School days

 

I went to Saint Peter and Paul catholic school for twelve years. I had the same thirty seven classmates for all of those twelve years. The school was a two story brick building with grades one thru six on the first floor and grades seven thru twelve on the second floor with the bathrooms in the basement. All of the classrooms had windows along one wall. The windows opened so when it got to warm a couple of the boys opened the windows. If it began to rain there was a big scramble to close the windows. The boys seemed to compete to see who could be first at this task. The rooms were heated with radiators and they kept the rooms nice and warm during the winter. We placed our wet and cold woolen mittens and scarves on the radiators in the winter to dry them. Many times there were so many things drying on the hot radiator that the room began to smell like a wet dog.

We had Saint Benedictine nuns as teachers and most of them were very good. They kept us all in line. If we misbehaved in school the nuns called our parents. If mom and dad heard from the school we were in real trouble at home. The nuns didn't spank anyone but after they talked to you and had you write several chapters from the bible, a spanking would have been better.

At the beginning of each school day we went to mass at eight oíclock. This was not a requirement but most kids attended. School started after mass with roll call in alphabetical order. We also sat at our desks in alphabetical order boys on one side of the room, girls on the other so since my name began with a K, I was always to be in the middle of the classroom. We marched in and out of class with our arms folded across our chests in this same alphabetical order. There was a fifteen minute recess in the morning and afternoon. The nuns were always on the playground with us to keep order. I can't remember any unusual fights or anything happening during those years. We had an hour for lunch. We had no cafeteria so the kids who lived in town went home for lunch while the kids from the country brought their lunches. We always ate real fast so we could go out to play.

There were no kindergartens back then so we learned to read and write in the first grade. We used a big chief tablet and we were taught not to waste paper so we had to use both the front and back of the paper. If we were caught wasting paper we had to write ten times ď.I will not waste paperď. This doesnít sound like much now but when you are first learning to write it took a long time. We used our pencils until they were nubs and hard to write with. We learned to write using the Palmer writing method. Making rows of circles and rows of up and down motion. I liked spelling because every Friday we had a spelling bee and I was usually one of the last kids standing. When I learned to read mom had me read to the younger kids. They loved to hear the same poems and stories over and over. I got tired of the same old thing so Iíd get out the Montgomery Ward catalogue and very dramatically read the toys for sale pages.

It was also in the first grade that we learned about God. God made all things. He made heaven and earth and all things in them. There was also a hell and if we committed a sin we went to hell. Heaven was the most beautiful place one could imagine, no more school work, and more importantly we could fly around heaven with the angels. God knew everything, even our most secret thoughts. One day after hearing that God knew everything I went home, put on the roller skates and went out skate. The sidewalk wasnít very long maybe twenty five feet. The cellar door ended at the midpoint of the sidewalk and it slanted downhill. I began rolling down the door but when I got to the bottom I stopped , which way would I go. I went a little one way and then the other. I did this several times. How could God know which way Iíd go when I didnít know myself.?

We got our report cards once a month. Father Claude came into the classroom took a seat at the teachers desk. He would ask you to stand as he picked up the card with your name on it . The report was read out loud in front of the whole class. After he read the report he would say ďThis is a good, fair, or poor report.Ē My report was never bad but I felt sorry for some of the class who got a poor report.

We were taught to use pen and ink in the third grade. This was usually a mess. We had pens with a removable pen tip that had to be dipped into an ink well. If you pressed to hard on the paper it made a hole in the paper and if you left to much ink on the point it left a big blob of ink on the paper. Everyoneís paper looked pretty messy. In the third grade I also remember trying to figure the fraction thing. Sister Bertilla always used a pie as an example to show one half or one third of a pie. I mainly thought about vanilla or chocolate pies. Thatís what we had for Sunday dinners and there were never any half or thirds of anything, Those pies were gone after dinner.

I remember one incidence in the third grade. Dad usually cut my hair but aunt Mary owned a beauty shop so she offered to cut my hair, She didn't give me manicures but this one day after she had cut my hair she asked if I'd like a manicure. Naturally I said yes. I thought I was so big. She filed my nails, soaked them in a soapy solution then applied a soft color nail polish. This was the first time I had ever used nail polish. I went to school the next day so proud of my nails. When sister Bertilla saw the nail polish she sent me out of the classroom and told me not to come back until the nail polish was gone. I spent a long time in the hallway at the water fountain picking off the polish.

Uncle August played the violin or as he called it The fiddle. He played western music and I thought he was a great musician. I decided I'd like to learn to play the fiddle so I asked for one for Christmas . I got a used violin about three fourths regular size but that was Ok by me. The music teacher thought it would be better if I took piano lessons for awhile before I began the violin. That way I'd know how to read music so that's what I did. I liked the piano but we didn't have one at home so I practiced at the nuns house every day during my lunch hour. That was fine for awhile but before long it became a drag because all the other kids were outside playing.

The following year I began my violin lessons and started practicing at home. When I did mom said she was sure I was holding the violin in the wrong hand. She told me to tell the teacher but I thought the teacher would know better than mom so I was hesitant to tell her. But mom kept nagging me to tell the teacher so I got brave during one lesson and told her that mom thought I was holding the violin with the wrong hand. Sure enough mom was right. The nun said I guess because I was looking at you instead of playing beside you I got it wrong. I had visions of playing the fiddle like my uncle but no way, I had to learn the classics. I began to dislike playing the violin but mom wouldnít let me quit so I played the violin in the school orchestra and other performances all thru school. I'm afraid I never was very good .When I left school I never touched the violin again. I know I would have been a great western band fiddler. Just think what the world missed!!!

High school was a little more lenient. We didnít have to march into class with our arms folded anymore and we could sit where we wanted. I think itís strange but we all ended up sitting pretty much in order like we did in grade school. All of the students were required to take two years of a foreign language. We were all encouraged to take Latin and I think almost everyone signed up for it. We also had to take two years of math, two years of science and two years of English or Literature. After the basic courses we allowed to branch out into courses that we believed we would need to make a living.

I, along with almost all the farm kids belonged to the 4-H club. The club had a health contest and whoever won the contest got a free trip to the Kansas State College in Manhatten to compete in the state contest. I won the county contest and came within the top ten in the state contest. I was also interested in sewing so I took those classes. I donít remember who taught the sewing class but she was a good teacher. Mom bought some dark cranberry wool fabric for me. I really liked the fabric and the color so I spent a lot of time making myself a suit. We had to make the suit and model it at the fair. I was surprised and pleased when I won second place but mom was mad because she thought I should have won first.

Bill and Al both raised steers . They led the steers around the yard by the hour so they could lead them in the contest at the county fair. They each won something at the fair. Iím not sure if it was first, second or third place. The judges thought the steers were good enough to go to the Kansas City Royal cattle show . I remember dad and mom discussing the pros and cons of their going. If they won something at that show their steers would bring quite a bit of money. If they entered the show they were obligated to sell the steers if they won or not. Their steers didnít win anything so their steers didnít bring any more money than they would have at the local sale barn. I remember mom and dad were very disappointed.

In 1938 the world continued on itís path toward world war two. In March Hitler annexed Austria. In September, Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy signed the Munich agreement which allowed the German annexation of Czechoslovakia. I remember Mom and Dad and all the relatives sitting around the dinning room table on Sundays talking about all of this. Their theory was that if we didnít do something soon to stop Hitler he would be over here in the United States trying to take over this country. Little did I know what effect it was going to have on my life.

It was about this time that the girls began to notice the boys. I couldnít date until I was sixteen and then only in a group. I didnít mind because most of the other kids couldnít date either. Our school held a dance in the auditorium once a month. Father Claude was always in the back of the place supervising . I donít know of anyone who got out of line. Iím sure they must have but if they did I didnít hear about it. Dad came to pick me up at eleven thirty when the dance ended.

Sometimes on Sunday afternoons we would ride our bikes to Nemaha lake. We all had fun swimming, boating eating and of course flirting with the boys. When we got old enough to really date we usually went with several other couples. One of the group of guys had to talk their mom and dad into letting them use the car. There were only one car families back then so getting to use the car was a big deal The guys usually pooled their money for gas and we usually went to a dance at the school or to a movie. Movies cost ten cents and I think the dance cost about the same. We danced to music on a nickelodeon . We had pretty good records. Music by Glen Miller. Frank Senatra. Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo and others. I forgot to mention that the guys always asked the girls for dates and paid for everything on a date back then.

Prom night was a big occasion. Our class decided we would out do all the other classes who graduated before us. We were going to use a Hawaiian theme Days before the prom we were busy making hibiscus flowers and leiís out of crepe paper. We draped crepe paper across everything. The Leiís would be given to each of the mothers of the graduates. Several families loaned their divans, lamps and other club chairs for the evening so the day before the prom the guys with their farm pickups moved the furniture to the auditorium and arranged it around the dance floor. I went to the prom with a guy that I had dated occasionally. I should have stayed at home. He spent the whole evening dancing with another girl. I was so embarrassed because my parents and everybody elseís parents were there watching.

I graduated in nineteen forty one with thirty five of the same kids that I started to school with twelve years earlier.

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