Sometimes I'll go several days without picking up a local newspaper. I tend to regret this habit everytime it occurs. Last week is one of those times.
Joan Gormalley of Salem passed away last week. Had I read that in the paper I could have paid my respects. Joan was my third grade teacher. She was the very first lay teacher at St. Pius V School in Lynn. That means she was this real woman in a school full of nuns! A lot of us little urchins thought this was a cool thing. We also thought we were going to be on Easy Street that year. Well, you can believe me, Miss Gormalley was able to dish out discipline just as well as any of those Sisters of Saint Joseph.
The one thing I will always remember about Miss Gormalley, is how she opened up the world of classical music for me. I had had brushes with the classics before my third grade encounter. I was a huge fan of "The Lone Ranger" television series, so the William Tell Overture was pretty big with me. I can also remember sending a few boxtops of Quaker Puffed Rice off to Battle Creek, Michigan for a recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. However, Joan Gormalley brought a few records into class and allowed us to do nothing but listen. She had some music by some guy named Edvard Grieg, then something called "A Night on Bald Mountain" and then, Paul Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice" which I remembered had something to do with Mickey Mouse. Somehow I thought this woman wasn't like the other teachers I had. Even apart from the nun's habit, she seemed different.
Joan Gormalley went on to be a member and president of the Salem Chamber of Commerce then, also, a co-founder of Salem's Haunted Happenings. She was always active in local politics. But, I'll always remember spending some magical musical hours in her third grade classroom.