Back to school caught up with me this year…but then again I am almost 62. I was at my dentist yesterday getting a wisdom tooth filled, that is right a wisdom tooth…as I can not afford to loose what little wisdom that I have obtained, when she told me that today was the first day of school for her children. I thought…what…this could not be…summer just started!
The beginning of school meant for me that the three times per week automobile trips to Pounds Hollow creek…were over for the season. It meant that the staying out after dark to catch fire flies…had ended. But…that was somewhat later…for the first grade….it was a totally new adventure!
I vividly recall my first day of first grade in 1962 at Hillcrest School in Eldorado, Illinois. My mom and dad and I had recently moved from the Chicago suburbs to a ghost house on Illinois Avenue that was just across the street from the football field of Eldorado High School, that years later I would attend. My cousin Brenda walked me to school and she was in the 8th grade. It was so hot in the classroom. With all of the windows open…it still felt like an oven and the fans that were meant to alleviate our suffering felt like blast furnaces!
My first pleasant memory was Janie and Debbie greeting me…and I thought that perhaps I could do this school thing!
We studied a little while and then there was recess…and then we studied a little more…and there was lunch…and then two more recesses doing the afternoon…and cold milk to boot!
Mrs. Kittinger was our teacher and I thought that she was beautiful! She was so nice to me that I soon forgot how badly I missed my mom!
I loved shopping for school supplies! The notebooks and pencils and large erasers and the box of 64 Crayola Crayons….was a delight! Also, each week we received the Weekly Reader!
Several of my classmates asked me if I had attended kindergarten and I did not know what that was…but I did not remember attending such a strange named function.
On the playground there were monkey bars and merry-go-rounds and teeter-toters or see saws…and you wanted to get on with a person who was roughly the same weight as you were.
I felt safe…I felt secure…I felt that I was in the professional hands of a society and a system and good people that knew what they were doing and who would take care of me and teach me what I needed to know.
I rode the school bus with Illinois Senator Dale Fowler…who was a consistently nice person and rather quiet….at that time.
I rode the teeter totter with Jackie Brooks…who daily held me in the air…and laughed.
The hot temperatures soon yielded to the on-coming fall and the leaves landed on the ground and the holiday season approached. It snowed more…in those days…in Eldorado…than it seems to now. We made snowmen and threw snow balls and made snow angels and relished being children in a small Southern Illinois community!
President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963…and the world seemed changed. My mom wept so much that I thought that he must be a member of our family. Things were different…life had taken a turn…and we did not know what road that we were on.
Dick Van Dyke was on television as well as Gunsmoke and Andy Griffith. The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits were two of my favorite programs.
Television and the movies consisted of good hearted and peaceful interactions among human beings and even the scary movies were not really scary. There was Mary Poppins and Elvis films…and movies that hinted at scandal and avarice and lust and greed…but it was up to the viewer to fill in the blanks.
That first grade Christmas I attended the Lion’s Club Christmas movie at the Orpheum Theatre and afterward received a large Christmas basket that was chock-full of holiday delights!
Danger at school never crossed my mind….it should be that way again.