— By LARRY M. JONES
For many folks in the area this is an extremely busy time of year. The classrooms are again filled with smiling and happy students eager to hone their academic credential – yeah, right!
Coaches are pushing the athletes to get in top physical and mental condition, teachers are putting together extracurricular programs and the buses are rolling during rush hour traffic times. Geezers like me have to make sure they don’t get caught anywhere near a school zone at the wrong time of day when “soccer moms” are lined up in an endless procession of SUV’s and cell phones.
Unless it has changed, Texas law specifies that a child is eligible to start school if their birthday falls “on or before” the first day of September. I know this for a fact, because I was born on this very day of the year – three score and 10 years ago. According to “Me Dear Sainted Mudder,” the first thing the delivery nurse told her after I was born was, “He’s just in time for school.
In 1948, after I’d just turned 5 years old, I accompanied my mother as she attended my brother’s start in the fourth grade. I thought I was quite old enough to begin school, and I was quite “perplexed” that I was not allowed to attend school with all the other children. Since kindergarten didn’t exist at Brock in those days, much to my chagrin, I was forced to wait until the following year, when even then, I barely made it in under wire by virtue of being born “on” the first of September.
Starting school was a delight for me. I had a marvelous first-grade teacher, Mrs. Mae Bledsoe. I was an eager and inquisitive student, and best of all was the opportunity to interact with other children my own age. Recess was worth any price to pay.
I recently looked over my grandchildren’s school supply lists, and I was surprised that they hadn’t changed all that much. I recall the typical supplies needed in my day. For first grade only, we needed a big half-inch diameter pencil – big pencil to fit little hands. In addition, we needed a Big Chief tablet, a small box of crayons (other kid’s Crayola boxes were always better than mine), paper scissors, a ruler, and a small jar of white paste or bottle of mucilage glue, which was supposedly made from horse’s hooves. Instead of today’s fancy backpacks, we used a cigar box to hold our supplies.
In addition to academic supplies, I got new school clothes. I had new striped overalls for first grade, but after that I got Penny’s blue jeans, plus socks, underwear and black tennis shoes. My mother made my shirts from colored feed sacks.
One of my most vivid memories of school starting is that of my new blue jeans. My mother refused to wash them prior to first wear, so I’d come in from school for the first few days with bright blue underwear. With no air conditioning, our sweaty little bodies would color our skivvies and make our posteriors look like Smurfs.
By the way, in addition to school starting, I forgot to mention the most important aspect of this date – dove season opens. It happens every year in honor of my birthday.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.