Sunday, July 23, 2006

First grade

The school was a large, imposing, sandstone building that stood up on a hill next to the courthouse. The classroom windows were the largest windows I had ever seen. The windows on the front of the building were like eyes glaring down on all that dared approach those hallowed halls and the front doors were like a mouth, opening and closing, eating and spitting out little children. I had really gotten excited about 1st grade at Sturgis elementary school but now I was shaking in my shoes grasping my new pencil box in one hand and clasping my mothers hand in the other. My mother opened the door and tried to make me enter before her but I held on tight lest she disappear. I was amazed at what lie before me. I was standing in the entryway and a great, shiny, floor rose up ahead of me stretching to a tiny door at the other end. The wooden floors were clean and glistening and had neat doors equally spaced along the walls with big glass in each door. Between the doors, which were all standing open, were rows and rows of chrome coat hoods all about head high and all evenly spaced. I pointed and asked my mom what that white porcelain thing was hanging on the wall. She responded that it was a drinking fountain. I had never seen one before. A desk was blocking our way down the hall and a young girl was seated at the desk with papers in front of her. My Mom stepped up to the desk and said “Mr. Theodore Raymond Dickson “. I was horrible embarrassed and could look only at the floor or the table. The young girl shuffled through her papers, said “Mrs. Swanson’s room” and pointed to the right. We went down a hall and a door on my right, as we passed, I would later find out was to the bowls of the school and the boiler. A big red shiny bell was on the wall to my left and I would also later learn was a fire alarm bell. Inside the door was my 1st grade classroom and most of the desks were already filled. Mrs. Swanson walked up and my mother introduced us both. Mrs. Swanson held out her hand and shook mine and said “Would you like me to call you Theodore, Ted or Teddy young man?” I said Teddy and I should have said Ted as it took me about 6 more years to lose “Teddy”. Oh well it could have been worse because up to now I had always been called “Teddy Ray” and I hated it.

As Mrs. Swanson took my pencil box and me to my new desk, I glanced around the room and none of my friends were in my class. Little did I know but the school had already been warned about my two friends, Steve and Denny, and I. We were not to be put in the same classroom. We had all attend kindergarten together and caused enormous problems for the Sisters. The three of us were Presbyterians but the Catholic church operated a girls Academy and were the only ones to offer Kindergarten, so off we went. I’ll guarantee you that they didn’t slap your hands with a ruler in any of the protestant schools. I was treated to that punishment on my 1st day in Kindergarten. The second time she did it I caught the ruler and broke it in half. At some time later she hit me in the back of my legs with a stick and because of my response, I ended up sitting in Mother Superiors office until my Mother came and got me. I didn’t go back.

We were pre-baby boomers but already we represented a numbers problem for the schools all across the country. For the first time ever there was going to be three classes in every grade level that we entered. The school administrators were already looking at blueprints to build a new elementary school next to our school.

As I sat at my desk and looked around I noticed two things. #! My mother was no where to be seen and #2 all of the walls had blackboards on them. Mrs. Swanson printed her name on the blackboard and I was really impressed with the pure white chalk and the neatness of her name. I remember very little of my first grade year except that I was very impressed with a pretty little girl named Marlene and that I was in the Chipmunk reading group and I wanted to be in the squirrel group. The entire time 1st thru 8th grades I never once heard of someone getting hit on their hands with a ruler or one the back of their legs with a stick but I did hear the stories about the hose and in the 8th grade I got to see it close up, real close up.

1 comment:

T. F. Stern said...

When I was a little guy the coach pulled me into the office for acting silly. He was going give me "swats", so I was bent over the desk waiting. Instead he hit the side of his metal file cabinet and I cleared the desk like a jumping frog. He let me off with a warning, so to speak, and I decided not to ever get called into his office again.