A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Batman, Beatles, and Mrs. Nelson

Me in front of The Red Brick Building
I was reminded this week of my fourth grade year at Waldron Elementary.  The reminder was a sad one; I read about the passing of my fourth grade teacher's husband.  I was fortunate enough to be in Mrs. Allena Nelson's class that year, and Mrs. Nelson was one of my all time favorite teachers.

It was the 1965-1966 school year.  The previous year had been a rough one.  My sister and I had struggled with sickness and school anxiety; I had both the mumps and the three-day measles, and I ended up missing about 25 days.  But after meeting Mrs. Nelson, the school anxiety was gone and fourth grade ended up being one of my best years. 

The Red Brick Building, as we called it, housed third and fourth grade classrooms; there were three of each.  Walking in to that old building, you knew you were in a school.  The unmistakable scent of crayons, paste, and 50 years of floor wax on hardwood floors was like a pleasant bouquet.  The classrooms featured those old school desks that were all connected by steel rails on the floor; the seat of the desk in front of you was attached to the front of your desk, and likewise the seat you were sitting on was connected to the front of the desk behind you.  The wooden surface of the desk featured a hole at the upper left-hand corner to accommodate an inkwell.  Never say that the Waldron School District didn't get it's money's worth out of school equipment. 

Recess was fun.  The playground featured a merry-go-round, upon which I and my classmates spent countless hours in total.  We also played games, and the south side of the Red Brick Building was particularly suited for dodge ball.  One day, when we were playing dodge ball, we invited our custodian, Troxie Taylor, to participate.  Troxie was a wonderful, kind, and gentle old man who was loved by all the kids.  It happened that, on that day, I had brought to school a piece of paper with Japanese writing on it that I hand found in a new wallet that my dad had bought.  I was quite proud of it, and was showing it around to everyone.  For some reason, we played dodge ball with joined hands, and when Troxie joined the group, he took hold of my hand in which I was holding my treasure.  After a minute or two of the game, Troxie went back to work, and somehow my precious piece of Japanese writing had managed to transfer from my hand to Troxie's.  I guess he figured that it would be one less piece of paper to have to pick up off the playground later.

In January of 1966, the TV show Batman premiered.  We were all quite taken with the show, and sometimes at recess we would play Batman.  Randy Jones was Batman, and Terry Nichols was his sidekick Robin.  The rest of us were bats.  We would swoop around the playground, arms outstretched, doing whatever we figured bats did to fight crime. 

Once Mrs. Nelson let us do a kind of a talent show.  I don't remember much about it, just that some of us got up and moved our lips to a record.  I do remember that the record was Day Tripper by The Beatles, which had been released in December of our fourth grade year.  I believe that four of us performed, each playing one particular member of The Beatles.  I think I might have been George, and I believe that Randy Jones was Paul.  I made one suggestion that was incorporated into the act.  Completely misunderstanding the title of the song, and not realizing that a "day trip" was a short vacation, I went with the alternate meaning of trip and suggested that, upon completing our performance, Randy should appear to trip as he walked back to this desk.  The rest of the guys though it was an excellent suggestion, and the visual stunt was indeed performed at the end of our song.

We also got to go on a field trip in fourth grade, to our local chicken processing plant.  At that time it was known as Arkansas Valley Industries, or AVI.  We walked the long walk from school to the plant, and then got to see the unfortunate fate that awaited the poultry population of Scott County.  On the way back, we passed the little donut shop that had been built across the street from the plant.  We didn't get to stop and have a donut, unfortunately.  The little building is still there; it is a house now, I believe.

These were the days when we could go across the street at lunch recess to the Green Candy Store.  You can see my previous post, Lunch At The Candy Store, for more on this unique experience.  Let me just say that getting to have a bologna and chili "hot dog" at the candy store was wonderful beyond measure.

Fourth grade was, I think, when I began to be an actual person.  Maybe it's just that the memories before that time are faded, but it seems that during that fourth grade year, I began to interact with other kids more; joking and teasing Terri Churchill and Cathy Newberry, who sat immediately in front of and behind me, and feeling more of a sense of belonging.  Looking back, I have to attribute much of that to Mrs. Nelson, whose kindness and love for her students was so evident.  But that's what good teachers do.

1 comment:

  1. Comments from Facebook:

    Teresa Culpepper Love this one ! Brings back so many memories !
    October 28 at 12:16pm •

    Jeto Piles Thanks again for the memories Mr. Yates..I haven't thought of Troxie Taylor in 30 years!! He was a kind and gentile man...
    October 28 at 12:39pm •

    Michell Sikes wonderful story........I remember having Mrs. Nelson too.......Loved her!
    October 28 at 4:20pm •

    Marilyn Oliver Sitzes I'm another one of Mrs. Nelson's students. What great teachers we were blessed to have.
    October 28 at 4:53pm •

    Janet Musgrove Oh how I loved Mrs. Nelson! I always credit her for saving my school career. Third grade was a real bummer for me! In Mrs. Nelson's class, I sat between Randy Jones and Randy Bottoms and everyday was an adventure! She sat us boy, girl, boy, girl, so it was very exciting! Once someone brought us some awesome white taffy with peanuts in it and Randy Jones gave me his! It was wonderful! Loved your story, brother!
    October 28 at 4:54pm •

    Vickie Hale-Schuyler I too am a former student of Mrs. Nelson. I was in the class behind you Bill. I remember we grew bean seeds in the windows in our little milk cartons. She also read to us everyday after lunch the Boxcar Family. I loved it. She was great.
    October 29 at 9:23am •

    Darla Williams Deadria, Paula and I all had Mrs. Nelson. My favorite memory was having music in class. She had the niftiest attachment to her LP player that looked like a carousel. I was completely mesmerized by it.
    October 29 at 11:19pm •

    Lisa Wood I was also a student of Mrs. Nelson! We were in the new two story building above the cafeteria. That year Ted Bunn's dad owned a newspaper in town, and it would have a picture that you had to guess where it was. That was always the highlight of our week trying to figure out the picture!! I sure do miss the simpler times!!
    November 6 at 8:03am •