This is the 12th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday night thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson.
I can’t imagine the sky because it’s already there, but I can imagine the why that’s not there.
Sometime in late November of 1969, I was sitting in my kindergarten class at Los Ranchitos Elementary School and our teacher, Joann Buttram, asked us to draw a picture of a spaceship that would take us to the moon and back. The Apollo 12 mission had just ended and it was the glory days of the moon landings.
I drew a spaceship with wings and I remember Ms. Buttram coming by my desk and she picked up my drawing and she told me spaceships didn’t have wings on them and she took my drawing away and she told me to try again.
It amazes me when people can rattle off the name or names of teachers who made a positive difference in their lives when I had none, other than my kindergarten teacher who told me my imagination was wrong. She had a positive influence because I knew what not to do with my own students.
I didn’t have a memorable teacher until I was in high school and my art teacher was Jack Bledsoe. He’s in his mid-80’s now but two things he told me continue circle in my mind like a whirlpool. He told me to never give my artwork away – even to family members. He also told me to let others see my work in progress.
I’ve broken his first piece of advice hundreds of times. My paintings are in a few homes (I have no idea where they are) and my photos are now mostly free (unless someone tips me or donates shoes – tipping is rare). I have one public mural at a retirement home that I donated with no pay for materials or time and all of my murals at my school have been done out of my own pocket (Accept for a mini $200 grant I got for making a Southwest mural) which brings me to his second piece of advice.
I started out painting things in private because I didn’t want the students to see me paint but it dawned on me that imagination can’t be taught but it can be nurtured. Seeing me paint can inspire others to create. As for not giving things away, he’s been mostly right and mostly wrong. The joy some show in my work far outweighs the feeling of being taken advantage of when I see my artwork or photos misused or used without my permission for the profit of others.
Getting back to Ms. Buttram. Imagine my joy when I walked into my high school one day in April of 1981 after witnessing the first flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia – complete with wings. The bridge between Ms. Buttram and Mr. Bledsoe was not just measured in a dozen years or so, it was defined by darkness giving way to the light of dawn.
You never know what a child will remember. Ms. Buttram probably did wonderful things in her classroom that year but I don’t remember those. Mr. Bledsoe was probably disappointed in me a few times in high school but I don’t remember those.
I still have former students yelling my name in public when they see me. It embarrasses my family but it makes me smile. I know I wasn’t good to all my students, because there were thousands along the way, but I know I nurtured ideas and dreams.
A famous guy once wrote a song about being a dreamer and imagining great things so I know I’m not the only one, and I hope someday you’ll join us.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at email@example.com