Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Childhood's End

Hi Bill

More memories from my early childhood have bubbled to the surface recently and I wonder if they are accurate. I suppose it does not really matter how accurate my memories really are, but maybe you can provide a more accurate history of those times long ago.  

Everything was perfect for me in the 1950s when our family was living with Grandpap in the Llyswen neighborhood of the city. Yes my parents both worked so they were not there during weekdays, but they spent plenty of time with me when they could. However, I had you, Bill, and our wonderful Grandpap to entertain me and to make sure I didn’t get into any dangerous or unwise situations. I also had some great neighborhood friends who were my age to play with. Every day was a great day, but those halcyon days didn’t last.

Unfortunately, our parents decided to send me to something they called kindergarten but it was really a sort of playschool/kindergarten, which they told me would be lots of fun. In addition, they enrolled me in this kindergarten thing a year earlier than the age that most kids began the program. I did not want to go to this stupid place with all those stupid kids that I didn’t know and didn’t want to know. I suppose our parents believed I needed to have some structure and some discipline added to my days. However, we had a very attentive and reliable Grandpap to take care of me, although he was not big on structured activities and disciplining the child was not his cup of coffee. Unfortunately you were in about 6th grade at that time, so you couldn’t entertain me on weekdays. Thinking back now, I guess my parents probably wanted to relieve Grandpap of some of his chiIdcare responsibilities, although I don’t remember ever hearing him complain about having to spend time with me. Who would not want to spend time with me?!!! Anyway I wasn’t sure what this kindergarten place was, but I was sure that I did not want to be there.

I'm the little guy in the back row second from the right

This indoctrination program was held in a local Methodist Church basement, where Grandpap went to church. It turned out that I did sort of know a few of the other inductees, but not many. Things did not go well for me at first, but I did enjoy drawing and coloring. However, I did not like sitting for any length of time, paying attention to the teachers, or being quiet. I was forced to participate in this playschool/kindergarten sentence for two school years, until I was old enough to begin Real Schoolin’ in 1st grade at Baker School. I suppose it helped me to learn to socialize more easily and to not punch the other kids and/or call them names. However, I probably needed lots more preparation in civilized behavior.

The summer after my two years in Kindergarten was fabulous. I was back in the neighborhood with my compadres and life was great. However, I was brutally shocked by the real educational experience when I began 1st grade at Baker Elementary School in 1955. One would think that my transition to 1st grade would have been much less traumatic because of my two years in kindergarten. However, that babysitting service had failed to develop the discipline that I needed when I began 1st grade in the Baker concentration camp.

My 1st Grade Photo 1955

The pleasant thing about my 1st grade experience was walking to Baker Elementary School from Grandpap’s house each morning and then walking home after school. I walked with several other kids, including some older kids, from the neighborhood and that was lots of fun. However, in a very short time I realized that Baker School was not primarily a place to have fun with new friends. I was demoralized to discover that I was expected to pay attention and actually do some school work. I know it couldn’t have been very demanding work, but I remember that little Clarky didn’t like doing it. I really liked to talk and tussle with my classmates, and I did that pretty much anytime I felt like it. Why would I pay attention to the boring teacher when I could goof off with my classmates? Unfortunately the teacher was not amused by my inattention and chatter with classmates. To this day I remember having to put my head down on my arms on the desktop seemingly for hours. That teacher was like a concentration camp guard and it took several months for my feeble brain to figure out how to control myself and even longer to actually pay attention.  It was a rough beginning, but I must have figured out how to con the teacher because I made it through 1st grade. I did not realize that I would never return to Baker School.

During the summer after 1st grade, we moved out of the city to “The Farm/Homestead” on West Plank Road. When Fall came little Clarky had to attend 2nd grade in a different school where he didn’t know anyone. In addition, I had to ride a big yellow school bus to and from school. That was scary for me at first, because there were bigger kids on that bus and they were not always very nice to us little guys. However, I don’t remember any serious mistreatment on the bus. Once I got accustomed to riding the bus, it was kind of fun.

My 2nd Grade Photo - notice the enhanced front teeth from a bicycle crash on the street
Cannon Station School, where I attended 2nd grade, was a very old two-room school house that held first and second grade classes. It was quite a change from Baker School in the city, which was very large and housed grades one through six. Cannon Station School was on a small lot and it didn’t have much of a playground. However it had something even better in its backyard. There was a woodsy area with a small creek running through it. Of course, we were told to stay on the school grounds and away from the woods/creek, but there were no fences and we were sometimes able to sneak by the playground-watch guards and into the woods to the creek. It was always fun to play in the woods and creek, although we often got dirty and wet doing it. Yes, we were scolded and even punished (no recess), but Clarky didn’t worry about that. I just enjoyed my new friends (I guess those playschool/kindergarten and first grade experiences helped me learn how to socialize more effortlessly) and I enjoyed that quirky, almost primitive, school. Most of the new friends that I made at that school remained long-time friends as we all traveled through grade school, junior high and high school.
Okay, so little Clarky didn’t reveal much brain power or enthusiasm for learning during his first few years of schooling. However, I did learn how to make friends and get along with most people. I believe that skill was beneficial for me. It was also very important that, somewhere along my educational path, I developed a passion for education that I will always cherish.
Overall, Bill, I wouldn’t want to change anything about those times. I wish I could remember them better. You probably have similar memories of your education in the city and I would be happy to hear about some of them.
Take care,

Sincerely Clark

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