Headmaster’s Thoughts – September 2013

Since every month for over eight years I have written a short essay which I pass off as my “thoughts,” I sit at my computer at home determined to write something and open my desk drawer. I randomly pick up some of the contents.

I hold in my hand my lifetime membership card in the TWA Ambassadors Club. It shows my member number (210 822 1) and is, of course, totally useless. I keep it in my box of useless cards. Here is a card that proves that I could eat in Schrafft’s Restaurants on credit (unfortunately there are none around to actually eat at), and here a Blockbuster Membership Club card (some of you must remember that company). Here is a Gimbels department store card and there a B. Dalton Booksavers Club card. Am I holding onto them because I hope these institutions will stage a comeback? Perhaps I am getting more naïve as I get older?

I never saw myself as a packrat, yet I do have shoes that I have not worn in five years and clothes that I will never wear again. Periodically, I give old shoes and clothes to the Goodwill stores in the hope that someone will actually wear them. But you cannot give away old company rewards cards. In England, they used to have cigarette cards which accompanied each pack of cigarettes sold, just like the baseball cards that came with bubble gum here. And like baseball cards, some became collector’s items and are now valuable.

So this is what I am suggesting: we should place a value on cards that have no value whatsoever. Why not? We place values on virtually everything else. I know grown men who, to use a cliché that I never understood, “waxed lyrical” about used postage stamps. I don’t see the value in used postage stamps, but if someone does, why not find value in Circuit City Club Membership cards, or Woolworth’s Store credit cards? How much do you want for mileage points with Eastern Airlines or Pan American? Good old Pan Am, where are your glorious planes now? It is like “alas, poor Yorick….” Shakespeare comes in handy at these moments.

I wonder why we keep valueless stuff? I hold out hope that young people today who affect “punk,” “gangsta rap,” or “Goth” clothing will give away those low-slung pants that show their underwear, their baseball caps that they wear to the side, and their nose rings and black nail polish, and wonder what possessed them to buy those things. Tattoos are not so easily given back.

When I was in my early teens in England (a long time ago), the fashion for young law-breakers was to wear Edwardian outfits (named after King Edward VII). Young men who did so were called “Teddy Boys.” It was a peculiar, rebellious form of dress to wear the more formal clothing of early British twentieth-century society. The shoes were very pointed and called “winkel-pickers.” (A winkel is an edible, sea water snail, for those of you who have any interest in irrelevant information.) Ties were very thin, and the lapels were velvet while the jackets were not. Teddy Boys were a rough lot who performed acts of hooliganism while wearing the garb of aristocrats born more than fifty years before them. It seems to make no sense, but then, if you want rational thought, hooligans would not be the group you would turn to.Nonetheless, rebellious youth grows up, and I assume they changed their outdated, outlandish, and foppish dress for the practical clothes of adulthood or whatever it is that most of us wear. The interesting thing is that I have never seen “Teddy Boy” outfits available in thrift stores in England. Do they keep them hidden in the inner recesses of their closets waiting for some glorious renaissance? Maybe pack-ratting goes with rebellious youth. In which case, and now I am talking about the current dress fads, do not hold your breath to see low-slung pants or nose rings coming soon to a Goodwill Store near you.

But, as usual, I have digressed (I think I do this each month!). I hold in my hand my retired and obsolescent cards. They are in reasonably good condition and show few marks of wear. They could be compared to a stamp that still has some traces of adhesive on its back. My cards are now available for auction.

Any bids?

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org 

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.