Friday, November 4, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Elementary School

DISCLAIMER: Names were changed to protect the people involved.

I thought that writing about the elementary schools I attended (there were four from Kindergarten through Sixth grades) would be kind of boring, so I decided to use this blogging prompt to write about some of my more memorable moments in elementary school.

First, you need to understand where I was coming from. I am the eldest of five children. That meant that I was automatically smarter, braver, and stronger than all my siblings. It was my job to experience all that life had to offer first, then to teach my younger siblings how to go on.

Sherri First Grade
Daddy was in the Air Force and stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas. We lived in a house on Main Street until the summer of 1959. I attended First Grade in a public school just down the street from our home. I had to cross the street in order to get to school, but there was a crossing guard just in front of the school, which made walking alone uneventful. One day, I was late leaving for school and when I got to the crosswalk, the crossing guard was gone! Naturally, I returned home and informed my mother that I could not go to school since I could not cross the street. Mom helped me to cross the street in front of the house and told me to walk to school on that side of the street. Unfortunately, there was a big, mean, scary dog on that side of the street. I returned home once more, screaming and crying, and refused to ever walk on that side of the street again. This was the first time I had ever crossed the street alone (trying to get away from that dog) and once the fear subsided and I realized what I had done, I decided that it wasn’t so scary to cross a street after all.

It was in the First Grade that I learned about April Fool’s Day. Walking home from school, some older girls played an April Fool’s joke on me by telling me that my dress was untied. The girls explained the concept of April Fool’s to me and I couldn’t wait to get home to play a trick on Mom. When I got home, my mother was standing on a stool hanging up curtains. I told her that her shoes were untied and, of course, she looked down. This thrilled me to no end and I screamed “April Fool’s!” while giggling uncontrollably. Mom asked me how I had learned about it and said she had hoped I wouldn’t learn about April Fool’s until I was much older.

Sherri Second Grade
Sometime during the summer of 1960, we moved to base housing. At the same time, an opening came up for me to attend Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic parochial school. Since my younger sister's sixth birthday was on Labor Day that year, the school allowed her to start First Grade. Not only was this a new school, but we had to ride the bus. Although apprehensive about all these new experiences, I needed to be brave for Susie's sake and must help her with her first experience with school.

Susie (aka Susan)
First Grade
My term at Sacred Heart Academy did not get off to a good start. Since the school was overcrowded, they combined the first and second grade classes; first grade students were on one side of the room and the second grade students on the other. This meant that Susie and I were in the same classroom and I could keep an eye on my little sister. On the first day of school, when the nun called roll, she asked if Sherri was a nickname for "Sharon" or for "Cheryl". The teacher and I had a short argument over my real name, which IS Sherri. When the nun got around to calling Susie's name, she called her "Susan". I promptly raised my hand and informed her that my sister's name is "SUSIE", not "SUSAN." This, of course, did not endear me to the teacher. When we returned home, I told Mom that the school had made a mistake with Susie’s name and that she needed to go down there and straighten them out. Imagine my surprise upon learning that her real name was actually Susan. I was very upset and indignant that Mom had never told me that my sister had an alias.

My experience in parochial school was a little different from my previous experiences in public school. Our bus arrived a little earlier than the one picked up the public school kids. Susie and I were the only ones at our stop rode the blue bus. One morning, Susie and I stood at the stop for a much longer time than usual. The public school bus came and went and we were still waiting. Finally, we walked back home to tell Mom that the bus never came! She called the school and found out that it was a Holy Day…one of those magical days that only catholic school kids got off from school. What a wonderful surprise for us—a free holiday that none of the other kids at the bus stop got!  We felt really special and they were all quite envious of us when we gloated about it the next day.

The differences between the two types of schools held some pitfalls as well. In those days, Catholics were not supposed to eat meat on Fridays. Unfortunately, our mother would sometimes forget that it was Friday and send us to school with bologna sandwiches. Susie and I would hide in a corner to eat our lunch so no one would see what we were eating. We were terrified that we would be sent straight to Hell if we were caught.

Another pitfall was that all children, starting with second grade, must go to confession every Wednesday. Each class would troop over to the church on the grounds and line up for the confessional. Each child entered alone and confessed her sins for the past week to the priest. There were no exceptions. The trouble I had with this was that I had nothing to confess! I was a very well-behaved child. We never talked back to our parents, we addressed all men as “sir” and all women as “ma’am”. We did not even think about telling a lie, for the punishment was painful not to mention a certain trip to Hell if you had the misfortune to be run over by a bus or to be struck by lightning soon after. I didn’t dare confess about the Friday meat thing as I was afraid the priest would punish Mom for giving it to us. So, what did I do? Why, I lied of course! I made up sins every week. The priest must have thought I was a very bad child—I talked back to my parents, I fought with my brothers and sisters, and I lied. I am just now realizing that the ironic thing about all this is that my confession of lying wasn’t really a lie, at least not after the first time, because the entire confession was a lie. I never asked Susie what she did when she made it to the second grade; she might have been able to give me some good tips.

Despite our surety of falling from grace, by the time we left Texas for Arizona at the end of our third year at the school, Susie and I had become the jump-rope queens of the playground. The notoriety we gained at Sacred Heart gave us the courage to face total strangers, being thrust into a civilian community, and the return to public school in a new state the following year. Thus one era ended for us and another began.

Thanks for dropping by.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is an ongoing challenge from GeneaBloggers and Amy Coffin that invites genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants.

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