Every year, when I see the kids heading back to school, my mind slips back to my very first day of school.
It’s hard to believe that my first day of school was nearly sixty years ago and yet it is still so clear in my mind. Where I grew up and at the time I grew up we did not have kindergarten for everyone. The kindergartens were private and rather expensive so most kids from the middle class families did not attend. That is not to say that we were behind the kids that did attend. Our parents taught us everything important that was being taught in the kindergartens. Because of the way our neighborhoods were set up, it was easy for a dozen mothers and all their kids to have school for a couple hours a day. Those were very smart ladies. One thing they did was have school for about an hour and a half, then break for lunch and return for an hour. That way we learned about the fact that there were two Halves to each day and we had to return after lunch just as ready as we had been in the morning. So all in all when the first day of the first grade came along we were as ready as any six year old could be.
My siblings consisted of two older sisters and everyone knows what a pain little brothers are to older sisters. To say I was unfettered when I was a child might be an understatement. I was always a child full of curiosity and sometimes lacked self discipline when on a quest for answers. My sisters were both little angels when it came to school, a fact I would hear over and over from teachers who had had one or both of them in her classroom. My sisters would tell me stories about what happened to kids like me that had a short attention span or just misbehaved. They told me all about the paddles the teachers had and how they just watched and waited for someone to step out of line so they could bend them over a chair and set their butts on fire. To say the least, I had a great deal of apprehension about going to real school.
On the first day of the first grade a parent, mothers of course, had to escort us to school and take us to our room and meet our teacher and to introduce the devils and angels that would make up that very first class. I did not fit into the angel classification but I was not quite a devil either. All of us brand new students and our mothers were assembled in one corner of a large entry hall. Other kids from the upper classes, second through sixth, were gathered in the entry also but not in our corner. When the bell rang and all of those kids took off for their rooms I and a few other kids took off also, having no idea of where we were going. Our mothers caught us and were not very happy with us. So the day got off to a bad start right away. But things went well after that and we were assigned to our classroom and our parents had an opportunity to tell the teacher what brats we all were.
In those days, the first three grades were bussed back and forth for lunch. I got off the bus and ran the block to my house and ran inside and proclaimed with great pride “I went to school for a whole half of a day and have not got one paddling.” It was one of the proudest moments of my young life.
As time went by, I figured out that my sisters had been less than honest with me. I never did find a way to get even and today I have to admit that they had gotten me and that it was funny. It took a long time to figure out why my mom had such a strange look on her face that day, I guess they got her too!