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The Cloak Closet

Story ID:8884
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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The Cloak Closet…
By Chuck Dishno

In 1941, I started first grade in Bly School. The school was a long low building with first grade in one end and 12th grade in the other. As a kid progressed thru school he would zigzag thru the building until, with any luck, he would pop out the other end with a diploma in hand. Not unlike the alimentary canal where food goes in one end and we all know what exits the other end. About 30 kids entered the first grade with me and only 4 made it thru to the end, but in my case it took a couple of extra years. I guess I needed more digesting along the way. But that is another story to come along later.

I looked forward to starting school, and the building was very familiar to me since my house had burned to the ground a couple of months before and my family moved into the home-economics room until a new house could be built.

My first grade teacher was a nice lady in her early 20’s named Miss Ethel Lein. I think I had a crush on her from the first day, as did most of the boys.

School was OK for the first couple of months but after awhile the newness of it wore off and I was yearning to get back to my old routine of getting up early, having breakfast with my Pop then climbing back into a warm bed. I was fortunate to live just two doors from the school and I would stay in bed until I heard the first bell then grab my clothes and usually make it without being late. At noon I would run home for a quick lunch and just barely make back for the afternoon session.

The first grade room had a long walk-in cloakroom about 3 feet deep that ran the length of the side of the room. It was dual purpose and the folding doors had chalk or cork boards on the room side.

It seemed that almost every morning I was getting to school later and later. In order to make us more prompt, Miss Lein told us she considered us a train and the first one there would be the engine for the day with all the perks that the engineer enjoyed. Needless to say I never got to be an engineer but was dubbed the caboose day after day. One day, Miss Lein looked out the window and saw me slowly walking up the street, late as usual. She told the students to all hide in the cloak closet and not to make a sound and maybe it would teach me a lesson when I walked into an empty room.

As it turned out the joke was on them. As soon as I entered the empty room, I turned around and went home, telling my Mom that there was no school that day and everyone had gone home. Mom never questioned this and let me get out my Lincoln Logs and build a fort in the living room floor.

After school, Miss Lein stopped by the house to see if I was OK and told Mom what had happened. They both had a good laugh and she told my Mom that I really was a good boy, albeit a bit of a daydreamer, and not to punish me. She did advise Mom to start getting me up a little earlier and said that she and the other kids sure learned that even though the engine gets there first, the caboose always comes along unless it is side tracked.

Now that I am rapidly approaching those Pearly Gates, I hope to see clear tracks ahead. I will be looking for Miss Lein, sitting on a Heavenly cloud, watching her first grade train and happy to see that I had not been side-tracked somewhere along the line. I may still be the caboose but I know that I am being pulled by a loving God who has seen thru my many faults.