Monday, September 25, 2006

School Days...from long ago

Life's little pieces....a scrap here, a scrap there. All tossed together. Mixed and mingled and all but forgotten. In days gone by, the sound of the school
bell ringing brought pencil boxes, and new crayons, freshly shapened pencils and erasers that were pink and new. A new year, a new spelling book. Back packs were far off in the distant future, and we carried school bags instead. And maybe a lunch box, or maybe not, if you lived near by. Many of us did live just a block or two from that old red brick school house...South Side School. No buses arrived.No special needs vans. The kids in the neighborhood went to the school nearest to them.And they walked to get there. The country kids went to the many country schools which had K-8 grades, or K-6 if they were smaller. In a community of about 10,000 we wouldn't meet our future classmates til we reach Junior High. For some, not til high school...9-12 in a seperate building. I never went to school in a NEW school. All the buildings were various shades of "old". Marble steps, faded red brick exteriors, old fashioned water fountains, merry go rounds, swings, and a slide. We played hopscotch, jacks, marbles and lots of "tag" on the playground. In autumn we made leaf houses under the big trees, and re-arranged them daily. There was so much that we had, and so much that we didn't, compared to now.
We had new cotton dresses, almost always plaids. Crisp white collars, pockets for handkerchiefs, anklets, maybe saddleshoes this year, or maybe just the plain brown oxford type that tied. Knee socks came later, and there were no tights. We didn't wear jeans as regular clothing..no one did but the boys. We girls could put them on under our dresses, for play, and as the weather got colder. Everyone wore overshoes ... boots weren't on the scene as yet. It would be years before the zip up the front boots with fur around the top came into view. Almost everyone had snowpants. How else could you go iceskating or sledding? Most jackets were wool at that time. Nylon, such as it was, could only be found in parachutes. Stocking were cotton or wool, or rayon. Nothing had much stretch.Held up with garter belts.
We wore our hair in braids primarily, but some girls had curls, or cut short bobs. Long hair was still the norm.
A new sweater or two, to wear over your dress on chilly mornings, and probably a raincoat.
We wrote with carefully sharpened pencils on tablet paper...the old off white newsprint type, with the blue lines.
There were no spiral notebooks or looseleaf notebooks to be found. We each had a ruler, measuring a foot, and probably a hand held pencil sharpener. Along with 2 pencils, and the crayons, that was pretty much the sum total of our school pencil box on those first days in Sept.This is way before ball point pens.
We sat in the desks with the slanted top, a pencil tray cut into them across the top, so the pencils didn't roll. The books were put in the open space right below the desk top, and the chairs were afixed to the whole thing...and then each desk to each other. Not much of anything was moveable. We sat in rows that ran vertically from the front of the room to the back. And yes, if you were unlucky enough to sit in front of a BOY, you probably got your braids pulled or monkeyed with at least once a day. Hair ribbons got taken, and mothers were upset when you came home with only one.
We started about 8 a.m. and were in school until about 3:30 or quarter of 4. Lunch was an hour, and there was a 15 minute recess twice a day.
The old school bell in the tower rang out the opening of school, and the call in from lunchhour. We lined up in two columns to march inside. No buzzers, even the fire alarm was a bell pounding against a piece of metal.
Sunlight streamed through the old high dusty windows, making dancing patterns on the highly polished floors. Everything smelled like chalk dust and furniture polish and fresh new varnish.
There is so much you don't know about school as a child. Things that never occur to you. Like the kids out in the country schools that would eventually come into town, in buses, swelling my class(1958) to the 155 that graduated that May. You don't know or think about a Superintendent of Schools, who has an office in a whole different building and whom you never really see til he hands out diplomas. Or about how many other neighborhood schools there are in your town, all doing just what yours is doing. Or the 3 Catholic schools and one Catholic High School that educate some of our town's children.
All you really know about is your little school, both friend and foe, depending on the day. Your lunch or snack, if you have pencils and paper. If your homework is done, and if you know your spelling words. I guess I could honestly say, "it was the best of time, it was the worst of times", but mostly it was good. And I was happy, and very innocent about many things. And maybe that is a true gift of childhood...the ability to be happy in the moment, and have no knowledge of all that lies ahead. Posted by Picasa

21 comments:

Linda_J said...

Look at you and the lovely smile on your face. Did I ever tell you that I went to a one room country school outside Winneconne for grades 2-3?? Good times and a lot of memories--similiar to what you described.

Hedgehog said...

What a lovely memories. Thanks for sharing.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

My deceased husband graduated in 1957 and he went to a one room school house from grades 1 - 12.

Most of your recollections are much the same as mine, except that I did go to some brand new schools.
And we never wore jeans, not even the boys unless it was to work outdoors after school. Jeans were not acceptable dress except for workhands and most of the time they wore kackies (sp???).

Dona said...

Nostalgia, how your memories have brought back many of the same ones for me.

Carol said...

Thank you Finn for the wonderful memories. Life was so much simpler then. Thanks for sharing. It was a wonderful way to start my day.

Shelina said...

This is such a sweet story. It is good that you are recording it for posterty. It brought back fond memories for me as well. And I especially liked the sweet picture that came with the story.

Lily said...

Finn, it's so important to write those memories down. Your grandchildren will be amazed - school days have changed so much by now.

And boy what a gorgeous little girl you were. Beautiful smile and love those plaits!!

joyce said...

I went to one of those one room schools for 8 years and then the school bus into town, except the bus was a van with board seats along the sides. I remember that the summer holidays used to seem to stretch out forever and I was always glad to get back to school and see my friends again.

Libby said...

Our one room schools were gone boy the time I came on the scene, but sure had neighborhood schools where some kids even walked home for lunch. I was a 'bus student' and always ate in the lunchroom. Your story made me think of the smell in the classroom on the first day each year - fresh crayons, new pencils, stacks of paper and a freshly waxed floor. You just knew you were going to learn so much.
Love the picture -- what a little darling. Ready to laugh and probably cause a little mischief of your own? *s*

Pam said...

Wonderful trip down memory lane, thank you. What a darling picture. curly braided happy sweet

thanks for sharing

Darcie said...

Many one room school houses still stand around this area. Some have been vandalized though, which is quite sad.

Lovely little girl there! What a smile...and darling braids! Boys haven't changed much...they still mess with girls' hair while sitting in class. ;-)

Judy said...

Nice memories Finn. I walked 6 blocks down a busy main crossroad everyday in elementary school and nobody thought anything about it. We all walked from the neighborhood. IN 5th grade we moved and I only had one block to walk. Then 6 and 7 we were bused to the downtown neighborhood and I rode a bus downtown until 10th grade when I went back to the school in my area again, still on the bus. Got my car in 11th grade and drove for the next 2 years, but still attended with the neighborhood kids.

Nellie Bass Durand said...

Your memories brought on a flood of mine ... one room school and all. Thank you.

Laura said...

Oh Finn, i don't comment much, but I always read and always enjoy your blog!!!

Sue said...

I loved all these wonderful memories. Many of them were those that I also have. We couldn't wear pants of any type even in high school.

Vicky said...

Oh, gosh, Finn, what memories your blog brought forth - and just as I'm heading home for a few days! When I think of elementary school, I think of paste, that white first-grade kind, the aroma always present in the hallways.

What a cutie you were! And still are! Thanks for sharing your memories!

(Hugs)

Jeanne said...

Thank you for this amble back to the good old days! :)
I attended the same school from kindergarten through 8th grade, and I walked every single day.
Jeanne

Sweet P said...

Great memories Finn. Have you ever considering writing a book?

Dawn said...

I think the thing that I remember the best is the new cotton plaid dresses! Even I remember getting those in the fall! And not being able to wear pants!

Petey said...

What a joy to read your writings, Finn! I walked to country school with my younger brother in the early 50's. Your 'picture' brought good memories to light. Remember some of the games we played? Red light, green light and Handy Andy Over were favorites. Thank you...I am going to share your piece with my teacher friends in Delta Kappa Gamma at our next meeting.
You are correct about a child's innocence...some of my students know way too much to be happy and have a childhood. So sad.

ForestJane said...

Wow, thanks for all the memories, Finn! K-6 were my happiest school years till I went to college, and I too remember playing jacks and jumprope at recess. And not being able to wear pants to school too! On really cold days, we could wear snowpants, but had to take them off in the cloakroom before class began.