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Gwin Mitchell Paden Little-known and surprising facts about my alma mater, the University of Delaware

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Gwin Paden

Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:22 am, Tue Feb 14, 2012.

Valentine's Day — already! The garden seems to think everything must bloom as a gift to us all, but I hope all this enthusiasm doesn't get squelched by a late frost. As it is, a heavy rain could do damage, because the bulbs haven't had enough sleep to grow as tall as they should before blooming. I shall cross my fingers and hope a lot.

My question about caning was quickly answered by Mike from Mike's Upholstery: He does it! The actual caning is relatively inexpensive, but as the caning material is white, it has to be dyed to match the old cane it is mending or to blend in with the finish of the chair. Now if someone knows of a reweaver for sweaters, shawls, etc.?

I see, sadly, that Judy's Alterations is no longer on Pine Street. Does anyone know if she has relocated and, if so, where? I have used her services often and hope she is still in business somewhere.

***

Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. — Lionel Hampton

I received a great surprise gift from my friends on the American Legion board: a Women's Army Corps Veteran hat! They have had hats for veterans of all other armed forces for sale at the omelet breakfasts (7 to 11 a.m. every third Sunday), and I had been after them to find a WAC one.

Speaking of memory, now that women have been amalgamated with men into the regular services, I wonder who remembers the WAVES (Navy), SPARS (Coast Guard), Lady Marines, and WAFs, who ferried military planes from the U.S. to overseas areas? It is hard for me to grasp that WWII, part of my lifetime, is now thought of as long ago history by the current generation.

And on the subject of history, I learned something the other day that I think is reprehensible. It's bad enough that teachers feel constrained to teach to The Test. Now I'm told that teachers of American history in middle schools are all supposed to be on the same page at the same time. It's the Procrustean bed all over again. (Look it up!) Classes have different personas and different paces, and a good teacher works with any class in the best particular way for it to learn.

This current nonsense is right up there with the fact that high school classes have anthologies instead of reading full novels and plays. A smorgasbord approach to literature is no more satisfying than a smorgasbord dinner; a lot of different tastes but no real feeling of a real meal.

***

Had to take my mantel clock to the doctor the other day; he stopped. Not surprising when you consider he is 176 years old and still running on the original brass works. Built in 1836 by the Welch clock company, he sat on a shelf in the library of my grandfather's home in Maryland, and I don't think he had been running for years until he came to me and I had him cleaned and oiled.

He is a tall, thin rectangular fellow, with a square face, with Roman numerals on top and a square glass panel on the bottom which was once painted with the British lion and unicorn coat of arms, now largely worn away. I think he enjoys going to the House of Clocks in Downtown where he can have conversations with others of his kind. I find this store full of clocks and their various voices fascinating and the second generation of Hohns who run it very good clock doctors

This journey into antiquity leads me to another bit of history — about my first college alma mater (University of the Pacific is my second). The University of Delaware is one of the oldest universities in the country, with its roots going back to 1743 to a school founded by the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison. Students there included Thomas McKean, George Read, and James Smith, all of whom signed the Declaration of Independence. Read also signed the Constitution. A lot of other notable people came out of that school over the years.

***

Here are the answers to last column's puzzle about six-letter words made from letters in VALENTINE: entail, innate, invent, lateen, leaven, linnet, native, neaten, valent, and venial. All were familiar to me except valent. So I looked it up. It is a form of the chemical term valence, having to do with the properties of elements.

Having caught Bill O'Reilly out on the misuse of "slayed" instead of the correct "slain," it occurred to me that the word "slay" was a pretty old-fashioned word for "kill," and usually associated with inflicting death on dragons in fairy tales. What makes it even more irregular is that the past tense is "slew," not often heard these days. Again, I couldn't resist!

A knight with a dragon to slay

Went merrily forth on his way.

The one that he slew

Was a small one named Sue

Which was easily carted away. (Groan)

Another one of those great community spaghetti dinners will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the JACL Hall at Elm and Stockton streets. As always, it's an occasion to see a lot of people you know while enjoying really good food and efficient service.

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