Volume XVI, No. 34
Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010
Election Day (or as TV so smugly calls it, “Decision 2010”) was memorable for me: but mostly for the wrong reasons. I played Bridge, which was no more of a disaster than usual, then asked my friends for advice on getting from the church to Ziegler Boulevard, where I had learned my new voting venue is located. With my head swimming in indecision, as usual, I started out and reached Ziegler (which is where the Greater Gulf States Fair is in progress even as I hunt and peck). I was seeking a church named “University Church of Christ” (had never even heard of that one before). I drove to the very end of Ziegler, and there it was: surrounded by cars. Or, at least I thought that was where I was. As soon as I could see the empty lobby, I knew this was not my destination. I was told by the one person I saw inside (I never did find out where the thundering herd of car owners were) that it must be at the other end of Ziegler. After thanking her, I got back into my hatchback and proceeded to retrace my tracks. Along the way, I spotted a service station and stropped to go in to ask for directions. Before I reached the front door, I saw two men coming out of the store. They had just voted, and showed me their “I VOTED” buttons. I felt a thrill of relief at this news. But this was not my day: their ward was definitely not mine, and they had no ideas except to suggest that I proceed in my backward journey,
I’ll spare you the agony of the next two hours (plus) in which I stayed more or less in a coma, and never did find that elusive church.
As soon as I walked into the house, I called Paul McGowan to discuss the BLOG he has designed for me and my readers; and he said he was even then driving past University Church of Christ, He was almost home. I’ve been there many times, but I had no idea it was that close to my never-ending unsuccessful journey!
“Since each of us are blessed with only one life, why not live it with a cat?”
They were as different as Day and Night, my 3rd grade teacher and the brand new 5th grade one! Mildred Nicholson was as stern and rather plain as Effie Burns had been beautiful and easy going. She lived with her cousins, and as she told Helen decades after she was my teacher that was how she was able to accept the ridiculously small pittance the Richton School System paid its teachers back in 1938. Her relatives had kindly invited her to stay with them. I was nine years old that at this time.
During the summer vacation period (which lasted from April until Labor Day) I had the fourth grade crammed down my throat. Josephine concentrated on Geography (which I never had much interest in) while Helen did her best to make me a better speller (she almost killed me when I could not learn to spell squirrel, and I still am so unsure that I just went to my Webster’s College Dictionary to make sure I had not misspelled it again.) “You’ll never be able to pass spelling if you can’t even spell that easy word!” She was exasperated with me (which was so unlike her). Josephine assigned me a chapter of The World and its People (or some such title}, to be read and discussed each weekday. I rather enjoyed the section on “Africa, but all I could really appreciate were the pages about the Belgian Congo. Somehow, in my mind, the very word “Africa” meant only that wonderful place where Tarzan, Jane and Boy lived. And don’t forget little Cheetah!
Armed with my brand new geography textbook, which still had that delicious “New Book” smell, I’d go into the market’s walk-in refrigerator, where Daddy would hang the newly butchered sides of beef to keep them fresh. I’d take one of the folding chairs that Anna kept for friends and family, to sit on and I could read quite easily by the light from the store coming through two large windows on one side of the cooler. Actually, it was almost as large as most of the rooms in our rented house. We had no cooler when we moved back to Ellisville, in 1942, so Daddy would have to keep smaller portions of beef in a refrigerated meat counter, in which he chilled, also Coca-Colas and a few other soft drinks. We had the reputation of selling the coldest sodas in town during WW2 and the years immediately afterwards.
Daddy always seemed amused at my creating what virtually amounted to an air-conditioned study room. How he’d laugh and say to me, “You’re gonna burn up when you come out’a there!”
“I know it, Daddy! But it’s so heavenly to be cool for a change!” I have hated hot weather all of my life.
And, I was the only one of his children that never called him “Papa”.
And so, between my two sisters and that wonderful “Meat Locker” I made it through the long hot summer and into the fifth grade!
Miss Nicholson had only one grade to teach- the fifth. I never understood why that was the only class in our grammar school (as it was then called) while the other classes were paired off.
She was a competent, intelligent and interesting teacher, but I still longed for Miss Burns (who had moved on after that one year in Richton.) But, as there was only the one grade, we seemed always to have too much time. All the other “Double Grades” would have “study time” while the other grade had its daily lessons. As a result of this type of routine, we had some rather unusual things our teacher would dream up to keep us occupied.
One example was early in the school year, which in the Deep South was still hot as blue blazes in September. We were sitting there, about to go to sleep one particularly hot afternoon, when she told us to tear a sheet of paper out of our tablets. She then showed us how to fold the paper into a fan. “Now,” she said, after each of us completed this task, “Everybody fan!” I felt it would do about as much good as closing the windows, but I lethargically began slowly to move my “creation” back and forth. Amazingly, it did seem to work! There really was a little breeze created—and it felt a little cooler, as a result, however my favorite memory of this school year is of the afternoon, much later in the winter. Miss Nicholson said, “Class, we still have twenty five minutes until the fifth bell.” I braced myself, and was about to rise and walk to her desk, as usual, where I would then read to the class for their “Entertainment and Enlightenment”. But she surprised me by asking, “Do we have any singers in this class?” I often sang and whistled when I was at home, but I shuddered at the very thought of standing in front of the entire class and trying to sing for them!
I peered around, suddenly terrified that I would become their “entertainment yet again!”
The biggest disappointment in my “Skipping a grade” was that Jackie Wilson was no longer a classmate. Mama was just as pleased, calling him a trouble –maker and saying he would get me in trouble sooner or later, My other “best friend”, Hugh Mack Walley, was a grade ahead of me. Jackie and I would have immediately been only too happy to sing the little song we had leaned from our piano books (yes, both of my buddies took piano lessons, too). The song was entitled, “Bill Grogan’s Goat” and went as follows:
“Bill Grogan’s goat
Was feeling fine-
Ate three red shirts
Right off the line.
Bill took a stick-
Gave him a whack,
And tied him to
The railroad track!
The Whistle blew-
The train drew nigh-
Bill Grogan’s Goat
Was bound to die-
He gave three groans
Of awful pain-
Threw up the shirts-
And flagged the train!”
We sang it like this: Jackie would sing a line, and then I’d repeat it with my syncopated version being sung on one note.
Jackie: “Bill Grogan’s Goat”
I: Bill Gro-G A N’S goat—
J: Was feeling fine-
I: Was feel-I N G fine” etc.
Then at the very end, he sang, “The railroad tracks” while my version (this time minus the syncopation) sounded like the
traditional, ”wow-wow-wow-wow”, as I intoned, “The Rail-Road Tracks”, striving to sound like a trombone,
Just as I was about to abandon all hope of being rescued, two hands went up at the very back of the room.
“Come on up girls!” Our teacher said happily.
It was one of the “two- pairs-of-sisters-in-the-same-grade”, Lois and Ruby Lee Culliver! The only times they had ever said anything other than try to answer a question when asked in class, was “Bible Verse Day”. Once a week, along with the obligatory daily protestant “prayer meeting” each of us had to recite a Bible verse. I’d always cut mine out of the New Orleans’ Times Picayune, because they were always appropriate for the time of the year. Mainly, though, I did not want to sound like most of my classmates, who said the same old verses every time. With the Cullivers, one of them would take the Bible’s shortest verse, but instead of saying, “Jesus wept”, Lois-or Ruby Lee, depending on whose turn it was, would mutter what sounded like “Jesus Swept”. That gave her sibling the opportunity to dash through the longest verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world” etc. at break-neck speed,
But now the pair brazenly faced all of us and announced that they were going to “sang” On Top of Old Smokey! Of course, I had never heard of it at that time, but they were surprisingly good with their close harmonies. Of course it was, even then, an American Folk Song.
(To be Continued)