Before retiring, I was a teacher, a curriculum coordinator, an assistant principal and a principal. I have a lot of good memories from those 32 years of my life. But one that stands out in bravery and sense of humor was my experience as a Macarena girl.
Every year, we did some kind of promotion for our reading program. We wanted students to read A.L.O.T!! So we always had a “carrot” out there to encourage them in their reading. And having a contest that students get to participate in is the easiest and best way. One of our fifth grade teachers was a real jewel and had a great sense of humor. Her kids were always thinking of unusual things. So when she proposed that they come up with the perfect reward for the school if they met their reading goals, they set right to work. When they finished, they had a doozy of an idea. It was better than the time that the principal dressed up as Elvis and arrived in a limo to greet and thank children for their efforts. The principal was a great sport and even wore an Elvis costume with exposed chest hair. What a hoot!
Now for the new idea. A really popular dance among children and teens was the Macarena. The kids wanted the principal, assistant principal and the counselor to dance the Macarena in front of the school. Well, that was fine with me. I didn’t know the Macrena but how hard could it be?? The second part of the idea was that we should wear swimsuits.
Swimsuits? We were all OLD-I had grandchildren. And despite the fact that I am now a water fitness instructor and live in a swimsuit all year and have NO problem anymore with wearing it in front of adults at the Y, I am sure that I did NOT want to wear a swimsuit in front of the whole school. It would probably make the Atlanta news-not in a good way.
Well, adults can be sneaky, too. The three of us talked and found a way we could wear swimsuits. So we announced that we would do it at the end of the year IF they met the goals. THE DAY arrived. Parents arrived. Nothing like making a fool in front of everyone!!! The school was abuzz. The dancing was scheduled for 1:45 in the gym. We had a sound system all ready with the music. We just smiled when kids asked us about our swimsuits. It was close to THE TIME. Children were seated in the gym. They were EXCITED! We strolled into the gym. We were wearing raincoats. LONG raincoats. We were wearing hats from the 1950’s with feathers and veils. We wore long gloves. The fifth grade teacher began to encourage the kids to tease us about the raincoats. They wanted us to take them off.
So we did! We were wearing turtlenecks, and leotards, and 1940’s swimsuits. You know-the kind that Esther Williams wore in the movies. They were high cut and anyway we had on turtlenecks with long sleeves. They were longer than some shorts that women wore then. We were in swimsuits. That was the deal. We danced the Macarena and the fifth graders danced with us. It was a blast!
Today it is still a little scary that somewhere—out there—–is a video or two with us doing our performance!
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!
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!