View from Hickory Heights: School memories with fall in air

In just a couple of weeks I will attend my class reunion. It is sixty years for us. How can that be possible? Those young people who were so eager to get on with their lives are now retired. They are grandparents and great-grandparents.

We have just come through a pandemic with signs of resurgence everywhere. Our lives have been full. I can hardly wait to visit with classmates. This will be the first time my husband has attended with me so he will just have to visit while I make the rounds.

One of my students who I communicate with on Facebook is struggling with her oldest going to kindergarten. I can see that she has a sea of emotions. She is anxious. She is nervous. She is eager for his journey to begin. Yet she is reluctant to let him go. I remember her mom having all of those same emotions years ago. I was the kindergarten teacher. I assured her mom that everything would be fine. It was a little stressful for me because her mom was my boss! The year progressed and all was fine. She flourished. Now she is the mother and must let go.

I always told parents that things would be fine as school started. The school secretary told me that although my room was quiet, she saw many mothers leave the room in tears. When it was my turn, I had to remember what I told mothers. My children were not tearful. They were excited. They were fine leaving mother behind. The only problem I had was our dog. She did not want to leave my son there! She whined all of the way home.

Although it has been a long time, I still have vivid memories of my first day of school. My mother, of course, took me to school. When I kissed her good-by I told her that she did not need to come pick me up. I made arrangements to walk home with the boy up the street who was in first grade.

I think my mother was stunned, but she accepted my decision. David and I walked home – me at the end of my day and he for lunch. That was just the beginning of my independent streak. I had more in store for my mother. I must have been handful at that point.

My kindergarten teacher was Miss Curren. I recall the big slide in the room along with the sandbox. I do not think I ever played in the sandbox but I did ride the slide. I also remember that the dental hygienist came to clean our teeth. We had to go to a little room away from the classroom for that.

That is not the end of elementary school memories. I remember my first-grade experience as well. Mrs. Burrows was very nice. I remember her giving me a dime once because I was the only one who remembered that I was supposed to help a boy with his reading after lunch. That was my reward.

In second grade I had a rather difficult experience. My second-grade teacher died during the year. We had a series of substitutes. I also had a close friend who got tuberculosis. I recall cleaning out her desk so she could work at home. I was sent to a sanatorium for testing. Luckily, I did not contract it.

By third grade I attended a different school. Our school was to be torn down so that a new school could be built on the site. Those students in third through sixth grade got to walk to the new school which was a ways away. It was a new school.

My third-grade teacher just died. She was more than 100 years old. At the time I had her she was young. She was full of enthusiasm. We did several plays that year. I remember creating a papier-mache fawn for our play about Bambi.

My fourth-grade experience was not as exciting. I recall arguing with that teacher when she marked something wrong. She told me I used “too” incorrectly. I did not. I used it to mean also. She never did admit her mistake. I also remember creating a map of Africa that year. That was fun. Now all of those countries have changed their names and I probably would not recognize them.

In fifth grade I had Miss Clifford. She was very creative. I have a beautiful entry that she made in my autograph book, complete with a drawing. That year we made cloth rabbits and had to draw two bird pictures. She was not particularly young, but she was fun and we learned a lot.

In sixth grade I had the first man teacher. Mr. Duino was very nice. I found out he lived near where my mother worked so I saw him when I visited her. He could speak Spanish so we got the first Puerto Rican student in the district. He was a very good teacher. We enjoyed that year.

Then, it was on to what was called junior high in my day. Things were quite strict there. We changed classes. I had many men at that point. I even had a teacher that my mom had when she attended school. Mrs. Daly really liked me.

High school was after that. It was on the same campus. I will continue my memories about school sometime later.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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