Day 7: Garters and First Grade

I am a retired teacher and administrator.  I worked with children for 32 years.  During that time, I met some terrific students and parents.  During that time, I met some really interesting students and parents. I hope I didn’t offend anyone with that last statement. But I met some real doozies! During my career, I really wanted to make a difference in children.  Sometimes I did an awesome job.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure.  But I always wondered what children would say about me when they grew up. Since I have lived in this area since the 70’s, I frequently run into former students.  I am excited to talk with them and see what has been going on in their life.  And they often say funny things to me about what they remembered. Yay!

So I thought I would tell you about my first grade teacher today.  I hope she will be smiling down on me after I publish this post.  I must say up front that first grade is such a critical year. When I was in elementary school, there was no kindergarten in public school.  Almost all children came to school with no formal instruction.  We started after Labor Day and we ended the last day of May. I can never remember school being cancelled due to weather.  We had no fall breaks or winter breaks. We went to school every day. Period.

The school that I attended was one of the first schools in the area. It was over 130 years old. It had started out in another location as a community school that served grades one to nine. It had three teachers.  THREE!!! And one of them was the principal who also taught. After a number of years, the school was renamed for the principal in honor of his dedication to the education of children.  Nowadays, you have to be dead before a school is named for you! When I started there, he was still the principal. The school site was large enough to have an elementary school (1-8) and a high school.  The elementary school was in the original building. It was pretty cool.  Red brick with steps up to the double wooden and glass doors. Large windows that opened to the ceiling. High ceilings. Oiled floors.  For all of you who are saying “what kind of floors”, I have to say they were oiled.  They were wooden planks that had oil rubbed on them to act as a preservative.  The smell was wonderful.  Ancient. Musty. Tangy. Each night, they spread a rubber compound on the floors and swept it up with any dirt that had collected. There were classrooms on each side of the hallway that ran the length of the school. The walls were plaster and beadboard.  I seem to remember it was that sickly green color that schools liked to use.

In the middle of the building was a large auditorium with theater seats that folded up so that children could walk easily down each aisle.  There was an American flag on one side of the stage and the Georgia flag on the other. There was a piano. And EVERY Friday we had assembly.  I liked assembly. We would sit with our class and never utter a word to each other. That was the rule.  We pledged allegiance to the US flag. We had prayer. Yes prayer.  We read a Bible verse. We sang together while someone played the piano. I can’t remember a single song but they were ones I knew after a few weeks. That was the total of our music education.

Now for my first grade room.  It had a cloakroom.  It was a little room where we left our coats and lunchboxes.  Everyone had a little cubby with a hook. You always put your stuff in your spot. The room seemed to be huge but that was probably due to the high ceilings.  We had blackboards on two complete walls.  One wall was windows. And the other wall was in the back and it had nothing on it. We didn’t have bulletin boards. If you have watched old movies, you have seen desks that were attached to each other.  Ours were like that. The lid of my desk lifted up and we put our paper and other supplies in our desk.  We did not have supply lists with items like Kleenex, Crayola crayons, scissors, hand sanitizer or thumb drives. We had pencils. And pink pearl erasers.

My teacher held a special place in the teacher hierarchy.   She was the wife of the principal.  She was older–perhaps more experienced is a better word.  I would love to tell you that she instilled a love of reading in me.  I would love to tell you that she was marvelous and funny and gave us hugs or stars. But I can only remember one thing about her.   She wore knee garters that she adjusted while  reading to us after lunch. That’s it! I can close my eyes right now and see her hand on the garter. I was fascinated by her ability to read and fiddle with her garters at the same time.  FYI, in those days, many women would pull up their hose, place the elastic garter around the top of the hose and then roll the whole shebang down their leg until it was right below their knee.  Their dress would cover the garter.

And that is the sum total of my first grade education knowledge. Garters! Please forgive me Mrs. O.

Day 6: Moonpies and Flashlights-The only way to read!

When you are a child and like to read, you will go to any length to be able to read when adults think you should be doing something else.  And I was a B.I.G. reader!  Between new Nancy Drew books and old Nancy Drew books and the public library and the school library and the church library, I was pretty set.  But then as I grew older, I had other responsibilities at home that took me from what I felt was my sole responsibility-reading.  During summer when school was out, I wanted to eat breakfast while reading, sit on the porch and read until lunch. Read during lunch. Read all afternoon-etc. You get the picture. During the school year, it was a little easier to squeeze in some extra reading because you could always claim it  was “about school”! Chores were a lot less because you had responsibilities like homework, practicing the piano, going to Girl Scouts and of course, church activities like Girls Auxiliary.  It was also easier to grab extra reading time during class.  Most of our school books were large. I could just open the book to the correct page and then put my library book inside the cover.  Ta-dah! The perfect solution for me!  All I had to do was keep up with where the teacher was.  It was a great solution for me.  So now all I needed was a solution for those golden days of summer.

I was a Girl Scout and went to day camp every summer. I loved camp.  And the most exciting part was the overnight camp-out at the end of the session.  Well, I had to have a few extra items at the camp-out. One of those items was a flashlight. I had never had my own flashlight so I had to  play around with it one night.  Oh my goodness.  It provided just the right amount of light. Not too much. Not too little.  Then T.H.E. idea came to me.  Why not use my flashlight to extend my reading time in the evening? Hmmm.  That sounded pretty good to me.  But wait! What if someone-like my mother-saw me.  That would not be good.  I might lose my flashlight. I decided it was worth the risk.  I hid my flashlight under the covers of my bed and tried it that night.  I heard my parents go to bed and knew it was the time to give this idea a test drive.  Success!  I could use my pillow to form a slight tent and then read with my flashlight under the tent. And I could read as long as I W.A.N.T.E.D! Yay!

My extra reading time was wonderful except for one thing.  After reading for another hour or so, I would be a little hungry.  And I couldn’t get up because my parents would hear and come and check on me.  Hmm.  What could I do for food? My favorite reading snack was a big dill pickle.  I couldn’t do that. They were wet and drippy. Ah-moonpies. They were cheap. They were yummy. They were individually wrapped. And my mom bought a big box every week.  She thought they were good snacks.  So I would sneak into the kitchen and snag a moonpie whenever I could. Then I would hide it in the covers on my bed. Since it was my responsibility to make my bed, it was no big deal.    Problem solved!  I could read all night if I wanted.  I could snack and no one would be the wiser.  Success!

My father did notice that my flashlight seemed to use a lot of batteries that summer.  I wonder why!

Day 5: Still crazy after all these years!

I was born in a very interesting small town in Georgia.  I knew from a very early age that the mere mention of the name brought laughter to all ages.  The town was not “funny” at all. In fact, it was a former capital of Georgia.  It was a typical southern town.  It had a main boulevard which was gorgeous. Streets surrounding the main drag were lovely with divided lanes and enormous trees.  All kinds of houses lined the streets.  There were one and two story homes with wide porches and rockers.  Children could walk to school if you lived in town.  Many of the people who lived in town worked for the largest employer or for companies that provided services to this employer.  There was a state college for women (yes-just women) and it was a well-respected college. In the “old” days, it was GSCW or Georgia State College for Women. In addition, Georgia Military College was there. So you are now saying-What is the big deal about the name?

Well, it was Milledgeville, Georgia.  And the state insane asylum was located there. Yikes! As an elementary student in Marietta, I H.A.T.E.D to tell people where I was born.  If I said Milledgeville, people-especially other children, would make some remark about how crazy I was.  In fact, another word for insane asylum was the word Milledgeville.  Period.  So early on, I searched for a way to avoid mentioning my birthplace so I would not have to deal with the insults.  Then I found the perfect answer. I would tell people that I was born in Baldwin County. This statement was absolutely true. But since most children and even some adults suffered from a basic knowledge of Georgia geography,  I was safe! No more jokes! No more laughs!

The fact that people laughed about Milledgeville made me sad. Not angry. Just sad.  It was a lovely town filled with gracious people. I had a number of relatives who lived there.  They had beautiful Southern names like Mary Claire and Rosa and Ruth Ann.  My Aunt Rosa was the queen of watermelon pickles.  Every summertime meal had a dish of her special  pickles.  My parents finally limited the number of times I could ask for another one.  Hydrangea and gardenia bushes surrounded their homes,  There was a jug of sweet tea in the frig always.  I loved to visit and listen to their conversations about various relatives and neighbors. I volunteered to dry dishes because it put me in the kitchen where the women talked about everything. They solved every problem in the world. I was always quiet so they would forget I was there. I would even dry dishes twice just to be a part of the sisterhood. It was amazing!

Since many of my relatives worked at Central State Hospital (the official name),I also got to visit there.  In those days, the hospital had dorms and single nurses could live there. My Nannie had a fabulous room. Large, airy, windows looking out at ancient magnolias. Ahh,  it was restful.  Everyone in the three story dorm knew everyone else. They had their own community.  I also visited some of the wards.  That was interesting when the big metal door thunked shut.  I think children are more understanding of some things-like women with mental problems.  The ones that my Nannie worked with were sweet as pie. They were great gardeners and had a huge flower and vegetable garden.  They loved to take my hand and show me every flower they had grown.  I learned so much from them. I was never afraid.

When we would go down to pick Nannie up for a visit, she would have a shoebox with sandwiches for lunch in the car.  I learned to have an appreciation for pineapple sandwiches. Yum! And her homemade pimento sandwiches were fabulous. Sometimes we would eat first on benches under the trees on the state grounds.  It was so peaceful. Sometimes, she would ride the bus to Atlanta and we would go pick her up at the bus station in Atlanta.  As I grew older, my parents would let me ride the Greyhound bus down to see her.  It was an exciting  trip for me. All alone. Traveling halfway down the state. WOW! I thought I was so grown-up!

Milledgeville still has the state hospital.  The college is still there but with a new name.  Many streets are still divided by trees.  Antebellum homes are restored and in use.  A visitor can still see the former state capital which by the way has underground tunnels for safety sake.  And at Bible study a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was born in Milledgeville and one of the ladies said-“I visited the women’s section of the state hospital when I was in college”.

So I guess I am still crazy after all these years!

Day 4: A-You’re Adorable B-You’re so Beautiful

I was an only child for almost 10 years. And then my Mother became pregnant. Pregnancy was different in the 60’s. First of all, mothers-to-be were never to look pregnant or have anyone see their protruding belly. It was just in poor taste. Maternity clothes were large and completely covered the belly. Women really didn’t wear pants a lot either. And no one talked about what was really happening inside of you. But that is another story. My parents were so excited about the new baby. In those days, there were no ultrasounds. When the baby came out, you knew what you were having. That was it unless you had a distant aunt that could predict the sex using a needle on a thread that was swung over your belly!

When my sister was born, she was a cutie. She had R.E.D. hair! My parents took a lot of kidding about that. No one had red hair that we knew about in our family. Oops! Then when my Dad’s mother saw the new baby, she laughed and said that she had red hair as a young woman. Mystery solved!

I loved watching my dad rock my younger sister. It was a side that I had never seen. I would sit on their bed and watch him holding her and talking to her. The sweetest part was when he would sing to her at night right before he put her in bed. He told me that he sang to me, too, when I was a baby. I can close my eyes and see the picture of him and hear him singing:

“A-you’re adorable

B-you’re so beautiful

C-you’re a cutie full of charm

D-you’re a darling and

E-you’re so elegant

F-you’re a feather in my arms

G-you look good to me

H-you’re so heavenly”

And the song would continue until he had used the whole alphabet. As he sang, he would stroke her cheek. By the end, my sister would be sound asleep all cuddled in my Dad’s arms. Just thinking about those precious moments, chokes me up. Even today.

When I had children, I sang this song to them, too. Yes, even to my son! And then to my daughter. When my grandchildren came along, I sang this same song to them.

Thank you Daddy! I love you and miss you so!

Dad Army uni

Day 3: The Dollar Girl

I spent most of my childhood in a neighborhood community north of Atlanta, Georgia. Life was pretty simple in the 1950’s and 60’s for most folks. Our community was pretty big to us with 25,565 people. One of the nicest things about “downtown” was the way it was constructed. First of all, in the dead center of downtown was a really nice park. It had trees and a nice fountain and benches along the pathways. It also had a wonderful playground. The “playset” that is popular now had not been invented at that time. So we had swing sets. The large metal posts supported the most fantastic swings known to man. Chains held large wooden seats and allowed the swing sitter to be able to really go high. It was glorious! The park was surrounded by locally owned stores, a bank, a hardware store and two movie theaters. Everything you could want you could purchase right across from the park. All of my shoes were purchased at the shoe store which had a fascinating thing that you would stand in to check your size. Actually, it was probably a dangerous kind of x-ray but hey! we survived and wore the correct size shoe. The drugstore had a luncheon bar that served the best grilled cheese sandwiches anywhere. There was a “dime store” where you could purchase “Evening in Paris” cologne. There was a hat store because women wore “real” hats in those days. But the single most important store to me was the book store.

I loved to go in the bookstore. It had Blue Horse binders in the fall for school and the best selection of books anywhere. Actually it was the only selection of books except for the public library. I LOVED to read. I can’t remember learning to read. I just remember loving the written word and reading everything I could find. There were no paperback books to my knowledge. But there were loads of books in the book store. Because my Nannie knew my love of reading, she would mail me a dollar once a month. Glory be! A dollar was exactly the cost for a hardback book. I purchased some Bobbsey Twin books and loved them. But then I discovered T.H.E perfect book series for me…… Nancy Drew. Oh My! When I received that dollar from Nannie, I would beg my mother to go to town so I could get another Nancy Drew book. They were hardbacks. I would read them over and over again. I felt like Nancy, Bess and George were my best friends. I only read them in order. So when they were out of the “next” book in the series, I would check back in so that I could get the next adventure as soon as possible! When I finished the Nancy Drew series, I began the Cherry Ames series. For years I wanted to be a nurse thanks to Cherry. Then came the Sue Barton books and last of all, the Vicki Barr books. Oh the places I visited with those wonderful characters..for only one dollar!

Day 2: Life Interrupted

Sometimes you make plans that are interrupted. For example, I had this terrific post for today that I threw out to talk about life interrupted. I have always been an animal lover and we have had various pets over the course of our marriage. They have always been great additions to our family. Well, this year, our 12 year old pooch-Millie-died in April. She was a terrific pooch. We had found her and her brother-Mac-in our driveway when they were puppies. When you live in the country on a gravel road, some folks think it is an invitation to drop off things they don’t want. Well some person dropped off these two puppies and we took them home. They were great dogs. Mac died in 2013 and then we lost Millie. So we have been dogless for a few months. We keep our grand dog, Zoe, most afternoons and she is awesome. She is a snoodle. But I really wanted one of our own.

Today we went to the dog gym with Zoe and our daughter to work on a few things. And to our surprise, the training was a sham. Our daughter, our daughter-in-law and two of our grandchildren came in with the most adorable puppy. SURPRISE!

So we have a new member of our family. His name is Ozzie and he is a Golden Doodle. He is 10 weeks old and full of vim and vigor. He is a great kisser and has already captured our hearts. So tonight, we will practice our getting up every three hours to take the dog out skills. But that is ok because we can take a long nap together tomorrow afternoon!



Day 1: My Love Affair with Okra

Hey ya’ll!  I am from the South (duh)!  I live in the part of the South where the word Sou-th is actually two complete and separate syllables.  It gently “rolls” off your tongue like honey from a jar.  And in the Sou-th where I live, okra is a B.I.G. deal!  First of all, who would expect that such a gangly plant could produce such gorgeous flowers? And who would have expected that such luscious food could grow on the prickly stem? God made a masterpiece when he made okra. It is manna from Heaven!

okra plant

First of all, I have to say that two people in my life started my love affair with okra. The first was my Nannie. I was lucky enough to have a Nannie that was pure country. When she visited-which was always during the vegetable canning season-she first introduced me to okra. Boiled okra. I know that some of you are saying “yuck yuck”. Well, let me tell you that once she sat me down with the small, tender okra pods that were gently boiled and paired it with fresh butterpeas, creamed fresh corn and a BIG slice of mater (tomato for you Yankees), I was hooked!

The other person who helped to intensify my addiction was the lady across the street from us. She was a sweetie. Her husband worked nights so she always cooked a big lunch and they ate mid-afternoon. Well as I was playing jacks (a summer favorite) on my screened front porch or reading, the most delicious odor would float right out her kitchen window and straight to my nose. I could not figure out what she was cooking. So one day I decided to stop by and see if her daughter was at home. I knew she wasn’t there! And Mrs. H invited me into her kitchen. When you went visiting at dinner time, you always talked in the kitchen while you sat on the kitchen stool and sipped sweet tea with lemon. Right before me was a big, black cast iron skillet filled with this wonderful little brown tidbits. It was fried okra. She was a QUEEN of fried okra. That seasoned skillet made every morsel crispy and flavorful. Then she offered me some on one of her Blue Willow plates and I was totally hooked. I swooned with each bite. Oh my! Then she began to call across the street when she had okra for lunch. From her front porch she would call–“Honey come on over, I have a little plate for you” And I would run and ask my momma and then head across for the best okra in the world. Thank you Mrs. H and Nannie for introducing me to okra!

fried okra

I have to confess that I am an okra purist.  The season is short and I must enjoy every okra opportunity.  Now the purist rules.  Okra is fresh from the garden. It is never frozen.  Okra is coated with buttermilk and real corn meal-not that mix stuff with flour in it.  The last rule is it is F.R.I.E.D. in a black cast iron skillet in oil. Period.

And yes, honey, we are having fried okra again tonight!