or, The Usefulness of Memory and the Erosion of the Banks of the River of Knowledge.
Over the course of my two years in junior high, specifically to the times, grades seven and eight, we studied a good bit about our country, its history and its government. This was clearly long before the days in which children who know virtually nothing about our nation were granted the "right" to vote in our local, state and national elections. But I digress.
I have refrained from stating specifically whether this information I share was learned in the seventh grade, or in the eighth; though more likely it was both, which may account for the fact that it sunk in. As a seventh grader, I was seated in the row adjoining the eighth grade and may well have mastered their lessons before I moved to their row the following year-- and had to endure it again. Will I never get to the point?
Yes, here it is. During a sleepless period between three and four ayem, the expression "St. Wapniacl" impinged itself upon my mind. So naturally I had to run through the mnemonic which I had learned those many years ago. This was the technique by which Miss Stetson taught us to remember the posts in the president's cabinet. Not only is the term easy to remember, probably because of its weirdness, the words are created in such a way that the offices are in the order of their creation and in the order of their significance within the cabinet.
S = State; T = Treasury; W = War; A = Attorney General; P = Postmaster General; N = Navy; I = Interior; C = Commerce; L = Labor.
So of course in my semi-conscious state I was compelled by whatever possessed me to name each office before I could go back to sleep. A very easy task-- except that for the life of me I couldn't remember the "P". Finally, I got up, went to the small room and peed, and the "P" came to me: Postmaster General. So I went back to sleep.
This information became less than accurate while I was yet a tadpole, for in the summer of 1947, the Departments of War and Navy were combined into the Department of Defense. One supposes the mnemonic could have become "St. Dapiacl," but that would have thrown the sequence off track. And today so many posts have been added to the cabinet that I don't know if youngsters could remember them all even if they had a mnemonic. Ask your teenager how many cabinet posts she can name.
In addition to the above Departments of 1947, minus the Postmaster General which no longer has cabinet status, there are seven more cabinet seats, making a total of fifteen. I think.