Day 17: Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is October 19, 2014.  It is also my Mother’s birthday. My Mom was adopted. She never talked with me about it. In fact, my grandmother-Nannie-was the one who eventually told me.  My Mom never wondered about her birth mother.  Her adoption sounds like something from a news story – “Infant girl left in basket at doorstep of local family”.   Because, you see-that is what happened. She deeply loved her parents and her kin folks. I never knew my Grandpa. He died before I was born.  His name was Roy and he was an electrician.

scan0802

This is a picture of my Mom as a teenager. She is seated with my Nannie, three of my aunts and cousin J. Don’t you love how they do their hair?

My Mom grew up in a tough time. She had a paper route to earn some extra cash. She won a bike the first summer for adding the most new customers.   She loved dogs-cockers were her favorite. They were always named Lady. When she entered high school, she started working at a photographic studio in town. Eventually she started doing touchups for the studio. She was very talented with photography.  She had great baby pictures of me!

scan0797

Then she met a boy from Kansas who was attending Georgia Military Academy. He was all alone  His father had died when he 18 months old  His mother remarried and moved to Illinois with her new husband and children. Fortunately his father had set aside money for him to attend GMC when he became a 9th grader. I have no idea how they actually met. I have often wondered but that opportunity for questions is forever gone.

When Dad was drafted, they got married.  My mother continued to live at home with her mother until Dad came back.  I was born in Milledgeville, Georgia and 9 years later my redheaded sister made her appearance in our family.

I would love to say that we lived happily ever after. But we did not. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties. But I can say with absolute certainty that my parents loved both of us enormously and were proud of our accomplishments. They were always there when we needed them.

scan0498Mom was a great baby holder! A was just a little chunk of cuteness in this picture.

I love you and miss you, Mom!

Day 16: The Day the Secret Service Came to Town

Many years ago a young couple was looking for their first house where they could settle down with their two children.   First they looked in the town where the husband worked as a telephone engineer. Unfortunately, the prices were out of their range. So-in the words of every realtor -they looked  20 miles down the road to get more ” bang for their buck”  and found their first home . It was a nice small community-good churches, good schools, friendly people.

Yep! That was us many years ago. We loved our new home. We loved our church. Our Sunday School class was terrific. We were all about the same age. We did things together  like progressive dinners. The women had morning Bible study. In the summer the men played softball together. Y’all-this was the South. And slow pitch softball was the BIG summer event.  We had so many teams that the church league had two sections. Some of the players from the carpet mills even played on the church league. We were HOT!  We played usually twice a week. Frankly, it seemed like we just lived there.

Then one day our little community changed.  ALOT.  Jimmy Carter was elected President.  And one of the Carter sons lived in town.  Everyone knew the moment the Secret Service  arrived. It was a dead giveaway. There was a man in a black suit with an earpiece walking down the cereal aisle in Big Star or Piggly Wiggly beside a young woman in blue jeans and a T-shirt. Their big SUV kind of car was spotless. Our cars and trucks were not. They stuck out like a sore thumb. Several weeks into their stint  we noticed that they switched to a more casual dress-flannel shirts , boots and jeans.  They were adjusting to small town life.

The subdivision where the Carter’s lived was under constant security.  You had to have a reason to come down their street. Our progressive dinners were probably a nightmare for the secret service.  The families on the street loved the security. They didn’t lock their doors for the entire Carter administration.  One of the families had the most amazing little girl. She was an escape artist. At the age of four, she could unlock any door in her house. She could even undo the screws in her bedroom window screens and escape. Finally the family made Dutch doors with dead bolt locks inside in order to keep her inside the house at night. When she escaped, she never got lost because the Secret Service always were watching. And they would take her by the hand and take her home!

Ball season was always interesting because several agents were always there. They had huge  black duffel bags. They had the biggest equipment bags we had ever seen. And they never opened them up! We could not figure that out until one day when a truck backfired and they jumped to open the bags. The bags contained an arsenal of weapons. Yikes!!

Several times during his Presidency, Jimmy Carter visited our little town. That was always interesting. First of all, we noticed right away that the barber shop painted its pole! New flowers were seen in window boxes. New paint was noticed. But the biggest impact was on our church! Because the service was not private, anyone could attend. So in order for the members to have a seat, everyone was issued a ticket. I still have mine. I had to show it to security in order to enter the church. My husband and children had tickets, too. When word got out about the tickets, news people began to call local residents and offered to purchase their tickets. Depending on where your seat was located, you could be offered as much as $500!!!!  The members were shocked that someone would want to intrude on our time of worship. And to the best of my knowledge, no one sold out! And we had a fine worship the day the President visited.

Before church started, the President greeted members, shaking their hands and smiling at them. He had the bluest eyes and when he smiled at you, the smile went all the way to his eyes. He thanked me for welcoming him to our church and our town. He had a firm handshake.  I noticed he sang during the hymn singing and he read from his own Bible.  As I looked down from my usual balcony seat, I was glad that I had this opportunity to worship this morning  with lovers of The Lord.  And that Jimmy Carter had been one of them.

Day 15: The Queen of Seventh Grade

Once again tonight’s post is powered by Brookstone Dark Chocolate Pomegranate pieces ( no money exchanged hands) and pain medication!

My favorite teacher of all time was my seventh grade teacher-Miss Betty Sue C. She was not married. She had a twin sister. She was a graduate of Berry College and she was the school librarian. She was ramrod straight in her posture. She never raised her voice because she could do “the look”.   You know what I mean by ” the look”. Her penetrating stare could silence the most rowdy child of any age in a  nano second. The second a student turned the corner into her classroom, he or she would stop talking to friends and say, “Good Morning Miss C” and go directly to his or her seat. She would always stop and smile at the student and say hello or good morning. There were no class rules. We felt her presence and honored her as our teacher.

Miss C had the most perfect handwriting  of any adult I have ever know. Do you remember the handwriting books that children used in school? Well most of you probably don’t. Anyway, every student had a handwriting book and we would practice making our handwriting -well-just perfect. We had handwriting class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We could only use handwriting paper and every letter had to be formed exactly right. AND we used a pen. Not just any pen—- a cartridge ink pen.  Real ink that came in little cartridges. That you pushed into the pen. No ball points.  Miss C had a chalk holder that allowed her to make the blackboard look like our handwriting paper. She would write. We would practice. She would walk around and point out that you had missed the little point on the top of your lower case r. We all wanted to do our best for her. One afternoon as we had penmanship, she bent over and was writing the last line of practice when the most awful thing happened. She farted. Passed gas. Pooted. Whatever you call it, it was the most horrible embarrassing moment of everyone’s life. She quietly said, pardon me and continued her lesson. No one could say a thing. We were horrified for her. But just like anything else in her life, she handled it in a ladylike way and moved forward. As a 65 year old woman,  I have found that farts are pretty sneaky things. As you get older, they slip out before you know it. I am not sure I have the kind of grace that she exhibited that day.

In those days, the librarian was not a full time job. A teacher would teach all day and then after school do the management part of the library. Books had little pockets in the back with a card. Students would sign their name on the card  and the home room teacher would use the date stamp to show when the book should be returned. The system worked well. The librarian would review the checked out books and reshelve them after school. And she could have an assistant-ME!  So after school I would do whatever she told me to do. I reshelved a lot of books. I loved the library. I loved the smell of books. And the ink stamp.  The sunlight that filtered through the blinds. The oil wax that I put on cotton cloths and dusted the shelves. The quiet. I did get paid for my work. Every child in the upper grades could check out two books a week. Because I worked as an aid, I could check out an additional book each week. That was a real plus. And as an aid, I could check out books before anyone else. Yay!

Working as an aid had the advantage of an extra library book every week. And getting new books sooner was terrific. But there was also a downside. Miss C and I attended the same church and they had a library. Before I entered the seventh  grade, I could breeze in and check out two and be blissfully happy. But when I entered seventh grade, I would select two books and turn to face Miss C who would remember exactly how many I already had in my possession. And she would make me give her one back. Rats! So I began to check the church library schedule and then go when Miss C was not working! Problem solved!!!

Day 14: Prunes and Skates

First of all, I had surgery today on my wrist. My entire arm is still numb. I am still a little fuzzy around the edges so I apologize in advance for typos I don’t recognize. I am still using the one finger approach! :-)) And tonight’s writing assistance is provided by Brookstone Dark Chocolate pomegranate pieces!

First of all, you must like prunes if you clicked on this post! lOL Or you are a skater! I have talked a little about the teachers in my life and what I remember about their impact on my life. I think it is interesting that the things I remembered are not directly related to instruction but to their interactions with me. First grade was all about assembly and garters! Second and third were in fast forward apparently. But fourth grade was a winner! I had Mrs.R who had taught for many years. I was a “tall” girl in fourth grade. I apparently had hit a growth spurt and got to sit in the back. The last seat-hooray! And I was close to the teacher which impacted seriously on my hidden library book activity. But I found that sitting near the teacher had other advantages. I was the errand runner. Yay! In those days, teachers didn’t give a hoot about helper charts. They cared about responsibility and who could be a good helper. Throughout  fourth grade C,S and I were helpers.

One day I noticed a piece of cake on her desk. It looked rather like Japanese Fruit Cake. But it was the wrong time of the year. So before lunch I had a chance to say”Mrs.R, is that Japanese Fruit Cake?”. She told me it was Prune Cake. Did I like prunes? I smiled and silently thanked my Nannie. And said yes!!! I ate stewed prunes with my Nannie. Yum Yum!! So at lunch she gave me a taste of her Prune Cake. I loved it! The next day she brought me a whole piece of my own. Her family didn’t like it so she always shared. Next she brought me the recipe. I still have it! So what else do I remember about fourth grade? Prune Cake and the fact that I always had a regular GI tract! :-))

In the fifth grade, I had a new teacher to the school. And he was a man! I didn’t know that men could teach in elementary school. He even had an interesting name. His first name was the singular form of his last name. For example—Forest F Forests. He was single. He had worked at Lockheed and left to teach school again. He missed working with children. He was a little fluffy! He wore a starched white shirt and black dress trousers every day with a tie. Can I remember what we did in class.? No.  I can remember the other fifth grade teachers were women and crabby. He was not. He smiled a lot. Then at the end of the first six weeks, he forever had a place in our hearts. He announced that we had done so good that we were having a class skating party in Atlanta at the Rollerdome. We would leave at 5 and ride in the cars of parents to the Rollersome. We would skate from 6 to 9 and then return to the school and children could be picked up.

The Rollerdome was huge and down near the Crackers stadium. It had gorgeous wooden floors and several huge chandeliers in the center. The music was excellent. They had partner skates and races and backward skates. It was THE place to skate and none of us had ever been to such a fancy place. I loved it. My dad skated with me. My friends. My not friends. Then the teacher did another thing that we did not expect and was instructional. He taught every single one of us to couples skate. He said it was a skill we should know. I learned to skate backwards too. We went every six weeks. He skated with every single one of us. He was an excellent figure skater and we thought he was the best in the world! I will also need to mention that one other significant event happened that year. I had my very first visit from my aunt in RedBank (let me know if you have no idea what I mean). The same night  I also went to see Handel’s Messiah at a local church. I thought that the Music was especially significant that day!

And so, once again you have learned about my educational endeavors for fourth and fifth grade! I had another yummy recipe for prunes and I could couples skate! Not everything is a part of standardized testing!!

Day 13: Hollywood in the South

Today youngsters can quickly rattle off the names of movies they have seen. Sometimes I think there is a long list of hundreds of titles in their heads with a box beside each one. Once you see a movie, you put a check in the box and move to the next. If you ask a child about a movie they will say something to the tune of…..” It was awesome! So cool! The graphics were amazing!…. And so forth.

So let’s skip back to another time and look at movies in a different way. First of all, Walt Disney had already made some movies when I was a child. I saw part of Bambi and I was done with animal movies. Movies were expensive in the 1950’s. Even Saturday matinees where children could go for a reduced rate. In those days, the audience could view a trailer with upcoming movies, generally a news clip about something and a NEW cartoon. Then the real film would start. The theater in Marietta had a lighted marquee where the name of the film was displayed in lights. You stopped at the ticket office to purchase a ticket and then handed the ticket to the uniformed usher. Then you entered the theater lobby. The refreshment bar had ornate golden arches and mirrors. You could get popcorn or candy and coca-colas. The burgundy Persian carpet was soft. A staircase led to the upstairs bathrooms and THE balcony where the couples sat. The whole theater reeked of popcorn with real butter. It was so glamorous to all of us kids.

The earliest movie that I can remember seeing was Walt Disney’s The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. I loved it. I still have two copies of it: one is tape and plays in my ancient VCR. The other is a DVD. I can not tell you how many times I saw it. And my children and grandchildren still enjoy it to this day. I still laugh out loud when I see it.

You will be surprised about the other movie I remember. It was The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was so scary. And I got to see it at The Fox Theater in Atlanta. It was the first time I had been to The Fox. It was the most fabulous theater I had ever had the chance to visit. The ceiling looked like the sky complete with stars and clouds. 4000 people could sit there. It had an elaborate pipe organ and they played it before the curtains parted and the movie began. Everything looked like it had just been flown in from Morocco on a magic carpet. My dad and I went together one Saturday afternoon. We had a wonderful time watching the movie and then we ate at The Varsity. The Varsity is an Atlanta traditional. It is across the highway from Georgia Tech and served the best burgers, deep fried onion rings and these yummy fried peach pies. Hundreds of people ate there daily. You could actually watch TV and eat. Diners heard “What ya have?” “what ya have?” From the men behind the counters.

The final movie that I can remember was really due to a lie I told my mother. Sorry Mom! One of my friends decided to have a movie party for her birthday. And she planned to go to see “Blue Hawaii” with Elvis Presley. I knew my parents would not allow me to see Elvis. So I told my mother I didn’t know what movie we would see. Liar liar pants on fire! So that is how I saw my first Elvis movie. I thought Elvis was the most handsome man with the most gorgeous voice. I wanted to GO to Hawaii. I wanted to see the beach. I wanted Elvis to sing to me. I wanted a fragrant lei around my neck. Years later when I did go to Hawaii, I fell in love with it. I went to the beach. I had an exquisite lei around my neck and Elvis was still singing “Falling in Love with You”. Ahhhh-it’s nice when things don’t change!!!

Day 12: Howdy Who?

Media in the 1950’s and 1960’s was so different than today. I can actually remember when we purchased our first television set. It was common for them to have a screen of only 12 inches. They were black and white. That is IT! NO color. Zero. Nada. We had rabbit ears on top of our set so we could “receive” three different channels–2,5 and 11. Television stations only ran certain hours– not 24 hours a day. At midnight, the stations would show the American flag and play the Star, Spangled Banner. Then all you would see is a test pattern and hear a tone until the stations started up again the next morning.

I cannot remember everything that was on TV but I can remember the ones my parents let me watch. In those days, parents were in charge. Period. At our house, the television did not come on early in the morning. The radio did. It was the source of news and weather and music and programs like “The Shadow”. Everyday at 12, Back to the Bible came on the radio and we always listened. The theme song in those days was “I Love to Tell the Story”. We always listened and ate lunch. Well, except on Thursdays. That was payday and we would pick Dad up at the Plant and go to the bank.

Our little household would generally halt every day around 1 because that is when “As the World Turns” came on the television. That is generally when the television was turned on for the day. People worked in their homes. They listened to the radio and worked. All the women tuned in to their favorite soap. They laughed and said they would not even answer their telephones!

After school, children played outside or did their homework. Sometimes children watched TV because there were a few children’s shows on. One I can remember was The Howdy Doody Show. It had a clown and showed a few cartoons. Another very popular show was ” The Mickey Mouse Club”. I knew every word to the song. Annette and Tommy and the others were glamorous to all us who watched from home. One of our local channels had an afternoon children’s program and my Brownie troop was in the audience. We were so excited to be on TV. There was no taping of shows. You saw it or you didn’t. VCRs were not invented.

Night programs included a few that you may be familiar with today. The KING of evening TV was I Love Lucy. You may remember that the couple had twin beds. That was just the way it was. Even married couples were not filmed in bed together. I have many favorite episodes. Do you remember the chocolate factory? Or the Vita Veta-Min Commercial? Other favorites included “Father Knows Best”, “Donna Reed Show”, “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Dragnet”. On Sunday night, you could watch the Ed Sullivan Show. I never saw Elvis on it. My parents said no. But years later I saw The Beatles. You could watch Lassie but I never watched animal programs. I was a weepy mess because Lassie was always in trouble. And you could watch Walt Disney World. On Saturdays I watched Sky King and The a Roy Rogers Show. I loved Roy and Dale! They were always singing and doing the right thing. I also watched The alone Ranger. He was another good role model for children. As a preteen, my all time favorite program was Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey. I even had an autographed picture of Ben Casey! And one of those white button up jackets like interns wore. Lots of girls had them. I received mine as a gift. I ironed and starched it myself. crazy, I know! This seems mighty tame compared to the stars that children look up to today. I have to say I prefer the old days even now.

So I guess I will leave you with this tidbit of a song. See if you can finish it! Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse. Forever let us hold our standard high!

Day 11: Life Interrupted Part 2

On Saturday, I was working at a breast cancer 5k run and slipped and fell. One minute I was standing erect and the next I was on the floor. It had been raining and the floor was wet. Oops!  I guess I should have gone to the porta potty and perhaps my wrist would be fine. Or then again, I could have fallen out of the porta potty with my undies around my ankles, be covered in ick, and still have a broken  wrist!  Since I am a dab behind, I thought I would use this post to make fun of my injury!

Top Things You Can’t Do with a Broken Right Wrist

* Tie your sneakers ( duh you say)

*Floss your teeth. I am a flosser and was really bummed when I could not figure out an alternate way to floss.

*Fasten your bra. If I were smaller, I would not wear one. But a DD girl needs support. I guess I could try a sports bra. But I would have to be able to step into it and pull it up. Well, that ain’t happening folks. There is way too much stuff to pull it over with only one hand.

*Line your eyes. I wear minimal makeup. Eyeliner is one of the things I do wear. I would suggest you practice lining your eyes with the “wrong” hand just to give it a try.  And then figure out what you might do. Asking my hubby was out. He had already committed to bra fastening.

*Wipe. You know what I mean. Awkward. I would suggest investing in some baby wipes. And go ahead and train your other half to replace the roll of toilet tissue on the roller do-dad. I have found it is a lot easier to get the tissue when it is on the roller. Honey– are you hearing me? It’s true!

*Pull up your panties/ pants. I would suggest you go with running tights/ yoga pants-commando style ( that means no panties), As my daughter has reminded me, most of them are made for use without panties. Yay! You need to wear something you can tug up with one hand. My friend K who had hip surgery suggested getting some of those old lady mumu dress things. The good thing about that is they require no bra and no panties. Pretty  cool. Or you could look for what my Nannie called ” step-ins” . They were a bloomer style panty with a really wide leg. You could just pull the leg open and squat. You never had to pull them down. They were great when you had to go to the outhouse to “go”.

*And I could name a bunch more but I will close with—shampoo,dry,fix your hair.  My hair is not long enough for a ponytail. It is chin length and has some curl. So it mostly sticks out and is flat on the side. I am toying with getting it cut short-wash and wear. That’s it. Feel free to weigh in on cut versus looking like a bed head all the time.

Now tonight when you pray, thank God for making such a marvelous body for you!

Day 10: What is in a name?

When I was a little girl, there were not as many choices for things to participate in after school or during the summer as children have now. Of course to me, it seemed like I had many choices. Little girls could take ballet or tap, they could go to Girl Scouts or they could learn to play the piano. Sometimes little girls could do two of them but that is about all. There were no soccer teams or softball teams or volleyball teams. Girls were very limited in the sporting area. For example, if a girl played basketball in high school, she could only play half court. Girls did NOT run down the whole court. I know this is hard to imagine now.

I was able to take ballet and tap. I liked tap dancing the best. There was something about those taps on the bottom of your shoes that make you feel special!  I only danced for two years before focusing on other things. I was in Girl Scouts all the way through high school. But I will save that for another time. I want to talk about playing the piano now. I was I kindergarten when my mother started looking for a teacher for me. Not everyone would take a six year old. Many teachers had waiting lists. The woman my mother wanted me to go to was filled but suggested one of her former students who has just come home from college and was going to teach high school and piano  after work in her home. My mom was really tickled and signed me up.

I can remember how nervous and excited I was that first day! My mom came in with me to meet my new teacher. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had a smile that made me feel welcome and calm. I wanted to be the best student she had ever taught. When I practiced at home that week, I know I drove my family crazy because I even gave up reading time to practice. When I went to my second lesson, I was a little early and I waited in her dining room where I noticed this kind of piano that I had never seen before. She saw me looking at it and told me it was a pump organ that had belonged to her grandmother. She showed me how it worked and let me give it a try. It was a challenge to be able to play and pump the pedals at the same time to produce the sound! I loved it. You also have to touch the keys differently than a piano. I wanted one of my own! Every other week we would spend a little time with the pump organ after my regular piano lesson. Then she surprised me with a piece of sheet music-Ave Maria-which I learned to play on the organ. At my first recital, I played a piece on the piano AND I played a piece on the pump organ.  My teacher never realized that she had started me on a musical journey that would last my whole life. I still play the piano 60 years later.

My teacher’s name was Nancy Ellen J.  In Hebrew, the name Nancy means full of Grace. That certainly described my teacher. Ellen means the shining one.  I adored her name and felt she had made such an impact on my life  that when my parents were expecting a new baby that I talked constantly about how  nice it would be to grace a new baby girl with a beautiful name. When my beautiful red-headed sister was born later that year, they graced her with a beautiful name-Nancy Ellen. And sis-that is where your name came from! A beautiful name for a beautiful woman!

 

 

 

Day 9: Signs of the Moon

I remember growing up in a quiet little neighborhood. There were about 24 families on our street. I didn’t know all of them. I only knew the ones that had children close to my age that my parents considered appropriate playmates. For example, if the parents drank beer, I was not allowed to play with them. Our neighbors on one side had two girls who were a little younger that I played with.  Our parents were great friends. Our families frequently cooked out together during the summer and early Fall.  The men would cook and talk. The women would sit in the swing and talk while the kids played freeze tag. After dinner, we would catch lightning bugs. We would always save our bugs in old mayonnaise jars. By then, our dinner had “settled” and we would either roast marshmallows on sticks over the coals or eat homemade ice cream.  Sometimes Mrs. W would make a chocolate cake. No one could make a cake that was as good as hers! It was a wonderful evening!

Mr. W  was “the” official griller. My dad was the helper. They would go together to purchase the meat several days before the cook-out. Sometimes we had hamburgers. Sometimes chicken. But my all time favorite was grilled ribs. They were scrumptious! Mr. W was a stickler for perfect ribs. So at the grocery store, he always asked to see the head butcher so he could have exactly the right ribs to cook. My dad didn’t mind the questions. Well-except for one! Mr. W always wanted to know the date the pig was killed. It had to be killed under a specific sign of the moon or he would NOT purchase them! The head butcher at the store we used was from our church and my Dad was always embarrassed by this sign of the moon question. But the butcher generally was able to come up with a date and then Mr. W would decide whether to get the ribs or not. I am not sure if the date was really correct but the men would go with what was said.

When ribs were going to be the  star at the cook-out, the two men would gather in Mr. W’s kitchen to make the sauce. No one was allowed in the kitchen during this time. It was a secret. Then the ribs were massaged and covered with a secret rub. Then they rested in the refrigerator all night. And the special sauce spent the night in the refrigerator so the spices could marry.

The day of the cookout started early.  The two men would head off to the “ice house” to get a block of ice for the ice cream freezer. In those days, our town had an ice house. There were no bags of ice. The men would make the ice cream base and start churning the ice cream. They would drink coffee and take turns turning the handle. Although we made several different flavors of ice cream, vanilla was the most requested. Next the charcoal had to be reduced to the just right kind of coals, before placing the ribs on the grill. The next period of time was critical. The ribs must sweat for a bit so they would be tender. Then came the secret sauce. By this time, all of us kids would be sitting at the picnic table waiting for the feast ahead.

When I was in ninth grade, Mr. W had a massive heart attack and died. I  was so sad for his wife and children and for my dad because they were best friends.  I will always remember him as that gentle soul who loved his family and who had a special place in my heart, too.

And frankly, ribs have never been the same for me! But then it might be because I didn’t check the signs of the moon first!

 

 

Day 8: Fridays and Fishsticks

When I was in the fourth grade, my street was redistricted to another school.  Lockheed-Georgia was booming and lots of people were moving there.  What resulted was a real need for more schools.  That doesn’t seem so terrible actually. But it was for me.  I went to first grade in one school. That was the one with the garter teacher! Second and third grade was spent in a school far away from my neighborhood. In fact, the bus drove past two other schools to get there. The school was new and all I remember was it rained a lot and it was so muddy. Yuck! In fourth grade, a new school was opened only a mile from my house and I was transferred there. I was glad to be closer to home. I was tired of going somewhere different every year.  Elementary schools went through the eighth grade so I felt certain I would be at the new place a few years. Yay!

Being so close also meant that I could go home for lunch.  That was so terrific.  Kids whose homes backed up to the new school could just walk home for lunch. My mom would come and get me and we would have lunch together and I loved that.

Things rocked along pretty good for a few years and then I entered the glorious seventh grade.  You see, seventh and eighth graders had special privileges.  If you had really good grades, your teacher could nominate you as a lunchroom aide. You were allowed to leave class and actually work in the lunchroom for two hours a day!  And generally you would work once a week at that job.  You wiped tables. We had a milk machine that dispensed milk into glasses. Younger students were unable to manage this activity and hold their plate. So the aide would fill the glasses of milk for the younger children and would take them to their table.  That was pretty cool to me.  I hate to think what the state department would say now about child labor! And classroom instructional regulations! Oh well.

The principal of the school actually took up the money every day. Yes. Every day! He sat behind this little wooden table with a cash box and he would take your money and give change.  You could also purchase a weekly ticket and he would punch it to show it had been used.  The principal had a wooden leg so when he sat down, he released a lever that allowed his leg to bend a little.  I had never known anyone with a wooden leg so I always carefully watched him. Sometimes, his pant leg would come up a little and you could actually see the wood.  It was amazing and scary.  He walked with a cane and never smiled. He never chatted with children.  He was scary.

Fridays were my favorite day to work in the lunchroom.  First of all, they always had fish sticks for lunch.  My mom was not a big lover of fish sticks so we never had them at my house. I had to wait for Fridays.  In those days, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays so schools everywhere had fish.  Our lunchroom produced crispy sticks and gave you tartar sauce. I was in heaven. Yum.  To go with those sticks we had whipped potatoes. And on Fridays, the milkman delivered chocolate milk. It was a real treat.  Usually they would run out before the seventh and eighth grade arrived, so we frequently were unable to have chocolate milk. But by working there, the lunchroom ladies would “save” us some.  And by this, I mean a large glass. Yum again.  Fridays meant we had homemade rolls.  They were heavenly.  Working meant we could have two of them.  Ahhh.  And we always got extra dessert.  Food could not be kept over the weekend. So the helpers always had a big pig out time.

So what did I miss by being out of class?  Nothing.  That’s right-nothing.  What did I learn by working in the lunchroom? Lots. I learned that it is important to take care of your own space at the table. In other words, you are responsible for cleaning up after yourself even when someone was assigned the job of wiping tables.  I learned the importance of smiling at people and being friendly.  I learned that thank you was a BIG word.  And I learned about helping others. So-all in all-I learned a lot and today I am a better person for those days I spent in the lunchroom.