Coach John Broyles’ U.S. History class torture


By Bill Derby

A few years ago I played golf with some old high school friends in the Kermit Tipton Scholarship golf tournament. During lunch we reminisced about some funny high school experiences at Science Hill.

After sharing a few old stories and laughter, it’s a wonder they let some of us graduate. But, when you look back on it we did get a good education in spite of our teenage antics. We even made it through college.

Ken Altman, a Kermit Tipton football player, shared a funny story with me about his U.S. History class taught by Science Hill’s baseball coach, John Broyles.  In Coach Broyles’ class, every student had to recite from memory the Preamble to the Constitution while standing alone in front of the class. Boys and girls marched forward to make their presentation. Many students had never individually spoken before a group. They were easy to spot with quivering voices, sweaty armpits and knocking knees.  It didn’t matter if you had aced every test, you still had to recite the Preamble.

It goes…..”We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…”, and on and on for a few more sentences. The whole thing only has 52 words and should be easy as pie to memorize.

You might say Coach Broyles was a bit partial to the athletes in his class and very supportive of their level of competence. During these speeches he always sat in the back of the room while each student marched to the front to recite the Preamble. We all dreaded this individual performance, especially the boys. I had really tried to memorize the thing and practiced in front of mom a couple of times. She said to study more.

It didn’t take long for the less studious of us to discover that friends sitting on the front row might help out a stumbling student by silently mouthing the Preamble’s lines. It was kind of like today’s tele-prompters the president uses except it was a helpful buddy silently tutoring the presenter if he forgot the next word. News of the human tele-prompter program soon spread throughout each of Coach Broyles’ classes year after year.

I had a hard enough time reciting “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” much less the dreaded Preamble to the Constitution. Ken was a year ahead of me and told me he also had help on his Preamble presentation. We both got a laugh out of that.  He said a girl helped him.

Mike Story, who was known as a person who made everyone laugh with his antics, was my tele-prompter.  I knew if I looked at him I would burst out laughing but I was going to need help.

As I started my speech I got through the first couple of words. I then locked up having absolutely no idea what word came next. This was serious and Mike knew exactly what to do. He carefully spoke very softly and mouthed each word to me.

Coach Broyles must have thought I was an idiot looking down at the floor watching Mike quietly saying each individual word of the Preamble to me. I had to wait a few seconds after each word so Mike could look down at his book to read the next word. He didn’t know it either.

“…..We…..the…..people….of….the….United……States….in….order…to…form….a….more…..perfect…Union….”  My word for word presentation kept going on and on. My performance took longer than most.

Whew….after I finished, little beads of sweat dripped from my head and the class clapped, thankful I had finished. I think Coach Broyles knew what was going on but let us boys slide by anyway. Thanks Coach and especially Mike, and I still can’t remember the Preamble, only the First Amendment.


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