Norman: This biology teacher had some strange genes

Charlie Norman

Some teachers one never forgets. So it is for me and Mr. Roger Corzine, my biology teacher my sophomore year at Odessa High in 1965. Mr. Corzine was in his mid 30’s, wore distinctive horn-rimmed glasses, and was one mellow fellow.

Everybody loved Mr. Corzine. You could just tell he was smart, but was never intimidating.... the kind of guy that just made you want to learn. Now, biology can be a tough subject alright... and messy at times too. One day, I can’t forget, in class we each had an 8-10 inch earthworm to dissect. Slimy, gooey, and just plain gross!

Yuk!  And of course, it would be the day when the lunch menu at the cafeteria featured spaghetti and string beans. I had to pass on that --- I got soup instead and barely got that down. I had a particularly hard time going from identifying the various organs of a frog in our science book (so clearly displayed in the color transparencies) to the real organs we were to identify while dissecting a frog for a lab test.

It didn’t help matters that I got a little queasy when I sliced open my frog’s abdomen for inspection... whatever. But I studied hard and got an A in the course.  We did learn some really practical things in his class, though. For instance, we learned about the three types of blood cells we all have in common ---  red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The way to do that? We’d have to make a blood smear. Using a standard simple finger prick (a small lancet tool dutifully supplied by Mr. Corzine for each student), we’d prick our own finger, smudge a droplet of blood on a glass slide and then observe the characteristics and numbers under a microscope for proper identification.

I have to say, I’m not to keen on inflicting pain purposely on oneself. I’ve never been into pain too much. But I glance over and see these gals I’ve known since elementary school just–a-prickin’ their fingers right along. Now I was used to seeing girls “primping” some, but not that!

What’s an aspiring athlete gonna do? Time to man up, Charlie Boy --- I prick. It hurts. I bleed. I smudge. And I’m normal. Just glad I didn’t have to do it again. Another experiment we did in class: “Gary” and I were “volunteered” by our classmates to each take a petri dish, go out in the hall or even outside if so desired, and “kiss” the agar (the pinkish-colored gelatinous substance Mr. Corzine had placed in the bottom of the dish).

We were supposed to give it a really good smooch too, and then return it to Mr. Corzine for safekeeping. Three days later we’d all be able to observe, what, if any bacteria/fungi had grown on the agar. So later that week, Mr. Corzine shows the class the two petri dishes. Gary’s was nice, smooth and hardly anything growing --- just a perfect intact lips imprint. Now I might be embellishing this some, but he seemed awfully proud of himself.

Ha! Not me. My petri dish agar had become all discolored with some kind of darkish moldy mildewy growth just-a-sproutin’. Everybody laughed, except me. Actually, I think that did something to my psyche for years about my kissing the girls. Even worse, them toward me! Whatever...

Over time, I guess I got over it, though it took a while. Let’s just say, I AM the proud grandfather of five grandsons, so it all worked out OK. In class we also studied genetics and what the dominant traits were for various inherited characteristics.  For instance in humans, it might be hair color, hair texture or even eye color. And for men in particular, it might show a propensity for baldness in later years of life, etc.

Anyway, we all did some study of dominant eye color probabilities, and concluded that the brown gene was generally more dominant than the blue, etc., with some variations thrown in there. Then toward the end of class, Mr. Corzine, front and center, said something like “OK, class, now that we’ve determined dominant traits for eye color, what would YOU say about someone that would have one eye one color and the other eye a different color?”

We all piped up with things like “weird, strange, crazy, off, unnatural, eerie...” He seemed to go along with that, then promptly removed his glasses, opened his eyes wide and said “Well, what’s that, again, you say you’d call him?!” Sure enough, he had one GREEN eye and one BLUE eye.

We were all dumbfounded... never knew about those things before. But that’s what Mr. Corzine was all about: teaching us scientific things alright, but also how learning can be fun, and it’s fun to think outside the box.   

P.S. Mr.Corzine is 91 years young now and still lives in Odessa. He and I reconnected after many years. At 70 myself, he allows me to call him “Roger.” He could have moved on to other places after retirement. But he’s been quite content in Odessa (been there since graduating from OU in 1952), and just feels at home there, because the people he knows and loves, live in the area.

He reminded me, “it’s the people that make a place, Charlie. You can’t befriend a tree. Trees don’t hug back.” Can’t argue with that, Rodge....

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.