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Friday, October 7, 2016

The "Reunion Of Friends & Fellow I.A. Teachers" Story

View from Dean's house in Herndon, Pennsylvania.
It was an ordinary day.  Overcast with a slight chill in the Autumn air, but other than that, a great day to visit with old friends and fellow shop teachers.  For thirty-three years I taught Industrial Arts at Manheim Township High School (MTHS) in Lancaster County, PA.  Over that time I got to meet and work beside quite a few great guys.    The chairman of the I.A. (Industrial Arts … or "shop" as it was once known) Department when I first began was a towering man known as Mr. Ehemann.  He had a first name, but he was too big and too old for a young new teacher as me to call him anything but by his last name.  
Dean's A-frame home in Herndon, PA.
My brother Steve, five years my junior, was a student at MTHS when I began teaching at a school on the other side of the mighty Susque- hanna River in York County, PA.  His basketball coach was Mr. Ehemann.  During the winter of my first year at York I asked my brother to ask his coach if they needed any shop teachers, since I was getting tired of driving so far to school each day.  The next night, after practice, Steve told me I had a job at MTHS if I wanted it.  Called the high school principal the next day and said I would take the job in the I.A. Department for the next school year.  Simple as that … no interviews, no forms to fill out or resumes to complete.  Shortly I had signed my contract and that was it.  After a few years Mr. Ehemann became a principal in another building and fellow shop teacher, Dean Lemon, took over as Department chairman.  Well, that was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Over the years I worked with a multitude of guys who taught everything from metal shop to architectural drawing.  
Acres of trees Dean will use for his tree stand at Christmas.
And, today many of us have gathered in a small town along the east side of the Susque- hanna, close to two hours from home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for our second annual shop teacher reunion.  The neat A-frame house on the top of a hill in Herndon is home to Dean Lemon.  I not only taught alongside Dean, but knew him as a shop teacher when I went to MTHS as a student.  He arrived as a new teacher in my sophomore year.  Dean grew up in Herndon and later purchased 32 acres of prime farmland on a hill overlooking the river.  On the land he grew Christmas Trees.  Not just a few trees, but over 30,000 of them.  They furnished his supply that he sold near his home in Manheim Township, Lancaster County, at his "Dean's Trees" holiday stand.  Over time all three of my children worked for Dean at "Dean's Trees".  
The I.A. guys.  Front row: Jeff Lefever (Graphic Arts, wood, drawing and metal), Jere Herr (Metal shop and eventual plant manager for the school district, Dean Lemon (Metal, wood, drawing and shop math teacher as well as department chairman), Larry Woods (LDub - Graphic Arts, wood, metal and photography), Rear: Barry Walton (Wood, metal, graphic arts and department chairman after Dean retired), H. Buzz Messick (Wood shop and graphic arts), Hal Hopper (Mechanical and architectural drawing, wood shop).  I want to thank Jim Campbell who took this photo.  Jim is still teaching at MTHS, but began at MTHS when we were all still teaching and didn't want to miss the good times and stories we had to share.  Jim teaches wood, metal, mechanical and architectural drawing and engineering technology.
As Dean and I stand in front of his home today, overlooking his property and the thousands of trees in front of us, he tells me he is preparing for one more year at the tree stand.  I'm sure it gets tougher year after year, but this mountain man with acres and acres of Christmas trees never seems to age.  Soon another car winds it way up the long drive and pulls into a parking spot and it's time for lunch and story time.  After a few hours of  … "remember when so and so did that," we gathered for a photo of those still with us after over half a century of teaching and friendship.  We lost another one of the crew this year when our good friend and fellow I.A. teacher, Clyde Neal, died.  Oh, the stories we had to tell about Clyde this year!  Even though the weather wasn't conducive to having our picnic outdoors, we still had the warmth of friendship and companionship that comes from years and years of working together.  Plans are already in the making for our trip to Herndon next year for more of the same.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

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