Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Old School 1940's, 1950's USA

Educational life during the 'good old days' was sometimes fraught with frustrations (a Yogi'ism). Today in many instances, classrooms are sorted according to abilities and learning potentials, at least the better ones.

Dad had been a school teacher and principle before I was born. He taught me to read and write when I was about three. He would stand me in front of a gathering and have me recite poetry. No TV, wii, IPods, IPads, Texting or computers back then so entertainment was fairly simple. Even the phone was rare, course the 8 to 16 Party line sometimes proved fun to listen in on. Lawyers were extremely rare, so no one was arrested for listening. Govt didn't dare get involved with our Freedom.

I had two little cork covered notebooks that I had to print, then write connected script words in every day. The entire process backfired when I started to the farm community elementary school in first grade... In Dad's reasoning.. one year later than the other kids. By then I could read faster than the teacher and even figured I could outspell her. As far as I was concerned at the time, the rest of the class were among the slowest people I had ever met, and I had to get into the lowest gear to accomodate them.

Roger, a fun friend, was in granny gear and sometimes even reverse while reading, so I was forced to read at his speed or lose my place when the teacher called on me. Needless to say I mentally was far away out in the fields, bird and rabbit hunting, or driving the tractors in 'never never' land, when she called on me.

My grades were in the tank all through school because of it. Except spelling. I was always the last boy, and quite often the last kid standing in 'Spelldowns' during elementary school. Three girls could sometimes take turns and outspell me in competition, but rarely. The girls hated it whenever I beat them. The boys cheered.

On other subjects that required discipline to study and homework for structured test day, I tossed aside and barely squeaked by my entire school years with an overall C to D average (F was fail). It became a pattern I could never shake.. Fugedabout college...

Liked history enough that within days I quickly read each years entire book (always enjoyed history and geography)... then fell asleep.... At my desk... in my own drool. That really did me in, as far as classroom regimen was concerned. Structured English was not much better, but with a great woman teacher that had been a Bomber Ferry Pilot in WWII (her husband had been a fighter pilot and perished in an air battle over Europe), I stayed in school and succeeded on schedule to K-12 graduation.

During the first day of Geography, I picked up the fascinating new book.... and read it cover to cover. Again sooo bored at the rest of the class trying to make sense of the new words. Fell asleep in class. A pattern was forming.. bad boy.

My private little home school was curled up in my grandparents big brass tacked red leather chair with their library of countless National Geographics. I read each and every one of the past issues from cover to cover, some repeatedly. I could barely wait for the new issue.

Ever hear of the word Deportment? I got a big F in red print on that part of my report card. Self Control was the other F.... Issues? Didn't think so myself. As a kid I started swinging as soon as I felt threatened in any way, but not anything like the brother and sister that were placed in our 4th grade class. They both wore powerful glasses that made their eyes look like huge eerie glass planets.

Anything set them off. They screached like cornered cats and ran to each other. His belt whipped out and he swung the buckle at anyone that approached the two of them. On the second day of total chaos in the classroom, the uniformed police came and took them out. We never saw them again.

The rest of us quietly settled in and were very compliant for the rest of the year. Needless to say my early years close friends were few. Freddy, my daring railroad track friend, was an exception due our shared love for excitement. His tough dad was the section foreman. Friends seemed more interested after they discovered the creativity of my quest for adventure. :>)

Now math was different. Could not comprehend math. Dad was apparently not into math. Never mentioned numbers other than to have me print them in the little books. I quickly grew to despise math. My newly singled mother paid a tutor (Mrs Turner) for one summer, to cram into me enough basic understanding of math, that I was able to finish through K-12 on schedule, thank you Mrs Turner.

Being near sighted, I could not read the white chalk numbers on the large and thick black slate board hung on the wall. Yellow chalk on green boards came after WWII, couldn't see them either. Erasers to wipe off the board after each problem or sentence was diagramed, were felt blocks that needed periodic cleaning by taking outside to the brick school wall for 'banging' and 'claping'.

To make atonement for my attitude and less than steller performance in math, I often had to remain after school to write apology after apology, along with the 'times tables' on the blackboard. I became the defacto eraser cleaner, board washer and teacher's pencil sharpener.

The boys enjoyed watching 'certain' girls sharpen their pencils in the sharpener at the front of the room. Something about the way they wiggled and swished their hips as they turned the little crank. ;>)

The red brick rural country school was being enlarged after WWII, as troops returned and the baby boom began with their 'enthusiasm'. Living close by this country school, it became a late after school adventure land (after the adults left). Crawling through the foundation and utility trenches simulated the War years of soldiers we had seen in parades and films.

Many episodes of 'trench warfare' were fought within the school's new building addition. Warfare commenced well before dusk as visibilty aided the well sighted and athletic. Serious battles, complete with thrown dirt clumps, rocks and chunks of 2x4 as grenades, proved who were the toughest. Injurys were painful, bloody but survivable.

My Red Ryder Daisy air rifle got me through victorious in the afternoon campaigns of trench battles against other kids. Shot a chip out of the front tooth of a well armed (BB guns) friend and his brother (Dick and Eddy) as they co-ordinated to attack and over run my position. His dad, a high ranking detective in the city, was not pleased..... "Coulda shot his eye out"...

A nearby pile of short cut lumber across the barbed wire fence in the pasture, was our 'Mt Suribachi'. 'King of the Mountain' became predictably bloody when we flung chunks of cut boards down onto each other, as we repeatedly attacked the stronger older kids. Alarmed at the rapidly growing casualty list in the infirmary back at the school house, the teachers rushed out and demanded an immediate end to the lunch recess hostilities.

The long row of thorned Osage trees behind the farm were strung with giant vines. Tarzan's Call was re-enacted endlessly, as we swung from tree to tree. During another distant exploration while swinging my BSA hatchet at a branch, after climbing high in a tree, risk resulted in a long free fall that knocked me out. Apparently I was out for a long time, as friends went to tell my grandparents I had died. As my early lifestyle mentor Mark Twain
  • reportedly told after an errant news release, "My demise was greatly exagerated".

    Osage Oranges (hedge apples)
  • were large and bumpy green. After striking a few things, they oozed a white latex milk that progressively became stickier and collected dirt. Within minutes we were covered in this progressively black coating.

    We acted and looked like Celtic Warriors throwing them at each other. A well placed head shot from one of those heavy green balls disabled to say the least, the opposing tribe's best 'arm men'. As on 'Mt Suribachi' the girls wisely would have no part in this violent Warfare and stood well out of range. Winter was sledding, ice skating and endless snowball fights with freezing walks home, dragging the sleds in the dark.

    School days were wasted dreaming of things that we would do 'After' school. We had our exciting spring flood Voyage in The Little Boats
  • from the abandoned little amusement park, to occupy our hours and days after school.

    Barns to be explored and rafters in high lofts to be climbed. Pigeons and Owls to be captured and raised. Rat Killin' with the Marlin .22 after dark was Prime Time. The old Buckboard kept us busy. Converted to our Covered Wagon to head West, it was awash in imagination.

    We all kept our minds busy, and physical prowess was manadatory for survival, especially when testing a little drogue chute by running off the peak of the barn (another slight concussion). My friends Buddy and Ned were absent from our 7th grade class for a period of time. They were returned after their adventure, driving to Buddy's dad's new Mercury Monterey. They finally were stopped in a New Mexico 1,200 miles later. Dad was not happy to travel all of the way to NM to retrieve them... and his new car.

    We all had to be productive and farm work was one of the ways kids earned their way. Picking apples, cherries, De-tassling Corn, cultivating (and chopping weeds between rows) Plowing, harvesting, summer mowing. All while maintaining the machinery that kept the profit motive in gear. Haying with our crew was always an involved, 'hot loft' process with long days of hard labor.

    Progress toward social acceptance in later school years came in the life we lived as reality and described in the movie American Grafitti

  • Prowling around evenings was exciting in my first Chev, Ford, Merc 'Rats' then Olds, later on rare occasions in the new family car. Mom's black 2 dr 56 Chev 210 stick with power pack (quad carb and 'pipes'), was Bob 'Falfa'ish. It was unbeatable ;>)

    While Climbing poles as a lineman with the tel co, I learned responsibility. After a motorcycle accident busted a knee, then machinist, truck driver and Air Force time, I began working my career 'real' job on the automatic mechanical cash registers, banking, accounting machines, automatics and eventually computers.

    Only then did Math finally click into my brain. I figured out the way computers and code machines did math, with columnar transfers, hexadecimal and binary code bits and bytes. With the result of working with math every day, I became a late bloomer in Math.... Too late.. :>P Raised a great and prosperous little family, but only due to the dilligence of a great wife. Several fun grandkids are all successful little smarties themselves.

    Now as 'Blogengeezer' involved with amateur literature, a little geography and some history instantly available at the keyboard, I just try to type too fast and transpose letters like crazy. Spelling is faltering as well. Have to proof read everything, or it looks like a Russian Cyrillic code.... these 'mature' fingers don't respond in correct timing to the firing neurons.

    Fortunately during my last year in High School, I became enamored with one tall young teacher, and excitedly registered for Her typing class as an elective. She was Soooo hot. A shapely tall leggy Redhead. When she 'runway walked' over to my desk in her clicking heels to assist in correcting my 'technique', her tight skirt was eye level. Makes me a little Glitchy just thinking about Miss Schiedker....

    I never used the rusty old typing skill until only a few years ago, when my sister gave me a new computer. I had used my intelligent Mother's computer only on occasion and inherited her daily pastime after she passed away..... at 92. The old skills came crawling back out of the darkest recesses of my brain. First thing I did was look up my HS typing teacher online. Found her married and retired... ;>) Sent her a Thank You, through her graduate university re-union notes.

    Just one other small farm community story, from life in the greatest nation ever known, "The United States of America, One Nation Under God". With Liberty and Freedom for All..

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