• June 4Havre de Grace High School: Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve

Spooner Interview: Full Transcript


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A transcript of an interview with Mr. Alex Spooner by TheWarriorWord’s Jade Smith and Katie Klisavage

Jade Smith- What year were you born?

Alex Spooner- 1951

JS- What are some memories that stuck with you growing up in California, Havre de Grace, and Havre de Grace High School?

AS- Well memories in California, probably the one memory that is most vivid to me is standing in my backyard and looking up into the san Bernardino mountains and seeing a wild fire that is completely covering the horizon from north to south and you can see the flames leaping off of the hills. And because of the way the wind was blowing it blew all the ash right onto my house and it looked as if we had had an inch or two of snow when all it was, was ash from the burning fires.

JS- and memories from Havre de Grace and the High School?

AS- Havre de Grace High School housed everyone grades 7 to 12 at that time and probably my most vivid memory of high school was actually in 7th grade when John Kennedy was assassinated. I was sitting up in the third floor in what would be Mr. Pretlow’s room now when the principle turned on the intercom and put a radio next to the intercom and we listened to the news broadcast as it was coming across that John Kennedy had been shot and then eventually they said he died. My teacher made us all get down on our knees and pray for the President and then the principle came on and said that if we were walkers we could go home. So I remember leaving the classroom and going into the hall and seeing all these seniors crying their eyes out and being a little 7th grader seeing all these seniors who I think of as adults and they’re crying and it got me all upset and I teared up. That’s probably the most vivid memory.

JS- What made you decide to become a teacher?

AS- well, being honest I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but what I did know that I didn’t want to do was go to Vietnam and fight in the Vietnam War. So one of the ways to stay from being drafted was to go to college, so initially I went to college for that reason. And then once I finished Harford community college and the two years I had there, and not having a whole lot of money as a kid I had to find another way to pay for college, and Towson University at the time had a program where if you were willing to teach for 2 years then they would pay your tuition. So that’s how I got into teaching, it paid for my tuition to college and then once I got started I never stopped.

JS- How was college? What was it like? What did you enjoy there? Did you have any fun memories?

AS- I had lots of nice memories, and met lots of nice people. My junior and senior year of college the Vietnam War was still going on and so there were a lot of protests in the street. There were lots of debating going on between those for the war and those against the war and that was really interesting, and as I’ve told you guys one of the stranger more interesting things that happened was the guy I had in class who smelled to high heaven. He was one of the brightest kids I ever met, and when the professor asked him, “Why do you smell this way” the kid would look back and say “well, this is the way humans are supposed to smell. Why don’t you smell like I do?” and the professor said, “Point well taken, that’s okay, but I don’t have to smell you go sit in the back of the room and open a window.” And that was an interesting memory.

JS- When and how did you meet your wife?

AS- At a fraternity party, back when I was a sophomore at Harford we actually had a little fraternity house on route 543 and we were having a party one night and in walked this group of girls and one of them happened to be my wife, and that’s how we met.

JS- What do you think some of your greatest accomplishments are?

AS- You know, I don’t think in terms of big accomplishments. I think in terms of consistency, having done this for 43 years, I want to be consistent. I always want to do as good as I can, so I don’t think in terms of grand accomplishments as much as I think of being good.

JS- If you could relive any memory from your life what would it be?

AS- The birth of my sons.

JS- How do you think students have changed over the years?

AS- I get that question a lot, and the answer truly is that they haven’t changed at all. In the 43 years you hear people say, ‘Well, you know, they’re not as respectful today as they used to be,’ and yes they are. They haven’t changed, their goals haven’t changed, and their belief in themselves hasn’t changed. If there is any dramatic change that I see at all would be the use of technology, cell phones, iPads, and all of that. They’re so much more interconnected than kids 43 years ago were when there was no such thing as a cellphone.

JS- Is there any stories from your time teaching that you want to share?

AS- Not too long after I had started teaching, I had a student who was a sophomore at the time,

 And she was incredibly talented but she was incredibly troubled. She was a wonderful Flutist and she was going to Peabody for special training and she was really good but she was really troubled. She had a drinking problem and her mom and dad had split up, and to try and gain her favor her dad would give her alcohol and she was truly an alcoholic while in High School. I worked real hard to try and help her through those tough years and I think I did. She eventually graduated and went to college and graduated and moved out to Montana where she still lives. To this day we still stay in touch and send emails to each other and that’s a good memory.

JS- You told the story in my class today about the pyromaniac, would you mind telling it again?

AS- Back is the early 80s we were actually at a faculty meeting and the state fire marshal had come in and he was speaking with us, and at the time period the floors throughout the school except the cafeteria were all made of wood. They had been varnished so often over the years that the fire marshal said that if a fire ever started in the school then the school would be up in flames in three minutes. That was probably the major push that got the school renovation pushed in the 80s. One of the main fears we had at the time period was we had a pyromaniac in the school. And the pyromaniac would walk down the halls with a cigarette lighter and set posters that were on the walls on fire. And we were afraid that one of those days she was going to set a fire and the whole place would go up. That was one of the crazier moments.

JS- Do you have any memories of the different generations coaching and teaching?

AS- Coaching the basketball team was really fun, I coached basketball here for 20 years and the 10 or so years that I was the varsity head coach we had some really, really fine teams. And just recently going to the basketball games became popular again; well in the 80s it was really popular. Popular to the point to where if you wanted to see a Havre de Grace- Aberdeen or a Havre de Grace- Edgewood basketball game we had pre-sale and we didn’t even sell tickets at the door because we would completely sell out the gym the week before the game. So probably half the games were complete sell outs, and the crowds were loud and boy, were they rowdy. People did not like to come to Havre de Grace to play and like I said we did real well and won region champs in 1984, 85, 86, and 88 and made it to the state finals once so that was a fun time.

JS- Most students, we see you at the football games in the fall- every single game. Is it important to you to support all the students and be there?

AS- oh yeah, I try to get to see every team play once a year. They may not see me, but I see them. And so I’ll sneak in and see a lacrosse game every now and then and a girl’s lacrosse game too. And up until this year when I coached track I would go see the track meets. But I just always wanted to be up on the side and just kind of watch and see what was happening and so yeah I try to see all the teams play at least once.

JS- Is there any lesson you wish to share, or anything you want to say to Havre de Grace and your fellow teachers or students and alumni?

AS- The motto “enter to learn, leave to serve” I have known so many people who have taken that motto and they’ve run with it and they have made the community, the state, and the nation better because of it. I hope the next generation and the generations that follow keep that tradition going. Serve.

Katie Klisavage- I have one question too, what are your plans for the future? You’ve been teaching for 43 years.

AS- well for starters I’m going to look for another job. But something totally different, I actually have an application in right now for a job interview to sell cars. Just something totally different! I don’t know what it’ll be. Heck, I might be stocking shelves at Weis, I could do that too.

JS- you could be a greeter!

AS- *laughing* I will not be a Walmart greeter, I will not.

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Spooner Interview: Full Transcript