Back to School

By on 10 August, 2016 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Signs of back-to-school are all around us as we move to the midpoint of the month of August. Large displays of the required school supplies are advertised in all the discount stores. BOGO for pencils, erasers, pens, notebooks, crayons, and hand sanitizer (what’s that about?) are advertised. Racks of the required basic monotonous uniforms that are now the required school attire are everywhere.

But to me, it’s just a little hard to fathom as in my day the back-to-school event was always in September on the Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday. As every school I ever attended was not air-conditioned we complained enough, even in September.

Miss Gussie Woodruff’s school, all classes, circa 1915

Miss Gussie Woodruff’s school, all classes, circa 1915

So do you…

Remember when? You choose your lunch box carefully as it was a status symbol as to how cool you were. For boys it was Superman, Lost in Space or G.I. Joe. For girls, it was Barbie or pink poodle. A Snoopy lunch box was always the unisex choose. If you got one with a thermos you could sneak in Kool Aid for your lunch.

Remember when? Wearing blue jeans or a t-shirt with words printed on it was forbidden and would buy you a quick ticket home to change your clothes.

Remember when? Large pencils were handed out at class and the pencil sharpener was passed around from desk to desk each morning to sharpen them for the day’s class work.

Remember when? All classwork was done on plain lined white notebook paper and your work would not be accepted on anything else.

Remember when? School books were purchased or passed down through families. Textbooks were not provided until the mid 1960s in public schools.

Remember when? You practiced your cursive writing on the blackboard and would be graded on your handwriting on any turned in work.

Central High School was located on the site of the present day Juliette Hampton Library

Central High School was located on the site of the present day Juliette Hampton Library

Remember when? You walked with all your neighborhood friends together blocks and blocks to school. Rides from Dad were only available on rainy or very cold days. In the afternoon on the walk home there was time to stop at the school playground, if it had one, for swinging or a turn on the slide before on home for homework. If you were lucky, Friday was the only day without homework.

Remember when? Every day in the classroom began with reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag, singing the national anthem, reading a Bible verse and answering at roll call. You never dreamed of being tardy.

Remember when? You sat all day in one spot with the same teacher. If she didn’t like you or visa versa, you were doomed. No changing classes or labs or specialty teachers such as music or art.

Remember when? A carton of milk at lunch was 5 cents and only those with a doctor’s excuse for being allergic to milk were allowed to drink anything else. Teachers were lucky enough to get coffee or tea.

Remember when? If you wanted a carton of orange juice for a snack during afternoon break you paid in the morning. Some lucky boy was chosen to go to the office in the afternoon and tote back a crate with the appropriate number of cartons for the paid customers.

Remember when? Each teacher had her own way of arranging our desks. Some wanted us to be seated in alphabetical order and others put the short students in the front desks and the taller seated toward the back.

Remember when? Recess meant grabbing a large round ball for kickball or a bat and softball for a quick game on a dirt field. The girls grouped off to jump rope or played Chinese jump rope using an elastic rope spread between the ankles of two girls. And of course, the best players (of everything) played with the best and those of us less athletic played with our own kind.

Remember when? School was held every day except for natural disasters. Only snow storms, power outages, or falling ice. I only remember about five days my entire school career that school was not in session and that included Montgomery’s flood of 1961, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the funeral for President Kennedy. The National Guard brought water to our school during the flood and we watched funerals, inaugurations, and many other special events on the classroom television as a class with educational narration on the event by our teacher.

This is just a personal narrative on my early educational experience. I’m sure we thought those school days would never end and the next summer was soooo far away but I think I turned out okay! So I think I’ll indulge myself with the purchase of a new large box of Crayolas!

Carole King (not the singer, just the hummer) enjoys midtown living from South Capitol Parkway in Capitol Heights where she has lived for 25+years. Carole has been the historic properties curator for the Landmarks Foundation that manages Old Alabama Town for 28 years and is passionate about neighborhoods, their architectural character, their people, and their preservation!

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