To be honest, a good part of the trip has faded over time but several memories ring clear. One of the highlights of the trip centered around the snacks consumed enroute to our destination; rainbow Charms and Chiclets, tooth achingly sweet Pixy Stix and Sweet Tarts, Tootsie Pops and Tootsie Pop Drops. Some crunched their way towards the Nation’s Capital leaving a trail of Frito’s, Ruffles and Rold Gold Pretzels. One of the chaperones was my 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Mangione. Well liked among faculty and too-cool-for-school students, Mrs. Mangione was known and respected as a diminutive walking Encyclopedia Britannica.
This particular field trip was historical on many levels; not merely in stories echoed from a city set against imposing monuments, but from the contemporary history unfolding on the streets of Washington. Protests against the Vietnam War earmarked that trip, making our parents and teachers uneasy, precluding our tour of the White House. We combed the city at a whirlwind pace, required to board those pine-freshened buses before sundown. With the Washington Capitol centered prominently in the background, our large group posed for a panoramic black and white photo. Attired in our best 1970s ensembles, girls wore daring mini skirts or jumpers, topping them off with wet-look raincoats or fringed ponchos. Those with long hair parted it severely down the middle, some with short dos (who sat in the front of the bus) parted it on the side. The boys sported short-sleeved button down shirts with trousers and dress shoes; in fact many wore sport coats. Our signed permission slips came with the understanding that dungarees were not permitted on this trip.
Returning to our suburban classrooms, we were instructed to write a report on an event that made the trip memorable. Combing the musty card catalogue in the library, I discovered a White House cookbook detailing favorite Presidential recipes. Mrs. Mangione suggested I look beyond Martha’s fruitcake, Dolley’s gingerbread and Mamie’s fudge. She may have been a fine educator but from that point on, I thought of Mrs. Mangione as somewhat of a killjoy.
What would my 8th grade Social Studies teacher have thought of the ice cream homage to our 44th President? A lover of all things sweet, no doubt she would have approved of Ben and Jerry’s ‘inspirational blend of amber waves of buttery ice cream with roasted non-partisan pecans’ available in pint sized containers. A pint sized gal herself, I’m sure Mrs. Mangione, spoon in hand would have stood in front of her students exclaiming, “Yes, Pecan.”
As the last class of a long school day, my focus in Social Studies drifted from blackboard to window to slow moving clock on the wall. The end of the school year brought several surprises. One was the A- I received as a final grade from Mrs. Mangione. The other was a casual inscription scrawled on the inside cover of my blue and white 1971 Adamsonian yearbook. Written in the tiniest blue Bic pen cursive were the words, “Remember the back of the bus on the Wash. trip.” It’s signed Bob C.
If pressed, it’s possible I can rattle off a list of some of the desserts favored by the First Ladies, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you who Bob C. is.