Proust Questionnaire: Mr. Mangum

Affable substitute teacher is so positive even his greatest disappointment has a happy ending


Janssen Transier

Affable substitute teacher is so positive even his greatest disappointment has a happy ending

Janssen Transier, staff reporter

The Shield: What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Charles Mangum: When I was growing up in the ’40s and ’50s, I had a really great family life, so my current relationship with my family makes me really happy. Also, when I was growing up, we always went to church, and that always made me feel really secure, so that was really important to me, and [it] still is. Lastly, I really love being able to witness students come into their own and mature through high school, and of course, being able to give back to my community through substitute teaching, even in my retirement. That’s what really makes me happy.

TS: What is your greatest fear?

CM: I don’t think I really have any phobias, at least that I’ve discovered. I think that everyone is scared of failure at least a little bit. I’ve had plenty of failures in my life, and I understand why people are afraid of it, but once you start to view failure as a tool for improvement and motivation, you can overcome that fear.

TS: What is the most overrated virtue?

CM: I would have to say vanity. I am definitely guilty of thinking too highly of myself sometimes, but I think that can just be a natural human instinct. It can be good to have a positive image of yourself, but you just have to find a balance between feeling good about yourself and coming off as vain.

TS: What is your current state of mind?

CM: Right now, I am really positive. I am 78 years old, which can be depressing to some people, but luckily for me, with that age, I still have good health. I have a couple aches and pains, but really nothing major, and I really feel lucky for that. Also, I feel like this job helps me a lot. I feel relevant, like I’m making a difference, and just contributing to society. I think if you have the opportunities that I was graced with then it’s pretty easy to have a good state of mind. Another thing that I always tell students is that life has its ups, and it has its downs, but it’s important to just remain steady throughout everything life throws at you, good or bad.

TS: On what occasion do you lie?

CM: I don’t think I’m a purposeful liar, but like all of us, I probably embellish things from time to time. I try to avoid it whenever I can. I won’t act like I never do, but I think if it gets to the point where it becomes a pattern, that’s when it’s something to worry about.

TS: What person do you most despise?

CM: I grew up when the USSR was still prominent, and I never liked how communism was branded as this thing that was great for everyone, but in reality it’s just a few people who benefit from it. So, I would probably have a hard time getting along with someone like Stalin. Really, any dictator throughout history.

TS: What quality do you most admire in another person?

CM: In students, I really like it when students are aware of their abilities and talents, as well as their potential for greatness. I love it when students are able to set goals, and put in the work to achieve them.

TS: Are there any words or phrases that you overuse?

CM: There are probably are, and I don’t even know it. I know I go off on tangents about leadership or responsibility a lot, so I would have to say that.

TS: If you were to die and come back any thing or animal, what would it be?

CM: I’d probably want to be a human being again, honestly. I’m lucky enough to have had a really great experience as a human, so I wouldn’t want it any other way. Some people are super creative, and could imagine themselves being something other than human, but that’s just not me, so I think I’d just want to be a human.

TS: If you could have one talent what would it be?

CM: Well, to be honest, I’ve never really been the type to think, “Oh, I wish I could do this, or I wish I could do that.” I’ve always been pretty happy with the skills I had. I don’t want to use the word “satisfied” because that makes it seem like I can stop working and stop trying to improve myself, but I am pretty happy with what I’ve already got.

TS: Where would you most like to live?

CM: I’ve lived in Texas my entire life, and I love it. I grew up here, going to Austin for UT football games and eating barbecue with my Boy Scout troop as a young man.
I went to college at Texas State, and met my wife of 55 years there. [She and I] have traveled to some amazing places, but I like the idea of being a Texan. There’s a certain spirit and attitude that comes with being a Texan that I think is really special.

TS: Where and when were you most happy?

CM: I have to say, I’ve been happy most everywhere. Of course I’ve had some ups and downs, some disappointments, just like everyone else, but for the most part I’ve been happy.
I don’t dwell on the failures and life, I just always look at the positive side, because almost always there’s more good than bad.

TS: What is your most treasured possession?

CM: When my wife and I were younger, and we were looking for things for our home, we got into antiques, and around that same time we were traveling around the world, so we collected a lot of really interesting pieces of art that are still really important to me. I’m also really interested in clocks, and I bought some really amazing clocks in England when I was overseas there back in the ’60s, which I still have and take care of.

TS: What is your greatest achievement?

CM: The biggest thing for me is when I signed a professional baseball contract. In 1961, when I was a junior in college, I signed a contract to go to Houston for spring training and try out for the team, and they paid me a considerable amount of money to do so. Unfortunately, one of the biggest achievements of my life also turned out to be one my greatest disappointments also because just before I was about to go to California and play in the minors for a year, I was cut from the team.

It was really disheartening, but in the end it turned out for the better because it forced me to go back to school, which is where I met my wife.