A Hog a Day Part 18

Linda First GradeIn some ways, my older sister Phyllis was a parent’s dream.  She would walk a mile to follow a rule and was always on the lookout to alert my parents of mine and Billy’s actual or suspected transgressions.  We must have been satisfying siblings to a natural-born tattler.  On occasion she would report, “Linda did such and such.”

Most of the time, Mother either took action or sent Phyllis back to straighten me out.  However, once in a while, Mother replied, “That’s okay.”

Realizing she’d needlessly missed out on the fun, she’d ask.  “Then can I?”

Phyllis was a perfect student and never missed a spelling words the whole time she was in grade school except for forgetting to dot the I in President and not crossing the T in Grandfather.  When I followed three years behind her, the teacher always said, “Oh, you’re Phyllis’s sister.  She was the best kid in class and always did such neat work.”  I was so proud the first time I heard that ominous description, totally unaware that I wouldn’t be shooed into that position with no effort on my part. I thought the role was inherited, not earned.  I wasn’t even on the good kid list.  I was sloppy, careless in my work, chattered incessantly, rarely got to class with homework or school supplies, and was best-known for staring out the window when  I should have been listening.  Billy, who followed three years behind me probably dealt with a whole new type of comparison.  The second day of school, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mother and Daddy that Mrs. Crow said I was a scatterbrain, having no idea it was not an honor.  It didn’t take long for Daddy to bring me up to speed on that.

I was fairly bouncing my first day of school, delighted with my red and green-checked book satchel and school supplies.  I’d been admiring the two fat yellow, pencils, box of eight chubby crayons, jar of paste, blunt-ended scissors, and Big Chief tablet for days.   When Mrs. Crow had us introduce ourselves,  I was horrified to find I was sitting next to a girl named Virginia. Weeks before I started school, Phyllis had misinformed me that the name of female genitalia was Virginia.  I couldn’t imagine what would make any parent name their little girl after that particular body part, but knew I wouldn’t be able to talk to her. I might get in trouble for talking dirty. If that wasn’t bad enough, the boy on the other side of me was named Peter!  I hadn’t been in class an hour before Mrs. Crow confiscated my paste just because I tasted it, finding it sweet, but pretty bland.  She didn’t like it when I stuck my fat yellow pencil up my nose, either.  My school experience was going downhill fast.



Bad News Travels Fast!

Linda First GradeIn our rural community, we didn’t have phones till the early sixties.Only one or two mothers in the whole community worked.  Most families had only one car, so women were most likely home unless they walked to a near neighbor’s home for coffee accompanied by their infants and toddlers.  The point of this story is, when we got in trouble at school, the news often beat us home.  I don’t know how, but Mother invariably knew what I’d gotten in trouble for.  I suspect my older sister may have ratted me out, or the teacher sent a sneaky note home by her, but news always got home.  A few times, my mother heard through the grapevine.  It was certainly a different day and time.  Should my offense be minor, Mother took care of the problem, but if it were a matter heinous enough to warrant a note or invitation to a conference at school, I had to deal with Daddy.  That was never nice.  It would have been so much happier for me if my parents had held the teacher’s attitude or methods responsible, but alas, the judgment came right back to me.

Goody, Goody! Goody, Goody!

The first and last days of school I got called down for running my mouth, and probably every day between. Born without a muffler or filter it paid off handsomely if not happily. My sister, Phyllis, on the other hand was the model of decorum and every teachers’ darling. It was unlikely she ever got scolded, but she often had to be told to “let someone else answer.” Of course, she knew all the answers, since she did all her homework as soon as she got in from school. From her earliest days, it was obvious she’d be a wonderful teacher, which she was. All her games revolved around playing school, especially after my teacher relatives passed discarded textbooks on to us. Many of those books were still in use in our classrooms. Imagine her joy when she poured over them and started school way ahead of her class. I was not so much interested in the textbooks and playing school. That’s where our trouble lay. She expected me to be her perfect student, as we went from reading to math to science to geography.
I was all in to the reading lesson, but ready to go when we moved on. That wasn’t how her school worked. She’d get her fly-back paddle after me, so school was over and the fight was on. I never hung around too long. She’d go to Mother to back up her discipline and get disappointed time after time. Home-schooling just didn’t work for her.
To my great joy, Phyllis did get in trouble one time. In the first grade, she shared a desk with Richard. Travis sat right behind them. When Mrs. Hanks passed back their work, Phyllis and Richard got an A. Travis got an F. Phyllis and Richard turned around and sang to him, “Goody, goody Travis.” Mrs. Hanks called them to the front of the class and made them sing to each other, “Goody, goody, Phyllis. Goody, goody, Richard.” Of course, Phyllis came straight home with the story of how she’d suffer, only to get more trouble. That took care of their classroom “Goody, goodies” but I think I still heard it at home a few times.

Her Facts Didn’t Run

Our school was tiny, so tiny that even with two grades sharing a room and teacher, there were still usually less than fifteen students in the two grades. The good news was, if you didn’t learn everything you should have in second grade math, you got another crack at it in third grade while the new second grade covered the same material. Though each class used different books, the lessons sounded much the same.

With the large families of the fifties and sixties, it was inevitable that teachers taught entire families over the years. This wasn’t a problem for the good student. I followed Phyllis, perfection incarnate. She studied the rule book at night for extra credit. Billy was lucky enough to come right behind me, a scatterbrain known for daydreaming and chattering in class. The only thing he had to contend with was “I hope you sit still and pay attention better than your sister.” I don’t think it worried him much. At the end of the line came Connie and Marilyn, only a year apart in age. They shared classrooms most of the time.

Marcia and Darcy, the twins, were the jewels in the crown of Miz McZumley’s teaching career, the classroom darlings. Unlike most harried, fertile mothers of our classmates, their unfortunate mother had only two children. She hovered over them, made all their identical outfits and sent crust less sandwiches, carrot sticks and home baked cookies in their lunches. They probably owned more clothes than the rest of the ragtag class put together. Worst of all, they were bashful, well-behaved children who always got to school with their homework, signed permission slips and lunch money. It was hard to find fault with them aside from pure envy. Despite being held up as examples of “all things bright and beautiful,” they were still nice kids.

Miz McZumley was adamant about two things; learning your addition and subtraction “facts” and going to the bathroom during recess. On one particularly difficult day, she had been drilling the class on their facts rigorously the period just before lunch. Frustrated with the lack of progress, she barked at the class to put their “fact sheets” away under their desks. A boy foolishly asked to go to the bathroom. She slammed her book down and roared, “NO!! You’ll be going out to lunch in fifteen minutes. I’ll spank the next one who asks to go to the bathroom.”

All over the classroom, nervous bladders spasmed. As luck would have it, one of the shyest kids in class had the fullest bladder. Poor Marcia’s bladder panicked and a golden stream trickled down, pooling on the books and papers on the shelf under her desk and the floor. Kids tittered until Miz McZumley noticed the problem. In a moment of kindness she sent the class outdoors, letting some of the girls stay to help Marcia gather her books and papers to lie on the window sill to “air out.” That evening Connie and Marilyn couldn’t wait to report Marcia’s disaster, but were relieved that, in spite of being wet, “her facts didn’t run.”

Hell No, I Just Got Here

Robby Bobby’s school career didn’t really start well. Sharing the same first grade class as his older brother Frank who was giving first grade a second try, he didn’t really get the big picture. He left his seat and headed for the playground when class got dull. Since Frank knew his way around, he grabbed Robby Bobby, dragging him back to his desk. Robby Bobby piled into him and the fight was on. The teacher untangled them, sending them both back to their seats. Shortly thereafter, Miss Burns surveyed the class, going down the line. “Do you know your alphabet? Can you count to ten?” When she quizzed Robby Bobby, he was clearly disgusted. “Robby Bobby, do you know your numbers and letters?”

“Hell no!! I just got here!” he spouted, earning a paddling on the first day of school. News of the paddling beat Robby Bobby home. At that time, a paddling at school was usually followed up by a “whooping” at home to reinforce the point, adding injury to insult. Robby Bobby dreaded seeing his daddy come home. His mama made sure he knew what was coming. Mr. Peters didn’t say a word about school, leading Robby Bobby to hope Daddy hadn’t heard, but he kept quiet at supper. After supper, his daddy took him by the hand leading him to the woodshed, the whooping place. As they walked toward it in the dark, Robby Bobby trembled in fear of what was coming. Daddy asked in his low voice, ”What’s the matter with you, boy?”

“I’m skeert.”

“Ain’t no need to be skeert, boy. I’m right here with you.” Somehow, Robby Bobby didn’t feel much better.

Robby Bobby never really took to school. Following the family tradition, he was held back a couple of times. He roamed the playground, looking for a lone kid to bully. He’d sock them a couple of times, shove them in the mud, or snatch their pants down, whichever seemed best. Joe Brown was one the smaller boys in our class, but had the advantage of having a couple of mean older brothers. He looked like a perfect target. When Robby Bobby caught Joe apart from the rest of the kids one Tuesday morning, Joe’s time had come. Robby Bobby sneaked up, snatched Joe’s cap, and punched him smartly in the kidneys. Joe didn’t know how the game was played. Instead of running off bawling, he turned and beat the phooey out of Robby Bobby. Mr. White, the principal strolled by just in time to see the whole thing. Fighting was wrong. He dragged both boys back to the classroom so we could all get the benefit of the lecture. He droned on and on before getting to the good part…….the paddling. Joe got two lackluster swats for fighting. There was no way around that. Then Joe had to answer the question, ”What did you learn today about fighting?”

Joe shuffled around and gave the stock answer. “No fighting in school, no excuses.” Joe headed for his seat so Robby Bobby could take his turn.

Mr. White gave Robby Bobby five hard swats that echoed nicely off his bony behind, pleasing the self-righteous class since most of us had suffered at his hands. We all knew Robby Bobby was in the wrong. He also had to answer the question, “What did you learn today about fighting?”

Robby Bobby looked thoughtfully from Joe Brown to Mr. White and back before replying, “Don’t pick on Joe Brown. He’s a mean little son of a bitch.”

Only a Matter of Perspective

cold kids 2We had a tight schedule when our kids were in school. By this, I don’t mean we scurried from one activity to another getting our kids to lessons and sports practices after school and on weekends. Bud and I were juggling just to get them fed, dressed, and to the bus stop in the mornings. We were both taking call at work, so it was a big job making sure one of us was there when they got home, got them started on homework, got dinner, and their baths. Throw in a few loads of laundry, a fever or sick child and it was sure to be exciting. Sometimes I felt overloaded.
“The science fair project is due tomorrow!” could make my blood run cold. A call from the teacher or bus driver, and there was no telling what changes we had to work in. No teacher ever called to say, “I just wanted to let you know your son is a delight to have in my class.” The kids thought it was a great idea to give us a note or let us know, “I need $50 today for the………. It’s the LAST DAY!”
I felt like we were stressed till we met the Ford kids who lived about a quarter of a mile down the street. They showed up at our house one frosty morning in shorts and overcoats. “Can we ride to the bus stop with y’all? We’re freezing!”
My kids were at the table eating pancakes and sausage. The Ford boys stared, open-mouthed.
“Are you boys hungry?”
“Let me get you a plate. Do you want some milk?”
“Yes ma’am.”
I fixed them up. They licked their plates, literally. The next morning, they opened the front door and climbed right up to the table. We fed those boys for the next two years till we moved. It turns out, they were being raised by a single father who had to get their baby sister to the baby-sitter in time to be at work at seven. He woke the boys as he was going out the door, telling them to get some cereal. Our lives didn’t look quite so demanding.

Ralphie Gets Tripped Up

imageDaddy got another phone call from Ralphie, the kid down the road.

“Mr. Bill?”

“Hey, Ralphie. What’s going on?”

“I wrote a poem at school and won a contest.” (On his last phone call, Ralphie had reported making all D’s and F’s and having the papers to prove it)

“Well, that’s great, Ralphie! I’m glad you’re doing better at school.”

“I won first at my school, then at district. But when they took it to state, the judge said it came out of World Book and they threw it out.”

“Well, why did they do that?

“Because it came out of World Book. Bye”

Happy as a Pig in Slop

pig in slopRalphy was a quirky kid who lived just down the road from us. When he was eight or nine, he’d call on the phone, asking to speak to Daddy. We were always interested in hearing what he had to say.

“Mr. Bill?”

“Yeah, what’s on your mind today, Ralphy?”

“My mama just bought some of that new White Cloud Bathroom Tissue. You should come try it! Bye.”

Another call:

“Mr. Bill?”

“Yeah, Ralphy. How are you today?”

“Fine. I just got my report card. I had all D’s and F’s.”

“No, Ralphy! Surely not!”

“Yep, and I’ve got the papers to prove it! Bye!”

Next call:

“Mr. Bill?”

“Hey, Ralphy. What’s going on?”

“I wrote a poem in school today. Want to hear it?”

“Why sure!”

“Rabbits love cribbage and cabbage.

Pigs love slibbage and slobbage.”

“That’s good, Ralphy. What did you make on it?”

“An F. It was supposed to be about the Flag. Bye.”

We all hung on those phone calls like a pig in slobbage.

Ruth Elaine and the Exploding Baby (Part I of II 1930s Memoir)

I was praying for salvation as the class suffered along with Luther Simpson through a page of Jane and Fluff the Kitten.  The second-graders pretended to work on their sums across the aisle. in our shared classroom in 1935 in East Texas. Little Ruth Elaine Lawson, a girl I’d had always found dull, dropped her head to her desk and snuffled Continue reading