Science

I would have loved to be a good science student. In retrospect, I think I may have lacked the desire to work harder to master the subjects because I felt my life was taking me in a different direction. However, I will say I never turned my back on science. I think I learned enough to develop a great respect for the value and validity of science and the credit goes to two great teachers of the subjects.

Lee Hoovler was a very slight and short man. I mention this not because I believe it is important but because, although insignificant, it was the first thing one noticed about him. I once saw him buying clothes from the boys department of Benson’s store in Butler as I waited for the proprietor, Mr. Israel to come help me. That was painful to watch because in truth, Lee Hoovler was a giant. Nobody ever made the subject of chemistry more engaging. Titrations, conversion equations, slide rules, beakers and burners were infused with the most pleasant of expressions and the most subtle humor to yield a level of knowledge as strong as an ionic bond. Although he appeared to be a meek “Mr. Peepers”, he was not above yelling to a student who had nearly started a fire, “You dumbass!” He once fell off the stool behind his workbench/desk and, while still on the floor, managed to preserve continuity by holding his meter stick up so that it continued to trace the progress of his calculation of molarity to the next step. Every day was adventure.

Lynne Sontum was just cool. Not the kind of pandering cool some young teachers tried in an effort to form their classroom persona. He was genuinely cool. He had a very contemporary sense of humor, he knew about the recent movies, and he loved sports cars. He ran physics experiments that have left indelible pictures in mind. I remember, for example, that a metal sheet with a hole drilled in it will expand in every direction when heated and will not allow a metal object that could pass through when cool to pass through when heated. The expansion causes the hole to get smaller. And who will ever forget the movie demonstrating a sine curve generated by the collapsing bridge out in Washington state when the wind was whipping through? Today the sciences are under fire by some as promoting “fake” ideas. The baseline education I received in high school will not allow me to buy into that. Lee and Lynne did far too good a job.