Wednesday, 29 August 2012
They were known as elementary schools, grammar schools or preteen gulags. My elementary school’s name was Jerome Jones. I never really knew who Jerome Jones was or might have been, but most schools in the south, during those early years, were named after long bearded Confederate generals, politicians or recently dead members of the Board of Education.
Lil bro and me would get rattled out of bed in the mornings and while we stood on the large floor grate of the main heating duct to get dress, Mom would whip up a batch of her famous dungeon gruel, called oatmeal. After breakfast, we brushed our teeth, combed our hair and took a leak. On the way out the door we were issued our lunch rations for the day of a boloney sandwich, apple and small thermos of cold Ovaltine. I had my Roy Rogers lunch box and lil bro had my rusty Hopalong Cassidy one from last year. After the door was closed behind us, we could hear Mom sob, “Thank God!” Mom talked to God a lot back then.
We waited on the sidewalk until one of the pre-adolescent caravans came by and together we all trudged our way to school. The safety of these small groups afforded protection from the 5th grade bullies and wolves during the winter months. It can be said that kidnappers and pedophiles were rare back in the 50’s, as most of them were still going to elementary school. Once we got to school, we headed to the bathroom where the 7th grade teacher, Mr. Links, stood guard outside the door. I was never sure of what he was guarding, unless it was to come to the rescue when one of the boys got his willy caught in his zipper. But, how come Mrs. Calstead stood outside the girls restroom, cause at the age of 7, I already knew the girls didn’t have zippers.
My classroom was gigantic! The ceilings were almost twelve feet high with a dozen huge light globes hanging from ceiling chains. The windows lined one entire wall and were about ten feet high. The teacher had to use a long pole with a hook on the end to open and close the top part of the windows as well as the glass shutter over the classroom door. The floors were made of wood and had weathered years of little scampering feet and gallons of linseed oil. Our desk were solid oak with a little hole on top for an inkwell, which they used prior to WW II. There was at lease two generations of gum and dried boogers under the seats and the Duck and Cover drills could cause a state of regurgitation while you crouched under that seat.
Miss Lehr’s gigantic desk stood on a small platform in front of a blackboard that covered the entire wall! On her desk she had books, a flower vase, a little statue of Mary, a pencil cup and usually a few pieces of bruised fruit. I gave her a banana once, but she gave it back. She said it caused little flies…..I didn’t eat another banana until I was 20. Miss Lehr was beautiful! She smelled good too, just like sun dried bed sheets on a clothesline. She always smiled and made you feel like you wer’t a dork. I was going to marry her when I got older, but changed my mind when I met my third grade teacher, Miss Clover.
The cafeteria was a wonderment. Everything shined and was scrubbed clean. To this day I can still remember the smell of that big room, but have yet to identify the odor as it reminded me of tainted milk and wet cardboard. Lil bro and me had always toted our lunch to school because Mom said our lunches were made with love and not greasy cafeteria help. I had a difficult time equating love with baloney. Anyway, the food from the cafeteria was a lot different from the patronizing food they dish out to the Ritalin enhanced kids of today. There were no pizzas, tacos’, chicken nuggets or corn dogs with spaghettiO’s. They served wholesome limas, green beans, peas, corn, meatloaf, roasted chicken drum sticks, spaghetti and on Thursdays they had hamburgers and fries. Come Friday, you had a choice of fish sticks, (Pope’s orders), with macaroni and cheese, or, vegetable soup made from limas, green beans, peas, corn, meatloaf, chicken, spaghetti and chopped up hamburgers……baloney looked pretty good on Fridays.
Recess was a lot like the Disney nature movies, where they show a volcanic beach covered with sea lions all strutting and declaring their piece of the beach. Once again kids clustered into protective groups and played games like; concussion dodge ball, seesaw races, monkey bar contusions or you just got beat up by a sea lion. When the bell rang, the collective herd rushed back inside to form lines at the porcelain water fountains that dispensed room temperature water. Back in the classroom, Miss Lehr would inspect us for any playground injuries and then we would get back to the challenge of our multiplication tables.
After school and bidding our caravan farewell, lil bro and me would go running up to our front door, eager to show Mom our gold stars for the day, and as we stormed into the house, you could hear Mom sob from the kitchen, “Oh God!” She talked to God a lot back then.