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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 107: School Days

It's Just Me Again by Chuck Hinman. No. 107.School Days -- "When We Were A Couple Of Kids"
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The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 031, Lord, teach me to pray

By Chuck Hinman

It's August 1932 in Gage County, Nebraska. We are 60 miles south of Lincoln -- Big Red country! There is no end in sight for the awful depression or the drought. The wheat harvest did little more than pay the interest on the farm loan on our 160 acre farm. Dad was trying to pay off his sister's (Auntie Grace's) equity but wasn't making much headway.

But life went on and Dad and Mom in retrospect did a fantastic job of shielding their young family from the harshness of the times. Both had opted in 1917 for a promising farm life on a showcase 160 acre farm between Liberty and Wymore rather than engineering and school teaching careers.

It would be wrong to leave the impression that times were always bad. They weren't but this is a typical August of the 1930's about 2 weeks from the time country school would resume for brother Bob, age 12, sister Joy Ann, age 5, and me - Chuck, age 10 -- the Hinman kids.

Mom had (with her egg money) been buying school supplies such as Big Chief tablets, pencils, crayons, and an occasional new dinner pail and thermos jug. Bob and I each got two new pair of OshKosh B'Gosh bib overalls, a couple of blue chambray shirts. Because our feet were still growing, we got a new pair each of high top work shoes -- just like Dad's. We wore brown cotton socks that had white heels and toe areas. The heels also had a bright red part and farm women of the day who were into crafts used these socks to make stuffed toy monkeys with a long tail. Did you ever see one of those? If you did, you go "way back." Jody got a couple of print dresses made by Mom on her Franklin treadle sewing machine -- still in the family somewhere.

We were farm kids and we loved dressing like farmer's kids. We wouldn't be caught dead wearing what kids wear nowadays. We were the "cool kids" of the times.

Mom ordered the clothing items out of the Monkey Ward* and Sears Roebuck catalogs in early August. She often bought the school supply things on a fun family Saturday trip to Beatrice, Nebraska. Hested's dime store got a lot of our school supply business in those days.

We walked the one-half mile to New Hope country school. Marie Hellmer, a fat German lady was our teacher. She boarded during the school year at Guy Kinney's farm. There were 32 students at New Hope school in 1932. All eight grades were represented.

Our dinner pail lunches were lined up on a shelf in the entry hall. A typical lunch consisted of a sandwich of homemade bread with Kraft sandwich spread (remember it?) It's still available in the grocery stores seventy-five years later. Mom frosted graham crackers or plain salt crackers with powder sugar frosting. It was a cracker sandwich and so yummy. In the fall we would have an apple from the famed orchards at Nebraska City.

A song of the day that brings waves of nostalgia to me is this old standard:
School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You So"
When we were a couple o' kids
Times have changed but school days are eternally happy days.

Written by Chuck Hinman on 12 August 2007

*Monkey Ward was a nickname for Montgomery Ward.

"School Days," also known as "School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)," is an American popular song written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards.

This story was posted on 2011-08-07 07:37:12
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