Although I already knew how to read, I realized when I reached first grade at Washington Seminary that there was more to this reading stuff than met my eyes. For instance, there are different fonts (didn’t know that word back then) and in some of them, the “fl” combination was joined and looked kinda like a capital A! It took me a while to catch on to that one. It was there I learned about all the French i ever retained (very little). And I learned to be totally terrified of teachers. I don’t know why, Mrs Fluker was a small woman, older than dirt, walked with a cane, had a back deformity, and couldn’t hurt anyone. But she somehow invoked terror in every one of us girls (no boys at that school!). She had a way of smacking her desk with a ruler that let you know she meant business!
We had to sit well apart from each other, and she inspected our desks every day – they had to be neat and no forbidden items (candy, cookies, etc) were to be in there. She was a thorough inspector, as several of us discovered when we tried to hide stuff behind our neatly stacked books and notebooks. I had to stay after school 3 times – my little Gam was called and told not to come pick me up until 3:30 – and she was MAD!
This is what would happen back then. I would get into trouble at school. The teacher would call home and tell my little Gam what I had done. When she picked me up (on time or late), she would start in on me. How I was disgracing the family, how I was behaving so badly, just wait until my Momma got home, etc. When we got home, it was time for me to pick one of those flexible switches off the bushes to the side of the house. No use getting a small one or one that was broken – Gam could tell at a glance. Then I would have my legs switched. Oooooo! Owwww! Once Momma got home, it was the same thing in spades, but with a spanking instead of a switching. Then the next day, I would be marched in and have to apologize for whatever it was in front of all my classmates as they were coming in! I learned not to lie, not to hide contraband, and not to get into all kinds of other trouble – or at least to not get caught!! First commandment of childhood – don’t get caught.
But it was really hard for a girl with Mrs. Fluker’s omnipresent gaze at school, and my little Gam at home during the day and my Momma in the evenings. Seems like I was ALWAYS in trouble. Not a day went by that I didn’t get a talking to or a switching or a spanking or all three! I was a difficult and rebellious child, I suppose, always threatening to run away from home, and often doing it – packing bags of sandwiches and cookies and boxes of Ritz carckers and bags of Fritos and heading out – and getting picked up about a block or so away by one of the neighbors or by Momma or my little Gam out driving in the car looking for me. They treasured me, despite my being so difficult.
I don’t think that Mrs. Fluker treasured me. I was just another little child who was a monster in the classroom. Always talking, always asking questions that didn’t relate quite well to the lessons at hand, not quite fitting in. My classmates didn’t like me much, either. I guess they were relieved when I didn’t follow them to Westminster the following year. But that was ok with me, too. I thought they were mostly a bunch of snooty brats.
The following year I transferred to Public School – and that is another story for another time.