Leila P. Cowart; I went there in 1st grade; then to another school W.W. Bushman in 2nd grade, then back to Leila P. Cowart 3rd through 7th grade. I walked the three long (city) blocks to school in fair weather or not, but honestly don't remember the walk except just up our block. Memories are fascinating, what we choose to remember, and what we don't.
The first year I had lived with my grandparents at their house which was about ten blocks from Leila P. Cowart, and I think I rode the bus; honestly I just remember going across the street to get my friend, Louis, and then we would walk to the corner; I suppose to wait for the bus, but I don't remember the bus ride or walking. Maybe we walked the whole way. One morning I went across the street to get Louis, and his mother came to the door and said he was sick and wasn't going to school that day. He never went back to Cowart. His family moved to Arizona, my mother told me, as he had severe asthma. I still remember what Louis looked like; he was blonde and blue eyed, and was my prince charming.
That same year, my friend Jeannie who lived next door to us and across the street from Louis became ill. I went with my mother to see her; she lay on her bed in the dark, and didn't talk to us. My mother sat on her bed, and took her hand; she just looked at us and turned over with her face to the wall. That was the last time I saw Jeannie. Her mother thought she had eaten too many green apples from the tree in their back yard, and that was causing her stomach pains. My mother told me the next morning that an ambulance had stolen Jeannie away in the middle of the night, and that her stomachache was appendicitis which I couldn't even pronounce much less understand. It was something in her body that "burst" and had poison in it and.....she died. I looked down at my stomach; was it going to burst? And was heaven like Arizona? It didn't seem to matter if I was told my friend had gone to Arizona or heaven.....they were gone. Years later as an adult, I was crying with grief, and all of a sudden thoughts of the dark, thin, barefoot, laughing Jeannie came into my head, and I realized that I was finally crying for her as well.
Before I started school, one day I was sitting on the floor in my grandparent's living room, a book from their bookcase in my lap, just staring at the written pages. My grandfather who was principal of a high school walked in the door. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"Reading", I said. (I didn't know how to read yet which he knew). He sat down with me and a book, and started teaching me to read. I remember the first day the words made sense on the page (like hearing a foreign language and all of a sudden you can understand the meaning); I was so thrilled! And have been an avid reader ever since. So when I started first grade, I was ahead of the other students. When the teacher realized I could read, I could tell it made her mad.
"You'll just have to learn the letters and learn to read with us the way you should have learned," she said. I didn't know what she meant because I already knew the letters and words. I just remember being bored most of the time, but I loved reading circle, although I just wanted to jump in and read for them when some of my classmates stumbled over the words. I remember the halls of Leila P. Cowart when I was in first grade and my classroom, and we had our own bathroom in our room (I guess first graders can't make it down the hall). There were 3 sets of twins in the first grade classes; we had twin girls, Ruth Ann and Nancy, and there were twin blonde girls in another class, and a boy and a girl in another class. I was in awe. I wished I was a twin; I thought it would be so much fun to have someone your own age 24/7. Of course, I was lucky enough to have my brother, Buddy, who was fifteen months younger than me, but he didn't want to play with dolls, and I didn't want to climb trees.
The only thing I remember in second grade at W.W. Bushman is walking into the classroom the first day, and the teacher introducing me as the new kid (must have started late or was late that morning), and the playground where I would sit and watch the other kids play.
My family moved into the house we would live in for the next 11 years when I entered third grade. On our block, on my side of the block, two doors down to my right, was my friend, Billie Francis. She was exactly my age, her birthday being in February. She was the youngest in her family of four, the other three all boys. Her mother was our girl scout leader, and I spent many a summer day at their house playing canasta with Billie Francis and her mother. I loved it and became quite good at it. I have to give Billie's mother, whose name was Billie also, credit for me never piercing my ears. She had pierced ears (a rarity in the fifties) and rarely wore earrings. She must have had a bad "piercing" as her holes were very long lines or scars, and I thought they looked terrible as I stared at them during the long afternoons of playing cards. I vowed never to pierce my ears, and I haven't. My mother (who also never had pierced ears) said "If God had wanted you to have another hole in your head, he would have made it." I pretty much just didn't want to "scar" my pretty little earlobes; they were dainty and I was quite proud of them. (I did let my daughters get pierced ears when they were 13 and 10, and my granddaughters at age 10 have them, and I think they look beautiful). My mother and grandmother always wore clip on earrings, but I have never liked to wear anything on my head and face (I know, weird) including sunglasses, headbands, etc. so never wore earrings. The older Billie had also lost her left arm just above the elbow in a factory accident which never stopped her from doing most anything. She had a special knob on her steering wheel to help her turn it (before power steering). Now I just thought that scar was fascinating and noble. Billie and I were fast friends through high school.
Down the block, two doors down was a girl named Barbara; she and I played together some, but never developed the friendship I did with other girls my age on the block. Barbara was the product of a divorced family, unheard of in our circle and the strangest thing to my mother was that her father and his new wife would come to see Barbara, and as they lived out of town would stay at the house with Barbara's mother and her husband; they were ahead of their time. Barbara and I would play on her front porch, and one day I walked up to find another girl that I didn't know playing with her. They told me they couldn't play with me as they were going to the movies. Being eight or nine, I asked if I could go. They said no. I went home, crying, and my mother was comforting me when Barbara's mother came to see if I could go to the movies with them. I was eager to go, but my mother took me into the bedroom out of Barbara's mother's earshot, and asked me why I wanted to go if the girls didn't want me? I just wanted to go, so she let me, but I know now she was trying to tell me to have some pride. At the movies, I sat with Barbara's mother while the other two girls sat and giggled a few rows behind us. I didn't care; I just watched the movie which evidently had been my goal. But Barbara and I never played together after that.
My best friend, Deanna, lived to the right almost at the end of the block, the second house from the corner. Deanna's birthday was in January. We played together all the time and never had a cross word. She was the oldest of two, and her parents owned a mom and pop grocery store in another neighborhood, and it was obvious that she was more affluent than me, but that never came between us. We were friends until we got in high school, and she moved, and circumstances changed our relationship. One day I was at Deanna's and was told that the little boy that lived two doors down whose mother was Deanna's mother's friend, had died of leukemia. He was two, and they had a picture of him in his little white suit in a casket. I had no idea that two year olds could die.
One holiday (I think it was New Year's Eve--remember in Texas, sometimes it was 80 degrees on Christmas Day); Deanna and I were in her front yard shooting off firecrackers. I was holding a roman candle which was supposed to just shoot sparks in front of me. Deanna's mom lit it for me, and it backfired; sparks going all the way up my arm and hitting my face before I could drop it. Deanna and her mother walked me to my house. I was taken to the doctor, and he said it was a third degree burn, and told my mother how to doctor it. She was very conscientious about it, and put the ointment and changed the bandage each morning before she went to work, and I healed without a scar although you could see some of the gunpowder under my skin all the way up my arm for a long time, even into my early adulthood; it is gone now.
The other time I scared my mother, we had just gotten back from a vacation, a trip to Tennessee to see my Dad's family, and my brother and I went across the street to play with friends. My parents went to take a nap as we had driven all night (and we kids had probably slept, although I remember many trips of driving at night --remember, no a/c in the car, and everyone would be asleep but me and my Dad, who was driving. I always felt responsible to stay awake with him). Anyway, we went across the street to Julie's house, and they were playing miniature golf in the back yard. My brother got up to play, and I was standing too close to him. The club struck me in the back of my head on the back as he swung. Blood went everywhere (scalp wounds bleed profusely). I had on a white tee-shirt, and it was soon soaked with my blood. My brother and I went home, and I stood at the foot of my mother and father's bed and said, "Mom" fairly quietly for the circumstances. My mother opened her eyes and fairly leapt out of bed. "Go to Hazel's" she said. Hazel lived next door (she was older than my mother, and I just assume my mother thought she would know what to do, and neighbors in the fifties were always there). Being the good repressed little fifties girl that I was, I turned and went next door. Hazel took one look at me, and reached for gauze, but by the time my mother got there, she had gathered her purse and car keys and told my mother they had to go to the doctor. I don't guess there were emergency rooms back then as in both of my emergencies, we went to the doctor's office without calling, and they took us right in. Hazel drove us, and at the doctor's office, he put me up on the table, and deadened my head and stitched it up. It didn't hurt; it felt like a stapler sounds, if that makes any sense. I sometimes think about my poor mother waking up out of a sound sleep and seeing me standing there with a blood soaked tee shirt. I don't think my Dad ever woke up.
My other friend my age was Peggy Sue; her birthday was in April. So all four of us, Me, Deanna, Peggy Sue, and Billie Francis became fast friends. Peggy Sue lived between me and Deanna about 4 houses to the right of me. Peggy Sue and I had dark hair and Billie Francis and Deanna were blondes. We all got along and never excluded anyone which was pretty amazing. I just remember that I always had someone to play with. Three of us went by double names as was common then, but sometimes Deanna's mother did call her "Deanna Sue" when she was mad. Deanna had a younger brother, Billie Francis had three older brothers, and Peggy Sue had an older sister. At the time, I had a younger brother and sister, but of course, eventually that would become two sisters and three brothers so I generally spent the night at their house when we had a sleepover; there just wasn't room at my house for more. (Billie Francis had her own room even though she had three brothers, sothat is why there was room for me at her house).
Don't remember any of the other Four Musketeers being in my classes, but I do remember one incident in fourth grade when Peggy Sue told Gary I had a crush on him. I thought I would die! He didn't seem to notice or care. (I saw him a couple of years ago at a high school reunion, and a couple of the ladies told him along with me that we had had a crush on him in high school; he seemed flattered and genuinely surprised, and his wife said she had always had a crush on him too). So I was mad at her for the first block walking home, but then started talking to her again. (Pouting was a way I dealt with my feelings back then; thank goodness I've outgrown it).
One year about fifth grade my mother and grandmother made me a skirt out of a flour sack. They both sewed, had sewing machines and made a lot of our clothes. But my mother was quite proud of this as this flour sack (must have been ten lbs or more) was cloth, cotton, and was orange print. She washed it, my grandmother cut it out with a pattern, and they sewed it up. I liked it, but made the mistake of telling my classmates that it was a flour sack (my mother thought it was a great idea so I parrotted her remarks) and they laughed and made fun of me and called me, "little orphan girl in a flour sack skirt." Needless to say, I never wore it to school again. I had to wear a lot of my aunt's clothes (she was eight years older than me) and my grandmother took good care of them, and "handed them down" to me. Sometimes they were too big and I did look like an orphan child. I used to yearn for "store bought clothes". A girl at my school had long blonde STRAIGHT hair and a bright green new STOREBOUGHT coat (mine might have been bought at the store, but it was second hand, remember). I envied her, and I didn't even know her; just saw her across the schoolyard.
School was very easy for me, and I don't remember much about the classes; I always made "1's or 2's" (A's or B's) and nothing was ever said about it at home, but I knew intuitively that there would be if I didn't. One time though, I did hear my mother bragging on the phone to someone about my grades, but of course, she would never praise me. I loved to write even then, but one story I turned in in middle school I was accused of "copying from somewhere" which I did not. My seventh grade teacher asked me when I saw her as an adult if I "had ever done anything with my writing." I didn't know I was supposed to (didn't know I had any talent as she had never commented on it to me in class). I was very good in math in elementary school, but that was not to last. I loved the timed tests and excelled at them.
In seventh grade, I was the shortest girl in my class at the end of school in May. In September, when I started middle school, I was the tallest, "5'7". I had grown what ? seven inches during the summer? Was that even possible? I hated being taller than all the boys because I was very interested in them even if they weren't in me. Deanna and I "stuffed" our bras with kleenex and my mother made me take it out. My mother also combed my hair to the side, and pinned it with a bobby pin (I had naturally, unruly curly hair and straight was in). As soon as I left my mother's presence out came the bobby pin, and I shook a wave across my face a la the movie stars. My mother frequently cut my hair to my chagrin simply to try to control the curl. Consequently, I hated haircuts even into adulthood and wore my hair probably too long for many years just because I could.
It seems that the more I write, the more there is to write. Middle school is next unless I think of more elementary school stories.