hen you think of elementary school in Heavener, you automatically think of old Westside Elementary. Was that it's official name? I don't remember, but that's what I called it.
However, as I've mentioned in previous stories, when I first started elementary school in Heavener, I was assigned to a classroom in the high school building. It was 1950.
I've always assumed that ours was the first elementary-grade class assigned to the high school building. Maybe it was the only
elementary class assigned there.
Nevertheless, that's where I spent my first year of public education. I don't have my yearbook handy, but as I recall, there were about 25 of us in that class. That year there were 72 first-graders beginning their education in the Heavener School System. Our teacher was Ms. French. Bill has mentioned having her as his teacher a few years earlier, but I'm guessing he had her at the Westside building.
Ms. French lived in a house at the corner of Morris Creek Road and Avenue C, one block South and up the hill from my home. I only mention that because I remember my Mom sending me over there one day to deliver a note to her and I saw a 'spinning wheel' for the first time. It was positioned in a corner of her living room. I always wondered if she really made yarn with it.
I don't recall too many details of that first year of school. What little I do recall wasn't that pleasant for me. For example, on the first day of class, I remember that the girl sitting in the desk in front of me, wet her pants. Back then, all of the girls wore dresses, and her accident caused a major disruption in our first hour of class. I think I can speak for all or us when I say that we were all scared that first day. Everyone we saw around us was much older than we were. Even the Junior High kids were "big kids" compared to us. We didn't really know what to expect from school (there wasn't kindergartens back then...at least not in Heavener). I'm sure that fear had something to do with her accident. So, within the first hour of class, a mop had to be dispatched to our classroom.
Our classroom was located near the back door of the Junior-high part of the building. I imagine they picked that classroom to facilitate our moving from the classroom to the tennis court area with minimum interaction with the older kids. We spent our recesses on or around the tennis court that was located just outside the rear of the building. Since this was a short-term solution to the large first grade population that year, no playground equipment was installed for our class.
Ms. French would usually provide some kind of ball to kick around on the tennis court, for those interested in doing it. Sometimes we would just play catch or spin tops (can you imagine that?). We had been given just a few basic rules during our first week of school. One of the most important, I guess, was that we never leave the school yard, but we rarely left the safety of the tennis court area.
All of the kids in my class lived on the East side of town, and Billy Ray Holt was one of my best friends. He lived just up the hill from my house, one block over, across the street from the home of Ms. French.
If it hadn't been for Billy, I would have probably made it through my first year without being subjected to corporal punishment at school. But one day, during recess, Billy convinced me that we had time to visit the little store that was located across the street from the high school, without getting caught. His reasoning made sense to me at the time. The 'normal' area for our recess was on the East side of that wing of the building. That's where Ms. French ALWAYS stayed during recess. We would be crossing the school yard on the West side of the building...out of sight.
Our plan went off without a hitch. We ran across the school yard, jumped the rock wall, and crossed the street. We were in the store and out within 5 minutes of our arriving there. We back-tracked across the school yard with our pockets stuffed with all the Tootsie Rolls and bubble gum that our dimes could buy.
All was well until we turned the corner at the Northwest corner of the building. There was a cedar tree at that corner of the building and it prevented us from seeing that Ms. French was watching our approach from behind that tree. She already had a paddle in her hand. I don't remember how many 'licks' we received, probably just one or two, but they sure hurt. That was the first time I had ever been paddled with anything that wasn't made out of leather...or a tree branch (I guess those were used for 'whippings', though, huh?)
Our plan had failed to take into consideration that Ms. French might count the number of students within her sight at regular intervals.
Later that same year, some of the high school athletes convinced Ms. French to allow two volunteers from her class to participate in a 'boxing demonstration' (or whatever they called it). How I ended up in that little party, I'll never understand, but my buddy probably volunteered me. Sure enough, it ended up being Billy Ray and myself. The 'demonstration' ended up like this: Billy Ray and I would each be fitted with leather boxing gloves (10 sizes too large for our hands) and then placed in the boxing ring that was set up in the middle of the gym floor. It had poles, ropes, and a canvas floor that bounced as you moved around on it. Billy got the hang of it right away. As soon as the high school guys positioned us in the center of the ring...and rang the bell...Billy started swinging at me. Before I could make a good contact with Billy, both my ears felt like they were burning and my nose didn't feel that good, either. I don't remember the "fight" lasting that long, but it was plenty long enough for me. As we walked back to our classroom, I remember that my face was a lot redder that Billy's.
He and I weren't on very good speaking terms for awhile after that.
Like I said, I don't recall much from my first year of school...and what I do recall, wasn't that enjoyable.