Thursday, January 30, 2014

Week 4 of 2014 - Grade school memories ....

Many of my early grade school memories revolve around recess.  Humm....Wonder what that means?

My favorite activity was to play marbles during recess.  Can't help but wonder if I was good at it or not. Probably not,  knowing how uncompetitive I am today!  And I suppose if I was, I would have remember, do you think?   So this is what I remember, we used to line up along the school building wall where we had dug holes or depressions in the dirt. I was never afraid of getting dirty!  We still wore dresses everyday but I wore a pair of pants or shorts underneath so the boys could not see anything that they shouldn't.  I always felt more comfortable in pants but it just wasn't the way we dressed in those days. I sure wish I has a picture of it! Me in a cute little dresses and a pair of pants on with holes in the knees!  I can just see it.  That is another thing about the time period that is so different today.  Today we take pictures of everything!   Since pictures are digital and require no processing we can do that!  But back then, you had to get a picture developed so we did not take as many pictures and certainly did not take pictures of little girls half dressed in play clothes and half dressed in church clothes!!!!

Back to marbles.... Our marble playing field consisted of a hole in the ground which was about one foot from the exterior wall of the school.  There were marble holes every few feet the full length of the school. I remember standing against the brick wall of the school over the hole. My marble was in the hole challenging other students to come and hit it. Each kid had their favorite spot. I remembered days when the sun shone on the school, warming the wall. It would feel so good as I leaned against the warm bricks on a cold winter day. I wish I could remember the rules...I can not. I remember that you never put your favorite marble in the hole for fear that your opponent would hit it and take it home with them!  You only make that mistake once! I remember grabbing my marble bag everyday as we ran for the bus. I would have rather forget my lunch than my marble bag! The bag was made for me by my mother out of corduroy fabric. It was tied with a white shoe lace! There were lots of beautiful marbles in it so...I must have been pretty good! When the recess bell rang we would run for our spot along the wall of the building and hope that someone would want to play.

 I was really quite the “Tom” boy, not that I realized it.  It was just how I was.   Not much of a girl except I did like to play jump rope. The swing sets was another favorite too. I loved to swing as high as I could often jumping out as a means of getting off the swing. It was a wonder I did not break my neck! I was always frustrated by the monkey bars. My upper body strength was never strong enough to swing from rug to rug like so many of the other kids did. Sometimes they seemed to be able to swing for hours just like monkeys. Not me...It was pretty hard work.

The first "girlie" thing I remember was from third grade.  I had a teacher who got married during the school year.  It seems to me that she became Mrs French but I am pretty bad with remembering names.   She was pretty, always well dressed with just the right accessories including the right shoes and perfectly done makeup. She was beautiful.  She also had perfectly manicured nails.  I had never known  anyone who painted their nails.  She took such good care of hers.  From the first day that I saw them, I knew I wanted mine to be just like hers but there was a big problem.  I bit my nails so badly.  I chewed my finger until they bled...I would have to work very hard to over come this bad little habit.

For the next few months, we would hear all about the planned wedding.  Wedding showers, her dress, the honeymoon.  We had a small party for her a few days before the wedding.  The week of her honeymoon we had a substitute teacher. I thought of her all week and wondering if she was having fun. When she got back, she looked so happy and radiant.  After she got their photos developed, she shared a few with us.  Getting to share the planning process of this teacher's wedding enable me to realize that maybe it was OK to be a girl after all.  It was during third grade that I stop my nail biting habit and learned that bad habits can be broken.

To this day, I am still not what I would call a "girlie girl"...  It simply does not fit into my comfort zone.  No makeup or dyed hair for me. I would rather have on a comfy pair of jeans and hiking boots but I do still have nice nails and they hold up well even when I am digging in the dirt!   And if I break one, "oh well, it will grow back!"

So there you have it...a little bit about  grade school memories!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Week 3 of 2014 - Getting My Drivers License

WOW...I'm closing in on almost 50 years since this rite of passage.  Well, not quite, but probably 46 years from right now I was signing up and getting excited about driving a car!  I never aspired to HAVING my own car...never cared as long as I could drive.  At that time, driver's education lasted only a few months of classroom work and a few....three times behind the wheel with a teacher...passing your drivers test...and you were golden!

I remember hearing boys talking about it as if it was no big deal...for they had been driving tractors forever.  I was a little apprehensive about the actual driving part of it.  My first time behind the wheel was with Dad on 31 Mile Road between Sisson Street and Campground Road.  We had a stick shift Ford station wagon and Dad was very accomodating to beginning my lessons.  I just didn't want to go behind the wheel with other kids in the class and NEVER EVER done it before. Well, let me tell you...a stick shift and a 15 year old girl...poor Dad had no idea what he was in for.  He patiently explained that you press down on the accelerator with your right foot as you let up on the clutch with the left foot...kinda in a synchronized way (oh yeah..syncronized, right!) and when you feel the "catch" just give it the gas and "it's that easy!"  So I put my feet on the pedals, repeated his instructions word for word and confidently turned the key.  So far so good, until I let up on the clutch just enough to lurch us forward and stall it.

Dad:  "Okay..that's ok. Start over.  Feet on the pedals..gas goes down, clutch comes up, catches and give it the gas."
Pam:  "Okay, got it."

This time was better.  No lurching..just stalled it.  Again...and again and again.

Dad:   "Okay..just do it again."
Pam:   "Okay."

Two little lurches and one big lurch...stall.  Dad remained jovial and was getting a kick out of me trying so hard.  We were both laughing and enjoying the efforts.  Even at that young age, I was good at laughing at myself, which I learned from Dad!  At one point, he leaned forward gripping the dash and hollered, "Stop, Stop! Stop the car!"  He put his head down on the dash and just lost it with an enthusiastic belly laugh.

We were moving west on 31 Mile Road, but only by a lurch or two at a time.  Ever determined with a patient father sitting shotgun, all of a sudden I was able to move the car from a stop to a forward roll without any stalling...or lurches.  By the time I got to Mound Road (less than 2 miles from where we started), I was able to successfully start and stop.  I know that there are also some shifts in there, but that wasn't a problem.  When we arrived at Mound Road the lesson was over.  We switched places and Dad headed south toward home.  The only stick shift lesson I would ever have was over.

My drivers ed experience was interesting too.  The classroom part was no problem...the actual driving time was...a story in itself with an automatic shift vehicle, thank goodness.  All these know it all on farms, etc.  I was paired with two boys, and my first driving experience was from Lapeer to Imlay City along M21.  We stopped at Tietz's Drive In for lunch and then I drove south on M53 to Romeo.  That first time on pavement with cars coming at me was intimidating.  I couldn't get far enough to the right.  I cringed every time a car came in the opposite direction.  By the time we reached Romeo, I was calm and decided it was pretty cool afterall.  At some point, I was told to pull over and a classmate, Lanny Kaeding, took his turn.  And what a turn it would be.  We headed to Stoney Creek Park and Lanny was scared to death.  At one point we went off the road on the right, down a sloping ditch and around a park sign and back up on the pavement.  The teacher had him pull over and that was the end of his driving time for that day.  The teacher drove and dropped me off at home and Mom was waiting to hear "all about it."  I just couldn't believe a "boy" couldn't drive better than that!

Soon after completing the classroom tests and driving three times, once you turned 16 you could take your driver's test with the Romeo Police.  The officer climbed in your car and you took him around the block.  I was scared I'd have to parallel park, but it was just a once around the block and done.  I passed!

Dad told me many times that "driving will be the most dangerous thing you will ever do. Remember that!"  How true that is still today!  Lest we not ever forget that....

Week 2 of 2014 - First Grade

September, 1957, meant first grade in Mrs. Parsons room at Croswell Elementary School.  It was the last room on the right in the east end of the school.  Mrs. Parsons lived in the big red house at the Country Store location, now called Frontier Village in Romeo, Michigan.  The house is still there and I remember wanting to see the inside of it...she was such a cool teacher!  She was a small lady, with glasses that slipped down on her nose and always wore her hair in a bun.  She was very nice and I think the only trouble I got into was for talking...too much talking.  I really felt endeared to her after an incident in the bathroom.  I had on my first skirt with straps...a pink skirt...that I'd wear with a white blouse.  It was an outfit that just made you feel special!  Mrs. Parsons and Mrs. Engel's first grade rooms shared a bathroom that was located between them.  I used the bathroom, but got the skirt off (instead of pulling it up) and couldn't get dressed again...the straps were tangled and I started to panic.  About that time, Mrs. Parsons knocked on the door and asked if I was okay.  She quickly got me put back together, dried my tears and sent me back to my desk. Funny what one remembers...I loved going to school all day, hot lunch and showing off my papers once I got home.  Susie and Jan gathered around and were very impressed with whatever I brought home. Mrs. Parsons got me off to a great start!

Week 1 of 2014 - Kindergarten

It's the Fall of 1956 and I'm about to start Kindergarten in Lapeer, Michigan.  It's just a few blocks east of our home on North Main Street.  I remember having Mom walk and Johnny Hill, our next door neighbor, across the busy street and then continue about 3 blocks.  In one of the blocks there was a white picket fence and we'd run our hands across each board as we made our way to school.  I remember very little about the school, having attended only 3 weeks.  Why?  We were moving to Romeo at 63021 Fritz Drive and I would continue Kindergarten at South Grade School on Croswell Street.  Why even go to Lapeer for such a short time?  I bet Mom and Dad planned to have us moved before September rolled around.  As with all projects, delays are inevitable...I can just hear Mom giving Dad the business because "school is starting...we need to be in Romeo!"

We moved to Romeo and I was introduced to a new school and teacher, Mrs. Rowley.  Living 5 miles out in the country, meant there was a bus ride.  I think all my school years in Romeo involved bus #12.  It was never new, but not the oldest vehicle in the fleet...but from 1956 to 1968, I think #12 was a constant down 29 Mile Road, north on Mound Road to 30 Mile Road.  East on 30 Mile to VanDyke and on into Romeo with a quick stop at St. Clement Catholic School to let off all the Catholic kids in their navy plaid uniforms, shirts and ties.  Such spiffy dressers!  I also remember riding to school with Dad some days.  He was employed at Eggleston's (I'm not even sure of the spelling) in downtown Romeo.  It was a department store sitting just east of Starkweather Alley.  I look at it everytime we go through Romeo.  The door and windows are still there...the one we entered and Dad's desk or work area was right underneath the windows.  We had lunch together there a couple of times.  He must have picked me up from school for some reason.  That didn't happen very often and he quickly changed jobs and then drove to Rochester for his management job at Mitzelfeld's Department Store.

I wish I had more memories of that first year in the classroom, but I really don't.  In the photo above, I have a favorite dress on...probably one Grandpa Anderson gave me, hand picked by Mom.  Susie and Jan probably walked with us and the little boy is our neighbor, Johnny Hill.  Johnny is a topic for another time and one of the reasons for my intense dislike of the s word.  Stay tuned...!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Week three of 2014 - Getting my Drivers License

I learned how to drive in the summer between 10th and 11th grades. My driver's Ed teacher was Mr Volick. He was also the boys PE teacher and sometimes a science and history teacher. I had him for History in 7th grade. I was a pretty good student in his class and I liked history so that rather put us on the same page a few years later when he was my Driver's Ed teacher. Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon we would have “on the road” training and every Tuesday and Thursday we would have a couple of hours of classroom training. The local car dealers would donate three sub compact cars each to the school to use for “on the road” training.

For the “ on the road” training, we were divided into small groups of three . Usually a boy and two girls and kids who did not normally hang out together. Would be hard to learn if you had three girl friends in one car. My group was me, a farm kid named John and another girl Betty. I knew both of these kids but we were not friends. John had been driving since he could remember or “could get his foot on the gas pedal of a tractor”, as he told it. He told stories of sitting on the edge of the seat and barely being able to see out the window thru the steering wheel of his Dad's truck. He had driven for years and acted like it. It was full speed ahead. Mr Volick had to rein him in sometimes for fear of getting a ticket in the Driver's Ed Car!

I had limited on the road experience prior to Drivers Ed. Oh I had a couple of friends who would let me drive on the dirt roads around town but that was all the experience I had. Needless to say, when Mr Volick, in his billowing PE Coaching voice, said, “Janet, go first, I thought I might wet myself!” “Really?” I asked! “Yep!” He smiled. “it is your turn!” So I was the first driver and a nervous wreck. I adjusted the seat so my legs could reach the gas pedal. I looked at Mr Volick and realized that his knees are now mashed into the dashboard. He just smiled at me and nodded his head with encouragement. I put my foot on the brake and took the car out of park and into drive and pushed gently on the gas pedal as we left the parking lot and when down First Street. “Wow, I'm driving,” I thought. As I pulled up to the first stop sign, I gently applied the brakes so I did not send Mr Volick thru the windshield. He smiled and seemed to relax a bit and so did I. He has me drive down South Almont Ave to Newark Rd, down Newark Rd to Lake Pleasant Rd and from Lake Pleasant to Bowers Rd. All in all my first 20 or 30 minutes of driving was uneventful. I got much more comfortable about the oncoming traffic, turning, braking and all the nuances of driving. At one point, Mr Volick even encouraged me to increase my speed a little! A few minutes after we turned onto Bowers Rd, Mr Volick had me pull off to the side of the road and we switched drivers.

So now it was John's turn! And I got in the back seat. He moved the seat back as far as it could go and Mr Volick once again had some leg room. John take the car out of gear put it in drive and punches the gas like a punching bag. The dirt and gavel from the side of the road flies everywhere as we skid back on to Bowers Rd. “Hey, easy does it, there John!” Mr Volick says and we are off! John drove for about 20 minutes too. A couple of times Mr Volick asked him to slow down some. He also had to remind him to keep both hands on the steering wheel several times. Somewhere out on Brown City Road we changed drivers again.

Now it was Betty's turn. She looked scared to death...Just a sheet of white. I felt for her...It had just been me an hour or so before. She got in the drivers seat and once again Mr Volick found his knees in his face as she adjusted the seat. She nervously took the car.. out of gear and put it is she push the gas...we started to back up...Mr Volick billowed, “Hey, stop! We need to go forward... it needs to be in DRIVE!” Now she is so nervous and nearing tears!

She stopped, put the car in drive and eased off the shoulder driving down Brown City Road. She tended to drive too close to the shoulder as if she feared the center of her lane. Mr Volick corrected her several time wanting her learn how to stay more toward the center of her lane but awy from the center line. Occasionally she would drop the right tires off the pavement. I could see Mr Volick's tension rising. After Betty drove apprehensively for about 10 minutes she never quite reaching the speed limit. As we neared M-21 and a small grocery store on the corner, I could tell that Mr Volick was thinking about changing drivers. There would be much more traffic on M21, especially truck traffic so Mr Volick told Betty, “Just pull over at the store and we'll change drivers.. We'll have Janet drive us into town from here!” I was shocked...I thought my driving for the day was done but I thought...”OK, I can do is just a few short miles to town and back to the school..” So Betty, neared the store and instead of just pulling off the road as instructed, she turned the steering wheel a hard to the right. Hitting the gas instead of the brake she nearly put us through the wall of the store into the meat counter. She slammed on the brake stopping us a few inches short of the block exterior wall of the store! I was in a state of shock with my heart in my throat. Mr Volick face was a bright red and Betty was an ashen gray. While John said, “Holy shit, man! What the hell!!!”

It took a few minutes for all of us to regain our composure and for the dust to settle in the parking lot. Mr Volick quietly said, “ Janet, can you come up here and take us back to town.” I said, “sure Mr Volick.” So Betty and I traded seats and I drove the rest of the way into town and back to the school.

From that day on, Mr Volick had me drive when ever he had lost his patience with other two students. I got quite a lot of driving time. John did not need much practice time and Mr Volick was just plain afraid of Betty!

After my formal Drivers Ed, I would have to learn how to drive all over again!! Our family car was a manual transmission Ford Station Wagon. You know the kind that had two seats facing one direction and the back seat facing the other direction! It was as long a speed boat and I would need to know how to parallel park it. I also needed to be able to smoothly transition from 1st gear to all the other three gears with out grinding or stalling the car! I remember several days of trying to go from a stop to first gear smoothly with out any clutch hiccups or grinding gears. My father and I laughed until we cried as I tried to learn! Stopping and starting a hundred times along back country roads when there was no traffic. He used to imitate his Grandfather, who he remember from when he was a kid, drove with the clutch engaged all the time!!! So after a few short weeks, I was ready to take the test to get my drivers license. I was able to parallel park “the boat” in downtown Lapeer and safely drove the station wagon all over town without grinding a single gear or a single clutch hiccup. I stopped at all stop signs and used all the correct turning signals.

I got my drivers license but with two older sisters who had their license way before me there would be few opportunities for me to ever get the car. Between Mom and Dad and two sister and one station wagon...there would not be much driving time for me!

Week two of 2014 - First Grade

First grade would mean a new school for me and all the kids in our neighborhood.  Last year we rode the bus to Romeo to go to school.  This year we would go to the Washington School.  It was still a part of the Romeo school district but there were to many students in the Romeo classrooms so now our school would be Washington Elementary instead. We still road the bus but we drove a southern route through country roads and made our way to the school. We met all new kids.  The kids whom I had gotten to know last year in Romeo, most of them would stay there.  Those of us living on or south of 29 mile road would now go to Washington.We still rode the bus about the same length of time. 

  The school had two buildings.  One was obviously the original old school building built in the early 19the century. This building was multiple floors with a big huge staircase and large big window on the front and back of the building.   The newer building was a single story flat building with one hall and rooms on each side of the hall.  It was built about 1952.
I remember that the new school was different.  We did not get to play as much.  We sat at tables with small chairs and 8 to a table.  We had paper and pencils and it seemed like we practiced writing a lot.  My favorite time of the day was recess where we would play jump rope  and hopscotch in the school yard out doors most days.  Simple games for a simple time.

I can not be sure if this was from first or second grade picture but either way, it was close.  This dress was once again a dress that Grandpa Anderson gave me for school!

Week one of 2014 - Kindergarten

Thinking back about Kindergarten!   Wow, a time of such wonder and innocence!  Hard to believe that I was a short 6 years into my life! 

  I was so happy to be able to go to school like my BIG sisters!  I thought I was finally all grown up! In 1960, I had missed a cut off date for starting school by several months. You needed to turn 5 years old before June 1, in order to be eligible for school in September. With my birthday in August,  I missed the deadline!  I was so disappointed. So I started Kindergarten in September of 1961, when I was six years old. My school was in the small rural farm town of Romeo, Michigan. We lived in a 20 house neighborhood on the corner of Mound Road and 29 Mile Road. Our address was Romeo Michigan but we were quite a ways from town so that meant a fairly long school bus ride to and from school each day. I don't remember how long a ride it was exactly but for 6 year old it seemed like forever. On more that one occasion, I fell asleep on my ride home. I always sat in the seat right behind the bus driver. At first it was rather scarey getting on that big bus and finding your seat. I was so small that I could not see over the seats to even see if anyone else was on the bus. I crawled on the bus and into the first seat that I came to behind the bus driver. I sat in the same seat every day that year!

For my birthday, my Grandpa Anderson always gave me a new dress for school. My favorite of these dresses was the one I got for Kindergarten! I am wearing it in the picture. He had told me that is was for my first day of school so I saved it until then. It was actually a gray flannel jumper with a white blouse. The blouse, as you can see, had small red hearts on the collar. The jumper had hearts at the waist line. It was my favorite dress as a little girl! I wish I still had it!  When I opened my birthday present that year, laying on top of the dress, was this cute little red plastic horse pin! I fell instantly in love with it. I wore it to school every day that year. I put it on and took it off each day. Before the end of the year, I had pinned it on so many times that I broke the pin. I was devastated!

My memories of school are vague. I remember playing duck duck goose. I also remember sitting in a circle at story time and listening to the teacher as she read us a story. I remember how hard it was to sit still and listen. I always wanted to go play with the building blocks or the pretend kitchen. I do remember painting with finger paints on paper. I thought it was so much fun. We would cover our clothes with old shirts.