Stories from Gayle Rhoads' Years as an Educator
Some of these stories contain insights for the educator;
others are just fun anecdotes!

Teaching from the Top of the Desk

Gayle was a new teacher at Lodi Academy. One period, he hopped on top of his desk to lecture. The students were amused by this new teacher who paced back and forth on his desk, not in front of it. Halfway through the lecture, Principal Koenig entered the classroom to observe his newly hired teacher. Gayle continued teaching from the top of his desk. The students were beside themselves with mirth. After the class was over, Principal Koenig waited for the students to leave the room. Then he approached Gayle, looked up at him, and said: "That was one of the most interesting lectures I've heard in a long time," and walked out.

Tiny Tim Visits the Banquet

Among the many oddities and excesses that exemplified the '60s was the popularity of singer and Hippie icon, Tiny Tim. He was a tall, thin man with long hair who sang in a high, thin falsetto voice while accompanying himself with a Ukulele. His trademark song was "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." The popularity of this song was at its peak about the time the faculty were charged with planning the entertainment for an upcoming student banquet. When Gayle discovered a shoulder-length wig in the school's trove of costumes, he got an idea. When the banquet arrived, he had Principal Voth make a dramatic announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a big surprise for you! We have been working for months to make this happen. We were able, through extraordinary luck, to obtain the services of one of the most popular entertainers of our time! I give you...Tiny Tim!" And with that, Gayle pranced onto the stage in long hair, beads, and bell-bottomed jeans. The resemblance was remarkable. Strumming a ukulele, he warbled:

Tiptoe to the window, by the window that is where I'll be;
Come tip toe through the tulips with me.
Tiptoe from your pillow, to the shadow of a willow tree;
And tip toe through the tulips with me.
Knee deep in flowers we'll stray, we'll keep the showers away.
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight, will you pardon me?
Come tip-toe through the tulips with me!

At first the auditorium of students sat in stunned silence. The act was so close to the real thing that most of them didn't understand the performance was a spoof. Some students started cheering. Others rushed the stage. Girls started screaming. And finally, one girl fainted. As Gayle ended the song amid cheers, applause, and the screams of his students, he took off his wig and waved to the crowd. The students were confronted not with Tiny Tim, but Elder Rhoads, their religion teacher. It was a big disappointment for the student body, but the performance had the faculty laughing for weeks.

Tacks on the Chair

One morning, Gayle walked into class, started teaching, then sat down behind his desk. In doing so, he had fallen for one of the oldest student setups in the book--the tacks on the seat trick. But he didn't jump out of his seat and yelp, which was the hoped-for response. He just sat there and taught class, bleeding onto his chair. As he taught, he carefully watched his class. Soon he saw two boys shooting puzzled looks at each other, as if to say, "What went wrong?" As class closed and the students filed out, he called the two boys to his desk. "You two looked like you had a question in class. What's on your mind?" Silence at first. Then--"Well, Elder Rhoads, don't you feel anything?" stammered one. "You bet I do," said Gayle, "I've got tacks stuck into my backside and I'm bleeding. So maybe you two boys can walk with me down to the principal's office and we can sort this out." The boys learned a lesson, but so did Gayle. Forever after he checked his seat before sitting down. (See a 1966 photo of Gayle at his desk with two students here.)

Cleaning the Spectacles

In his early teaching years, when Gayle was not yet expected to assume the role of the somber and unflappable authority, he had considerable fun at his students' expense. One of his favorite pranks was to wear a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles to class. The frames had no glass in them, but you couldn't see that from a distance. During his lecture, he'd pull out a handkerchief, take off the frames, and appear to be cleaning the glass--lecturing while doing so. Then he would casually thread the handkerchief through the lens openings as he "cleaned" them. The fun part was watching to see how many students caught onto the joke. Then he'd place them back on his face, without cracking a smile, and continue lecturing. It kept his students guessing, gossiping, and paying attention to what he might do next.

Target Shooters Busted

In 1987, Gayle was principal of Thunderbird Academy in North Scottsdale, Arizona. Thunderbird is a boarding school, but in the summer, the campus is virtually deserted. During the summer of '87, one forlorn student was stuck on campus, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Gayle took pity on him, and tried to involve him in what activities he could. One day, Gayle asked the kid if he wanted to go into the desert and shoot Gayle's antique .22 at some targets. The kid's eyes lit up. That would probably be the most fun he'd have all summer. (For those of you from the East Coast and the Left Coast, it's common for folks in Arizona to walk into the desert and target shoot. The .22 is of low power, equivalent to many modern BB guns. Gayle's gun was of 1890s vintage.) So Gayle and the kid headed north out of Scottsdale (or so they thought) into the deserted area between Scottsdale and the Cave Creek/Carefree area. While that area has some population today, it was pretty much just empty desert in 1987. They set their target up against a sand berm, and had fired off a few rounds, when a Scottsdale policeman materialized. "Don't you know it's against the law to shoot a firearm in Scottsdale?" he asked Gayle. "Sure," said Gayle, "but we're a long way from Scottsdale." "Actually, no, you aren't," said the officer, who produced a map that showed not only where Scottsdale currently existed, but also where it was incorporated. It turns out that Scottsdale is incorporated all the way north up to Cave Creek, even though nobody was living there at the time. So Gayle and the kid got tickets, and the two of them spent the next Sunday picking up trash along the hot and lonely stretch of highway between Scottsdale and Cave Creek. The kid didn't mind. That was more excitement than he'd had in months. After all, how many students can arrange to get their principal busted by the law? [Gayle thought the moral of this story was not too difficult to ascertain. I assume it was: "Always know the incorporated limits of your city." :-) Click here for a 1993 photo of Gayle with his antique .22 rifle.]

Don on Fire

Gayle's friend Don Dawes (photo from '65), the Lodi industrial arts teacher, was once working on a VW bug. Don pulled one of the spark plug wires from the distributor, and the fuel line from the pump came off, spraying fuel on the running engine and Don. The gasoline lit, and Don started to run. (Later he told us he was headed for the Academy swimming pool, which was a block and a locked gate away.) Gayle saw his flaming friend headed for the door, and stepped in front of him. Gayle grabbed him and used his suit jacket to snuff the fire out. Gayle frequently got into trouble with BJ for wearing his suit jackets in the shop, but this one time, it was fortunate that he did. The whole event took place so fast that Don was not injured, save for a few blisters on his arm.

Ad Building on Fire

Another fire story of Gayle's, this one from a college he attended--can't remember which. The administration building had caught fire in the middle of the night. It was a two-story building, and the first story was ablaze but the second wasn't yet. Two well-meaning students rushed into the building and ran up the stairs to the top floor in an effort to salvage items. One busied himself by unscrewing light bulbs and then throwing them out the window, where they hit the ground and shattered. The other rescued oak desks, throwing them out windows and nearly hitting the firemen who had arrived to extinguish the fire. Gayle's moral for this story: "Fire and panic make you do weird things." Best to decide beforehand what you want to save in a fire.

Gore Jogs

Sometime during Gayle's LLA Elementary Years ('93-'96), vice president Al Gore was stumping in the Inland Empire around Loma Linda. His handlers discovered that Loma Linda Academy had a fine jogging track that was easy to secure. So the Secret Service informed LLA that they would be securing the track for Al Gore's morning jog. They put out a wide security perimeter around the track, with glowering Secret Service personnel all along the way. It just so happened that their security perimeter included half of the midpoint turnabout at the Elementary School's drop-off point (see the light blue cross in the aerial photo), where parents offloaded their children at the school in the morning. The unusable turnabout caused a tremendous traffic jam, as scores of parents attempted to back up or turn around in the narrow access lane, since the turnabout point was partially blocked. Gayle was informed by his staff of the growing traffic snarl, so he walked over to the Secret Service officers stationed at the turnabout. "Hello, I'm Gayle Rhoads. I'm the principal of this school. I have a request. If you could give us about three more feet of pavement here," he asked, "then we could allow these parents to turn around and exit. It would be much safer for the children. Would that be possible?" The Secret Service answered: "The traffic is none of our concern. The children are your concern. We'll tell you what's possible, and when it's possible!" The Secret Service did not move an inch. The traffic jam continued all morning as the Secret Service bravely defended their three feet of pavement in the LLA Elementary School turnabout. Al Gore lost a lot of parent's votes that day in Loma Linda.

Christmas 2004