I shouldn’t have been surprised, for in 25 years of encouraging others to write their reminiscences I’ve found that photos and other visual images are the best prompts for stories. Images go straight to the portion of our brains that stores memories and awakens them or stirs them up.
In my case I could remember standing at the doorway on the elementary end of the building and looking back over the playgrounds, seeing the outdoor toilets for boys on one side and girls on the other. There were swings and a merry-go-round (purchased by the PTA when I was in 2nd grade). Water fountains were simply faucets jutting out from the building and pointing upward.
As I walked into the building, the 3rd and 4th grade classroom was behind a door on my right. The teacher was Mrs. Shipper, whose daughter June (two years older than me) was a real beauty and someone I tried to date when we became teenagers. The 1st and 2nd grade room was on the left side, presided over by Mrs. Evans. She knew what to do when I wet my pants one day, being too shy to ask permission to go to the bathroom.
In the 5th and 6th grade room I stood at the front, trying to recite from memory all the states and their capitals. Also I struggled to make my handwriting resemble the “Palmer Method” images on cards above the blackboard. Memory work was easier for me than neat writing.
As I walked on down the hall toward the high school end, I heard the voice of Mrs. Seale: “Pick up your hooves and stop making all that noise!” Ironically, there was no mistaking her heavy-footed walk and that gave us time to get in our seats and settle before she opened the door.
Every classroom had numerous blackboards and they were used regularly. We learned to show our work in math and do quick sums in our heads. There was no relying on a calculator or cash register to tell us what change a customer should receive after making a purchase.
Leaving the high school end of the building, I saw the big woodpile from which older boys refilled wood boxes in some rooms. Steam radiators were in place at the elementary end.
The lunchroom was in a separate building that I now realize was rather small. The cooks provided good meals, following menus planned by a teacher who had studied home economics, and there was often peanut butter, honey and cheese from the US Agriculture Dept. A half pint of milk in a glass bottle was included, with extras available for two cents.
What stands out in your memories from schooldays?
A retired English 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