Back in 1966, kids were starved for good science fiction. We were stuck with junk like Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which used the same monsters since they had the same cheap producer. You’d see a giant leaf monster chasing Will Robinson one week and that same creature would terrorize the crew of the Seaview at a later date. Outer Limits and Twilight Zone were in reruns.
And then NBC ran a promo for Star Trek, calling it “adult science fiction.”
Which meant every kid had to watch it.
We were instantly hooked after the first episode. The girls were drooling over William Shatner and the boys liked the uniforms on the female crew members. The schoolyard was filled with discussions about the show every Friday morning.
Then the episode “Where no man has gone before” aired, about a guy who developed supernatural powers and took on Captain Kirk. The schoolyard discussion on that one spilled over into the classroom, with the girls passing notes.
Which brings us to Sister Dionysia, one of the best teachers I ever had, who made seventh grade a wonderful experience. A kindly nun who never used a ruler and was always available for extra help. But like all nuns of that era, maintaining discipline was very important to her.
The one thing that really ticked her off… passing notes in class. (Yes, kids, there was a method of communication before texting.) For whatever reason, the girls were the main note-passers. We boys just waited for recess to gossip.
Anyway, Sister didn’t make you stay after school if she caught you. She didn’t call your parents. The punishment was much worse.
She would confiscate the notes and read them aloud in front of the whole class. Usually, the notes were about crushes or who was the cutest in the class, which would turn the note writer a deep shade of crimson. But the sheer embarrassment we had seen during the reading of notes was, for the most part, an effective deterrent.
Still, some decided to play with fire one day.
A couple of girls got caught the Friday after this particular episode. Sister stopped her lecture, walked to the two girls, and stuck out her hand. The girls knew they’d been busted and handed over a whole batch of notes. “Well. Let’s see what’s more important to you girls than history class.” She marched back to the front of the room and peered through her bifocals.
She unfolded the little slips of paper.
Now, Sister didn’t just read the notes, she really got into character. Suddenly she was talking like a teenage girl. Just imagine a 60-year-old nun in an old-fashioned habit reading this: “Captain Kirk is sooooo cute. Sooooo cute!”
The two girls turned beet red as they slumped down into their seats. The rest of the class snickered.
The girls had basically written an entire synopsis of the episode, commenting on William Shatner along the way. Sister continued to read. And then the recap got to something that crossed the line.
“Gary Mitchell developed supernatural powers—”
Sister broke character, turned back into a nun and fired up a death stare. “Humans do NOT have supernatural powers. Only God has the power to do anything.”
One of the girls tried to dig herself out of the hole. Good luck with that. “But Sister, it’s fiction. It’s just a TV show.”
A wave of the hand. “Doesn’t matter. You kids shouldn’t be watching this stuff. Humans do NOT have supernatural powers.”
(Sadly, the Flying Nun premiered a year later, or we would have had somewhat of an argument since it became appointment television at the convent.)
After that, the girls kept their crushes on TV stars confined to the schoolyard. Every once in a while on a Friday Sister would ask if we’d watched anything interesting on TV, but we saw through that ruse.
Obviously, school discipline is a lot different today. And since note-passing is now electronic, teachers might have some fun confiscating cell phones if they used Sister Dionysia’s “punishment” for those not paying attention and texting during class.Randy Tatano lives in Brewton and is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.