This Much I Know

by Big Daddy Graham | Sep 30, 2016
This Much I Know ...From the pages of South Jersey Magazine...

With South Jersey schools back in full swing, I thought I would borrow the tone of one of my favorite pages from Esquire Magazine and share some of the wisdom I picked up during my scholastic years.

Bolivia exports tin. In grade school I learned that Bolivia exports tin. Don’t ask me why I still remember this and I am forever waiting for it to come up in an everyday conversation. I’m beginning to think it never will.

Cursive. While I do enjoy getting a handwritten letter from time to time and I love a good postcard, I’m starting to believe that the hours I spent perfecting cursive in grade school were a complete waste of time. First of all, about the only time anyone uses cursive at all anymore is when they are signing a check and for those who use direct deposit, even that’s rare. When is the last time anyone complimented you on your handwriting? You want to hear something bizarre? About the only time I get a handwritten letter sent to me at 94WIP, it’s either from a religious zealot or an ultra right-wing conservative. What’s up with that?

State capitals. My wife knows every capital of every state and really prides herself on this. She has convinced her- self that if she ever gets on the TV game show Jeopardy that every cate- gory of every round will be “State Capitals” and she’ll be the winner of that night. What she would do the next night is anyone’s guess, but she doesn’t care. Actually, for some reason it seems like there’s a lot of folks who pride themselves on their state capital knowledge. Were we constantly tested on this? Were my daughters at Clearview tested on this like I was? What’s the point when you can just look it up on your iPhone in a matter of seconds?

Diagraming a sentence. Why? Why? Why did we spend endless hours on this nonsense? And what in hell’s bells is a “dangling participle?”

Dissecting a frog. OK, let’s forget for a moment that 99 percent of us are never going to get called upon to save a frog’s life. Seriously, if a frog was having a heart attack in the middle of the Cherry Hill Mall, which one of us would leap into action and shout out “Step aside! I know exactly what needs to be done!” Not to mention when I was doing research for this piece I interviewed a lot of millennials and discovered that they’re still dissecting frogs. Geez, where have they been get- ting frogs all these decades? Do they call “Frogs R Us?” Are there trucks by the thousands that leave the Mississippi Delta every late August delivering millions of frogs to the masses? How come there’s no animal rights groups going after these schools? It’s an outrage!

How to make girls laugh. I did not need a Cosmopolitan survey to hip me to the point that women love a man who makes them laugh. I figured that out rather quickly. It’s the reason I was constantly in hot water when I went to grade school. What I didn’t get was why weren’t my teachers and the nuns understanding this? They were all female. I never had a male teacher in grade school. Didn’t they want to laugh? They were women. I thought they should have been encouraging me to do this, not beating the crap out of me for it. When I got to West Catholic I didn’t have this problem be- cause it was an all-boys school. Less trouble. Less fun.

How to breeze through a written punishment. Many, many times I had to write “I will not misbehave in class” 500 times. So much so, I developed a very scientific method that I believe NASA uses today. I would start at the top of the page and write “I-I-I-I” 25 times right on down to the bottom of the page. Then, starting at the bottom and working my way back to the top of the page, I would write “will-will-will- will” to the top of the page, and on it went. I still hold the school record for writing “I will not misbehave in class” 500 times in 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

Never be the rat. Every now and then, a teacher would have to leave her class for a couple minutes. She would pick some kid (almost always a girl) to stand in front of the room and write on the blackboard the names of any kid who misbehaved in the teacher’s absence. I immediately noticed how quickly this geek would be ostracized from the cool kids. When asked once by Mrs. Peabody if I wanted to be the kid writing down the “bad” kids names I said “no” and al- though I was kept after school that day, in the long haul it was worth it.

The hours. And finally, what better way to wrap up a column on school than with a quote from noted scholar and former Sixer, Allen Iverson, who once said about school, “I never liked it. I hated the hours.” Touché. I could have not said it better myself. My first classes started at 7:30 a.m. and I remember my mom waking me up and me thinking, “Well, this stinks.” The first class of the day now starts much later and I recently read a survey that stated that a child’s mind is not ready to function properly at 7:30 in the morning. Survey?! I could have told you that when I was 8 years old. So it’s no accident that I have not had a job since 1973 where I had to set an alarm clock. May that continue on!

Big Daddy Graham and Joe Conklin will appear at Parx Casino on Sept. 14 and at BlackJax in Birdsboro, Pa. on Sept. 24. Visit for more information.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 6 (September, 2016).

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Author: Big Daddy Graham


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