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School Days

Story ID:1492
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Oak Park IL USA
Year:1944
Person:Nancy Julien
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In response to Gail Martin's prompt about school memories:

School Days

I attended a suburban Chicago school that took me from Kindergarten all the way through the eighth grade. There were two classes for every grade and only 21 students in my class and about the same in the equivalent grade. We all walked home for lunch. No one was allowed to stay at school over the lunch hour.

The primary grades left me with memories of performing in the Circus put on by the Kindergarten class and things like the big jar of paste that my second grade teacher kept in a closet. We would fill our small jars whenever needed. How I loved to open that big jar and smell the gooey white paste. I remember how special the parties at Christmas and Valentine’s Day were. We looked forward to them for weeks, planning and decorating. The anticipation was as much fun as the party itself. I think one of the things I remember most is learning to read in first grade and being so thrilled at this new world of words that opened before me. I entered the reading world with a joy that lasts to this day.

In grades 4-6 I was blessed with outstanding teachers. Miss Alberts was the fourth grade teacher everyone wanted because she did so many special things with her students. It was in her classroom that we had the opportunity to make soap and candles as well as churn butter when we studied the pioneer experience. In fifth and sixth grade we had the first male teacher to ever teach in Lincoln School. And how we adored him. He’d been in the navy in WWII, then finished college on the GI Bill, and we were his first class. We didn’t sit in desks and parrot our answers, we did hands-on learning in his class. We always had a project of some sort going on from mapping explorers’ routes to writing poetry.

School assemblies were held in the big gym, and everyone sat on the floor. During December, the entire student body met in the gym and sang Christmas carols. Our principal, Mr. Schmidt, was a big man with a shock of white hair and rimless glasses. He had a deep bass voice that could be heard above all the others. To this day, when I hear Christmas carols, I think of his voice booming through that big gym. I think he helped us all learn the words by listening to him, year after year.

From fourth grade through eighth we had a special PE teacher and music teacher. In seventh and eighth grade we also had a special art teacher and moved from classroom to classroom for different subjects. The girls had Home Economics on Monday mornings and the boys had Shop. No one ever thought of boys in Home Ec or girls in Shop. That came years later.

We had a large playground with swings, seesaws, monkey bars, high flyers, and a trapeze. We played a dangerous game with the trapeze. A bench was dragged over and someone set the trapeze swinging. One by one, we’d climb on the bench and jump to catch the trapeze and swing merrily until the next person’s turn. Why the teachers never stopped us is beyond me, but somehow no one ever got hurt. Sure was fun. We played dodge ball, kick ball, baseball, jumped rope and played games like Red Rover and Tag.

There was a memorial wall in one corner of the playground that listed the names of all the servicemen who lived in our area that had been killed in WWII. On the day before Memorial Day we marched in lines, class by class, to the memorial. One boy in each class carried the American flag, and one girl carried a bouquet of flowers to lay on the ground by the wall. In those days Memorial Day was always May 30th, and my birthday was the day before, so guess who got to carry the flowers year after year? It was my special responsibility, and I looked forward to it every year. I don’t remember anyone ever giving me a hard time about it either. It seemed to be accepted that I would carry the flowers.

My school days were filled with discipline, motivation, and love from the teachers I had. They taught us values right along with the reading, writing, and arithmetic. In those nine years they gave us tools that lasted the rest of our lives.