The worst thing about going back to school at the end of the summer……was going back to school! We all understood from the first grade the necessity of the thing. I just didn’t like the mandated participation. We were like cattle being run through Tri-County Stockyards. Or at least I thought so until Leon pointed out that our “graduation fate didn’t turn up rare, medium or well done”.
Maybe I lacked the right attitude. I was more worried about spelling “multiple” or “disassociate” correctly than I was looking around at the “multiple” friends that I would never, from that time on, “disassociate” from. You don’t think that far ahead in the third grade. You figure last week you were running free…….chasing dogs, lightening bugs and each other. Today, you’re stuck in a desk, behind the tallest guy in the room, listening to Miss Belle fawn over the merits of George Washington, Daniel Boone and Thomas Edison. Listen, they made you put your head down after lunch and not move, say a word or breathe for twenty minutes! We didn’t have a clue back then about those ancient prisoners trapped in that infamous Mouse Tower on the Rhine but we could identify with each and every one of them!
We didn’t see the sun from August to May.
I’ll tell you how bad it was, my piano lessons were during recess! LaRenda skipped the Blue Bird Reading Class as she went down to the music room for her scheduled practice. Anne got out of English. Bob missed spelling. I’m stuck inside playing the “Wind Sock” song while everybody else is racing for the monkey bars.
I only got to dust the erasers twice the whole year!
If it hadn’t a’been for Yogi I might not have made it. He showed us how to roll the clay into little pieces, swish them around in your mouth to wet them down a mite and see if you could throw one (when the coast was clear) hard enough to stick it to the chalkboard. Sometimes we’d toss them gently into an unsuspecting hairdo. He brought the first grasshopper to class…….and it wasn’t show and tell. It was mostly, for Yogi, seek and destroy. He could make that “Creature from the Black Lagoon” sound without moving his lips. It would drive Pam and LaRenda nuts!
I’m not sure if it was Yogi or Ricky who figured out how to rotate the cap on the old metal radiator. We’d unscrew it to the “just barely hanging on” position so when the pressure from the heat built up……it would blow that thing across the room. Steam would shoot out like an old fashion locomotive was rolling through. I’m telling you, the class would go wild!
We used our imagination…….like every teacher had been spurring us to do.
We moved up to the big school for our seventh grade year. It was like starting all over, with a different teacher every hour. We exchanged baseball and swimming for “Weekly Readers” and Bunsen burners. We’d gone from “Kick the Can” to studying the major crops produced in the Great Steppe region of Russia. I was ready to chunk it all in until Yogi led me down to the boiler room in the basement. I don’t know how he found it. “It will start getting cold in a month or so. If we could find a dead squirrel,” he was always thinking, “and lay it across that top plate on the back side where it wouldn’t be noticed…….”
We were, as everyone taught us, preparing for the future. It was late September when Mr. Danner stoked that old coal furnace. Folks, the aroma coming out of that ventilation system would have gagged a fifty year old maggot! Our English teacher, Miss Bryant, near ’bout swooned. We heard stories of people throwing up, passing out and jumping out of the third floor windows. Someone sounded the fire alarm. I thought things might have gone too far…… Yogi was standing on the fire escape with the most innocent look I’ve ever seen on a face, “What happened? Where did that awful smell come from? Is it always like this in the seventh grade?”
By high school you’d think we’d be maturing enough to enjoy the learning curve. The problem was Shakespeare, bar graphs and some guy named Chaucer, who I guarantee you, couldn’t even speak English! We were learning in spite of ourselves. And if we were not enjoying it, we could at least see the end in sight. Truth be told, we didn’t know anything else. We’d been going to school all of our lives. I wouldn’t say “trained monkeys”; but “learned youngsters” might be applicable…….with a few original thoughts thrown in along the way.
We did come to appreciate every classmate. They made the whole process tolerable. We leaned on one another for survival. Plus, the individuality of each brought a “different slant” into your growing world. I love Ricky, Buddy, Ruth Ann, Graylene, Yogi, the whole bunch to this day because we fought those “learning battles” side by side. We garnered as much from each other as we did in any classroom.
And I appreciate that they allow me to share our story all these years later.