My school career began when my family and I lived in the James house in Van. Back when I was a youngster they didn’t have kindergarten in public school, so I attended a two-week preschool at J.E. Rhodes Elementary School. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I do remember riding a big school bus, and one classmate in particular riding in the backseat. His first name was Mark, and we eventually graduated high school together.
Later on I started first grade. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Gilbreath. My friend Lisa who used to be my neighbor was in Mrs. Moore’s class. I was disappointed that she wasn’t in my class but I’m sure I made other friends. As a big sister I didn’t mind taking on responsibility, but once when the teacher was out of the room I took it upon my six-year-old self to stand up and tell the class to be quiet. Imagine my humiliation when the teacher caught me and gave me a quick swat with her hand on my backside. And I was only trying to help!
My first grade class picture. Can you find me? (middle row, fourth from right)
My friend Mark stands right behind me.
I wasn’t always that sure of myself, though. I remember sitting on the couch in our tiny living room while Daddy watched out the front window for the big yellow bus that would take me to school. I clutched a box of 64 Crayola crayons wrapped with a rubber band under which was stuck two buffalo-head nickels for the snack bar so I could buy a big red sucker or some Sugar Babies. Yes, the school peddled candy to children and we lived!
As the bus neared our driveway, my parents would send me out the door where I would, with great difficulty, climb the bus steps with my short little legs and find an empty seat among all the big noisy kids. I felt so very small, and I can’t imagine how my parents must have felt watching me get on that big school bus. I remember sitting next to an older girl with a long ponytail, bony knees, and long black hair on her legs. Girls wore dresses to school in those days.
At some point that year, my brother and I came down with the measles. Not the three-day German measles (rubella) but the more serious measles or rubeola. There were no vaccines back then, or at least they weren’t widely available or recommended like they are today. I remember lying on the couch and being very ill. Fortunately we suffered through the illness and recovered. I’m not sure how much school we missed.
Coming home from school every day was memorable. Stay tuned for story time, music, Mercury dimes, and swimming lessons.