Ralph Greco’s Logic and Public Speaking Notes

For the New Year we start off with a document: the eighth grade logic and public speaking notes of Ralph Greco, Palm Beach Day School/Academy’s long-time English teacher. How long? This was the introduction which Walter Butler, then PBDS’s headmaster, gave him and his wife when they started in 1968:

Mr. Greco, a native of Pennsylvania, will teach sixth and eighth grade English. A graduate of the University of Maryland in 1955, Mr. Greco taught English four years in the Pittsburgh area prior to teaching English in the Palm Beach County schools for the past seven years. Mrs. Greco, also a native of Pennsylvania, will teach in one of the Second Grade sections. She received her B.S. degree from Pennsylvania State, majoring in Elementary Education and Home Economics.

He’s still teaching there, something which was underscored by the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell’s piece just before Christmas last year. And he’s become something of the school’s “historian,” as this page attests.

As for me, let’s start with the public speaking part: it was immensely useful for that, although it was some time before I really got to put it to use. The logic was even more complicated: I was certainly receptive to what he was saying, but in an environment of hidden agendas and a lot of nice-sounding but self-serving rhetoric, it was hard to implement. It wasn’t until undergraduate school at Texas A&M that I took a full-blown course in logic, complete with syllogistic logic, which was missing from this presentation. (I also spent much time with Thomas Aquinas in those days, which is a logic course in and of itself.)

But even that had its moments:

One of the things that the Mechanical Engineering department required its majors to take was Logic, which was offered by the Philosophy Department.  Most of the engineers did pretty well in this course, which was doubtless a source of secret frustration to liberal arts’ professors.

One day I went up to pick up a test from the professor.  The professor looked at the grade, noted that I had nearly aced it, looked at me, and exclaimed, “You’re not as dumb as you look!”

I’m not sure that Mr. Greco would agree with that sentiment, but hey, that’s what happens when you go “beyond the gates.”

Teaching Around the Christmas Tree

Most of you who follow this blog know that this site, in addition to all of my family history, is also the open online host for my Fluid Mechanics Laboratory material, which includes pages for the teaching videos, which I’ve adopted in the wake of COVID. Recently I had to update one of those videos and did it with the following background:

The Christmas tree to my right has a little bit of family history associated with it: it was Chet and Myrtle’s, and probably dates back to the 1950’s. It’s been passed down and now graces these videos. For a better view of it, you can watch the video itself.

In spite of the fact that this year has been a general ordeal, it has been a good one for all of my sites and the YouTube channel. Lord willing, there will be more to come.

Let me take the opportunity to wish all my visitors a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Or, as my great grand-uncle James N. Warrington put it:

The Joys of Bitter Lemon

I grew up in a family of serious drinkers, which goes back a long way, as my grandfather’s involvement in this should attest.  That meant that we had a stocked bar in the house (it wasn’t a “wet bar” in the sense that it had a sink, but it was stocked all the same.)  At the same time I was an accomplished snacker, and an opportunistic one at that.  Maraschino cherries and stuffed green olives that were ostensibly intended for my mother’s gin martinis (this was before the vodka ones became de rigeur) ended up going “down the hatch” of the youngest inhabitant of the house, save the cat.

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A drawing from the archives of Vulcan Iron Works, which combined the engineering activities of the employees on the job with their activities after hours. It’s worth noting that the first office Vulcan had in West Palm Beach was adjacent to a bar.

To wash all of this down, I turned to yet another thing that was stocked in the bar: Schweppes’ Bitter Lemon and, sometimes, Bitter Orange.  Bitter Lemon/Orange was basically tonic water (which includes quinine) with the suitable citrus drink. It was stiff stuff for the “Pepsi Generation” but I drank it anyway and liked it.

In recent times I’ve always wondered what happened to these interesting soft drinks.  Research on the internet showed that Schweppes certainly still makes them but doesn’t distribute them in the US; inhabitants of the UK, Singapore and Australia still were able to enjoy this, but evidently Americans’ obsession with things being sweet killed it in this country.

The advent of COVID-19 and the fracas over hydroxychloroquine–and its relationship to quinine, which the British used to dampen the effects of malaria–got me thinking again about this stuff.  Why not?  So my wife and I got to mixing things and, with some help from my country club, got things rolling there and at home.

There are elaborate recipes out there to make it, some involving things like lavender, others adding sugar or other sweeteners.  For me the latter kills the whole appeal, and in any case most tonic water we get here (we usually get it at Publix, from its Florida roots the drinkers’ choice for grocery stores) is sweetened, as it comes in either regular or diet forms.  With orange I’ve been ordering 3:1 tonic water:orange juice; with lemon concentrate you don’t even need that much.  It’s definitely a face slapper but that’s the appeal, especially for someone who listed his favourite coffee as Sumatra.

It’s also possible to use other fruit drinks.  We actually started with cranberry juice, which isn’t bad, and we’ve also tried lime juice, and that’s in some ways better than lemon.  We have a friend from Guatemala who’s going to try apple juice, and that should be interesting.

And what of COVID?  I think the whole stink over hydroxychloroquine is proof as to how unscientific (and corrupt) our culture has become.  Setting aside the mercenary power of Big Pharma, everything in this debate–masks, face shields, social distancing, you name it–has been presented as “preventing” the spread of COVID-19.  But, as I explain to my Foundations students, finding that kind of deterministic absolute is impossible.  We’ve always “played the odds” with what we do in the material world.  (The other side is different.)  My wife and I have done our part with the masks, social distancing and “hiding out” (the appropriate TN term for sheltering in place,) and it’s paid off.  But things we can do to help things along, some nutritional, some like this–can’t hurt and may make the difference.

In any case I’m having a blast in these troubled times.  Cheers!

Palm Beach Golf Classic

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The field, caddies and gallery behind them, wait to proceed. In the upper left hand corner, barely visible above the palm trees, is the spire of Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

A major part of the season in Palm Beach is the system of charity balls. A socialite can make–or break–his or her reputation on how well or poorly a charity ball is hosted. On the other side, drawing up the lists of invitees is an exercise in diplomacy. For those who are invited, making “the grand entrance” properly is likewise an important exercise.Along the same lines–although not quite as rigid in protocol–are charity golf tournaments. One such was the Palm Beach Golf Classic; we show a few shots from the 1974 Classic, played in March of that year at the Breakers in Palm Beach. Leading the field were four well known professionals: Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Ben Crenshaw and Dave Marr. We show some shots of them below.

Other Golf Photos

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More checked pants: touring pro Tom Shaw gets ready to tee off at the Delray Dunes Pro-Am tournament at the Delray Dunes Golf and Country Club in February 1974. The tournament was and is headed up by fellow pro (now Senior Tour) Bob Murphy.

In the drink: the photo sequence of Paul “P.B.” Dye, son of golf course designer Pete Dye, inserted in the 1973 Tartan, the yearbook of the St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida. P.B., of course, is continuing the golf course design work of his father (which includes the Delray Dunes course shown above.) Going into a water hole on a Pete or P.B. Dye course will never be the same after this…

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Swing analysis, 1970’s style. This sequence of photos was taken using a special Polaroid® camera which was set up both to take a series of photos in rapid sequence and to record them on one piece of Polaroid® “film.” The analysing professional was then able to, within a few seconds, develop the photos and use them to improve (hopefully) the golfer’s swing.High speed sequential photography has been with us since the end of the nineteenth century, but with digital technology, it’s just too easy…too bad a good golf swing isn’t!

Guatemala, Then and Now

One of the things I’ve learned in the many years I’ve worked on this site is that my family has a habit of following in the wake of its ancestors, even if the followers were reluctant to admit it.  Our trips to the Bahamas were in the wake of Chet’s SPA trips; our moving to Palm Beach followed Chet and Myrtle by seven years, and on and on.  My wife and I managed to repeat this with a trip to an entirely different place–Guatemala–but how we got there is an entirely different story.

In the early 1950’s my mother and father departed on what she described as a “Banana Boat” from New Orleans.  Their first stop was in Havana, before the Ugly Guy with a Cigar and Beard Whose Name Cannot be Spoken in Parts of Miami.

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The Banana Boat they took to Cuba and Guatemala

After that they went to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, and from there ascended up to Guatemala City.  My guess is that they stayed in a guest house of the United Fruit Company, which ran the Banana Boat (with provision for passengers) and was very powerful in Guatemala in those days.

My father never talked about this trip; my mother was another story.  They visited many sites in Guatemala, some of which we’ll see below.  The one place she really didn’t like was Chichicastenango; it deeply offended her Baptistic sensibilities.   That’s a good place to begin the transition to our own visit over Christmas 2019.

I joined the North Cleveland Church of God in 1983.  The Church of God has a strong presence in Guatemala, and our members there don’t think any better of places like Chichicastenango than my mother did.  One of the people I met at North Cleveland was Harvey Harkins, who was raised in our church’s first children’s home (which is celebrating its centenary this year) and was/is something of a legend in our church.  Three years after I joined he announced he was going on a mission trip to Guatemala.  The real nature of the mission trip became clear when he came home with a wife.  We all thought Harvey a confirmed bachelor, so this development was a shock to us (as it happens it was to him, too.)  They had a daughter, who married in 2017.  In the meanwhile they’ve become like family to us, so when Christmas 2019 rolled around and it was time for the new son-in-law to meet the family in Guatemala, we were invited to go, which we did.

It’s strange in a way to retrace your parents’ footsteps in this way, so many years after they came.  But we went to some new places as well, and experienced new things.

In Guatemala we found a beautiful country which, although with problems, is a place of charming people.  I was encouraged by what I saw and experienced, especially as a Christian.  When missionaries go out to do their work, their idea is to win those they encounter for Christ.  What they may not consider is the fact that they are adding people to the church who will enrich the church with their presence.  Pentecostal missionaries went to Guatemala with few resources, but the church is better for the harvest, and that’s something good to keep in mind moving forward.