Monday, July 25, 2016

My First Day of School, September 1953

Just after Labor Day in 1953, I went to school for the first time. I was enrolled in an overflow classroom of Upson School and it was located in the basement of the Lutheran Church at the corner of East 260th and Forestview Avenue in Euclid. The Baby Boom had started, and the United States was in for a dynamic growth spurt. One or two blocks south of the Lutheran Church was Upson School, a large brick edifice that had been there for ages. In one of the kindergarten classrooms in the big school was Beth Hodder, who I would meet 62 years later in West Glacier, Montana--the front door to Glacier National Park. Beth was my age and was also a Euclid native. At some point she found her way out West, married a forest ranger, Al Koss, and made her life in the mountains and forests of the American West. When I met Beth, she was hawking her children's book, set in the Bob Marshall Wilderness--exactly where my daughter Carolan worked. Beth's book is The Ghost of Shafer Meadows. And ironically, Carolan has also written a book set in this same Wilderness, authored with her cousin Megan Sanders Hartfelder, called "The Great Bear Surprise" (available on Amazon, Carolan and Megan's book).

My Mom walked me north on East 266 Street that morning to Oriole Avenue, then down Oriole to East 260th and the Lutheran Church, 8/10s of a mile. She gave me a little kiss and said goodbye and good luck--and then she left, never to walk me to or from school again--it just wasn't done much back then. Our family had one car, which my Dad drove to work, and Mom was at home with Denny, who was three years old, and baby Mary Ellen.

I was struck in that first hour of kindergarten by the fact that a couple of children were crying. I thought, "What babies!" Soon, school started--and I loved it. We might have had 12-15 kids in our class (which would contrast with my years at St. William's School, when we had 50-60 in a classroom in my early years). The teacher's name was Mrs. Ockunzi (I bet that spelling is off). I remember some of the kids in class--Billy O'Neal, a great and happy guy; Joanne (can't remember her last name, but she had carrot-red hair and lived in the F & S homes); Bob Ernst and Barbara S, who went to St. William's with me for 8 years. If I had the class photo in front of me, I could identify others.

I remember kindergarten as great fun: we had a band, and I got to play the triangle; we did finger painting; we sang and marched; and we even took a little nap. At the end of that first day, I walked the 8/10s of a mile back home by myself. I had just turned five. Now days, a National Guard battalion would accompany the kid home. That was not our world in Euclid in 1953!

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