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Carol Perkins: Back to school

Back in her Metcalfe County school days, a trip to Bowling Green was like going to Nashville. All her school clothes came from Folks or Bernard's, but many friends got clothes by mail order from Penney's or Sears. New clothes were the best part of going back to school. Having to listen and behave - another matter!
Next previous Carol Perkins column: Aunts

By Carol Perkins

Back to school

Back to school is such a grand time for little kids and even some grown ones whose summers have been spent working hard and playing little. "I miss my friends" is a common phrase from a student who doesn't drive and lives far from the lights of a city.

I don't remember ever being ready for school to start, even though I knew this meant a time for new clothes, new shoes, a book satchel, and supplies. I was never ready to stop playing to go to school. Our supplies were paper and pencils and maybe a little plastic trimmer. If we were really lucky, we could add a large box of Crayons with over a hundred colors. They would have to last a long time.

Getting new outfits for school was the custom back then. We didn't have malls and only a few department stores, plus we didn't buy as often or as much as we do now. A shopping trip to Bowling Green was like going to Nashville or Louisville today or maybe even New York. All of my school clothes came from Folks or Bernard's.

Some people ordered from Penney's or Sears. Any time we did this, we would end up having to send things back because they didn't fit. If I were going to wear a pair of shoes all year, they needed to fit and fit well.

The best part of going back to school was the new clothes; the bad part was being on my best behavior and listening. Sometimes I wanted to talk too much. Sometimes I wanted the boy sitting next to me to stop taking his popsicle stick with white paste glue on it and slapping it on my arm when the teacher wasn't looking. I ended up in the corner for slinging paste back at him. She was looking that time. Sometimes I wanted to take a nap before naptime. Sometimes I wanted to go to the bathroom but was too shy to ask, resulting in more than one accident that I covered with my little dress I wore over my slacks. Those were long days.

Recess was the time most kids shot out of classrooms like bullets. My friends and I liked to sit on the porch of the school with our legs dangling off and talk. About what do six-year-olds talk? We also played London Bridge. I always did think that was a dumb game, just as I did Ring Around the Rosy. Red Rover terrified me because the giant boys eyed my bony arms and crashed through like a bull charging a fence, taking me to the ground with them. I was an easy mark and no one wanted to hold my hand because they knew what would happen.

We girls liked to slide, but the tin was so hot we burned our legs going down. The line was always long and some of the boys showed off by walking up it backward and taking more than one turn. No one had the nerve to tell them to move on. The merry-go-round went so fast some kids threw up. When the bell rang for "books" all the sweaty little bodies filled the desks and soon the room smelled like...well, a schoolroom. No room was air-conditioned except the principal's office. He brought his own.

Back-to-school meant and still does mean teachers "fix" their rooms for the youngsters to arrive. Who doesn't like a pretty room? High school students need attractive surroundings too. Sometimes we forget they are just older children. My teachers always decorated. My sixth grade teacher lined the edge of the wall near the ceiling with book reports from the previous years, all dangling at the same length. Covers with pictures of presidents, world leaders, athletes, or politicians starred at me all year until those were replaced with the ones we wrote. I did a report on Ben Franklin, which I put off to the last minute and had to sit up late to finish. The cover was blue and my drawing of Ben wasn't too flattering, but I drew it myself.

At one time school began after Labor Day. I wish it did now. We wrote on boards with chalk, had our own books that we wouldn't have dared lose; we learned to count using those slide balls or beans of whatever they were on a wire. Our rooms were heated by coal, single bulbs hung from the ceilings with a string attached, and the floors had to be oiled. Those were some of the best memories of my life.

There is something about seeing those yellow buses rolling past the house that takes me back to my school days. I wouldn't want to start over. I don't think anyone would wish that, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss a minute of it. -Carol Perkins

This story was posted on 2011-07-31 03:57:09
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