pass that same knowledge and wonder to children and adults! Have you ever noticed that knowledge is rather barren if only one has it? Oh, it may benefit the individual, but where would be the joy, the deep satisfaction of shared facts, conversation, and collaboration?

I’ll never forget my first arithmetic problem. I can see it plainly even now: 1 + 1=___ and 2+2=___. A little girl, no taller than my ledge, solved the problems before telling me the correct answers of “2” and “4”. I memorized that and often recalled it, having applied it and ever so many more complicated principles in algebra, geometry, calculus and even chemistry over the years. Things didn’t stick with me very long until they were replaced with other new thoughts, so I learned to memorize everything in a hurry.

I liked the written word, too, even though it was difficult to decipher some people’s scribbling. But when the letters flowed across in beautiful harmony, connecting ideas and sentences and thoughts, and penmanship improved with practice, it was a wondrous sight to behold!

Then, there were the drawings! Artistic renditions of God’s creation in nature all the way to children’s labored crooked lines and stick-people graced my life and made it richer as I shared it with multitudes of other seekers. Occasionally, it had been necessary to give my support to unruly children as they faced me, shamefaced, ready to take their punishment for some misdemeanor. Their tears or defiance I accepted and welcomed, even though it could be painful when they decided to take out their feelings on me. But the next day all evidence of the previous hours would be wiped away and we would begin again together, ready for more knowledge.

Years later, I was in an important business meeting where concepts of espionage and terror were being discussed. I was coded with unfamiliar terms and symbols, none of which I could remember in detail afterwards. During that phase of my life, I was just thankful to reach each day’s end in one piece so I could brush myself off or shower and relax for a few hours before it all started again. It always seemed strange to me how a person could reveal so much by just the way they stood in front of me, brows furrowed and fingers tensing in anticipation while I held my breath, not sure which kind of handshake I would be greeted with--I had all kinds through the years, let me tell you-- clammy or trembling ones, firm or weak, strong or nervous, cocky or hesitant, limp or even angry. I took it all in stride because I learned that the only thing that truly could destroy me would be no contact with others.

Unfortunately, progress retired me before I was ready in the 1960’s, when classrooms in the United States decided I was too antiquated to be of use. But, you know, I didn’t mind so much when I realized that the green chalkboards would carry on the same mission we black ones had enjoyed.

——The first blackboard is credited to James Pillans, which he invented in 1801 in Edinburgh, Scotland to draw a map for all of his students to study. In the beginning, the black chalkboards were made with wood board painted over in black. The earliest one known to be used in America the same year was used in a military school. In the 1960s the slate blackboard was replaced with manufactured steel boards coated with porcelain enamel and green colored boards allowed rooms to have a lighter appearance compared to the old-fashioned black color, and the erased chalk powder didn’t show up as much. The use of the term "chalkboard," therefore, now became the acceptable term.

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This article has been read 422 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sylvia Brown10/22/09
In school, I all but hated history. After I graduated and discovered writers who could make it more than a list of facts and dates, I began loving what it had to offer. I loved reading this.
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
Very unusual POV! Since it wasn't revealed "who" was narrating until the last paragraph, I had more than a few moments of puzzlement. It might have been more effective if you'd revealed your speaker at the very beginning, so that your reader has the amusing POV in mind from the beginning.

Extremely clever, and I learned something, too!
Allen Stark10/26/09
Coming from a retired teacher, I must say that this was very creative. I think I liked the fact that I didn't now who the narrator was until the end. I liked being surprised. It also allowed me to think back about what had been said.
Linda Boulanger10/28/09
Love the unique point of view. I like a bit of mystery and the other comments piqued my interest in trying to figure it out.