Monday, September 3, 2007

Going To School

Going To School
8.5" x 11"
Today is the first time, that I can remember, in all my years, that students have had to go to school on Labor Day. The university, college, and public schools are all having classes today. I was so surprised, I had not thought of my grandson having to go to school today, and had thought about what we could do for a holiday. The oldest one has to work, so it is turning out to be just another day for us.
I surely would have needed a peach tree switch to get me to go to school on a day that has always been a holiday.
In all my life, I never had to go to school on my birthday, after Christmas holidays. One year, as a teacher, I had to go for teacher workday that day, and I was not a happy camper, at all. I was a grouch all day. Not that I did that much to celebrate. It was just the idea that this was always my last day of freedom before school started again for the new year.
I guess that school started a little later, this year, and they may have fewer days off, or something. Since I am no longer teaching, and don't have a vote on the school calendar, I don't know what the reasoning was.
As a teacher, I always needed the extra days in the Labor Day weekend, to work on my classroom, plan for the year, make out seating charts, order supplies, make out things like gradebook and lesson plan book, and make prepartions to teach. At one time, we didn't start school until after Labor Day. Those days of starting in early August were just too much. It was too hot and people were uncomfortable and not ready to be cooped up inside classrooms.
I don't remember ever participating in any Labor Day celebrations, like the ones that we see on tv and in movies. In fact, I don't recall being in a place where any celebrations were held. Offices, stores and businesses closed, as did libraries and schools, but there were never picnics, speeches, games, or gatherings. Sometimes families barbequed or had picnics, went to the swimming pool at the country club or played golf, but there was nothing for groups or the community.
In more recent years, the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon became a big thing to watch on tv, complete with special meals or tv dinners, served on tv trays.
In the drawing above, I showed the way that I often went off to school in the morning. Mama had to follow me with a switch across the porch, then down the little hill in our yard, and out into the street. She usually didn't have to follow me much further than the curb, unless I knew that I had work that was due and not finished, had a test, or someone was sure to beat me up after school.
Poochie, our black dog with a fluffy, curley tail, followed me some. She was really more attentive to my little sister and would return home to follow my sister around all day. When my sister started school, Poochie went with her. I think she even went inside the room a time or two. Usually, she just sat at the windows, watching inside the basement room until my sister came out. Then she followed my sister home. We said that she was like Mary and her little lamb, that followed her to school one day.
We only lived about a half block from the big school, which is now the town high school. For us, it was all grades. Elementary school, restrooms, Ag, Homemaking, and the cafeteria were in the basement. Middle school, the auditorium, choir room, cloak room, and the offices were on the second floor. And the third floor was high school and the library. People didn't ask what grade or level you were in, but instead, asked what floor you were on in school. I always wondered where people went after they finished all the floors. If someone had to go to the restroom, they asked to go to the basement. In the lower grades, we had to show, with our fingers, what we needed to go to the restoom for. I was too embarrassed, so I just waited until I got home in the afternoon, no matter what!
In the 1940s and '50s, we still had flights of airplanes that flew over in formation. The sound of the motors was so relaxing, I would almost fall asleep. I still do, when I hear those engines in a movie. I have shown one of these formations in my sketch. Later, there were frequent flights of trainers going between Waco and Bryan and, still later, jets started to fly over.
Another sound was the cooing of the Mourning Doves in the park, that carried over our neighborhood, especially in the early morning. Such a peaceful sound.
There were empty lots on each side of the street, with houses across the street and past my house on the way to town. The lots to the right side in my sketch, were filled with Indian Paintbrushes in the spring. There was a path cut through there, where kids would go to and from school, from the next streets over. One of our dogs loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We would make sandwiches for the dog, who would eat part of it, then bury the rest of it in the empty lot across the alley from our house. Several houses have been built there, so the wildflowers and the path are long gone.
In the picture above, I am walking with my books, head down, one arm out, as I balance while walking on the curb. Something that I often did, and it took me longer to get anywhere that way. "Don't dawdle!" my mother would tell me, as I drug my feet or walked balancing on the curb.
A little earlier, the street would have been filled with cars, kids on bicycles, or walking to school. I was often the last one there.
Interestingly, I was not the first one out of the building to go home each day. I wanted to stay as long as I could with friends, some days, or join my friends and classmates in some kind of games or practice. Some days, I was trying to avoid being hit by a girl who waited for me and gave me black eyes and bloody noses. And, sometimes, I was walking , slowly, toward town, with my boyfriend.
And then there were the special days, in high school, when I got to drive the car, all that whole half block from my house to the school! Those days, I was ready to go to school early, so that people could see me driving the car. We had a 1948 Ford four door, with a speaker in the back for the radio, and a 1948 Willys Jeepster, convertable. Daddy had his pickup that he loved to drive, so there were cars for me to use.
Of course, every time I took the car, without asking him, or if he said "no" that day, I ran into trouble. Flat tires, out of gas, ran into a ditch and couldn't get out, and even ran over the big rocks that were at the entrance to the park and got the car hung. (That was my great-aunt's Nash, that time. Her husband had told her to not let me drive their new car, but she was determined to teach me to drive. So, we took the car for a ride in the afternoon. The park had a circular drive around the inside, and that was one place we practiced. But, coming out, I didn't turn short enough and ran over a big rock. The car was hung. And my great-aunt had to call her husband to come get the car unstuck. He was not happy. But she was not bothered.
Instead, she told me about when she and her sisters-in-law were learning to drive, in the early 1900s. They drove a car out into the country, but couldn't figure out how to shift gears correctly. They ended up backing the car all the way back to town. ) Her husband never said more about the car. I think I was more upset than anyone. The car was not damaged.
As for the switch, or hairbrush, I am convinced that I would not have done much if I had not been afraid not to do what I was supposed to do. Today, a lot of kids don't seem to have fear of anything, so they do what they please at school, at home, or anywhere.
I hope that, if you had to go to school or work today, you didn't have to have someone chase you with a switch! And, if you are observing Labor Day, I hope that you are having a good time, and making memories.
"Going To School" is a pencil drawing of one of my memories.
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Happy Labor Day.

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