Wednesday, September 26, 2012

School Days: Elementary School

I do not remember much about my days in grades K-8 except that I did not especially like school or my teachers or myself. I dreaded being assigned every quarter to sit next to someone new. I did not have many friends, was bullied, and wasn’t a particularly bright student.

When I applied myself in class, which wasn’t often, I had to work hard to earn a decent grade. I was no good in gym and dreaded team games knowing I was the preverbal last one to get picked. I was number one in my graduating class ... procession order being based on height ... shortest to tallest.
I do remember the desks were bolted to the floor. Each one with its hole for an ink bottle, long abandoned with the advent of cartridge ink pens. Next followed the by the new fangled ball point pen. Some of my teachers refused to let us use a ball point pen because it was inappropriate! What ever that meant. 

We practiced “cursive” in earnest every morning for 30 minutes. My handwriting was terrible and only improved once I became a teacher and had to write on the black board for my own students.
I would always embarrass myself when we took turns reading the subtitles of the filmstrips aloud until one teacher finally recommended that my parents have my eyes checked and subsequently I was fitted with glasses.
Every morning the milk monitors would silently enter the room and load the chalk ledge by the door with glass bottles of milk that we were able to buy for 3¢. They were consumed at recess. When it rained we had indoor recess in the basement of the school. Long benches were attached around the perimeter of the room. In one corner was a finger sized hole in the plaster, where the School Monster lived. He would bite off your finger if you stuck your finger in said hold. I never was brave enough to try.

On each classroom wall was a large Regulator Clock. It had a round face with large numbers and a second hand as well as the minute and hour hands which moved around the face of the clock. The bottom of the clock was like an inverted house with the swinging pendulum. The very loud tick tock tick tock sometimes counted the last fifteen minutes until school was out, and it seemed to count very slowly. When the class got too rowdy, the teacher would say, “I want it so quiet in here that I can hear the clock tick.” And she did or we had to "write sentences," meaning "I will behave in class." some 25 or 50 times.
In sixth grade, I was so unfocused that Mr. Rosengarden threatened to “flunk me.” He had a conference with my crying mother and I promised to do better. He showed my mother the top left drawer in his desk which was entirely devoted to storing the toys he had taken from me during the year. 

I remember putting my all into a research report on the difference in cigarettes. I contacted many cigarette companies, used the information they sent me, and created little plastic envelopes of the various types of tobacco used by the various companies. Cigarettes? Well it was the 50’s you know! Mr. Rosengarden, who always smelled of tobacco, flunked me anyway!

On "passing" day, the class lined up and were delivered to their next room, 6B. Mr. R then took me down to my repeat 6A grade class where Mrs. McDaniels was the teacher. I was mortified, as you can imagine. Mrs. McDaniels, my new teacher, had bosoms that were so large that when she crossed her arms (which she often did) they rested on top, as if sitting on a shelf. She was very supportive and I survived the semester. I applied myself, got good grades, and went to summer school to make up the semester I had lost.

My favorite memory of elementary school is Lazar's School Store. It was located across the street from the playground and was off limits during recess. Often I would visit the store anyway and never got caught. You could bring your lunch to school or go home or go to Lazar's. Your parent would call in your hamburger or hotdog, French Fries cooked in lard, and soda pop order and Mrs. Lazar would have the food ready at lunchtime. Mr. Lazar set up benches and boards on saw horses where we sat to eat. Best French Fries I have ever eaten.

In the front of the school store Mr. Lazar tended the penny candy counter. The counter was built with glass on all sides and the top, held together with dark oak wood, and with sliding doors on the back where Mr. Lazar stood. Two or three glass shelves were filled with boxes of penny candy. He had the patience of Job as you selected one of these and two of those, which he would put into a small brown paper bag. To this day I can close my eyes and see that candy counter and its contents.

I so loved penny candy (and do to this day) that my entrepreneurial, nine year old self approached Mr. Lazar with an offer. For ten cents, after lunch I would clean up the dirty paper plates and empty soda bottles from the sawhorse/board tables. He was grateful for the help. Then I would spend my ten cents, plus my daily allowance of five cents, plus small change I pilfered from the bottom of my mothers purse his candy counter.

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