The Elementary School Years
"Round, round, ready write! Round, round ready write! Touch over! Touch- back! Touch over! Touchback!" drilled Miss B. as she walked in front of the rows that were assigned to my 1st-grade class.
Reflecting on the rhythm, sounds, and words at my one-room schoolhouse, the first-grade class included same-age peers and students up to the ninth grade.
Following the circles and rainbows, we would move our pencils back and forth on the line between the above and below rainbows. The writing exercise was repeated and practiced many, many times, more times than I counted.
Making circles in our red Indian Chief writing tablets, the writing exercise continued. After the circles, we made rainbows above and below the lined paper. Miss B's voice commanded our every move of the pencil. Then, we learned to print the alphabet. For me, printing was empowering. I could print words. It was intoxicating! I absolutely loved printing!
While I loved reading, I didn't enjoy reading aloud. For the first two grades, our reading books were Dick and Jane. Since there wasn't a cafeteria, we had to carry our lunches. Every day without fail, Lebanon bologna sandwiches were my favorite. Admittedly, in elementary school, I was the only child that didn't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
As it should be, Miss B's desk was in the center of the room. The desk was on a raised platform or stage. You had to step up on the platform to write on the blackboard that was extended from one wall to the other. The blackboard was behind her desk. To the left sat the big black potbelly stove, it kept us warm during the winter months.
Of course, there wasn't any indoor plumbing. Bathroom breaks were outside, in all kinds of weather, we had to go to the outhouses or privy. Without running water, two students would have to get water from a family's home in Mingoville, Pennsylvania which was closest to our white, one-room schoolhouse. Naturally, students would take turns fetching the drinking water.
Playing games in front of the schoolhouse, dodgeball was my favorite game. Of course, as the smallest, it was easy for me to hide behind the bigger students. Subsequently, the win was easy for me.
Advancing to second grade, we sat in the appropriate row. That year, Miss B. taught grades 1st thru 6th. Unsurprisingly, we had more reading and writing exercises.
Learning games, there was one game that stands out from all the others. Miss B. placed small items on her desk, covering them. Each student came up and was given a few seconds to look at what was displayed. Then, she would cover the items again.
Afterward, each 2nd-grade student went back to their desk and wrote down all the objects that they had seen. Observation! It was also a test of recall and memory. Furthermore, the game tested our writing and spelling skills because we had to correctly spell each item that had been seen.
By third grade, we were sent to Zion, Pennsylvania's one-room schoolhouse. As I recall, Miss V. had third, fourth, fifth- and maybe sixth grade. Literally, it was an extremely painful year. Because of the pain on the right side of my mouth and jaw, adults called it neuralgia. I called it unbearable pain!
On the right side of the room, the potbelly stove sat taking up a lot of the space. Completely on the opposite side of the room, my desk was located on the far left side next to the row that was closest to the windows. In order to temporarily ease the pain, a washcloth was warmed on the potbelly stove. After warming the washcloth, it was placed on my right cheek.
In fact, I was barely able to keep up with reading. Regrettably, the painful distraction didn't help to learn and doing arithmetic.
Then big changes, we were bussed to Hublersburg, Pennsylvania for the 4th grade. Formerly, the building housed the old high school. Each class had its own room. It was exhilarating! First thru third grades were on the lower level. With fourth thru sixth grades, their classrooms were on the second level. Best of all, we had indoor plumbing and a cafeteria.
Thankfully, my neuralgia subsided. Pop beads were the in thing in fourth grade. Mrs. K. was our teacher. Reading, penmanship, and geography were my favorite subjects. Interestingly, we started the fourth-grade using dip pens and inkwells. Before mid-year, we were using ballpoint pens.
After school, American Bandstand was a must-watch. The show was perfectly timed and scheduled for when we would arrive home. Rocking after school, everyone had a crush on Dick Clark or one of the dancers on the show.
Out of the blue, "Why can't we learn about rockets?" I quizzed our fifth- grade teacher Mrs. M. Indeed, the space race, and Sputnik were all over the news. Mrs. M. responded, "We have to learn about plants." Mentally thinking, how unimaginative! Rockets and outer space appealed to my curiosity more so than plants.
Surprisingly, fifth grade was quite a memorable year. We did book reports in front of the class. We worked hard on math. Interestingly, the school introduced Phonics in the fifth grade. Instinctively, I knew and realized that this should have been taught while we were in first grade.
That year, they started a bank savings program. It was fun saving our nickels and dimes. Truly, I loved school and never missed a day. Until my poison ivy became infected, it really messed up my perfect attendance record.
Notably, I won a pony. It wasn't a Shetland pony. It was more like a black and white Indian Paint Horse. As for the contest, it was sponsored by the District Ford Dealerships and advertised on Wagon Train. It was a name the pony contest. My entry was Edsaboy. I won!
After a reporter from our local newspaper interviewed me and took pictures, a short article appeared the following week in the paper. Darn! It didn't make the front page. Indeed, the experience was an extremely big deal.
The summer between fifth grade and sixth grade, we went on our very first vacation. Traveling from Central Pennsylvania to Pensacola, Florida, there were a lot of great memories made and that's another story.
In sixth grade, our teacher was Mrs. MM. Remembering, she loved to read Tarzan stories to the class. During Christmas break, I received a Corona typewriter. Upon returning to school, Mrs. MM. offered to teach me how to type on my portable typewriter. I was thrilled! Abruptly, it came to an end. (Three years later, I would learn how to type in high school.)
Recalling that Mrs. MM was called out of the classroom, she was given the sad news that her husband had died. Immediately, we had a substitute teacher for several weeks. It seemed like forever!
Once a week, the music and art teachers would come to our elementary school. From fourth grade to sixth grade, we always looked forward to their arrival, teaching us art and music. Playing the autoharp and doing art projects, music and art were my creative releases. With music, art, and history being my favorite classes, math was still a struggle.
At the end of sixth grade, our elementary school years came to an uneventful closure. There wasn't sixth-grade graduation. Subsequently, we went on to seventh grade at the Bellefonte Junior High School located right in town, and that's another story.
Writer's notes: This story is dedicated to my grandkids. Thank you for reading. You are appreciated.