We didn’t have kindergarten in our little town when I started to school so our first indoctrination into learning was first grade. We were all very unsure of what was to come and the first teacher should always have been a sweet little old lady that would take us by the hand and walk us through that first traumatic year.
I attended first grade in Mullinville for a few weeks and then my dad accepted the manager’s position at the TM Deal lumber yard in Satanta and we moved out there, so most of my memories of first grade are from there.
I do remember that the teacher at Mullinville wore long dresses and under her watch on the left wrist there was always a strip of lace because she was allergic to the metal of the watch. But I didn’t think anything about that lace because my Grandmother always had a handkerchief under her watchband.
And for the young that don’t know what a woman’s handkerchief is let me explain; it is a Kleenex that is made from cloth and you don’t throw it away. My Grandmother’s were a very delicate material and always had some embroidery and lace on them.
My first Grade teacher in Satanta was not the kind of teacher that should have been teaching first grade. Maybe college where the students were a little more calloused and used to being yelled out. Her name was Ms. Stump and she scared me to death.
She was a tall and wiry little old spinster. She wore her hair pulled back in a tight bun which only accented her thin and drawn face. She was angry with the world and each new class only made her realize that she was getting older and had never married and she had no children of her own. So she took it out on the class.
The first thing she did our first day in class was stomp around the room in her lace up black heels, the heels rapping on the wood floor like beats on a snare drum, and told us the rules.
RULE #1; no talking unless spoken to, which was no problem that year for me, I didn’t know anyone well enough to talk and I was scared of this little Army Drill Sergeant. Now that would have been a better career for her, because I really don’t think she liked children.
RULE #2; you will write and eat with your right hand. There would be no lefties in her class. She was really determined that no one would be left handed and that is how it turned out.
She would walk around the room with her shoes rapping on the old wooden floor, her flesh colored stockings wrinkled around her skinny ankles, with a ruler in her hand. The ruler looked like it was 2 foot long in her long, skinny and boney fingers. It was a wooden ruler because they weren’t made out of plastic yet.
She would tap the ruler into her left hand in time with the tap, tap, tap of her heels on the floor and you prayed as she came up your isle that she didn’t stop as she passed by your desk.
Most of the time my prayer wasn’t answered and she would stop next to my shoulder and start to tap one toe on the floor. I would wonder what I was doing wrong that time. I would straighten up in my chair and put my feet together under the desk but that was usually not the problem.
Usually I had broken rule #2 again. She would hit the offending left hand with the ruler and tell me to put the pencil in my right hand. I would awkwardly place the pencil in my right hand and try to write with it. Then she would move on.
As she moved past my desk I could hear the satin slip she always wore rustle and it always reminded me of the hiss of a snake as she moved. I imagine all her slips were black because she mostly dressed in black or dark navy, and the dresses were made of heavy material and they hung almost to her ankles.
RULE # 3; everyone would clean their plate at lunch no matter what was served. Lunches then were a true balanced meal; meat, vegetable, fruit, bread and milk. About once every two weeks we had peas, and they were not the sweet early peas that I love today. They were the lime green peas that were almost like BB’s and I hated them. I would spend my lunch recess time just trying to get the peas down.
By 2:00 they would have to call my mother to come and get me because I had thrown up my lunch. The reason I got sick was from being forced to eat the peas but she made me eat them every time. Mom knew the minute she got the call that we had been served peas for lunch.
Some how I managed to get through her class without a spanking from that dreaded ruler, but she hit my knuckles 3 to 4 times everyday to make me write with my right hand.
Even now I can almost write better with my left hand than my right, and my writing has a backward slant like lefties have. So I should have been left handed; if not for Ms. Stump’s rule #2 and her ruler I would have been.
My first grade was a real terror but helped prepare me for my second grade teacher Mrs. Piner who was the one that gave me three spankings; two for talking in class and one for throwing my coat up in the air in the hall.
After those two teachers the rest of my school days were a breeze and I mostly stayed out of trouble; I had endured all the spankings and knuckle swats I wanted. To email Sandy: [email protected]