April 2024
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Madame Quinquet

I look at her pictures in the 1961 Gecko, and have a memory of her that day, serious and determined as she walked towards her classroom, her heels clicking on the tiles. She strode down the colonnade that connected the several wings of classrooms at ACS. Madame Quinquet was arriving, a few minutes late as usual, to teach us French.

It was rather a treat for me to be in a real classroom with a real teacher. Her classroom opened directly onto the colonnade, a building or two before the last wing. It was a nice change of pace from just sitting in a quiet room with other high schoolers on the last wing of classrooms, filling out homework pages and taking tests that would get stuck in big yellow envelopes and mailed off to the UCLA high school division for scoring; three weeks later we’d learn the results. But French class was real-time, with interactive learning supervised by an official teacher.

The American wives who proctored our correspondence work each morning, serving the role of teachers, were nice and competent in the subjects listed under their names in the Gecko. I remember especially Mrs. McMurry, who helped me with algebra when I’d get stuck. But my most vivid memory is of Mme Quinquet and that one morning when someone — I cannot remember who — had a wicked idea.

Hearing the sound of Mme Quinquet’s footsteps in the colonnade, those of us waiting in her classroom could hardly contain our smirks and giggles. The motionless blades of the switched-off ceiling fans, together with the flat-bottomed paper cups next to the water dispenser and its huge bottle of cool pure water, had been too tempting as ingredients for someone’s wonderful prank. My best friend Jack Pei and I did not participate in the preparations, but neither did we feel appalled at what we knew was about to happen.

Mme Quinquet breezed through the louvered wooden doors into the classroom and, almost without breaking stride, she reached out to flick the switch to turn on the ceiling fans. Before she could reach her desk across the room, we observed a real-time demonstration of the French phrase, “il pleuve.”


4 comments to Madame Quinquet

  • Admin

    Great post Bruce! Welcome to our Blog! 🙂

    For those of you who don’t speak French … il pleuve … means: “its raining” – LOL

    By the way, for those of you who don’t remember, Bruce was “Most Cobnobanacious” according to the 1961 Gecko (hard to tell Clod’s were the editors of the ’61 Gecko, isn’t it!?! – LOL).

    Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never took French class at ACS – I preferred to study French at the Cercle Sportif – 🙂


  • frank

    Bob, I did not take French either. I took Latin…I was studying to become a Priest! Frank

    • Admin

      Well, Frank, I suppose part of studying to become a Priest would entail ‘knowing’ what SIN was … by first hand experience. Hmm … so your time in Siagon was really an ‘on the job work/study’ program … ahhh, now it all makes sense!!! – LOL 🙂

      Frank, as the Gecko year book clearly states, I was studying to become an ‘International Playboy’ … hence the necessity for my “work/study” program at the Cercle Sportif to hone my communication skills with French girls. This was a mandatory course of study involving not only verbal communications, but also a complete understanding of body language – LOL 🙂


  • Good Grief! It’s 9+ years since I posted this little memory, but I was just looking at a scrapbook that my mother put together of our time in Saigon. And pasted in it is a formal fold-over note card emblazoned with the engraved words “American Community School”. When I flipped it open, there written by hand is a note signed by the principal, Mary Novick, directing my mother to come to the school 4 days later for a meeting of the mothers of all the boys in Mme Quinquet’s French class! I don’t have any recollection of such a summons or meeting. But the weird thing is the date written at the top of the message: exactly 8 days after I had arrived in Saigon! But I swear, I didn’t put the water-filled paper cups on the fan blades! I was a very good boy who would never do such a thing. But I was grouped in with the guilty boys only 8 days after arriving in-country! Maybe I fit into the ethos of the ACS high schoolers better than I ever thought! Given enough time, why I probably could have morphed into a CLOD!

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