Memorization is a lost art

Most of you out there in reader land can remember the days when we had to memorize certain things.

Schools back then were big on that.  From the alphabet to the multiplication tables to all the States and their capitals, all that information went into tiny heads to be pulled up at a moment's notice like a life raft on a sinking ship.

This was necessary as one never knew when a teacher or Grandma Mabel might ask us to recite just such things and show off our mental prowess to the other cousins in the room.

I really cannot for the life of me think how memorizing the alphabet did me much good as no one has asked me to sing the song since about First Grade. Those darned multiplication tables, however, come in handy as heck.

When I was learning them, my mom put me through flash card hell to make sure I was speedy with my multiplication tables, bless her heart. And I do still use that knowledge today when trying to figure out whether the best buy on eggs is by the dozen or by the 18.

I guess that's more of a long division problem, but it uses the same principles just in reverse and sure comes in handy all the time.

Other things we memorized at least in our house were the names of the 12 disciples and books of the Bible. I guess those did come in handy in quiz bowls at church but honestly, I have not needed that knowledge in quite some time, and they are slipping from memory day-by-old-age- day.

Just the other day, Ol’ Dutch was just minding his own mindless business when the song “There Were Twelve Disciples” came to mind like a blast from the past.

Now I have not sung that song for about 55 years or so and where that was stored to suddenly come rushing in like a flood from a nearby creek, I have no idea. And suddenly I could recall all 12 disciples by singing that little song. Amazing.

Now, however, those same 12 disciples won’t leave me alone and the song plays constantly in my mind.

An earworm of tune that will not go away until at some point the synapses in the rusty old noggin decide to let it go and some other nonsense replaces it. Which with Ol’ Dutch is another song. Maybe it's because I sing all the time that this happens or maybe it's because I am simply loony, the jury is still out on that.

Back in the good old days before cell phones, we memorized everything including the phone book.

I can faintly recall knowing about 50 telephone numbers by heart along with addresses and codes and other things we needed on a daily basis. In writing this column, I came up with my grandmother's phone number and address out of the blue and where that was stored and released from, I do not know. But it's in there. Accessing is the real problem.

Our reliance on those infernal smartphones to keep all of the information we acquire these days really came to light when someone asked me for Miss Trixie’s phone number, and I could not for the life of me come up with it.

I got to thinking about that and if I were ever injured just who would the rescuers be able to call on my behalf if my phone was missing or destroyed. The only number I can recite by heart is Gladstone 549, which was our phone number when I was 5 years old. Not much, there.

Ol’ Dutch has even had a hard time coming up with my own number at times as I have relegated my brain to letting a smart phone take care of all those necessary details.

As the Christmas season approaches, I know you have a lot to remember. So, let me help you with your peace and quiet and remind you of a partridge in a pear tree so you too can join those of us and get your own ear worm for the season.

Kevin Kirkpatrick and his Yorkie, Cooper, fish, hunt, ATV or hike daily. His email is [email protected]. Additional news can be found at