Friday, May 17, 2013

Elementary Memories, My Dear...

Proceed at your own risk through my rambling words and jumbled thoughts in print of the years 1970 – 1976…hinging on whether or not my faulty memory is serving me correctly.   (And this post is well over the 500 words limit by which I like to try and abide.)

When I started first grade at Underwood Elementary School, vending machines offered 5¢ six ounce Cokes, and 10¢ ten ounce Cokes.  (Whether it was coke or 7 up, or whatever…it was all called Coke, and I believe the 10 ounce drinks were only 8¢ that first year.)   The school secretary, Mrs. Quillen, ran a little candy store out of the office, where I once rudely told my third grade teacher Mrs. Poole to “Move!”  She then gave me a (much needed) lecture on courtesy.    Mr. Myhan handled the popsicles…it seems like there was a popsicle for every flavor a kid could think of!

My introduction to school wasn’t a pleasant one.   My teacher, Mrs. Moore, was obviously tired of seeing my family members…I was the fifth and final…and she wasn’t always nice.  Or was it possibly because I was precocious and loud and got on her nerves?   Whatever the reason, I suppose it’s my own unforgiveness that I need to face.    I remember Sharon R. was on crutches for a while, and Laura B. had a bicycle wreck that resulted in a hospital stay…and when she came back to school, she had a badly bruised face.   Mrs. Moore gave each child a chance to be “Teacher’s Pet” for a day. 

The principal, Mr. Terry, was a scary man to a first grader.   I’d never heard of a first name being a last name…and I dared to say “Hey, Terry!” as I passed him in the hall.   He quickly set me straight on that deal, and I didn’t do that again!   I also remember they gave immunization shots at school in those days.   Oh, how I hated those days!   Mrs. Broadfoot was my favorite substitute teacher.  There was another substitute I liked, too, and I believe her name was Mrs. Hill.  I remember I liked the way she said “Pacific” as in the Pacific Ocean.  

Second grade was a much better experience.   Mrs. Hall seemed to genuinely like children.    There was a new girl named Beverly in our class for a while.  She didn’t stay long…but when I was a senior, I got a job at Shoney’s and Beverly was working there, only she was called Chita, but I knew I remembered her from somewhere.   When I finally heard her first name was Beverly, I was able to put one and one together and came up second grade.
Once, when Mrs. Hall was out of the room, for some unknown reason, I was running around the desks and knocked the record player off…thankfully it still worked.    I was scared to death of the trouble I was going to be in when she came back in….but I wasn’t.    I stole 5 pennies from Selena M. that year…oh, the times I have thought about that with shame.   I have never again stolen from another individual.   
One of the best things about that year, though I didn’t know it then, was that every morning, Mrs. Hall had us say the Pledge of Allegiance and the 100th Psalm.   I have never forgotten that Psalm, and I rarely recite it without thinking of Mrs. Hall.

Third grade gave me Mrs. Poole.   I thought she was so pretty!  She didn’t have her class in the traditional rows of desks….there were groups of rows of about 5 or six desks, and I sat beside Laura B. and  behind Jay C. for a while.   I also have a memory of sitting very near her desk…I wonder what I did to get that special place in the room?  This was the year I fell in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books, because Mrs. Poole read us The Little House on the Prairie afternoon.  I read all of LIW’s stories, and loved the TV show.   (I visited Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Missouri a few years ago.   She wasn’t there…)   Years later, when my daughter was at Underwood, Mrs. Poole, who had become Mrs. Griffin, was the principal.   

My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Witt…very possibly my favorite teacher of all my years in school.    I think this was the year that Kathy T. broke her toes.   I remember she didn’t let that stop her from playing PE…kickball and softball.   She fell down once, and I could tell it hurt her…but she didn’t cry.  I was really impressed.     

Pamela M. and I sang “The Church in the Wildwood” to the whole class.   I say “we” but I didn’t sing very much at all.   I had told Pam that I would help her, but I must have developed some sort of stage fright when faced with the whole class looking.   Tammy I. and Cindy T. put together a magic show for us.    It was actually pretty good, and I still remember two of the tricks they did.   I asked Tammy how they did it, fully expecting her not to tell me, but she did…I always liked Tammy, and she has done very well for the state of Alabama.

Fifth grade…we were the "big kids" and started changing classes!   I liked both Mrs. Hudson and Mrs. McGuire, the fifth grade teachers.   Mrs. McGuire used the phrase “quit meddlin’” a lot.   That was the girls and boys really started noticing each other and pairing off…though it had started in third and fourth grades.   

Sixth grade teachers were Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Alexander, and I like them both as well.   Mrs. Pierce was my homeroom teacher, and she used the phrase “Woe be unto you…” when she was threatening us for whatever reason.    I think we realized she meant business.    Early spring mornings would find many of us (Jeff Y.  Julia R. Mark D., and others) playing softball before the bell rang.  Sadly, this was the year that I learned that children aren’t immortal with the freak accident that claimed the life of second grader Tyra Townsley.    A couple of her cousins were in my class, and I remember them crying during class.   A twelve year really doesn’t know what to say in times like this. 

My years at Underwood are very special memories.   I met a girl there named Carol B.  She left Underwood and to go to Cloverdale after only a year or two, and it wasn’t until the 9th grade that I saw her again.   She became my High School BFF and is still my very dear friend.  We’ve lost a few classmates along the years, Mark Davis, Mark Hanback, Anita Looney, Tim Smith, Lisa Hill (who left after the 4th grade) and Sharon Risner.   I still live near the school.  Though it looks a little different these days, one thing remains the same:  Memories are being built, lifelong friendships are being formed, and America’s bright future are learning and discovering life in those elementary classrooms.


  1. Memories are such an important part of life, for so many reasons. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I had an extremely gruff second grade teacher. Often I had tummy aches and didn't want to go face another day of her. Looking back, I'm sure she was menopausal. I have newfound sympathy for her.


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