As that first summer in Woolmarket drew to a close, I was filled with apprehension about entering the second grade at Woolmarket Elementary School. Of course, being new to the area, I knew no one outside of my own family. Back in those days, school always began right around my birthday of September 6th. I was probably the only kid in Woolmarket who was filled with dread awaiting my birthday. I would turn 7 years old that first summer in 1958. A lot had happened that first summer. Some of it was good. Some was not so good. But, thanks to my mother, we endured.
Woolmarket Elementary was an old dark brick schoolhouse. I don’t recall ever seeing one like that since that time. It made the corridors seem dark even with the hallway lighting on all the time. In the schoolhouse, there was an area where you could buy those small 6 ounce cokes in the coke machine. Those over age 50 remember the kind of machine I’m talking about. You put in your money (about seven cents as I recall) and then pull your coke out of the machine. Sometimes the machine wouldn’t let go and you were out of luck when that happened. I remember there was a little country store next to the school. In there, you could get pencils, paper, rulers and an assortment of items needed for school. They had jawbreakers, cookies, gum balls and licorice in the big glass jars in those days. I remember the cookies were two cents and everything else was a penny
Our principal was Mr. Barnett. He seemed so big to me at the time. It seemed when I looked up at him, he would blot out the sun and the sky. I was only 7 years old. Everything seems big when you are that age. Mr. Barnett was a really good man. He loved all the kids and would hug us all. Of course, that is impossible now. But, in those days, at least, no one thought anything about it. Mr. Barnett introduced me to some kids my age in the second grade. I remember him saying to me, “I know what it’s like to be the new kid at school. We want you to feel welcome and remember we are your parents away from home.” That was very true. Once, when I broke my arm in the third grade, my third grade teacher came knocking on our door that night wanting to know about me. Why didn’t she just call? This was 1958. Telephones were a luxury back then few could afford.
The first days at school were one of wonderment. It was strange coming from the city to the country. I remember thinking I worried about nothing. The kids treated me just like they had known me for all my seven years of life. I made some great friends that first year. I’m not sure I ever had friends that close in the years that passed. I would have loved to have gone through all 12 years of school with those kids I met back then. But, it was not to be. Circumstances prevented me from ever having lifelong friends as many people have. It’s something to this day I regret. But, the kids at Woolmarket that first year live on in my dreams, my memories and in this blog. Kids like Tommy Jenkins (my best friend), Luther Kennedy, Mike Hawkins, and Jerry Mitchell will always be seven years old to me. I’m sure they are old men like me now if they are still living. We are all eternally linked as seven year olds. In our memories, we will always be second graders in Mrs. Daniels classroom. And, just maybe, that’s the way it should be.