School Daze: Grades 4 Thru 6

Hey, it must be a sign that I have fully moved into marketing from editorial, as I’m now willing to bend the rules of grammar a bit and use nonstandard English, such as “Thru.” Well, what do you know?

I’ve had several blog ideas brewing but decided that since my last post was about memories from elementary school and just included grades 1-3, I needed to go ahead and finish that line of thought. So here are some memories from grades 4-6:

Grade 4: My teacher was Mrs. Lane, a firm but kind teacher. I don’t have any outstanding memories from 4th grade other than the fact that I could fit into my teacher’s shoes, size 9. I’ve always had big feet. (Thank goodness they finally stopped growing sometime in my late 20s, and I’ve landed at size 10.5, which makes it challenging for me to find shoes.)

I do remember our art teacher in elementary school. I believe his name was Jim Lane, no relation to Mrs. Lane. He had long salt-and-pepper hair (maybe it was dark brown when I was in elementary school and I just remember him later from pictures) and wore bell-bottom pants. Seems like I remember a pair of orange corduroy pants. I’m sure a paisley shirt was somewhere in his wardrobe. Mr. Lane was a great art teacher. I looked forward to the interesting projects he’d come up with each week. I remember making things with papier-mache (imagine the carat over the a and an accent over the e, because I don’t know how to get those special characters in WordPress…ah, the wonders of technology) and lots of other fun hands-on projects. I wish I’d taken more art after elementary school. I don’t remember taking it at all in junior high and college. We also had chorus with Mrs. Akard. Funny, I don’t remember much about that. I probably was daydreaming again.

We had a Social Studies unit on Colonial America, and I remember researching (as much research as a 9-year-old does) the history. But the main thing that stands out in my memory about the report I turned in (besides my fantastic, in my humble opinion, drawings…which I think I traced on onion skin paper…uh, I should have done my own sketches) is the cover of the report. My aunt Myrt helped me make a colonial quilt pattern. I think it was a flower. It was really beautiful, again, if I do say so myself. I know my mom saved that report…so maybe I’ll unearth that treasure someday. I’m sure it’s in one of the ever-present boxes in our house.

Grade 5: Mrs. Jean Loggins was my teacher. I remember her being softspoken and funny. Maybe that perception is because she was good friends with my mom (their classrooms were across the hall from each other). I don’t remember much about this year except the wonder of getting glasses and realizing that there were actually defined branches and limbs with leaves on trees instead of the Impressionistic style trees I’d been seeing for a long time. I recall Nancy Watson and maybe Sally KIng (they hung around each other a lot) singing the song “Crimson and Clover” (over and over). But the most traumatic event of my childhood years occurred that year. My friend Rhonda got hit by a car as she was crossing the street, and she died. My mom took me to her house, where they had her casket. I couldn’t grasp that such an awful thing could happen to my friend and that I’d never see her again. I cried and cried. Then when we went to her home (a rather humble dwelling, in my memory), I worried about what to say. My mother told me there was really nothing I could say that would take away her family’s pain, but it was important for us to be there. So I think I hugged Rhonda’s mother or at least took her by the hand and told her I was so sorry. I thought about Rhonda a lot after that.

Oh, a pleasant and humorous memory from that year was that a girl named Carol Peacock came to my house. Her mom drove her across town (we lived in Lynn Garden, which was a humble neighborhood compared to the subdivisions where most of my schoolmates lived, Preston Woods, for example). It had been raining a lot, and our yard was soggy. Our family had taken in a stray dog that I named Wilhelmina (don’t know where that came from!), and Wilhelmina showed her gratitude by killing rats (I guess they were outside near our garden) and leaving them as trophies around our yard. I remember Carol coming over to deliver my Christmas present, and I was so embarrassed because there were at least two dead rats, swollen and smelly, in our soggy front yard. I can only imagine the conversation Carol and her mom must have had on the way home. She was still friends with me after that. Sweet girl.

Grade 6: Mrs. Sue Thomas was my teacher. She had curly brown hair and was soft-spoken. (I wonder now if kids took advantage of her good nature, but to me she was just the perfect teacher.) That year I remember a few things: First, I was so relieved that the sixth graders didn’t change classes that year, because that would have meant I would have had my mom as a teacher. Having experienced her as my Sunday school teacher and the teacher of a couple other classes at church and knowing how much she reined me in (translate: I felt suppressed), I was dreading having her for any subject at school because I knew she’d be harder on me than any other student. Life lesson: Sometimes your worst fears aren’t realized. Whew!

Another important happening in sixth grade was the arrival of a student from France, Valerie Dravet. Her dad was an executive at our glass plant in Kingsport, then called American St. Gobain. (The last I heard, it was AFG Industries.) I was intrigued with Valerie and attempted to talk to her in my halting French. Mrs. Leibman, our French teacher since 3rd grade and a native of France, did some translating for Valerie to help us sixth graders learn about her. Valerie and I became friends, and this friendship continued after she returned to France, I think after 7th grade. She was one of two French pen pals I had.

Also in sixth grade I realized that the other girls were interested in boys. My hormones hadn’t hit yet, so I was a little mystified by their attraction to boys. Sally King had a crush on Robb Lee. Probably several other girls did too. I thought a couple of boys were kind of cute, but that was the limit of my attraction to boys.

We had a Bible class once a week, taught by Mrs. Kathryn Lockett. I enjoyed the classes but felt sorry for a kid who was a Mormon: William Reed (later called Chuck). He sat out of the Bible classes, and I remember thinking, “Well, that must be awkward for him.” I believe everyone else in the class participated in Bible class.

I was in Girl Scouts, and we met at a nearby Lutheran church. I remember Emily Schneider, Nancy Watson, Sally King, and Nancy Robertson (accurate, Nancy?) being in my troop. I loved working on the badges for different things but selling Girl Scout cookies? Not so much. My best times in Girl Scouts were when we went on REAL tent camping trips (as opposed to the wussy sleeping in a cabin that my daughter’s Girl Scout troop called camping) and learned how to pitch a tent, make “aluminum foil stew,” and sang as we hiked. My first memory of singing in harmony was “White Coral Bells,” a song I learned in Girl Scouts. And most autumns I take a hike and sing “Swinging along the open road, in the fall of the year…” as I recall those fun times in Girl Scouts. And oh yes, I was trained in the domestic art of cooking in Girl Scouts. My mom was so relieved to outsource a little cooking (and the teaching of cooking) to me. Our first meal to prepare for our parents had poppy-seed bread and chocolate fudge pie (the only dishes I can remember, probably because those were the ones I prepared). I cooked fudge pie for years after that! I need to pull out that recipe again…it was certainly yummy with vanilla ice cream.

Ah, Dickson Elementary School. What memories. We kids were learning about how to interact with each other and discovering some important life skills. I remember being chosen last (or close to the last) to be on whatever team we had in Phys Ed, mostly because I was fat and couldn’t run so well. I did okay at kickball, although I ran a little slow. I excelled at Four Square, but we didn’t play that much. I abhorred the Presidential Fitness Tests, which started sometime in the 1960s as a result of John F. Kennedy’s emphasis on fitness. I dreaded the 300-yard-dash because it wore me out, and I was always one with the slowest times. And the flexed arm hang: while most other girls could do this for what seemed like an eternity, I could barely put my chin up to the bar and hang there for a few seconds, all the time shaking like crazy. I managed to play softball, but again, I was one of the last chosen for a team. This made me feel really insecure about my physical abilities, and I was naturally awkward anyway.

And oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that in 6th grade we had band tryouts. My mom wanted me to play the saxophone; I wanted to play the flute. (The saxophone just sounded horrible to me at that time.) When the band director looked at our mouths to assess which instruments we might do best at playing and he realized that my mom and I were at odds on  my instrument choice, he wisely recommended the clarinet. I decided that wasn’t such a bad instrument as the saxophone. Our dog Sandy (which we got when I was in 7th grade; sorry, I got a little off subject here, since the topic of this blog is grades 4-6) didn’t like my practicing the clarinet so much, though. She howled when I practiced, squeaking a lot as beginning band students tend to do. When I practiced the piano, Sandy would come and lie under the piano bench, giving her stamp of approval to that instrument.  

Thus ends my chronicle about my elementary school years. If you’ve lasted to this point, you deserve a reward. I just can’t think of what. Any suggestions?

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