Back to 1967

28 May

Let’s go way back, to 1967, back to Seattle, Washington, back to my college days at Seattle University.  Frank, my best buddy, and I were enrolled in a Sociology class.  Our Quarter project was to go into the community and help the underprivileged.

Back in those days Seattle University was on the fringe of the Central District, and the Central District was primarily low-income, black in color.  After brainstorming for a week or so, Frank and I decided we were going to volunteer to help disadvantaged kids to read.  We went to the local community center, tossed our idea to the Center supervisor, he gave his approval, and two weeks later we had started the Central District Reading Program.

I remember working with fourth and fifth graders who had the reading level of 1st grade . . . see Dick run . . . see the cow in the field . . . watch Bob run fast . . . that sort of thing, and wondering how in the holy hell it was possible that there were kids in the Public School System who were that poorly educated.  What kind of disadvantage that must be, at that age, to be unable to read.  What are the chances of success when a kid is basically facing an impossible struggle at the age of ten?  How friggin’ lucky I was . . . I am . . . to have grown up in more supportive circumstances.  And the contrast was so stark: an institute of higher learning literally three city blocks from a community center where kids couldn’t read.

What we as writers do is important.  We are the guardians against widespread ignorance.  We are the other end of the spectrum.  We signify hope and advancement for society.  We tell stories, we report on events, and we explain how things function.  We take readers to far-off lands, and we take them to imaginary worlds.  We are a healthy escape for those kids in poor districts who have stopped dreaming of ever making it out of the Hood.

The day you take your writing talents for granted is the day you should stop writing, because at that point you will have forgotten just how lucky you are to be doing what you are doing.

See Dick run indeed!

Just something to think about!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

24 Responses to “Back to 1967”

  1. Janine Huldie May 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm #

    Aw, Bill what a truly remarkable memory that you shared here and yet again love how you compared this to writing for a writer. Happy Tuesday and a bit of an extended holiday weekend here as my girls have one more day off after not having any snow days this past winter here. 🙂

    • Billybuc May 28, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

      So glad you liked it, Janine! No snow days there? That’s really unusual, right? Well enjoy the extra time with your girls, and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Mike May 28, 2019 at 2:36 pm #

    Hi Bill – Thanks for sharing such an interesting bit of history.

    • Billybuc May 28, 2019 at 2:50 pm #

      No sweat, Mike! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. María Ruiz May 29, 2019 at 12:08 am #

    Poor education back in 1967 and still. Hope others may have eyes for necessities and the will to make a difference. I love to teach how to read and love to write, reason why I relate to this post. This is a great encouragement to spread wings and fly!

    • Billybuc May 29, 2019 at 1:41 pm #

      Thank you Maria! I hope you are doing well, my friend.

      • María Ruiz May 30, 2019 at 4:08 am #

        Trying Bill … trying … Thanks!

  4. Sageleaf May 29, 2019 at 2:28 am #

    Love this, Big Bro. Did that program continue after you finished your college course? Just curious: it seemed like a great cause!
    It’s a trip thinking about the privilege I had – and so often I felt like I was on an uphill climb to not succumb to the same troubles my older brothers and sisters did: one had a kid at 20, one had a kid at 17, another at 19. I had one brother narrowly escape a 20-year prison sentence. Two didn’t finish high school. None of them went to a 4-year college, but two went to a technical college. I was the only one who did – the adopted one. (Though technical college definitely has its place!). It’s just that they didn’t like school, didn’t like to read…it’s so funny how I came out so differently. Then I see others in my family who didn’t finish high school. Your post just made me think of what makes one person more successful than another…who gets to have educational access, and why it is that mere doors down from a center of educational learning, that homeless and nearly illiterate people will exist. It’s interesting, and sad.
    You’re right in that writing is a doorway. This is, from the bottom of my heart, what I envisioned when I started my (current) website. I had the Pictimilitude one but this one, I hoped, would be a little more focused. To that end, I had always thought that I’d write (or draw) books, create meditations, and the like. I just want to spread goodwill, you know? To ignite a sense of hope through my ideas and writing. If it resonates, great. If not, well, I honor that.
    This theme has been coming up a lot for me lately. I suppose it’s because I am going to tell this group of women entrepreneurs to which I belong that I’m not that kind of entrepreneur. I’m the “slow” kind: the kind that want to let others discover for themselves what I have to offer. You know…like a teacher would. A teacher doesn’t just give the answers. A good teacher helps a student come up with the answers on their own. A great teacher does this AND inspires the student on their own illuminated path. That is what I strive to do and this is what you have succeeded in doing, my friend. 🙂
    Sending you big hugs! Have a great rest of your week!

    • Billybuc May 29, 2019 at 5:06 pm #

      Lil Sis yes, that reading program still exists…by another name, now, but the same program, bigger and better.

      Privilege…I’m the only member of my adopted family to graduate from college….and my birth family, what a mess…all dead painfully….and here I stand with the fatted cow, all the opportunities a man could ask for…and still I struggled.

      But I made it, and so did you, and ain’t that cool? 🙂

      Hugs Lil Sis!

  5. phoenix2327 May 29, 2019 at 9:47 am #

    This reminded of the time when I was back in grade school. We had a thing called the Future Teachers, or something along those lines. We were tutors who we assigned younger students who needed help with math or reading so they could catch up with the rest of their class. My first assignment was a doozy. I had a really nice girl who was in 5th grade and falling behind on her reading. There was one thing the teacher who led this group neglected to mention until after my first session with the girl. This was the first time she had ever attend any school. For reasons I never knew, her mother never sent her to school at the appropriate time. Think about that. She was 11 years old, never been to school before, couldn’t read or write and they stuck her in with the other 5th graders and expected me, a 13-year-old, to cram 5 years worth of learning down her during our weekly 45-minute sessions. I didn’t know where to begin and I got little to no guidance from the group leader.

    I tried, Bill, I really did. But she needed more help than I could possibly provide. The group leader became frustrated with our lack of progress and wanted to know why I wasn’t making any strides. She blamed me of not providing enough stimulation to keep the girl interested in learning.

    I know now that none of that was my fault, nor was it my mess to clean up. The blame falls directly on her mother who ignored her daughter’s education for so long and to the real teachers who shirked their responsibility to her. At the time, I felt like an utter failure and left the group. I don’t know whatever became of the girl. I don’t imagine anything good.

    Anyway, you have a good day, Bill.

    • Billybuc May 29, 2019 at 5:07 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that, Zulma. As a former teacher I agree…there are some teachers who should never be allowed in a school…and a handful who make all the difference in hundreds of lives. I have no doubt you tried. It’s a shame more don’t.

  6. marlenebertrand May 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm #

    Oh, such memories… See Spot run… I can still see the image of Spot running across the field.

    I had a college counselor place me in a remedial English class my freshman year, even knowing that I was first runner up in a school-wide writing contest. The judges said I would have won if my story would have had a “happy” ending. I say that to say, unlike teachers like you who care, many teachers and counselors just don’t pay enough attention to students. It’s hard to imagine they can’t tell if a student is stagnant, progressing, or excelling. I think they just don’t care.

    As far as writing, you are a great supporter of writers. You encourage me to write to make a difference. I now write with the purpose of giving people hope in this lost world. It is not paying off in money, but it is paying off in a greater way – a way that money can’t buy.

    Have a wonderful rest of the week and thank you for all that you do for the writing community.

    • Billybuc May 29, 2019 at 5:09 pm #

      Marlene, you are sweet,and I thank you very much. There are some teachers who should never be given a key to the school. If teaching is a job and not a vocation, don’t do it! I have zero tolerance for bad teachers,and I consider myself a fairly tolerant human being.

  7. manatita May 29, 2019 at 6:28 pm #

    Even now some are not taking full advantage of the system, while kids are still in slums unable to get this privilege. Life, eh?

    • Billybuc May 30, 2019 at 1:44 pm #

      Life indeed, Manatita! There is no figuring it out.

  8. 1authorcygnetbrown May 29, 2019 at 10:25 pm #

    There’s one thing that I like better than writing myself and that is teaching someone else the confidence that they too can develop what it takes to write!

    • Billybuc May 30, 2019 at 1:43 pm #

      True that, Donna! There is great satisfaction in helping other writers.

  9. Sue Dreamwalker May 31, 2019 at 10:05 pm #

    “What we as writers do is important. We are the guardians against widespread ignorance. ” Well said Bill.. Keep up the good work, the pen is mightier than the sword.. 😀

    • Billybuc June 1, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

      It always has been, Sue, and always will be. Thanks my friend. Enjoy your weekend.

  10. Shell Vera August 2, 2019 at 1:41 am #

    I’m so behind and yet reading this at the perfect time! I’ve have an idea for opening my coaching business up to people who have great voices and stories but can’t afford the typical fees with coaching. Reading this is a reminder of one of the reasons why: to help people in areas that most feel a need to escape from become a voice that reminds people it IS possible to grow even in the worst of conditions.

    • Billybuc August 2, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

      Shell, I hope you at least explore that idea. It sounds fabulous. We need more coaching in this world from dedicated people who truly care.

      • Shell Vera August 2, 2019 at 5:28 pm #

        Definitely will, Bill! I think there are so many voices out there who have been stifled by life. I decided to develop a couple group classes and offered it to a one-on-one client yesterday for the first time! I’ll be letting people know how it goes because I think it could work for some other businesses to. I’ve done it with editing for years and helped some great authors get published because of that option!

      • Billybuc August 3, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

        Well best wishes, Shell. Anyone who wants to help people is a friend of mine.

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