School Days! School Days!
Dear old Golden Rule days!
Reading, and writing and ‘rithmetic!
Called to the tune of a Hickory Stick!
You were my queen in calico!
I was your bashful barefoot beau!
You wrote on my slate, “I love you so!”
When we were a couple of kids!
School started in our area this past week and jogged some memories of my school days.
School days for me would start in August, when the new season’s clothes appeared in the stores – specifically, Rich’s. Mrs. Milligan was the sales associate in the children’s department. We would tell her what we wanted, and then go sit in the fitting room. She would select dresses, blouses, jumpers, socks, undies, slips and other accoutrements. I would try them all on (except the socks and undies), and my Little Gam or my Little Momma would make the final selection. Occasionally everything was sent back and we started over. Most of the time, however, Mrs. Milligan’s taste was perfect, and we selected everything from her selections.
I particularly remember one plaid dress which I abhorred. But back then, one wore what one’s Momma or Grandmomma selected for you without complaint – except I would mutter under my breath about it. I seem to recall that about the 6th time I wore it, I “skinned the cat” on the big bar and managed to catch the hem on a huge nut and bolt and tore out a huge section of the hem and tore a hole in the dress above the hemline. My Little Gam could not repair it. I was smugly but silently pleased about that! Looking back on it, now, however, as I remember it, that plaid was something I would love now! Go figure!
Girls did NOT wear jeans or slacks to school back then! We wore skirts! When it was really cold, however, we wore leggings. Most coats for small girls, and some for taller (older) girls, came with matching leggings. These were not like leotards. They were made of the same material as the coat, sewn into leg-shapes and came down to the ankles with wide elastic bands that went under the feet to keep them from riding up. That meant shedding shoes to remove them. There were zippers up the outer sides from the bottom to the knees, then another zipper on the side (like slacks or a skirt back then). Poor teachers! In the lower grades (K-2), most of us needed some adult help to get out of them! So the first 30 minutes or so of the school day during the winter involved unzipping leggings and getting shoes off and back on. They did keep legs warm, though!
My Little Gam often made some of my clothes. She made my undies for years! I always wanted to do that for my daughter, but being a working Mom made that difficult. I didn’t have much time. And by then it really was cheaper to simply purchase them. SIGH!! I had a 12″ doll and she often would make a similar outfit for the doll from the scraps of making my clothes! It gave me a warm feeling when she did that for me! My daughter has that doll and her clothes, now. My granddaughter wasn’t very interested in dolls. Perhaps a great-granddaughter will find this antique remnant of a different day to be of interest. I hope so. I can only trust that it does not get thrown out. Perhaps it can be donated to a doll museum.
School offered hot lunch or you could bring your own. Lunch was 25 cents a week. Momma would tuck my quarter down my sock and into my shoe so I wouldn’t lose it. Later, she knotted it in a handkerchief. Sometimes I had to ask the teacher to undo the knot. I felt really embarrassed to have to ask her to do that.
In the lower grades, I did not bring my lunch. But about 3rd or 4th grade, I started carrying a lunchbox. I cannot remember what pictures were on the sides, but I do remember the thermos would always smell of sour milk by the end of the day! If I forgot it and left it at school overnight or (horrors!) over the weekend, it would take my Little Gam **hours** to clean it! My Little Gam’s afternoons and evenings were full of washing supper dishes and cleaning my lunchbox and thermos. No wonder she decided, after about a year of me carrying lunches, that I would go back to eating hot lunch at school! I continued to buy lunch through high school.
I do not look back on my school days with happy or even contented nostalgia. I hated my school days – except the actual learning that went on. I had few, if any, friends. The non-friends jeered at and tormented me. I was bullied and ostracized. Perhaps in this age, I would turn on my tormentors, but back then, I simply suffered, kept my head down and tried to do my school work.
Even college and graduate schools were no relief from bullying and tormenting. But, being older, they didn’t affect me as much. I had husband and children who provided my basis for strength.
So the old song about “school days, school days, dear old golden rule days,” arouses very mixed feelings. Very mixed, indeed.