Monday, February 1, 2010

Bird of Pray

I read that Baltimore City plans to close Chinquapin Middle School, which is in the northeast corridor of the city in one of those areas that has a wide mix of citizens and affluence. Baltimore is unlike most other towns in that you can be driving down a street and to your right see fantastic mansions, spacious acreage and well-heeled people strolling about. And a look to your left from the same street will show you run-down houses, litter everywhere, and people with that look of anger and cynicism so often characteristic of those whom hope has left behind. And then, stay on the same road, and 10 miles farther out you will see offices, apartments, shopping centers and busy commercial districts...and blink your eye and you're in Farmville. We love Baltimore. It's always something different.

So...Chinquapin. When I was a little baby boy, we lived up the street from there. It was known as Woodbourne Junior High School at that time, and some years after we moved out (see my autobiography, "Little House on the Prairie") the school became famous world wide.

You see, it was in that very school that a young man named Bill Murray (no, not that one!) was forced to recite morning prayers along with the Pledge of Allegiance in homeroom, and his mother, Madalyn Murray, did not care for this practice. She didn't care for it all the way to the Supreme Court, which agreed with her, and banned prayer in public school, except on exam days.

They changed the name of the school.
Madalyn Murray left Baltimore in 1963, shortly after the Court decision came down. Some city police came to her house to find a runaway, a girlfriend of Bill's who was allegedly hiding in the Murray house. Madalyn assaulted the five cops and headed out of town, later marrying a Marine named O'Hair. She was named "America's most hated woman" in 1964 and was murdered in 1995, shortly after handing over her mythical "most-hated" crown to Tonya Harding.

Bill J. Murray became a devout Christian.

The Other William J. Murray went on to star in "Stripes," the cinematic triumph universally regarded as The Greatest Movie Ever Made.

The school's mission of educating adolescents is about to come to a fitful end, but it's important to look back on another day in Baltimore history. The debate over school prayer is still going on, and as much as I'd like to share my thoughts about the issue, I notice that I just ran out of internet.

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