“Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive.” — Sir Walter Scott
“The more you do the research, think critically and examine the evidence, the more you come to the unpleasant realization that you’ve been lied to all your life.” — Me
I’ve often written my complaints about “corporate lying” or just not being straight with the public when something unusual or controversial has occurred. The following is a true story that puzzled me and many of my classmates at Wayland High School more than 56 years ago.
The 1964-65 academic year at Wayland High School indeed was strange and troubling. The system was undergoing transition as a suburban district in what was widely known earlier as “The Cowbell Town of Michigan.”
The village became a city in 1967, newfangled things such as Rocket football came on the scene and there was an influx of new coaches and teachers, particularly at the high school.
I personally felt that were lied to about the sudden departure of Miss Marsha Martin, language arts instructor, in March of 1965. The news was announced over the intercom system by Superintendent Dr. Carl Bergstrom, who said she was moving to California.
With more than two months of school left in the academic year, we students believed there had to be something seriously wrong here. We wondered if she had developed cancer. Or even worse, was she pregnant? If so, who was the “partner in crime?”
Despite our many questions, I don’t believe any of us received an explanation.
Please understand these were backward days when a female student who had somehow “gotten herself pregnant” (as if the male in this development had nothing to do with it) were banished from continuing to attend classes while in the family way, especially if showing evidence.
So my friends and I speculated that Miss Martin indeed had fallen into that predicament and the district would not permit her to show that evidence to students. And, good Lord, she was unmarried!
A lot of the gossip and speculation was that another first-year teacher, David Nelson, a semi-pro basketball player who taught physical education and coached basketball and football, was the father. Nelson was thought to be a bit wild in his personal life and he was not asked to come back to Wayland for a second year on the faculty.
The replacement for Miss Martin was a Mrs. Breyer, an adult education business teacher, who tried her best to finish out the year, but she was essentially thrown to the wolves. It was not a good experience for her, or the students.
To be sure, there is no evidence that Nelson knocked up Miss Martin, or even that she was indeed in the family way, but the rumor mill persisted for many years.
So what should have school officials done if students’ suspicions were correct? Perhaps that can be debated, but the story is just another early example of the public’s growing mistrust of public, and even private, officials’ explanations of puzzling developments.
This occurred during a time when the United States was fighting an ill-advised war in Vietnam, partly based on lies we were told. Even Wayland Globe Editor Irv Helmey fell for the lies on behalf of Lt. William Calley in the My Lai massacre, who was guilty even by the admission of no less than Army Bob.
Then came Watergate, a series of coverups and lies that proved to be worse than the third-rate burglary President Richard Nixon accurately called it.
In more recent times, President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual affair with an intern. President George W. Bush lied about “weapons of mass destruction” and led us into war in Iraq. And don’t get me started about Donald Trump.
The consequences of some of these lies were that too many people died needlessly.
The point here is affirmation of the quote that opened this column.
“He resigned to spend more time with his family.” — Classic corporate lying