I Wuz Just Thinking: School Days and School Daze

One of my first books, the one that taught me to read. I will cherish it forever.

On the hot days of school, we could come bare-footed if we wanted to, which was great for us. We never wore shoes unless we went to Sunday church.

The stores are filled with school supplies and clothing as children prepare for another school year. This makes me think back to the my first day of school.

On the day after Labor Day in the year 1952, I began first grade at Eastview Elementary, which was about a couple of blocks – within easy walking distance – from our home.

I was nearly the age of seven since my birthday on October 1 came along just after the cut-off date of September 30.  I probably could have started a year earlier, but my mother and the school principal, Mr. Kyle Bates, thought it might be best if I waited until the next year so maybe I could talk plainer by then because, I was, and am, tongue-tied. Now they would say I had a speech impediment.

I may have been a little more mature, but my speech was not any better.  At the time, no one knew I was half-deaf as well, so I could not hear or understand the correct pronunciation of the words.  Dr. Allums later determined that when I had the mumps, it settled in one ear, so therefore I couldn’t hear.

For several days each week, during my first three years of study, I went with some other children who had special issues, week to the “Orphan Annie” little white house on the high school campus for speech therapy. I was taught how to pronounce words correctly.

Through the years, sometimes the kids would make fun of children that attended the little white house. I was always self-conscious about anyone knowing that I was one of those students.  I did not want to be ridiculed or laughed about.  The other students there were my friends and wonderful children. I did not want them humiliated either.

Betty Mahurin Baker

First grade was so special to me.  A new dress, new shoes, a Big Chief writing tablet, a large yellow pencil, and a box of new crayons.  What else could a girl hope for?

Mrs. Rodney was our teacher.  She appeared to be quite old to us young children.  She was so nice and taught us so many new things.  C-A-T, is the first word I remember ever learning to spell.  Dick, Jane, and Sally were the characters of our first book. It had beautiful colored pictures.  Sally’s teddy bear was named Tim, the cat Puff, and Spot was the dog.

On the hot days of school, we could come bare-footed if we wanted to.  Most of us always went bare-footed from Easter Sunday thru the summer anyway and had no need to wear shoes except for Sunday church.  Then, as soon as we got home, off they came.

Recess was one of my favorite times of the school day.  I loved to run, run, run!  I’m afraid I was in college before I realized it was not lady-like to be running across campus. That’s when I made myself slow down and walk.

I liked to play baseball and sports in general.  Laretta Cagle and Marilyn Green were the fastest runners in the school. I won first place in the run-hop-skip-jump contest. In the fourth grade, I was beating out the sixth-grade girls.

Mr. James Kennedy was our coach during recess.  He was such a wonderful man and so patient.  He also drove a bus.  The kids would throw their papers or candy wrappers on the bus floor, and Mr. Kennedy would pay me two bits, a whole quarter, to sweep the bus.

One day in the first grade, a little second-grade boy wanted to get on the bus while I was sweeping.  I knew he was not supposed to come on the bus and told him he had to get off.  He went and told Coach Kennedy that I had said a bad word.

Coach came and asked me if I had said a bad word. If I had, he would have to wash my mouth out with soap.  That frightened me and I told him I did not say a bad word and told him what I had said.  Again, I was tongue-tied so no telling what the words may have sounded to the little boy.

One day, the teacher asked me to take a note to Coach Kennedy.  While he read the message, he asked me to show the other children how to do cartwheels.  I used to do them over and over again.

That time, I got too close to the fence, and it caught me just above the eye, cutting the skin.  It began bleeding and Coach took me to Ms. Stewart, the school nurse.  I still have that scar just above the eye, which creates a little curve in that brow.

I also loved music. Our teacher, Mrs. Doris Nyvall, taught us to sing such cowboy songs as “Home On The Range” and “Red River Valley,” as well as  “Skip to My Lou,” “Working on the Railroad,” “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” and, of course, “Old McDonald Had A Farm.”

I loved quiet time when we listened to the record player during music class in the school auditorium.  The acoustics were great.  I still remember the music of “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”  Strange how things like that have stayed in my mind and after all of these years,  I can still hum the music.

It won’t be long now.

School will begin anew.

New classes.

New students.

I pray that their days will be as memorable as mine. Even my bad days don’t seem so bad anymore.

I Wuz Just Thinking.


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