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.
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