I realized the other day that I hadn't checked in with the "You Know You're From Norwalk If..." forum on The Book lately. It's always a good source of keeping up with people from my my childhood years in that small town. I scrolled through it other day and discovered that I missed the passing of one of my favorite Norwalk Middle School teachers.
Mr. Collings was my 8th Grade History teacher. I looked forward to his class most of all because he always found a way to keep things entertaining. And most of the time it was by not even trying. He was just unintentionally funny with his mannerisms. That and the fact that he was teaching a class that never provided a lot of Black history. But that was before the whole afrocentric movement of the late 80s took off so that's not entirely his fault. It was in that class where I first learned about Crispus Attucks so there's that.
There are couple of things that make Mr. Collings extremely memorable with me. The first was the way he conducted his final exams. That was one class we never really had to worry about studying very hard. All we had to do was make sure we paid attention in class. He would flat out tell us "This will be on the test". Then when the final exam came it was nothing more than just 40 or so questions which were one sentence long and we had to fill in the missing blank. For instance, "________ was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre". I don't think I ever got any less than 95% on any of his tests.
The other thing is he was the very first person to introduce me to what pledging was. I can't even recall how the subject came up. There was one day where he dedicated the entire class period to talking about his experience pledging his fraternity. I can't remember what the fraternity was or if he even told us. However, he gave us full details of all of the crazy hazing they did the entire time he pledged. It all sounded like it was straight out of an unrated version of "Animal House". So all up until the time that I actually pledged, all I could ever think about was the stories that he told. When I eventually pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in the spring of 1990 I would soon discover that different fraternities can be creative in different ways to still make the pledging process a memorable one.
I also remember thinking the entire time that Mr. Collings was telling us those tales that I was pretty sure he was breaking some type of secrecy code. I may have only been 12-years-old, but I was smart enough to know that fraternities and sororities have some secrets that aren't supposed to be told. That's why I always wondered if he was making them up or if he was just so far removed from his college days and no longer active that he just didn't care. Whatever the case, the stories still stick with me to this day.
Rest in peace, Mr. Collings.