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My Grade School Years (standard:non fiction, 1184 words)
Author: dcastleAdded: Jan 21 2005Views/Reads: 1909/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
This story starts with my first day of grade school and what it was like in the 50s
 



My Henry Clay Years 

Throughout the summer of 1955 leading up to my first year in grade
school, I had been told by most of the older neighborhood kids that it 
was a lot of fun and I would like it. Of course, there were a few that 
said it was a horrible place where all the teachers had huge wooden 
paddles and didn't hesitate to use them on your rear end for the 
slightest infraction. They filled my head with quite a few horror 
stories and I didn't believe them until my mother and I walked around 
the last corner and I got my first look at Henry Clay school from a 
block away. I suddenly knew what a convict must feel like when he takes 
that last walk to meet his maker. Before us stood the biggest building 
I had ever seen. Three stories tall and took up most of a square city 
block. It was made of solid red brick and had an eight foot tall chain 
link fence surrounding it. There must be some kind of mistake I 
thought. This isn't a grade school. It's a prison of some sort. As we 
got closer, I could remember all the stories the neighborhood kids told 
me and decided that the bad ones were indeed the true ones. As my mom 
opened the door and motioned for me to go in, I noticed that smell that 
all schools seem to have. Probably a combination of things, but mostly 
books, I suppose. We climbed the stairs to the first floor where I saw 
more kids in that one hallway, than I had seen put together, in my 
entire life.  This isn't so bad, I thought to myself. We headed for the 
office where my mother had to fill out several forms. The next step 
they said would be to take me to the kindergarten room to meet my 
teacher and classmates. Out of the 20 or so kids in the room, about 18 
of them were crying. Well, this can't be good I thought. All my fears 
began surfacing again. The teacher told me her name and seemed nice 
enough. She gave me some supplies and told me to sit down and look 
through them while she talked to my mother. This kept my attention for 
a few minutes. I looked up to say something to my mother and it was 
then that I realized why most of the kids were crying. She had gone 
home and I was on my own. After a couple of weeks I adjusted to things 
and other than being made to take naps, I actually liked my first year. 
As a 54 year man now, I sure wish I was forced to take a nap at work 
everyday. I could adjust to that very quickly. Physical fitness was big 
back then. Recess was always the high point of the day as we always 
played baseball or dodge ball. There were jungle gyms to climb on and 
parallel bars we could swing on and do skin the cats. When the weather 
was bad, we got our exercise in the gym. My small claim to fame in 
seven years at Henry Clay was my ability to beat everyone climbing the 
gym ropes. Each year found me in a different classroom with a different 
view of the surrounding neighborhood. I remember one year watching a 
man training bird dogs in his backyard nearly everyday. It sure was 
great sitting in those rooms with the windows open letting in all those 
great spring smells and sounds. Dogs barking, moms yelling for their 
kids, people mowing grass, car engines racing, delivery trucks rumbling 
down the street, the fragrant smells of lilacs, iris, daffodils, roses 
and tulips and the occasional spring shower complete with it's sweet 
smell of rain and the claps of thunder. I really miss that. Maybe it's 
just that my senses were so much better then. I don't seem to notice 
those things now. Out of all my grade school years, I can't think of 
anything I liked better than shooting marbles in the school yard for 
keeps. To most of us boys, there weren't too many things more beautiful 
than a cat eye marble. It sure made the walk home a lot better when I 
was lucky enough to win a couple of them.  On the north side of school 
was Eighth Street which was lined with Oak trees for the entire block. 
I always made it a point to walk that way in the fall of the year. Not 
only were the leaves great to look at but even more fun to walk through 
and invariably, some of us would gather up a big pile of leaves and 
jump into them until we ran out of steam and just buried ourselves in 
them and spend the next hour just looking at the sky and day dreaming. 
In those days both the girls and the boys had to take wood shop and 
home making. You would think that children that young had no business 
working with power saws, drills and lathes but our wood shop teacher 
had an unusual way of getting safety across to us from day one. After 
taking role call and lecturing us on safety, he would hold both of his 
hands up for all to see. Several of his fingers were missing. Needless 
to say, that created instant respect for the equipment and had our 
undivided attention while operating it. After all the girls finished 
laughing at us boys in our first day of home making, it went pretty 
good. I learned how to use an oven, boil an egg, bake a cake and make 
French toast but I made one critical mistake. I bragged to my mother 
and from that day forth, I was in charge of making French toast at 
home. There were two jobs that pretty much every kid wanted to do. 
Cross walk safety and clean erasers. I got to do the latter but never 
got a shot at being a safety. The threat of nuclear attack was on the 
minds of a lot of people and our school had an air raid shelter for the 
immediate area if needed. We never really gave it much of a thought. We 
said the pledge of allegiance for a few years to a huge American flag 
that hung from a tall pole in the school yard. The flag only had 48 
stars since there were only 48 states in the union at that time. Alaska 
and Hawaii were admitted to the union in 1959 and we soon had a new 
flag with 50 stars. The old flag was packed away in the schools 
basement for many years until it was discovered recently and I am happy 
to say that it is now proudly hanging from the rafters of a large 
warehouse in Lenexa, Kansas were it was installed on Sept 11, 2001. 
Henry Clay was a great learning experience for me and gave me a life 
time of memories I will cherish forever. 


   


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