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Mrs. Dunlap

Matilda Dunlap


July 6, 1903 - January 1987

Mrs. Dunlap was primarily an English teacher with no room in her life for nonsense from her students, despite her short stature.

Not many students knew that she spoke German until the day she confessed that during World War II she enjoyed listening to the speeches of Adolph Hitler on her shortwave radio. She claimed to listen not because of Hitler's message, but because of his powerfully charismatic and eloquent delivery. He was one of the most captivating speakers she had ever heard. Our naive suspicions convinced us, though, that she was secretly a Nazi sympathizer. Many years later, an acquaintance of mine, who grew up in Austria, agreed with Mrs. Dunlap's opinion of Hitler's mesmerizing oratory. To talk with Mrs. Dunlap today about this aspect of her life is a gift lost in life's shuffle.

Faced with a Christmas vacation deadline to write a short-short story for Mrs. Dunlap's Junior English class, and with not a clue for plot, I desperately  conjured an implausible story about a man who was devoured by his Christmas tree before he could finish applying decorations. She returned the paper with a C+ and the comment, "Not believable." The 'C' was likely more than I deserved. Slightly oblivious to her suggestion that the story was poorly developed, I felt wounded that she had missed my story's plot point suggesting that the tree had wreaked revenge for being cut down at someone else's pleasure. Mrs. Dunlap knew her business of teaching and I knew the business of moping.

Daryl Autrey
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