Vinson: Say farewell to great friend

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It was summer 2014. I hadn't seen him in forty-five years, but there he stood, waiting to be seated for breakfast at a local restaurant in McMinnville. He had aged well, looking much the same as he had back in the fall 1969, when I first met him. Since I don't find it necessary to mention specific names--those in the "know" will know about whom I'm talking--I will refer to this octogenarian gentleman simply as "Mr. H."

A retired widower, well-respected educator, American History buff, Mr. H. was seated at a booth directly across from me. We commenced conversing and, in the process, became "reacquainted," if you will. Familiar with some of my research-writing, Mr. H. invited me over to his home to discuss a controversial subject in American History: I was of the opinion an infamous individual "was not guilty" of a particular crime; Mr. H. was of the opinion the man "was guilty" of said crime--Mr. H. challenged me to convince him otherwise!

Indeed, I visited Mr. H. at his home. Though we did banter back and forth regarding this historical crime (the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), in Memphis, TN, April 4, 1968; and the guilt/innocence of James Earl Ray, MLK's alleged assassin), we ended up, basically, just "catching up."
On yet another morning, at the same restaurant, Mr. H. called me over to his booth and sincerely said, "Mike, what is the protocol for tipping? What percentage tip should I leave?"

I responded in the year 2014 (when all this happened) a 15-20% tip was the standard showing proper social decorum. A few days later, still, Mr. H. asked me to write a column about the etiquette of "tipping." I promised Mr. H. one day I would pen such a column. However, at the age of 85, Mr. H. passed away in early July 2015. So, with this column, I am posthumously keeping my promise to Mr. H.

July 5, 2015, I went to a local funeral home (in McMinnville) to pay my respects and say "farewell" to Mr. H. As I viewed him lying peacefully in the casket, I told Mr. H.'s two sons my fondest memory of their late father:

Fall 1969
The two city schools and the four county schools had consolidated into one high school for Warren County (McMinnville), Tennessee: Warren County Senior High School. Mr. H. was the assistant principal for the new Warren County Senior High School.

The dress codes back in 1969, compared to 2015, were more conservative and more strictly enforced: no shorts, no pierced navels exposed, and no baggy jeans hanging on the southerly portion of the gluteus maximus. Further, the female educators wore nice standard dresses, and the male educators wore dress slacks, shirts, ties, and dress shoes.

Mr. H. was no exception. Dark dress slacks, white shirt, matching tie, and "wingtip" shoes were daily attire for him. About the trendy, lace-up "wingtip" shoes: Back in 1969, men would put metal "taps" on their hard-soled shoes. The younger males did it, mostly, to draw attention, to be heard walking down the hallway. The older men, such as educators, did it to reduce wear-and-tear on their shoes.

Mr. H. wore metal taps on the bottoms of his wingtip shoes. On several occasions during that 1969-1970 school year, I recall walking behind Mr. H. down the tile hallway and hearing the perpetual "tap-tap-tap" sound emanating from his feet. Still, with the metal-to-tile combination similar to walking on ice, Mr. H.'s gait resembled someone slippin' & slidin'--but never once did I witness him fall during that 1969-1970 school year at Warren County Senior High School...nor during 2014-2015, when I reacquainted with him.

Farewell, Mr. H., great friend, stand-up man. I apologize for not writing a column on "tipping" sooner than I did.

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Mike Vinson
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