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Lillie Bellin Pope

The musical revue, VEXATIONAL VARIETIES was originally written and presented in the mid-1940s by the Teachers Union's Vocational Committee, chaired by Lillie Bellin. It featured songs about life in the vocational high schools and was set to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan.

During that time, the vocational schools were understaffed and under-equipped. Teachers of trade and commercial subjects were required to teach eight periods per day. Class sizes were large -- 40 or more pupils in a classroom that had fewer than 40 seats. Many times, because of the shortage of teachers, classes would be doubled to 80 students in a class for the semester. Equipment was in short supply. A typewriting class with 40 students might have only 20 typewriters.

The union exposed and combatted these deficiencies. As a result of its efforts, the vocational schools eventually improved, but the union did not endear itself to the school authorities.

Vexational Varieties
(Transcribed and edited here by Henry Foner.)


1. Sung to the music of When I Was a Lad by SNOOPENTELL describing his early career and how he became an informer on his fellow teachers.

SNOOPENTELL: When from college I did graduate,
I took a job at P. S. 28.
For the principal’s favor, I made my bid
By turning in reports on what the other teachers did.

CHORUS: He turned in reports on what the other teachers did.

SNOOPENTELL: I soon became such a skillful "stool"
That now I am the head of a vocational school.

CHORUS: He soon became such a skillful "stool"
That now he is the head of a vocational school.

SNOOPENTELL: From there I went to junior high.
Where I was the apple of the principal’s eye.
I wrote his thesis and his term report
And a single solitary class I taught.

CHORUS: And a single solitary class he taught.

SNOOPENTELL: I seldom taught, for I was no fool,
So now I am the head of a vocational school.

CHORUS: He seldom taught, for he was no fool,
So now he is the head of a vocational school.

SNOOPENTELL: I made the First Assistant’s list.
With credit for each backside I kissed.
I spied on teachers both day and night –
My reports on them were a gruesome sight.

CHORUS: His reports on them were a gruesome sight.

SNOOPENTELL: Say nothing good became my rule,
And now I am the head of a vocational school.

CHORUS: Say nothing good became his rule.
And now he is the head of a vocational school.

SNOOPENTELL: Now, all you teachers, get ready to leap
If you want to rise to the top of the heap,
Be sure to be guided by this golden rule,
And you will be the head of a vocational school.

And you’ll become the head of a vocational school
CHORUS: And you will be the head of a vocational school.

SNOOPENTELL: Pick papers up –

CHORUS (questioningly): Yes?

SNOOPENTELL: And never touch a tool –

CHORUS (surprised) Oh!

SNOOPENTELL: And you’ll become the head of a vocational school.

CHORUS: Pick papers up and never touch a tool,
And you’ll become the head of a vocational school..


2. Sung to the music of The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring by SLASHENCUT, the representative of the Superintendent of Schools and SNOOPENTELL:

SLASHENCUT: The children who come to this school, tra-la,
Bring with them a great deal of pride.
Combined with their knowledge of words, tra-la,
They’ll learn of the bees and the birds, tra-la
And they soon will be known far and wide –

CHORUS: And they soon will be known far and wide.

SLASHENCUT: And that’s what we mean when we happily sing
That our children possess a most wonderful thing.
Tra-la-tra-la-la-la. Tra-la-tra-la-la-la
They possess a most wonderful thing.
CHORUS: Tra-la-tra-la-la-la. Tra-la-tra-la-la-la.
They possess a most wonderful thing.

SNOOPENTELL: The children who’ve come to this school, tra-la
Are learning a valuable trade.
By the time that they finish each chore, tra-la
They’ll know Shakespeare and Milton and more, tra-la
And how intricate bearings are made.

CHORUS: And how intricate bearings are made.

SNOOPENTELL: That’s why we’re so proud when we read in the book
That our children have passed every class that they took.
Tra-la-tra-la-la-la. Tra-la-tra-la-la-la
They’ve passed every class that they took.

CHORUS: Tra-la-tra-la-la-la. Tra-la-tra-la-la-la.
They’ve passed every class that they took.


3. Sung to the music of I’m Called Little Buttercup by three of the students.

FIRST STUDENT: They call me a student, a dear little student,
Although I could never tell why.

SECOND STUDENT: But I’m still called a student, a poor little student,
A sweet little student am I.

THIRD STUDENT: I’m loud and I’m noisy –
I call Jersey "Joisy,"
I’ve dice and a blackjack and knife.
I throw spitballs wildly
And then sit there mildly –
I’m leading that kind of a life.

FIRST STUDENT: I eat lunch in science,
I break each appliance,
And somehow my papers get torn.
I smoke in the Boys’ Room –
I joke in the toys’ room --
Making certain the curtains are drawn.

CHORUS: But still I’m called student, a dear little student,
And there are so many like I.
And that’s why we students
Use patience and prudence
In keeping the registers high.


4. Sung to the music of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General by Assistant Superintendent Mortimer.

MORTIMER: I am the very model of all science pedagogical
I’ve information animal and vegetable, and logical.
I know the members of the Board and quote their thoughts historical.
In fact, when I repeat these gems, they’re legends allegorical.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical.
I calculate each class size in a manner acrobatical.
About the next year’s register, I’m teeming with a lot o’ news
(Thoughtfully) – "lot o’ news – lot o’news – oh, yes"
With less than cheerful facts about the teachers we have gotta lose.

CHORUS: With less than cheerful facts about the teachers we have gotta lose (3x)

MORTIMER: I speak in scientific terms of children problematical.
And teachers who take my advice have classes quite ecstatical.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical,
I am the very model of all science pedagogical.

CHORUS: In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical,
He is the very model of all science pedagogical.

MORTIMER: I can tell an auto chassis from a Rockwell Kent original.
I always tell the teacher that the child’s an individual.
I invented ninety different forms to make a teacher clerical –
(Thoughtfully) Clerical – clerical – ah, yes!
When they apply for transfers, I become a bit hysterical.

CHORUS: When they apply for transfers, he becomes a bit hysterical (3x)

MORTIMER: Of unimportant matters I have knowledge that’s statistical
I can explain each theory in words extremely mystical.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical,
I am the very model of all science pedagogical.

CHORUS: In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical,
He is the very model of all science pedagogical.

MORTIMER: When I know just what is meant by "unassigned" or "travelin’" --
When I can tell at sight a flying spitball from a javelin –
When students cutting classes are offenses that I’m wary at --
(Thoughtfully) Wary at – wary at – ah, yes!
They prefer to be considered members of the proletariat.

CHORUS: They prefer to be considered members of the proletariat. (3x)

MORTIMER: My pedagogic knowledge, as you all will learn eventually,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century.
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical,
I am the very model of all science pedagogical.

CHORUS: In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and logical.
He is the very model of all science pedagogical.


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