Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mr. Biggs

Many years ago in 1977 I had the privilege of attending World History class taught by a gentleman named Frank G. Biggs. Mr. Biggs, like many teachers at Ridgeview High School, had a fascinating variety of personality quirks which made him unforgettable.

I remember sitting in his room many days, where he would do nothing but scrawl notes on the chalkboard (yes, with real chalk) in this horrible chicken scratch handwriting for the entire class. Across the board he would go, not caring that he was standing in the way as he wrote. We would bend and peer and write, write, write. It was an inconvenience at the time, but also a good way to learn the large amount of material he had to cover.

He also had many quotes which he would use over and over. "Ms. LADY! (he would then correct the student for whatever fault he found such as gum chewing or spacing out) and then he would say, "Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it!"

He had a temper, as well. After work for the class that day was finished, his expectation of us was that we would remain seated and silent until the end of class. In such an environment where you have teenage students however, the tendency was to socialize. So, a low level of hushed voices would begin about the classroom. This was, of course, stuff that just *had* to be said. Whisper, whisper, whisper. Then it would get a little bit more widespread and a little more pronounced. Murmur, murmur, murmur. More kids would join in and the noise level would increase. Mumble, mumble, mumble. Then to hear above the mumbling, talking would begin. Blab, blab, blab. At some point Mr. Biggs would come over to a desk and SLAM his hand down like an atomic bomb. BAM!!!!!!!! "I'm ALER-ER-ER-ER-ER-ERGIC TO TALKIN !!!!" He would staccato the R's and his whole body would shake with fury as his eyes bugged out of his head. We would kind of turn and look and fall into silence, our jaws dropped, worried he might have a stroke. Then the process would start over again.

The following story was related to me, but I was not present for it, so I can't vouch for it. Mr. Biggs would slam his hand down on his own desk if he was seated there. I was told that one enterprising soul got up the gumption to loosen the screws on the side of his desk one day. Sure enough, as predicted he slammed his hand down and the desk gave way on one side causing all the books, papers and stuff he had piled there to go shooting down onto the floor. I can only imagine his reaction. I don't know if the student got caught and was sent to "see THE MAN," but the story itself was notable.

He had a trump card though, if you had his class at the end of the day. If the class got loud before or after announcements, he would say, "Stop that TALKIN or you'll be RUNNIN FOR THE YELLOW."

"What? Huh?" people would ask. For those who were new or had not heard it, this was his way of saying that he would hold the class after, so we would have to run to make our bus to get home.

This is much like my own practice of using witty phrases to get what I want from my own classes. "Sit down or you'll be wearing a frown. Find a chair or you'll go nowhere. Stop talking and start walking. Stop flirtin and start workin." They are, I am proud to say, my own creation.

Last but not least, is my own escapade, if you would call it that, in Mr. Biggs class. I remember it was a hot summer day, I was bored, and Mr. Biggs was lecturing. I had a window seat, and I would gaze out onto the baseball field longing for class to be over. I noticed that the watch I wore on my right hand (with the face side on top of the wrist) would catch the sunlight as it came through the window and cause a reflection from the flat glass face onto the windowpane. Well, being particularly bored and stupid, I turned my watch towards the board and had a three inch dot of light dancing around behind him like one of those sing-a-long dots as he lectured. This got a chuckle from the class and Mr. Biggs paused, wondering what was going on. He would turn around to write notes and I would have the dot creeping up his backside like a little spy. Thankfully I stopped before I got caught, or I would have been going down to see "THE MAN."

It is with joy that I write this brief article of my time in Mr. Biggs class. He was in my own opinion, a first rate guy. And to my students, DON'T try the wristwatch-in-the-sunlight trick. I know it. I did it. And I will catch you. Then it will be your turn to see "THE MAN."

G. Houtchens
armchair coach
amateur historian


Eloise said...

Great essay, Glenn! Do you think other high schools had as many *characters* as we did at Ridgeview? Pretty amusing, especially given what a small school we were.

I have exchanged Christmas cards with Mrs Metger ever since graduating. She is retired and living in SC, but she keeps up with a lot of old RHS faculty and goes back to Atlanta from time to time for Retired Teacher luncheons. I'll try to remember to ask her if she knows what became of Mr. Biggs.

Heidi said...

Sad to say that Mr. Biggs died in 2003. He is remembered by many.

John said...

Hey Mr. H . Great Post! I was thinking about writing a post about how great of a friend you are . Could you give me permission ? If you don't ,I completley understand.
P.S. Just reply by seeing me at school or commenting on my blog at . Thanks !

Mike Vlass said...

Hi Glenn
I had not thought of Mr Biggs in many years untill reading your essay. It brought back fond memories of those days and of
Mr Biggs he was one of a kind!

Anonymous said...

This is a true story. Fire bell goes off while I was in Mr. Biggs class. He does the normal "Remain calm, everybody single file no talking" routine. As we are lining up to walk out of the room, the intercom comes on and they anounce "This is not a drill, there is a fire in the english hall", at that point Mr, Biggs yells waving his arms over his head "Run for your lives" and flies out the door :-) Stephe Koontz class of 78

j dub said...

Mr Biggs also held detention after school

From a guy who spent more than his fair share of time in detention, Mr Biggs was the best! Before detention he would smoke in his class room, and all the usual suspects would show up and just give him the riot act. He would say in that crazy accent "Doooooon't Boooooother me"

He had a file cabinet in his class room, and in detention, I deciced to climb on the cabinet, and he went through role and I answered, he heard me, but couldnt find me, this went on for 10 minutes...he was the original beauty! But every now and then you could break him down adn he would smile, because he really loved us all...God Rest His Soul! Jeff Williams class of 87

Mark Hart said...

I too was fortunate enough to be a student of Mr. Biggs at Ridgeview,1973 Grad. I have many memories of him and was actually caught doing my Mr. Biggs impression in his class. He caught me and made me give a report as him. I think he liked it.

I had heard that he had gotten shot in downtown Atlanta, but I cannot remember where I read or heard that news. Can anyone verify this?

The Hunts said...

Yes Mr Biggs was shot in the stomach in downtown Atlanta, in a parking lot, I believe in a mugging. I can't remember if he was pursuing the mugger or if the guy shot him after mugging him. Kim Hunt class of '74.

The Hunts said...

I enjoyed Mr Biggs' class as much for his antics as his history lessons... He always kept you on your toes. And if you misbehaved you might have to stay on your toes... Me Biggs would draw a small circle on the chalkboard and tell the disruptive student to 'put your nose right here', which was always slightly above their nose level.

To others who dared cross him, he would have them stand by their desk. "Gimme some of theeeeeese" he would say, holding his arms out in front and extending his fingers in and out like a flashing light. For like 5 minutes. Great exercise for a pianist, but not pleasant in class.

We all loved him (I think) and some would cross him just to see what he's do to them. Bless his heart.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your great story of a great man. I vividly remember one of his hand-slapping outbursts that shocked everyone: The closest flat surface was one of those glass-topped transparency projectors. You guessed it: He broke it! That sure quieted the class.

He was OK but he probably had to go see THE MAN...

Anonymous said...

So many "routines" with Mr Biggs, but one favorite was to inquire during his handing out of EVERY test (to be taken) "Mr Biggs, are you going to curve the scores?" He would reply, in his very deliberate way, "the only curves I know, are coming down Trimble in the morning and going home in the afternoon".

Anonymous said...

Haha this is hilarious! I remember all of this. I had him as a freshman in 1985. I remember asking him questions about curriculum or content, for example about the book 1984 which he assigned, and instead of answering he would say "Don't worry Bubble Gum, this ain't no Rodeo"!!!!!

I also remember one time when the electricity went out, some crazy kid that failed History the year before yelled out a racial slur and he got sent straight to THE MAN, and when the lights went back on Mr. Biggs eyes were all bugged out and he was PISSED OFF>

Anonymous said...

He gave me detention a lot in homeroom or class. Had me run errands for him. Had to call about his bettle that had broken down that morning. Got 2 more days when i was forcibly made to tell him loudly in detention that his bill was $75 for diagnostics. It had only run out of Ms. Lady...great reminiscing read. In closing ... "Happy feet " .....

Charlie Bini said...

I had heard that he passed, sad to hear how he died.
I had the pleasure of having class with FGB for three years at Ridgeview. A few of my favorites quotes:

"I'll give you and F as big as Alaska and twice as cold"

"Mr. Bini, you are a rotten apple with many worms, I'll feed you to the pigs and then they will die"

A bunch of us from the class of 84, 85,86 had a softball team named FGB in his honor. We still use many of his quotes on a regular basis. I'm glad to have had him as a teacher and will always remember how much he made me laugh.

Charlie Bini class of 86

Charlie Bini said...
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