Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
A decade before the book “The Peter Principle” was written, I was blessed by having what might have been the inspiration for the book, the biggest asshat ever to occupy a Reno High classroom, as a teacher. One day during class he told me to stick around after the bell, as he wanted to see me. I waited as instructed.
“Mr. Breckenbridge, we come here to learn, not to play games with words. I’ve told the vice principal of discipline about this, and he directed me to send you to him.”
This person having had me as a student for half a semester still couldn’t get my name right. On the up-side, he looked like an intellectual when compared to the vice principal I was about to visit.
My infraction, whch I’ll throw out now, was to utter the name “St. Dapical X” shortly prior to a test which would certainly ask the names of the ten federal cabinet offices. For one of Reno High cafeteria’s legendary cinnamon gut-bomb sweet rolls, I would divulge to my peers why they needed to know of that prelate.
The vice principal of discipline then laid into me big-time, in spite of my efforts to convince him that the name was a mnemonic – a term he was probably unaware of – for those cabinet offices. Like “HOMES” for the Great Lakes, but I didn’t invent that one. I somewhere during our discussion told him if he’d shut up for just a minute I could explain the benefits of this perceived transgression.
He went into low–orbit over that and called my dad, who had spent, as it was, more time at Reno High my senior year than I had. The vice principal parked me outside his office while my father, who was probably out trying to earn a living at that hour, drove over to Booth Street. I think he had his own parking place by then.
Dad entered the principal’s office suite like a freight train, mad mostly at me. Upon hearing of my infraction, he turned his guns on the VPoD for bothering him over such a chickenship problem. The two men got into it verbally and dad held his own, then it started to turn physical, which would have been a career-ender for the VPoD and surely a trip to the hoosegow for dad – assault and battery – which no jury would ever convict him of, but who knows for sure?
Long story short, the whole thing was over St. Dapical X, and I here posit the reader if it was worth the dustup – a mnemonic that I still remember these 61 years later:
ST = State, Treasury. DAPICAL = Defense, Attorney-General, Postmaster-General, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor. And X? Why, Health, Education and Welfare, a new office back then. (Now I’d have to dream up a letter for Homeland Security.)
No names of these two school district geniuses are offered, you’ll note. And that’s the way it is, March 26, 2020. A personal note, if I may: Thanks to Sam and Diane at the Grill at Quail Corners for two mighty-fine take-out birthday dinners for a friend and I last evening, and to Ridhi, who brought the meal to my car to delivered it and a ton of personality!
And the birthday girl and I sat six feet apart….see you back here tomorrow – be safe, huh?
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
Read more from Karl Breckenridge
Karl’s pal Jody shares the rich history of bootlegging, decorating, and engineering within the confines of the Truckee River’s banks and its picturesque islands.
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