Minneapolis Patrick Henry High School Speech Team, circa 1956, seated: Big Hersh. Photographer unknown.
Big Hersh was a venerated and feared teacher. I was recently at Fourth of July celebration and his name came up, one of the people there had taken English from him. She had some good stories. By the time I studied under him, about ten years after the above picture was taken, Big Hersh had slipped out of sync with the times. His teaching career started in the early thirties when he was employed as a principal/teacher/coach in a small town in out-state Minnesota; he came to Minneapolis a few years later where he taught, drove cab, and raised a family.
The late sixties were a time of turmoil and our school was not spared from the unrest of the times, indeed, I was responsible for some of it. Still, Big Hersh never lost faith in me. After graduation, I would visit him from time to time. Each time I stopped over he began talking to me—continuing our conversation as if I had only stepped out of the room for a moment. He finally did retire in the early seventies, I don’t know how he made it through those last few years when the students were often high or drunk, or otherwise out of control.
He would talk to me about his early days, how the students were respectful, and how they had a thirst for knowledge. “We had scholars then.” he once told me.