An Unauthorized Biography of Guitar Picker Roger Ennis
A few things you may not know about Randolph's beloved history teacher
Remember the post by Forrest MacGregor about the Randolph Parade? Those pix were taken diagonally across the street from MY house. My sister also took some pix, facing the opposite direction. The one above displays the famous grin of Roger Ennis, a guitar picker with the Bear Mountain Jammers. Roger spent his entire teaching career at Randolph Union High School, where he was in charge of U.S. history. If you went to RUHS between 1970 and 2005, I'd be willing to bet ten bucks that you remember Mr. Ennis. Last winter, his entire Facebook following watched him make a mandolin from scratch in his woodworking shop. Then, he played it for us. The wood was from a tree that he cut down in somebody's back yard.
Now Roger is a shy guy, so rather than call him up and invite him to talk about himself, which I was pretty sure would result in a polite refusal, I decided to skip that step and just tell you about him. Because I already know him pretty well.
The summer after my father died at age 58 of a heart attack, Roger took my 15-year-old brother and his friend Daryl to Montreal on a bicycle trip. The three of them rode all the way from Randolph, Vermont, to Montreal and back. That made him an instant hero in our family.
That same summer, he took a bunch of us teenage kids to Maine on a camping trip. He was twenty-something and single, and we were a mixed group of 16- to 18-year-olds. Roger ("Mr. Ennis," to us; we had a hard time calling him Roger) was our sole chaperone. Talk about brave. And guess what: Nothing bad happened! We toasted marshmallows and walked on the beach! We all had a really good time!
He also took us skeet shooting at his dad's house up in Marshfield. Obviously, this was in olden times, before high-school teachers became overly cautious about socializing with their students. Of course, we had the highest respect for Mr. Ennis. We were thrilled that he thought we were interesting enough to even look at when we weren't mucking about in his classroom.
That was almost 50 years ago, and I've kept in touch with Roger. Last fall, I asked him to play a tune at a family gathering after my uncle Charles died. He immediately said yes, even though he's shy about playing in public. I guess he conquered his shyness again to celebrate the Fourth.
Here's a little writing exercise, which I also offered in a post about legendary Randolph teacher Maude Stokes, who taught third grade for a gazillion years: Identify an important teacher in your life, somebody who provided guidance at an early age. Don't restrict your thinking to the classroom; teachers come in many guises. Some have fur or feathers. Did you ever have a horse, or a dog, or a pet crow that taught you about compassion, patience, or unconditional love? What was your teacher's name, what did he or she look like, what were his/her quirks and habits, and what how did this magical being change your life?
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The house that I call mine (the dark gray one with white trim in Forrest's post) was bought by my parents in 1947, right after the war. They raised five kids there and took in a bunch of relatives, including my Great Aunt Hilda, who ironed the pillowcases and made snickerdoodles. I used to like watching the soaps with her after school, especially The Edge of Night; I vividly remember one scene where a jealous woman popped out of the closet and stabbed her rival to death. Anyway, the house has been in our family for over 70 years, and it is something of a dinosaur, but we love it. Even though it costs us almost $4,000 a year in fuel oil. That's what you get for living in a six-bedroom house that was built back in the era of cheap coal. And let's not even talk about how hot such a house is in the summer, when the doors and window frames swell up until you can't open and shut them anymore. But I digress. Send me your photos of the parade and I'll make a video like the one listed under "Further Reading." Pretty please.
If you want to read more about my house, you can do so here: An Irruption of Owls, by Sara Tucker, available in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindle edition is a bargain at $2.99.
The Randolph Parade, a Hat-Tip to Town Meeting, and Christmas in July, by Forrest MacGregor
Wanted: Your Pix of the Randolph Parade. Click here to watch a video that I made of the 2012 parade.
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Photo by Ruth Tucker