When I think of school days, the first thing that comes to mind is getting up early. I learned at a very young age, this was something I really hated to do and that I must have been born a night owl.
In our house, you got one chance to get up after told to do so, after that Daddy would come in, grab us by the ankles, and drag us out of bed feet first. When your head hit the floor, you knew you didn’t dare crawl back in bed, no matter how bad you wanted to.
The whole time Daddy was waking us up he would say “Up and At’em boys - Rise and Shine - Time to hit the bus line.” All of us remember this quite well and we hated it.
Mama and Daddy would always take each child to school on the first day in the first grade. After that, we had to walk up the dirt road to the highway to catch the yellow school bus, which was about 3/4 of a mile.
In the wintertime, when we were all small, if it rained a lot Daddy would put on his knee high rubber boots and carry us over all the mud puddles. When there were too many of us, he would load us all up in the trailer they used to take the calves to auction in, and drive us through the pasture to Mamaw’s house. Our driveway would always be under water a lot in the winter months.
Before we left the house on our journey to the bus stop, Mama would often put a package of cinnamon rolls in the oven and warm those for us. Each of us would get one as we headed out the door, or on some days we would have toast. If we had to wait a long time for the bus, Mamaw would give us a bowl of cereal since her house was near the highway.
We would also entertain ourselves while waiting on those cold mornings by pretending we were smoking cigarettes because you could see your breath when you exhaled.
The kids from many farm families rode the bus, some of them had two kids, and some had seven or eight kids like us. Naturally, it didn’t take long to fill up the school bus with laughing, talkative children.
My sister Scherri liked it when the bus driver, Mr. Kelly, used to let her talk on the microphone and tell the other kids to get back in their seats when they used to act up on the bus. I’m not sure what the others kids thought about this, but they would return to their seats and be good for a while.
We always caught the bus the whole time we were going to school, were never driven there like today’s kids, except on the very first day of school as mentioned. I guess after that first day, we were supposed to have a little confidence in ourselves that we knew where to go and could show up for class on time.
All of us had to stand out by that highway come rain or shine. We had those clear plastic raincoats with hoods on them to put on if it was pouring down rain.
In the second grade, I had my first boyfriend. His name was Johnny. We would sit on the floor of the bus and play jacks on the way to school, so that made the ride a bit more fun. Looking back, I had many boyfriends all named Johnny, which was somewhat odd; it must have been a popular name for boys back then.
I had a girlfriend named JoNell during grade school. She was very tall and an only child. She taught me a lot about mythology and we would pretend we were some of the characters from Roman or Greek mythology at recess. She would also give me tests on all the gods and goddesses to see if I remembered anything that she was telling me. I learned a lot from her and I still have mythology books in my library at home. Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to that girl. She would have made an excellent teacher because she was very determined and relentless that I should learn all about mythology. I’ve always had an interest in unconventional things, more so than most people have, so actually it was easy to learn all that stuff and recess went by fast.
When I was in the 5th and 6th grade, I went to the same school that Daddy went to as a kid. It was a white block building three stories high and with very wide, wood staircases that took you up to the next level. It became very loud at times with kids running up and down those stairs. It saddened me when they tore that old school down years later and built a grocery store there. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but of course, we didn’t have a camera back then.
We had posture as a class in the 5th grade and I will never forget my teacher, Mrs. Stalcup, who would make all of us sit up straight as a board and stare straight ahead. We would have to keep this up for 45 minutes and if you didn’t have your homework or you cut up in class, she made you stay after and practice good posture. Now, think about a room full of nine-year-olds doing this. It was a challenge to be quiet and still for that long. Mrs. Stalcup had excellent posture herself, was tall and thin, and always wore her auburn hair up in a French twist.
And of course who can ever forget those amazing field trips that were a part of school. I remember going to a paper factory once. It was very stinky and something you just never would think about. I suppose it was all that water and gunk in those big vats that caused that smell.
I started high school in the 9th grade. This is when I started sewing most of my clothes and I would come to school with some strange outfits sometimes. One of my teachers, a young woman, really liked my designs. She would keep me after class sometimes and we would talk about my outfits and fashions in general. She wore some unique outfits herself for a teacher. It was around this time in my life when people started telling me I should make things and sell them. Of course, this never occurred to me at all, but would play a part in my life years later.
When we were teenagers, we would always try to get out of the house, without Mama seeing us when it came to our clothes for the day. If we wanted to wear a short skirt, or whatever else came to mind that she wouldn’t approve of, we had to be sneaky. I remember having to go to the office several times during the course of high school for my skirts being too short. They would take a ruler, in those days, make you get on your knees and measure from the floor to the hem of your dress. One time, they even sent me to the office for having my shirt tale out because it was almost as long as my skirt. They were strict in those days about clothing. I can’t believe the way they let kids dress today. Things have really changed.
All the boys were crazy about a young teacher named Mrs. Boone. She had blonde hair and looked like one of the high school students. She taught English and they all wanted to be in her class.
During my junior and senior years in high school, I already had most of my credits to graduate, except for the math and English, which everyone had to take four years of, so I had to pick two electives to take to make up my half-day of school. I worked in the afternoons.
I decided to take French and of course art class, which was my favorite and the reason I got up to attend school everyday, other than I had to. I still have an oil painting I did when I was a senior that hangs in the library of my high school. My French teacher, Mr. Storrs, was a short, stubby, middle-aged man with graying hair and a mustache. Everyone was taking Spanish, but I always wanted to do something different so I took the French instead. I could read, write, and speak it when I left high school, but I haven't used it since. In hindsight, it would have been a wiser choice to take Spanish, but I was always the one going against the grain, being a bit eccentric even as a kid.
I hated PE in school and I probably would have flunked it, if you could do such a thing. I know this will sound very odd to most people, but I never have liked any sports really and still don’t, although I was in the pep squad for the football team for a couple of years. I think I tried out for the pep squad because I liked the little blue and gray outfits they had and we got to travel around with the team to different towns on Friday nights, so I really enjoyed that. You have to remember I lived on a farm, so this was very exciting, especially to a teenager.
My jobs after school gave me my first real taste of being out on my own. In my junior year, I worked as a nurses aide in the local hospital and then for an interior design company in town in my senior year. We also got credits for doing this. Both jobs were quite an experience and someday I’ll have to share some of my adventures at those places. Naturally, this post is getting excessively long again.
Overall, I was glad to see graduation day come because I really didn’t care much for school although I was always a good student. I actually enjoy classes more as an adult than I did back then. This is because I can pick what I want to study and that makes all the difference in the world.