I am a child of the 70’s. I started kindergarten (not mandatory at the time) in 1970, first grade in ’71 and so on. There were two classes per grade level in our school. Our particular class was the largest, with 45 children in each class. Can you imagine? Pupil teacher ratio was unheard of then, but most of us turned out fine, great even, with many professionals and very high achievers. If there was ever a disruption, it was swiftly dealt with, usually with a paddling, and that was that. The teacher would nip it in the bud. I know that it will never be like that again, and I’m not saying that it should be, but it was a simpler time with no worries of political correctness.
One of the highlights of my elementary career was when Mrs. Hazel, a little snip of a woman who was afflicted with arthritis and could hardly walk, whacked M. over the head with her yardstick in the middle of English class. Over and over. We were awestruck. I’m sure our mouths were wide open with disbelief, but in our hearts, we probably felt he deserved it, the little troublemaker. He never sassed her again. She backed off when the yardstick broke.
The lunches, oh my, were delicious. The government had little or no say so in what those southern cooks whipped up. Homemade yeast rolls every day, real fried chicken, chili served with pimento cheese sandwiches and homemade cinnamon rolls. Even with all the recycling programs, we were much greener back then because they actually washed our trays and silverware instead of throwing away plastic trays and utensils.
In 1976, we learned our patriotic songs, spirituals and Civil War songs such as Dixie, This Land is Your Land and Pick a Bale of Cotton.
We had wonderful teachers and some not so wonderful, but we respected them all.
Miss Maida, who we all thought was nearly blind, caught me red-handed when I looked up the answer to a test question in my notebook. I was terrified when she called me up to her desk. Thankfully, she didn’t tell my daddy (the assistant principal). It would have been the end of my little 4th grade world. She gave us girls a whack on the behind one day when we stayed outside too long working on our barometers and thermometers.
Mr. Hargis taught us to macramé and sang James Taylor songs on the guitar he kept beside his desk. He sang Fire and Rain and all the girls instantly fell in love. He let us construct an elaborate haunted house in the boiler room that was connected to our classroom. It was quite scary and it’s a miracle the thing did not explode. I remember peeling grapes and making intestines with cold spaghetti. We were very proud of that haunted house and it consumed most of our school days for a couple of weeks in October.
Mrs. Pratt was all business and she probably thought the hippie science teacher with the long hair strumming his guitar was not doing his job properly.
Mrs. Tippet taught us cursive writing. We watched the cursive writing show on channel 8 once a week – my favorite. I loved that woman’s soothing voice and the way her chalk was so perfect on the chalkboard. Mrs. Tippet gave me a C in music. My mother was concerned.
Mrs. Crockrell was long and tall and showed my daddy the paper I wrote about someone’s face being so dirty it looked like they had been sucking on a sow. Now, I learned that southern phrase at home and it was so wonderful that I had to use it in my creative writing. Can’t you just visualize it?
Mrs. Bush was another long, tall sally and was a good math teacher. She wouldn’t put up with anything from anybody.
Mrs. Byrd was the ultimate in sophistication. She had a cup of Maxwell House International Coffee after school ~ Café Francais, to be specific, and she would make me a cup while I waited for my daddy to finish late bus duty. I still love that instant, sugar laden coffee and think of her when I see it in the grocery.
We took a recess every day and on pretty days it would stretch out to an hour or sometimes two. The teachers and boys would always have a baseball game going and the girls would play Donnie and Marie and work on our love lives. If you had a boyfriend, you were going with him and he would give you his chain. Notes were passed in between classes and yes, I still have mine in my original jewelry box with the spinning ballet dancer.
A lot of the girls and some of the boys took piano lessons from Mrs. Sills. We got off the bus at her house and waited in her perfect living room for our lesson. She had a very elaborate piano recital each year with each grade level doing a song and dance routine in addition to our piano songs. It was a very big deal. It seemed we practiced those routines for weeks. We used the stage at the elementary school and we bought long dresses and new shoes. The best piano player was always Paula…and then Susan…and Moira…I was one of the worst, always forgetting my song and living in humiliation the rest of the night. I truly did hate to practice. Later, Mrs. Bomba moved to town and gave lessons. I had never in my life heard anyone play like she did.
It was a good time to be a child.