What do you remember about your first day of school?




In East Texas where I live, kids start school this week. Even though I have lived in Dallas, Arlington and Waco, Texas,  and Raleigh, North Carolina, I have for the last twenty years been back home in Kilgore.  As fate would have it, my drive to work every week day takes me right in front of Kilgore Heights Elementary school where I attended the first and second grades.  This morning when I passed the school, I noticed parents escorting their kids into the building for the first day of instruction, and my thoughts went back to my first day there.

On the Tuesday after Labor Day 1958,  my turn had come at last. My older brother and sister had paved the way for me. My mother, anxious as any mother is when one of her children starts school, turned to my sister, who was about to begin the second grade.  

“Do you want me to come with you?” she asked.

“No.  I got this,” my sister said.  She took me by the hand and marched across the highway to the filling station where the bus stopped.

When we got to school, she led me down the hall to a class room in the north west corner of the building and handed me off to Ms. Jimmerson, the same teacher who had taught her and my older brother.

I found a desk in the row next to the window and sat down with my Big Chief tablet and box of crayons.


The main attraction for me was a stack of books at the front of the room.  Dick and Jane readers. I had seen those books at our house for four years, and my hands burned to have one of my own.  When I opened the cover of that book for the first time, I was hooked on the printed page. I have been hooked ever since.

Many of the most dramatic events in my early life are tied to elementary school.  In the third grade, Kilgore ISD opened a new campus.  It just so happened that my grandparents and great uncle gave the land for that campus.  In return, the school district named it after my great uncle, O.G. Chandler.  I only knew him as “bubba,” but he had been a long-time educator in these parts.  His picture hung in the school auditorium.  

In the third grade at Chandler Elementary, I watched the inauguration of John Kennedy as President of the United States.  Two and half  years later, I was on the play ground there when school officials called us inside so we could hear the announcement of President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.

All of these events happened to me in classes populated with white kids only. It was not until I reached junior high in the seventh grade that racial integration began in East Texas.  But that is the subject of another blog.


My elementary school days days are as vivid in my memory today as they were fifty years ago.

So, what about you?  What do you remember about your first day of school?


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