The Sad Tale of Kenneth Davenport (Chairperson of Happy Hours) By John Watts

From: Kenneth Davenport

Sent:  Tuesday, December 23, 2008 1:04 AM

To:  John Watts

Dear John,

  It now appears that my participation in the organization of Springfield High School happy hours has run its course.  I will now retire from the activity and pass on the job to a person or persons who are more in touch with the dynamics of the faculty and staff.  It is obvious to me that I no longer fulfill those requirements—decreased participation in the Happy Hour’s I have officially organized and announced, has made this very evident to me.  It seems I have little choice but to disengage from Springfield High entirely and get on with being a Great Grandfather to my Great Grandsons.

It is with a heavy heart that I sign off for the last time:


Kenneth Davenport, retired Calculus teacher, decorated Marine and Chairperson of the Springfield High School Happy Hour committee.

Ah the sad case of Kenneth Davenport at our school of 2,226 enrolled students and 256 staff!

How did he ever get to this sad point in the aforementioned email you ask?

It was a slow descent really.

Kenneth had retired back in 1998 as a Calculus teacher and had somehow finagled a way to be the Chairperson for Happy Hours for all of Springfield   High School.  It was meant to include all manner of alumni as well as current faculty.  It was a post Kenneth took very seriously and with great panache.

For the first year or two after his retirement, Kenneth had no problem in organizing happy hours that brought in 10 to 20 staff at a time. It was always at the Cajun Kitchen Tavern across the street from the high school.

Being a very Type A personality who ran a tight ship in his calculus classes and when he served in the marines, Kenneth actually did a head count at each of his happy hours and had every member sign in on a clipboard.

Still, the happy hours were lively and the get together’s flowed very smoothly for a long time.  Retired teachers could still relate to the names of kids brought up during the story telling and charade portions when performed by current teachers.  No one felt alienated and everyone was glad that an important, distinguished guy like Kenneth was willing to run the happy hour scheduling for them.

But gradually over time, as the new decade dawned, cracks began to show up in the leadership of style of the Kenneth Davenport happy hour administration.

The first problem came about quite naturally.  New teachers out of college, who never knew Kenneth Davenport as a colleague, became very reluctant to show up at his announced dates.  There was apathy.

And Kenneth was becoming more and more intrusive; even setting up structured agenda’s and themes for each happy hour which were trying and taxing to even the most loyal teacher.  Kenneth also insisted on driving staff home who were adamant that they had not had too much to drink.  This was especially true for the most physically attractive of the female staff.

This led to poor happy hour numbers and even ZERO turnout nights in which entire events had to be cancelled and Kenneth was the only Springfield High School alumni to be perched on a stool at the Cajun Kitchen Tavern.

By 2005, the official Springfield High happy hours were barely limping along with just the slightest trace of a pulse reading. New faculty were blatantly disregarding the EMAIL tree that Kenneth had been sending out dutifully every month.  Some of it was just because of the circumstances of being busy.  Current staff who had every intention of being prompt at a 4 PM happy hour, discovered, due to late meetings and paperwork, that they were not getting out until closer to 5.  They would arrive hurriedly and out of breath only to see a stony reaction from Kenneth at the assigned table.

You name the slight, Kenneth felt it acutely.  Staff invited friends that were not school faculty and on the happy hour roster.  Many faculty members just drove over on their own time unscheduled, and drank mass quantities of adult beverages without even consulting with Kenneth or running it by him first.  All of these slings and arrows hurt him deeply.

The briefest glance at the tone of emails over the years speaks volumes.  In 1999, Kenneth sounded fresh and dynamic with his Happy Hour notices: “Come on gang.  Let’s meet at 4 PM at the Cajun Kitchen Tavern!  Let’s celebrate Betty and Tim’s birthdays and show that great team spirit that Springfield High is famous for!”  Till then, your illustrious leader, Kenneth.”

By 2006 the same information was conveyed much differently: “to anyone who is still interested.  I have taken the time to reserve the large table by the bar at the Cajun Kitchen Tavern.  Please show respect by getting their by 4 PM this time.  It would be nice if we could at least sing to Betty and Tim as it is their birthdays.  Drop by even if it is only for 10 minutes.  Thanks in advance, Kenneth.  PS…is this asking too much?”

This brings me to the last chapter in this sad saga.  December 2008 and the final bittersweet resignation email posted on the top of this note.

It was a Thursday, on the week before Kenneth’s December 23rd email bomb exploded.  Me and 4 staff from my department decided to actually open up Kenneth’s latest happy hour email announcement and spread some holiday cheer.  After an hour or so at the Cajun Kitchen Tavern, more and more staff spilled in through the front doors—2 janitors, 3 administrators, and 4 assistant teachers all came in and we combined 2 big tables together and became one big happily buzzing family!

It was the best happy hour in years.  The only strange thing was we never saw Kenneth who set it up.  By 8 PM as we were all wishing each other a safe drive home and delivering hearty high fives, I happened to glance over to the corner of the bar where a sad, elderly, curious looking figure was hunched over his drink.

I studied his features as the man seemed to be looking right into my eyes.  By Golly it was Kenneth.  He had aged badly in the past few years.  I guess I hadn’t attended one of his happy hours in years and forgotten what he was supposed to look like.

This was the final straw for the once proud Happy Hour Chairperson.  Seems no one recognized him and he didn’t recognize any of us—even though we had all shown up on time and intended to take him up on his official schedule.

Eventually I got my nerve up and strode up to where Kenneth was sitting.  We shared a drink together.  Seems he had become an alcoholic over the years in his vain attempt to organize Springfield High Happy Hours.  The years had taken a heavy toll on his face.  Gone was the methodical, fastidious look of his crew cut.  He was now haggard and disheveled with pustules lining his face.

By the next month, Kenneth had moved to Florida and given up his post retirement post as Happy Hour Chair.  He had finally moved on with his life.

Springfield High disbanded the Happy Hour committee effective the next school year.  No one wanted to fill Kenneth’s shoes.  Future happy hours were now all figured out in secret by word of mouth.  No one emailed each other anymore as no one wanted to be asked to Chair the same committee again.  So infamous was the tale of poor old Kenneth Davenport that happy hours went completely underground as back in the old days of prohibition.

And I was so haunted by Kenneth’s last appearance that December 2008 happy hour that ever since, I can only drink alone at the bar or in the privacy of my own home — so great was my guilt over the retired calculus teacher’s fate!


About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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