Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back To School--Remembered

As I started my morning walk around 7:30 AM I passed by Greenway Elementary School and suddenly found myself thinking, “Boy, am I glad I am not heading to my first day of school!”  I watched the teachers arriving early to get the final preparations of the classrooms done before the onslaught of students.  It wasn’t just that I was glad I was not starting school as a student, but also glad I was not a teacher facing perhaps the toughest year yet in their careers due to the cutbacks on spending for education.  No wonder I felt like I didn’t want to be there!

The interesting thing for me is that I always liked school.  I was born literally next door to Vestal School on 82nd street in Portland.  I started kindergarten there before our family moved to the Rose City school district.  I remember walking to school alone when I was in the second or third grade.  It was probably about a mile and no one was afraid of child molesters or other dangers that seem ever present for children today.  I was free to walk along, partly watching the houses and other physical sites, but even more I was able to walk along my imaginary paths (much more interesting and exciting).

By the time I was in the fourth grade we had moved “way out in the country” just off Walker Road in Beaverton.  We bought two and a half acres of tree covered land with a small two room unfinished house.  I walked daily to Barnes School, then a two-room school about a mile from home.  At one point two sisters were the teachers.  They lived in a mobile home behind the school.  Sometimes my dog would follow me to school no matter how hard I tried to stop him.  One day at recess I was sitting on the front step, Patsy, my mutt friend was sitting beside me.  My teacher came out and asked if it was my dog.  I said, “Yes.”  Then the teacher said Patsy could come in and sit by my desk.  You think that could happen today?

Today along that stretch of Walker Road the Nike Company has taken over what used to be a horse farm and much more of the surrounding land.

I had so many wonderful adventures while living there.  My dad finished the house, which became a three-bedroom home with an indoor bathroom!  It only had a two-seater outhouse when we moved in, and the bedroom my sister and I shared was a separate outbuilding.  The house is still there and is the only one in the neighborhood that looks pretty much like it did when we lived there.

After my parents divorced the family moved back to NE Portland where I attended Ockley Green grade school.  I went from a two-room school to the largest grade school in Portland at the time with about 1000 students.

My high school days began in Astoria, Oregon.  My mother had remarried and my stepfather was working a dredging job on the Columbia River at that time.  Days at Astoria high school were something else.  Strict “rules” applied to freshmen with harsh consequences for failure to comply.  One “rule” meant that freshmen could not wear corduroy pants.  Unfortunately, washday didn’t come soon enough and instead of wearing jeans, I had to wear my cords.  The punishment was being ushered into the boy’s restroom and given a few whacks with a paddle!  I shouldn’t even mention my “sports” activity there.  It consisted of freshman football. I was on the field for two plays.  Unfortunately, I was supposed to be on offense and I played as though on defense.  Oh, and my mom who had come to watch the game didn’t know the school colors so rooted for the other team!  You get the picture, I’m sure.

Things improved dramatically after leaving Astoria in the middle of my freshman year.  I entered the freshman class at Tigard Union High School, the old school on Main Street.  (A MacDonald’s stands there now.)  I was literally the last person to graduate from that school.  As senior class president, I presented the graduating class.

Many of these thoughts passed through my mind as I completed my morning walk.  I chronicle them here as a reminder to myself of the educational journey I began in Oregon and that continued in other schools in other states.  Also, I offer this story in appreciation for the friends I joined along the way.  Most of them are in other places doing other things now, all continuing their experiences, as have I.  My last connection with my 1953 graduating class was our 50th reunion.  Of course, a few of us have reconnected on Facebook.


So, it’s back to school for all the children of today.  I hope they have even half of the joy I had in school!

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