Mr. Lord, we salute you

1 year ago

A humble man is immensely powerful. Through humbleness and humility he demonstrates the beauty and joy to be found in the simplest of ideas. He learns that through home, all learn more about the world.

Mr. Richard Lord, former biology teacher at Presque isle High School, was one person among many who demonstrated the ability to be serious yet have fun living life well. The fall of 1979 biology class began with the order, “Pick up your LAP.” We thought it was a different way of saying, “Stand up.” Instead we were picking up our learning activity packets, which would become our textbooks for the year. Printed using a ditto machine that today would be in a museum of old technology, these packets held an amazing amount of biological knowledge. We were told to get a two-inch, three-ring binder as this was our textbook. Our study of biology had begun.

By the time January 1980 had arrived we were well versed in the basics of organisms and functions. Our packets became guides to this fascinating world that exists around us. Mr. Lord, unsatisfied with dated biology texts, had written, drawn, researched and sourced material from the latest journals to create an ever-changing textbook long before we had desktop publishing.

In a small corner of the huge classroom, at the end of the second floor and directly over the principal’s office, he had his print shop. Publishing day would very often find four ditto machines whirring away, their clatter background to classroom activities. So much paper and ditto fluid was used that Mr. Lord had his own supplies. Other teachers had to use the machines downstairs in the guidance office. Every few days a new chapter would be handed out and tucked into our binders. Mr. Lord had written it, published it, and now we learned from it.

January came and we learned about “The Field Trip.” The last chapter in our books was marine biology. All students in the college biology course were eligible to go. Three days on the coast of Maine on Memorial Day weekend. Cool, no parents.

The following weeks there were exercises on learning the flora and fauna of the ocean, passing tests to make certain that we had mastered the knowledge, and making plans for the massive squirt gun fight through the streets of Camden. In those days we did not have Super Soakers.

Memorial Day Weekend arrived. Three massive buses headed for Camden. Logistics were planned and meals were loaded. Well over 100 students, chaperones, assistants and drivers were on the road. Mr. Lord and team gave us the good behavior lecture and we were off — road trip.

Soon the squirt guns were out and practice spots began showing up as we whiled away those four hours to Camden. Points earned if you got someone who was unprepared to shoot back: our ringleader, Mr. Lord.

The following day lab exercises began. Over rocks, into eddies and around the beach we mapped and captured the denizens of a coastal environ. Returning to our outpost at the fire station as meals were being made, those not gainfully employed hit the town. We bought and replaced our pistols with more from local stores, up and down the streets, squirt-gun fighting as we went. We were having fun. Thus our weekend on the coast became a legend in its own right. The Great Squirt Down had begun.

Our trip was a success. We learned a lot about our world, and thanks to the generosity of a humble man we learned also to have fun laughing at ourselves while exploring this strange new world that lay in front of our feet.

Today, those graduates and many others now lead their own classes: doctors, lawyers, engineers and business owners. 

This humble man, Mr. Richard Lord, showed us all that it was possible to live, to learn and to play. While saddened by his passing, we are richer for having known Mr. Lord and having learned how valuable our own contributions would be in a world we did not know. 

Thank you for 43 years of great memories. May we all have many more gifts of such beauty.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television, later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.