Friday, June 8, 2007

Reunion Time

Making Toad Houses
Pencil 8.5" x 11"
This is the time of year for our all school reunion. And a time when memories flow, of place and home, of friends, and hopes, of good times and bad, little incidents and big moments, of youth and aging, those who are far away, and those who are no longer with us.
I've been drawing some of the memories that have stuck in my mind over the years. This pencil drawing is of one of the big oak trees on the south side of the playground at our school. It provided us with shelter from the heat on warm days and offered a place where we could play games or just sit and talk with friends as we grew older.
We played things like "London Bridge", "The Farmer In the Dell", and "Drop the Handkerchief" under this tree. Some days, it was the perfect hideout from the bad guys in playing cowboys, or it might be a stage where we could sing and dance to the songs from the latest musical movie at the picture show. In this drawing, it shows the toad houses we built. At the end of the day, the area between the roots of the old tree, were filled with lumps of dirt with an open door, like a little cave.
To make the toad house, one person had to remove their shoe and sock, while another person covered the bare foot with mud. This was done usually after it had rained. But, sometimes, when we played on the playground after school hours, someone would carry water in a sandpail from the faucet near the building to make a nice mud puddle under the tree. The person whose foot was being used for the construction had to stay there for a few minutes until the house had dried a bit. That was not good when the bell rang to go in the building for school and one or two people were trying to keep their toad house from falling in. You really couldn't tell the teacher, "I can't come right now. My house isn't dry yet!"
In my picture, I show one pair of children making a toad house, with other houses among the roots of the tree. One little girl digs for dirt for a house while a little boy sits on a root and watches. A trio of girls has gathered on the other side of the tree to talk.
I always imagined that, when we went home, and night came, frogs would come to the tree and occupy the houses we had built. Then, before we came to school, they would be off to hunt for bugs and we would find the abandoned houses during recess. We always rushed to look at our houses and were so disappointed if we found them crushed.
Our school was a three story building, built in the 1920s. An imposing building with a tall chimney on top. It was just 1/2 block from my house, so I saw a lot of that building. And, it was, like the rest of our small town, like one big playground for me and the other kids in town. The basement, or first floor, housed the elementary grades, ag and homemaking classes, cafeteria, and restrooms. The second floor housed the office and middle grades . The third floor was high school. We didn't say that children were in elementary, jr high, or high school. Instead, people asked "What floor are you on?" I always wondered what people did when they ran out of floors.
The south and east side of the school, where there was a playground, and a wide area to play games and even softball, was the area assigned to elementary children. Middle grades gathered at the front of the school, on the west side. And high school students hung out on the steps, cars, or sidewalk on the north side of the school near the gym. Part of the east side was taken up with the band hall, an ag shop, and the football field.
Looking back, it seems we had just about everything we needed in our small school and, in fact, our town, except more people and opportunities for subjects like art. Life was like a "Little Rascals" or "Our Gang" movie, but we didn't think so. I related those more to my father's time, until recent years as I looked back and listened to stories.
We truly were of that Golden Age of the 1950s.

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