Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Elementary School Days
In second grade, my teacher was Mrs. Winna Tharp. Mrs. Tharp had a lot of science stuff on display, and that really intrigued me. One of her displays was a vase of cattails. I guess cattails spread their seeds by breaking apart and letting the wind scatter what's inside, so Mrs. Tharp warned us that the cattails might begin to break apart sometime during the year. Perhaps she used the word "explode" in describing what would happen to the cattails, because I spent the entire year just waiting for those babies to go off. Unfortunately, they were located right next to my desk, so I recognized early on that I would likely be a casualty to the impending event. Resigned to my fate, I tried my best to concentrate on my studies.
Second grade also featured the only fight I was ever in. I have no idea what started it, or any of the circumstances leading up to it. I just remember lying on my back near the big steps in back of the white frame first and second grade building, with Clyde Johnson, a third grader, on top of me, landing blow after blow. I would have surely been killed had not My Greatest Childhood Friend, Randy Bottoms, intervened and dragged Clyde off of me.
Third grade, as I mentioned in a previous post, was a bad year. It was not the fault of my teacher, Mrs. Inez Baugh. She was very nice, but my sister and I had school phobia that year and missed a lot of school. However, third grade stood out for one event. Mrs. Baugh took her entire class on a field trip over to her house on West 2nd street to watch the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson as President in January of 1965. She had a color TV, and it was the first one I had ever seen. She also took us on a tour of her rose garden in her back yard, which didn't have a lot to offer that cold January day, but it was nice anyway.
Fourth grade was great. Read my post, Batman, Beatles, and Mrs. Nelson for a full discussion of that wonderful year.
Fifth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Robbie Hunsucker. Fifth grade was memorable because we got to change classes for reading and math, although I seem to recall having Mrs. Hunsucker for both subjects. Everyday after lunch, Mrs. Hunsucker would read to us from Laura Engalls Wilder's Little House books. How I loved those stories! Fifth grade was also the year I built the greatest Valentine's Day box ever. Each year, we would get a shoe box and decorate it for Valentine's Day, and everybody would exchange cards by dropping them in each box. When I made my box, I wrapped it in Reynold's Wrap and glued on a few hearts that I had cut out of construction paper. I had to put my name somewhere on the box, and that's when I got a great idea. I got the daily Fort Smith paper, turned to the classified ads, and found a full-page advertisement for a new car dealership in Fort Smith, Bill Yates Buick. I carefully cut out the large letters "Bill Yates" from the ad, and glued the piece of newsprint to my box. Of course, this was well before the days of computers and printers, so everyone was totally amazed at the professionally printed name on my Valentine's Box. Many years later, I got to meet the Bill Yates of Bill Yates Buick, and told him that story.
In sixth grade, my teacher was Mrs. Hazel Smoot. Mrs. Smoot was nice, but we had a few guys in our class who always succeeded in getting her in a bad mood by the end of the day. We changed classes again for math and reading, and I had Miss Chiles for math. I remember we used to have races on the board, and one of my classmates, Frances Moore, was absolutely unbeatable. I mean no one could beat her; watching her work a math problem on the board was a fascinating sight. In reading, each week we got the Weekly Reader, a kind of newspaper for kids. They were great, and I kept mine for many years, but I think they are long gone now. Every six weeks, Weekly Reader came out with a reading comprehension test. I was a good reader, but when the test was given I was almost always beaten by Doug Cottrell.
I also remember my first public speaking experience, which was in sixth grade. We had to give an oral book report, and I had chosen the book The Day of the Arkansas, which was about the C.S.S. Arkansas, and ironclad battleship during the Civil War. For Christmas that year, I had been given a little brown vinyl notebook that had small, perforated sheets of paper attached to it. Jumping at the chance to actually use my new notebook, I made notes on the little slips of paper and held them in my hand, speaking extemporaneously while glancing occasionally at my notes. Well, Mrs. Smoot was impressed, and was lavish with her praise.
I was fortunate to have some really good teachers.