I was an Army brat until the summer before 4th grade. I was supposed to start kindergarten in Groton, Massachusetts, but refused to go. Kindergarten must not have been compulsory back in 1953, because my Mom apparently humored me and let me stay home with my little brother.
The next summer we were transferred to Vint Hill Farms Station, near Warrenton, VA. When we lived there it was out in the country. Now it's practically part of Washington, D.C. and is a private development. I rode a school bus with my older brother and sister to the elementary school in Warrenton, VA. My recollection is that it was an older brick building with a primarily dirt playground and an annex on the far side of the playground with an auditorium and some more classrooms. I must have attended that school for three years, until my Dad retired from the US Army in June 1957. My only memories of grades 1-3 are:
- My first grade teacher was mean. She would make us "nap" with our heads on our desks. One hand had to be draped over the edge of our desk. She would walk around and lift our fingers to see if we were asleep. If we weren't, she'd rap us with her ruler. Not a fond memory.
- The first of May was a big deal. The older kids did a "May Pole Dance" with fancy costumes and there was a program that included a minstrel show. My older brother had to put charcoal on his face to be in the show. Even at age 8 I thought it was stupid.
- One time we got caught in a hurricane while on the school bus heading home. The bus flipped and my brother's mouth was bleeding all over. The boy next to me broke his arm and the bone was sticking out. I don't remember getting hurt, but I do remember being scared out of my wits!
In 1957 we moved to State College, PA (home of Penn State) and rented a small house on Aiken Place. The town had just built a big new high school, but was woefully short on elementary schools, so I attended 4th grade in one wing of the high school. My younger brother, older sister and I walked to school through a little "pocket park," down a hill and across a huge field. My teacher was Mrs. Torkelson, who I've always remembered fondly. Somewhere I still have a postcard she sent me the next summer when she was on a trip to the west coast. Imagine my astonishment when I read her obituary in The Seattle Times a few years ago. Since 1977 I have lived about 2 miles from where she was living when she died. If I'd only known.....
The summer of 1958 my parents purchased a home across town from the rental house. It was HUGE--6 bedrooms, 2.5 baths--partly unfinished on a huge lot that had no landscaping, just lots of wild blackberries. My folks got a great deal on the house because the builder went too far in debt and couldn't finish it. We lived there until after I was out of the house. Corl Street Elementary school was just a long block from that house, down a pleasantly treed path and across the playground from our house. For 5th grade I had Mr. Cox and for 6th grade I had Mr. Lee. Mr. Cox became principal the year after he taught my class and Mr. Lee had a heart attack while teaching my class. We must have been a challenge. I remember Mr. Lee having a terrible temper. One time he got so mad at a kid who was sassing him that he picked the kid up and then threw him down to the floor. That stunt was quickly followed by a heart attack. We had subs for a long time after that. After my mother died in 1996 I discovered a book about the early families in Centre County that was written by Mr. Lee. Pity I hadn't discovered genealogy yet when I was in 6th grade.
I was always into sports. Neither of my brothers (one older, one younger) ever had any interest in athletics; nor did my sister. But my Dad had been a semi-pro bowler and I think had played every sport available to him growing up. He tried to sneak me onto the Little League team, but no girls were allowed. The boys my age wanted me to play; the parents wouldn't allow it. But I always got to be the pitcher when we played during or after school. And the boys always came knocking at the door when they wanted to get a pick-up game going.
My Dad started me bowling when I was 8 or 9. He started the "Bantam" league at the local bowling alley in State College. He would take me out to the alleys around noon on Sundays (the PA Blue laws didn't allow them to open on Sundays) and make me practice picking up spares. I didn't mind, except when he gave me too much advice. Then I'd get ticked off and throw a straight ball--not the hook he had taught me--and invariably get a strike or pick up the spare. The first year I won the high average trophy for my 99 pin average. Not bad for a 9-year-old.
I don't remember liking any particular subjects. I read voraciously in grade school, finishing all of the Hardy Boy, Nancy Drew, and biography books in our school library. According to my sister, I was always "Miss Goodie Two Shoes" and vying for teacher's pet. I don't remember it that way, but it was probably true. When we were young, she was the boat rocker (a year ahead of me in school) and I was the "good" kid.
I was in the Brownies and then Girl Scouts. Each of our mothers helped us with a different badge. Carol Confer's mom was a home ec teacher and did the sewing badge with us. The sock darning was a bit tedious, but I loved the rest of it. My mom taught the music appreciation badge. In hindsight, that was really amazing. She had a tin ear and knew nothing about music. My Dad subscribed to some "great music" records, so she just read the descriptive information and played the records for us. I don't remember what other badges we did, but I stayed in the Girl Scouts all the way through high school, was a troop leader in college and grad school, and again when my daughter was old enough to join.
I'm impressed that others can remember who their best friends were in each grade. I can't. Not a clue. After we moved to Metz Ave. in 1958, there was a big bunch of us who were together through high school. We had a group of 5 or 6 girls who did all sorts of things together, but I don't remember any one of them being my best friend.