Hard to imagine now, but I fought against that first day, a big one in my parents’ minds, when I entered kindergarten and would be out of my mother’s hair for a few hours. I didn’t want to go, but, of course, had no choice. My final acceptance was accompanied by a reward: a pair of roller skates bearing no resemblance to the wheeled footwear currently in vogue. Definitely a bribe.
This was the first of 13 years that would well prepare me for college which in turn would help me achieve the good life.
Kindergarten and grades one through eight were based at Columbian Grammar School built in 1892 and named after Christopher Columbus on the 400th anniversary of his discovery of America. It’s still there today, repurposed.
I lived perhaps a half mile or more from the school. There was no cafeteria although there was a room for brown bagging. I ate lunch at home which meant I had to get to school in the morning, come home for lunch, return to school, and finally end the day back home. I walked. Often by myself. Can you imagine that now? Back then there wasn’t the slightest element of danger. At least none we knew about.
They say teachers have immense influence on their students. I believe it. A teacher stayed with a class for two years so I had four during my post kindergarten time at Columbian. I remember the names of three.
Miss Harris, a nice woman, was first and second grade. I recall arranging our chairs in a circle and taking turns reading. I was so excited because my turn included the big word “Thanksgiving” and I had figured it out. I trace my love of books to Miss Harris.
Then came Miss Agnew for the next two years. I hated her. I can’t recall why but it was so bad that I faked illness that kept me out for nine weeks! I’d start to feel better on weekends but would have a “relapse” as Monday morning approached. How did I fool my parents so effectively?
I cannot recall anything about grades five and six although I think I liked the teacher.
Then Miss Madden took over for the final two years. I didn’t like her either. Her sister, another Miss Madden, also taught but at a different school. I remember my parents invited both over for a picnic in our back yard and I was mortified, terrified my friends would discover the invasion. My parents apparently had a higher opinion of the women than did I. Upon reflection, I think my parents were right!
Miss Madden would drill us on arithmetic. This was before the days algebra was taught at that level. She had cards about the size of those in a standard bridge deck on which were four problems: an addition and subtraction on one side and a multiplication and division on the other. Each card was different, so no two students had the same problems.
We worked out the solutions and took our papers to Miss Madden to check. I was astounded that she barely glanced at the work before pronouncing right or wrong. She must be a mathematical genius, I thought. Then I understood. There was a now long forgotten algorithm that allowed her to look at the two numbers involved in an operation and jot down the answer. After I figured it out, all I had to do was write the correct result. I appeared at the desk for checking almost instantaneously. Poor Miss Madden sighed.
With all the fuss these days about recess, it’s interesting we had organized activity for about an hour every day.
I had my first date while in eighth grade. I still remember it. We went to a movie, after I asked my father what you did on a date. I later learned he didn’t tell me the entire story. But both sets of parents were helpful, providing transportation and probably the necessary money, maybe as much as a half dollar. I think they worked harder on making the date work than we kids did.
Next came high school where, I’d heard, you saw different teachers all in the same day. Imagine that!