First of all it would have been impossible to begin the school year in August because of cotton picking. Some retired teachers from Fannin County told me of schools that started in early August, before cotton was ready to pick, but they had a recess of several weeks when the crop did come in.
Second, the list of grades that needed supplies included kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. We1940s kids began our schooling in First Grade, which meant a lot of us were not used to being away from home and Mother for the better part of a day.
A psychologist might say we were not “socially prepared” for school. I remember a good many tears being shed and also some mothers who were reluctant to go home. (Nowadays, some parents are slow to turn loose of their kid at college!)
There was no “Meet the Teacher” session at Marquez school. If there had been, perhaps Mother would have been warned that sending me to school in neatly pressed khakis hindered me from fitting in with the other boys.
The khakis were especially embarrassing on the chilly day I wet my pants (being too shy to ask permission to go to the toilet). My teacher, Mrs. Evans, kept me inside beside the radiator during recess. I was coping pretty well until her bigmouth daughter from Fifth Grade came in with, “What’s wrong with him?”
The current list of supplies needed by First Graders is quite lengthy, but I can’t remember bringing anything more than a Big Chief tablet and a pencil. I quickly learned it was better to pay a nickel for one good yellow pencil rather than get two red or green ones for the same price. Those cheap pencils soon got ground up by the hand-cranked pencil sharpener we shared with Second Grade (same room, same teacher).
As for crayons, there was a cigar box filled with used ones, happily shared among the students. I’d say I was in Junior High by the time I saw a Crayola box that held more than eight. Oh, yes, I did eventually acquire a pencil box with its own little sharpener (which was worthless).
I see that the current school supply list for First Grade specifies a backpack (WITHOUT wheels). In my class no one had even a book satchel, and we were NOT allowed to take the Dick and Jane reader home.
The requirement on the current Supply List to bring three boxes of tissues plus disinfectant wipes and quart-size Ziploc bags stirs my curiosity. My teacher Mrs. Evans was really smart and well organized, but I cannot imagine her collecting all that stuff and finding room for it in our classroom.
By the way, I went back to visit Mrs. Evans about 30 years after I had entered First Grade. By then she had moved to Groesbeck, taught in their school for a decade and then retired.
But her first words were, “Jerry, I can remember exactly where you sat in my classroom!”
A retired Austin College professor, Dr. Jerry Lincecum teaches classes for older adults who want to write their life stories. He welcomes your reminiscences on any topic: firstname.lastname@example.org