I was in Mrs. Butts’s third grade class at J.E. Rhodes Elementary in Van, Texas. Mrs. Butts was a tall and beautiful lady who always had a smile ready. The main thing I remember about her class is the make-believe post office she had at the back of her classroom. Or was that in Mrs. Russell’s second grade classroom?
The post office was a child-sized building likely made of cardboard, with a counter and mail slots, and we each got turns playing postmaster. I couldn’t wait to finish my work so I could check my mail. If I recall correctly, our valentines were delivered through the classroom post office that year. With all the playhouses and bounce houses and Crayola towns and museum towns these days, a makeshift post office in the classroom might not be as exciting as it was to me in 1968. I wish I could find a photo online of one but my search found nothing similar.
Another thing I remember about Mrs. Butts’s class was the spelling bee she held occasionally. We would compete with the other third grade classes. I remember Mrs. Ice’s class coming in to our room once, and I’m sure we went to other classrooms as well. I loved spelling contests, as we called them, because I have always been a good speller.
We would line up on either sides of the room and the teacher would call out a spelling word. The first one in line would attempt to spell it, and if she missed, she would have to sit down and the word would go to the other team. I always felt sorry for the first person to have to sit down. It was usually a “dumb boy” (not my words, a friend’s!). I’m not sure I ever won a contest, because I usually missed a letter or two, but I made a lot of 100’s on spelling tests.
Third grade was a happy year, as I recall. What about you? How was your third grade?
Can it be? Can he really be gone? Eddie Van Halen was a fixture. Although he did have an unhealthy lifestyle of alcohol and probably drug abuse as the lead guitarist and cofounder of the 70’s rock group Van Halen, it just seemed he would live forever. Music is immortal. I guess musicians are not.
I believe it was my brother who introduced me to Van Halen in 1978 after their first self-titled album came out. Popping that 8-track tape into his car’s tape deck introduced me to “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Eruption,” and others. I was hooked. This was back in the day before music videos and YouTube, and we had no idea what these guys looked like, either. The album cover on the tape was barely visible. We just knew that we really liked their music.
That same year I met the boy who would become my husband. He was a concert aficionado, so when tickets for the legendary annual concert, the Texxas Jam, became available the next summer, Jimmy ordered two and we found ourselves at the Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium in June.
Summer in Texas is no joke, and even though June isn’t the hottest month of the summer, our seats were high in the stadium and in direct sun. Young and dumb as we were, we used absolutely no sunscreen and brought no water. I wore a spaghetti string top and was burned so badly my shoulders were solid blisters for days, second-degree burns which could have made me sick and could still lead to melanoma. I just didn’t know better.
It was all worth it when Van Halen came onstage. Seeing the band in person, seeing what the band members looked like and how they performed was magical. Lead singer David Lee Roth and lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen captured my heart. Who could resist David’s long blonde curls, sexy voice, and athletic stage presence and Eddie’s cute smile and guitar riffs?
Jimmy and I would see three Van Halen concerts before our kids came and we stopped going to concerts altogether. We saw them at Shreveport’s Hirsch Memorial Coliseum (where we also watched Ted Nugent and KISS) in 1980 and Dallas’s Reunion Arena in 1981.
Eddie Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli, whom I also loved from the TV show “One Day at a Time,” in April of 1980, just four months after we married in January of that year. As I grew busy with raising a family and teaching school, I grew less interested in the band and what was going on with them, and when David Lee Roth quit the band and Sammy Hagar became the lead singer, I lost interest. It was my feeling that no one could replace David. It was sad that the band couldn’t get along.
Losing Eddie Van Halen almost feels like losing part of my past. I know that his family is mourning, and I don’t mean to diminish their grief at all, but I’m sure that many other fans from that era must feel the same way. We can’t go back, but we can certainly listen to the music (thank you, Spotify) and fetch those memories of our youth.
I hope Eddie knew the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray he did. Thank you for the memories and the music, Eddie. They will live on.
It was 1966 when I entered second grade. I was tasked with keeping up with my brother Allen on the school bus, making sure he was on it in the afternoon and that he got off the bus in the morning once we arrived at school. He and I were often mistaken for twins, but he is fourteen months younger than I am, so he was in the first grade.
My teacher that year was Mrs. Russell, and I fast became one of her favorites. Or at least I thought I was. Maybe every one of her students had the same thought. She chose me to help her make bulletin board pictures, placed me in reading group one (bluebirds, or something of that sort–everyone knew we were the smartest), and sometimes kept me in the room during the last recess to be her helper.
One day as I was working at my desk, a tall slender man with black-rimmed glasses came into the classroom with Principal Moore. Mr. Moore was getting up in years with plans to retire. The man who had come in with him would be our new principal the next school year.
Mr. Darragh spoke to Mrs. Russell and then knelt down by my desk. What was he doing? I’m sure my face turned red, being singled out like that.
“What’s your name, young lady?” he asked, and after I told him, he told me what a pretty little girl I was and what a beautiful name I had. From that point on, Mr. Darragh would go out of his way to talk to me and even took an interest in what I planned to do with my life later on. Once, when I was in high school and saw him in the school cafeteria, he told me he thought I would make an excellent teacher. At the time I had no intention of being a teacher, but God had different plans, and He hinted at them through Mr. Darragh’s remark.
Second grade was a fun, innocent year of becoming a fast reader, moving to a new house, chasing and being chased by boys on the playground, and enjoying just being a kid growing up in the country. I was blissfully unaware of the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, the shooting rampage at the University of Texas in Austin, or the marriage of Elvis Presley to Priscilla Beaulieu.
My parents rented houses and apartments for their growing family up until I was seven years old. I remember living in six different houses, but there was at least one I don’t remember. Then Daddy decided to buy us a house. A new house. A bigger house. Less than five years old, with three bedrooms and full closets, wood paneling, and a huge yard. Mama was so excited. They financed it with Daddy’s boss and a mortgage for $8000. (This was 1966.)
So I grew up in that house. My brother and two sisters and me. My sisters shared a bedroom with me, and we had three twin beds in one room, just like “The Brady Bunch” sisters. In fact, I idolized Marcia Brady. I wanted to be just like her.
My brother, being the only boy, got a room all to himself. He didn’t stay in there by himself, though. He took great delight in terrorizing his sisters. He and I are only fourteen months apart, so sometimes I got to do things with him that our younger sisters did not. He would build an entire ranch in the dirt pile under a huge oak tree at the corner of our backyard, and allow me to use some of his Tonka trucks to have a ranch near his. He used his wide open hand to make the roads. I always asked him to make mine because I just couldn’t quite get the knack for it.
After moving into that house in May, we played outdoors all summer long, riding bicycles in the asphalt road, making roads in the dirt, playing with the water hose, and running barefoot everywhere. We got poison oak (similar to ivy), chiggers, ticks, wasp stings, pinworms, and sunburns, but we had a blast.
I guess this house was “the house that built me.” What about you? Do you have fond childhood memories? Was there a special childhood home?