I’d never before in my life seen so many people my size! The room was full of them! I don’t remember much about how that day began. How did I get there? On a school bus, I suppose, but I have no idea now, sixty-five years later.
The room was full of little people like me – and confusion. No one knew what to do or where to go. There was only one adult, she was very nice, and pretty, but even she wasn’t sure what to do. Some people were sitting down, they seemed less confused than the rest. I didn’t know why. Later, I learned they were in second grade and had been here the year before. The rest of us were new to all this.
There were not enough seats for everyone. Finally, the teacher told me to sit with another boy. He was nice and scooted over in his seat. I’m not sure now, but I think he was a distant cousin, Gary. I don’t know if we knew each other before this, but we went through grade school and high school together and stayed friendly the rest of his life. Though he lived close by, and we were related, our families didn’t socialize.
Gary lived only about a mile and a half from my house, which was closer than anyone else in my class, but we never played together. I never considered walking to his house. To do so would have meant walking on the road and that was more dangerous than walking through the pasture to Granma’s. We never even talked about going to each others houses. We rode the same school bus, and some times sat with each other, but not all the time.
One time, on the school bus, at the end of the route, something happened to the bus and it stopt running. There were four students left. One, a bigger girl, who’s house was just ahead of us, walked home even though the bus driver told her not to. The other three were myself, this cousin and his older sister. She pulled out a book and began reading. Gary and I had nothing to do and had to stay in the bus. The bus on the side of a hill so the bus was at a slight incline. The incline made it a different kind of place, so we ran – one at a time, the length of the bus. For a while that was fun, but we got tired and just had sit or stretched out on a seat.
We were there for a long time. There were no radios on the buses then, no portable phones. No one at the school knew there was a problem until the empty bus did not return. Then someone had to take another bus and follow our route until they found us. I’m sure we were there for an hour because each bus route was about an hour long. It was a long day for us, but I remember running uphill and down the aisle of that bus!
I think the teacher soon passed out paper and a few crayons to each desk. We hadn’t set there long before we were drawing something on the paper and the room was quieter. This may have given the teacher some time to think. There was no pre-enrollment that I was aware of. I don’t think the school had more than a vague idea of how many students to expect. It was a few days before we each had our own desk.
I had another cousin, also related to Gary, who was also in that same grade, and I knew him. Our families saw each other once in a while, his father was my grandmother’s brother, and they went to the same church as we did, but not as often. The two other boys had the same last name though they weren’t as closely related.
In my little class of about twenty, there were, counting us, at least three sets of cousins. Each set shared the same last name except for me. That may be when I began to want to go to Germany to find cousins with my same last name. Three decades later, when I made my first trip and met my great grandfather’s family, I learned I have no cousins with my last name. All the boys in several generations had been killed as the result of one war or another.
There was no Kindergarten, no pre-school when I started school. We started in first grade, that was the beginning of school. I may have been able to say the alphabet, but writing the letters was a new experience. Above the chalkboard, around the room, were large cards with the letters on them, in upper case and lower case, to help us draw them. I remember looking at that chart a lot.
There was a lot to look at in that room. Not only the letter guides, and numbers, but other displays the teacher made, often there were drawings the students made, and some times even things hanging from the light fixtures. And, there were the other students.
It was a small school. The building had two rooms and a basement. First and second grades were in the north room, third and fourth were in the south room. North of the building was the playground. North of that was the old high school where the fifth through eighth grades were. Behind all of this was the new high school. On the other side of the new high school a new grade school was being built. At the end of second grade that building was finished and we moved into it. I remember moving day very well.
We had regular lessons in the morning. After lunch the schedule was very different. First, we had to clean out out our desks. We weren’t taking trash into the new building! One by one the classes moved. I think the older classes went first. My class moved at the end of the day. When it was our turn, big boys came into our room. Each one of them picked up a desk, and carefully so our books and things would not fall out. Each student picked up their own chair. Each of us followed the big boy with our chair. We made a parade out of our classroom, down the steps, across the playground, passed the high school and into our new room. We had to stay in order so the desks could be put down in the new room in the same order as the old room.
We were surprised to find tiny rooms in the front and back of our classroom – with a toilet in it! One was for girls, the other was for boys. Each was shared with the adjoining classroom, so you had to remember to shut BOTH doors, and do it softly. At the back of each classroom was a sink for us to wash our hands afterwards. The lessons on hygiene were as important as any other. In the old school, the toilet was a pair of outhouses behind the school. Most of us had outhouses at home, so this was no big deal, but bathrooms in the classroom was family news at the end of moving day!
Decades later, my last day of teaching, as a substitute, was in that new school building. By then it had been expanded several times. The once new high school had been connected to it, and another addition added to the connecting hallway, so that the room I taught in had once been the driveway between the buildings where the buses loaded and unloaded students. That was strange! Since then, another addition has been added on to the back of that! My school, that was a country school in a small community, is now a suburban school not far from town and is one of the feeder schools to the district middle school and high school. Neither current students or teachers have any idea what it once was like to attend there.