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Saturday, November 27, 2010

School Days Part IV

I want to complete my commentary about school memories with the four years I spent at Delta High School.

After battling through the junior high years, high school was actually tolerable. I had struggled with shyness so much during my elementary and junior high years. When I was a sophomore, I finally decided I had to overcome that shyness and start getting involved and meeting and working with others.

I got involved in some activities which made high school quite fun. I sang in several musicals, I was FBLA president my senior year and a member of FBLA and FHA three other years, I was a Tall Flag Team Member my junior and senior years (an officer my senior year), I was in acapella choir and I was Business Sterling Scholar. These involvements helped to make things much more enjoyable.

One of the greatest things about high school was I figured out that I didn't have to be friends with only those of my own grade. I found fabulous new friends, older and younger, who added dimension to my high school years. The only regret I have about that is the reunions we have don't include other grades. I must look into what it would take to change that policy.

I still rode the bus to school most of my high school years. Only during Marching Band in the fall did I get a ride into school because it was an early-morning activity. We had some fun times, did some great shows, and made good friends in the marching band. I enjoyed the competition season when we would travel to Salt Lake, Provo, and Cedar City to compete with other bands in the state. A tradition was to stop at Trolley Square when we attended the U of U competition. Everyone would eat dinner and spend a little time shopping before catching the bus on up to the university. My junior year, we left two girls who didn't make it to the bus in time. We were going to be late for our check-in and inspection if we waited any longer, so Mr. Holt made the decision we would leave the girls and make the deadline. How much more simple this situation would have been if we had cell phones like every kid does now.

A major memory I have of riding the bus during high school was when I was a senior and my little brother, Mark, was riding the same bus going to first grade at Delta Elementary School. Hinckley Elementary had closed by then so all the Hinckley kids, K through 12 rode the same bus. Mr. Taylor took a dislike to Mark within the first week of school that year. I truly don't know how anyone couldn't love Mark. He was so cute, he was really small for his age, and he had a sweet, little innocent face. He did; however, have a very big voice for such a small child. So maybe because of the noise he made, Mr. Talbot assigned Mark a seat on the front row. He wasn't allowed to sit anywhere else on the bus. My other brother, Jim, was also a passenger on this bus each day during this time. Usually, both of them would be off the bus and walking home by the time I disembarked. One day when I got off the bus, Mark was standing there crying, with two long, red welts across his face. I was immediately furious and started questioning him. He told me about an older boy who had whipped him with a coat as he got on the bus and walked past Mark in his front-row seat. Mr. Taylor sitting right there in the driver's seat had not said anything, though I'm sure he would have seen it happen.

I immediately looked around for the kid because this was his bus stop too. I saw him about a half a block down the road. I started yelling his name and running towards him, when he turned around and saw me coming towards him, he started running. I chased him for about a block before I caught him. I spun him around, grabbed him by the collar, got in his face and asked him why he hit my little brother. He gave me a smart-mouthed answer so without thinking, I slapped his face. I gave him a shake and told him if he ever touched Mark again he would have to deal with me. Then I threw him to the ground and ran back to Mark.

As we walked home, the guilt started flowing. I knew this other kid's parents and I was sure his Mom was going to be angry at me for grabbing, slapping and throwing down her fourth grader. By the time we reached the house, I was in agony over my impetuous actions. I confessed to my Mom what I had done and she said perhaps I should call Mrs. Talbot and apologize for roughing up her son. I got on the phone and told her who was calling, expecting an immediate angry outburst, when she didn't say anything I started telling her about the situation. I first told her about her son hurting Mark and then what I had done in retaliation. As expected, she exploded. She screamed at me to never touch her son again. I yelled back at her to tell her kid to never touch my brother again. After our little shouting match, I slammed down the phone and marched off to my room. I knew I had mis-handled the problem, but as a 17-year-old I wasn't equipped to deal with the situation.

Over the years of raising my own children, I've thought about that experience many times. I know I've had terrible 'Mother Bear' tendencies to protect my own at almost any expense. I hope that I've learned some discipline and restraint so that I don't enrage other mother bears in my quest to guard my own cubs.

I guess, like everyone else, I gained an education in high school. That education isn't just from books and teachers at school. I hope I can remember the lessons I learned riding buses, roughing up town kids, dealing with angry moms and loving little brothers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Memories Under Glass

One year ago at this very moment, Kevin, Bryan and I were in a plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

We flew out on the morning of November 19, 2009 bound for Seoul, South Korea and in the process completely lost November 20th because when we landed it was late evening of November 21st. Poor Bryan lost his nineteenth birthday someplace over the ocean a last year.

Does that mean he actually will only be turning 19 tomorrow instead of 20? Hmmm, I’ll have to give that some thought…

That trip with my sons was one of the all-time favorite things I’ve ever done in my life. We had such adventures in Korea and felt Kevin’s love of the country and its people as he worked so hard to make sure we got to see, hear, taste and touch all the things he remembered so fondly from his two years there. We weren’t there long enough to do that; a lifetime may not be long enough, but I will always remember the way Kevin was so intent upon every scene, word, tree, street, sign, restaurant, and person we saw. The most poignant of my memories of him was our last day in Guanju. We rode in a taxi, to take a bus, to ride a train, to pick up the subway, to catch the ferry that took us to Fukuoka, Japan. The whole day, Kevin was looking out the windows of all our transportation and just soaking in Korea.

Our adventure in Japan started with not being allowed into the country when we arrived, missing the bullet train and riding a bus all through the night across the country. The next day when we pulled into Tokyo and Mark found us, everything started looking better.

We spent five days seeing amazing and wondrous sights including the Imperial Palace, Shogun Castles, Buddhist Temples and gardens which were beyond compare. We will be forever grateful for the incredible hospitality Mark and Nana extended to us while we were there.

Of all the memories that stick in my mind, every one of them is combined with astounding autumn colors. Everywhere we went fall was at its height of glory. I gathered leaves each place we visited. A few of them are in a glass and wood frame hanging in my bedroom.

I’m so thankful we had this opportunity and a year later it is still as brilliant in my memory as the leaves of Korea and Japan in November 2009.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pope Joan

I'm going to interrupt my trip down memory road to write a book review. I follow several blogs where books are reviewed and I have appreciated those critiques and recommendations.

Today I finished the second of my two Book Club selections for November. Pope Joan was a rich and fascinating work of fiction based on historical facts which Donna Woodfolk Cross spent many years researching. It is the tale of a girl whose origins should have kept in in squalid domesticity. Instead through her intelligence, indomitability and courage, she ascended to the throne of Rome as Pope John Anglicus.

Joan assumes the role of her brother who is killed in a viking attack. She dons her brother's clothing, cuts her hair and goes to a monastery for protection and education. Her sharp mind takes her places she could never have gone as a female in 814 AD.

It really was an interesting story and the Author's Notes and Reader's Guide at the back of the book add a dimension to the tale as Ms. Cross sites references and proofs of the reality of a female Pope and what the Catholic Church has done in the years since to bury the evidence that it truly happened.

School Days Part III

Moving on from elementary school to junior high was a distressful event. This was mostly because the Hinckley students had been isolated while the rest of the West Millard students had all been integrated into Delta Elementary years before. It seemed that we were the new kids, alone against a large group who were already acquainted with one another.

Another trauma about junior high was that there wasn't a separate building for the students, we were thrown right in with the big kids at the high school. The junior high had two hallways of lockers at Delta High School. That changed while I was in high school and they built the Middle School, but for my part it truly was stressful and upsetting to go straight from sixth grade to mingling with high schoolers. The older kids teased and tormented in a way I had never experienced in my life (as I was the oldest in my family). I was a homely and shy kid so being in this environment just accentuated my awkwardness and seemed to make me a target for additional teasing.
A third terrible thing about junior high was I had to get up so much earlier in the mornings because I had to ride the bus from Hinckley to Delta AND I had to do chores before I could catch the bus. Seventh grade was the beginning of my 4:30 a.m. arisings; to this day I have not been able to disable that internal alarm clock.

In the fall and spring waiting at the bus stop wasn't too bad, but the winter months were unbearable. I remember that dusty, frozen snow blowing around us as we stood and waited. Arlo Taylor, the bus driver, wasn't known for being punctual so there wasn't a 'set' time he was at our stop every morning. Some days he would come early and we would be running up the street to catch the bus. Many of those mornings, he didn't wait, he would close the bus door and drive on down Main Street. Luckily, we could cross the street and wait on the opposite corner and he would usually stop and pick us up on his way back as he headed to the highway. Other mornings, we stood and waited for an inordinately long time. You can bet no one ever asked him why his schedule was so random. I had seen him ban students from his bus for small infractions. I'm certain he would have considered questioning his driving as a major violation.

The first quarter of junior high school was quite a shock for me. The moving from class to class in the crush of bodies in the halls, large classrooms of pupils I hadn't known since kindergarten, no time off for finishing work ahead of the rest of the class, no creative outlets for acting, writing, coloring, dancing and all the things I'd come to love during sixth grade. However, I remember being pleasantly surprised when grades came out and I had achieved a GPA which placed me on the honor roll. At that point, I determined I would work hard and always have grades which allowed that distinction.

I've said many times in my life that there isn't enough money in the world to make me go back and be junior-high-age again. Sometimes I think maybe if I was paid a great deal, I would go back; hopefully I would be able to retain the knowledge and experience I've gained and make those years happier than the ones I remember.

Friday, November 12, 2010

School Days Part II

Here are a few more memories of Hinckley Elementary School:

Monty our make-believe monster on our coat room floor.

My friends and I drew a big face with marker using a hole drilled in the wood floor of our upstairs coatroom as the mouth. Monty was always hungry and we were constantly stuffing things down the hole, thus feeding Monty. Many of our school papers became Monty food. If a sweater or mitten spent more than a couple of days in that coat room, it got fed to Monty. One time (that I know of) that got us into some big trouble.

It would be very interesting to find out where all that stuff ended up. It had to have been a huge pile since there were five of us feeding Monty from fourth through sixth grade and we never did fill up Monty.

The Blue Willow Plate, Robin Hood and Little Women

When we were sixth graders, Mr. Farnsworth allowed his students to work on other projects (which had to be approved by him) when we finished our school work. Several of us would work as quickly as we could in order to have extra time. During that school year, we adapted three books into plays. We then assigned parts, rehearsed, came up with costumes and built scenery for our plays. It took two or three months for each one, but we ended up presenting three plays that year. I still remember how exciting it was being creative with our dialogs, costumes, props and backdrops. Hinckley Elementary had an auditorium complete with raised stage and a heavy, blue velvet curtain. It felt like the big time; we thought we were headed to Broadway with our productions.

Trilabites and other fossils

For some reason there was a large pile of slate rock behind the school. For months of my second grade year, I spent every recess out in that pile of rock smashing pieces together to split them apart on a quest for fossils. We found all kinds of little fish, leaves and occasionally a Trilabite. We would take them in to Mrs. Hales, our teacher, and she would make a fuss over them and then display the chunks of rock in the window sill by her desk.

For awhile I considered paleontology as a possible occupation, but by third grade I decided I didn't like being dirty and dropped that from my career plans.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

School Days Part I

My blog friend, Tina, is from Abraham, another tiny Millard County town adjacent to my home town of Hinckley. Her most recent blog post reminiscing about her school bus driver, brought back memories of the Hinckley school bus driver. His name was Arlo Taylor, the thing I remember most about him was how terrified I was of him. Before I rode a bus (because I didn’t have to go into Delta until Junior High School), Arlo was the custodian at Hinckley Elementary School. That gave me several vulnerable years to develop a suitable fear of him so by the time I rode his bus, I wouldn't even make eye contact with him let alone say a word.

Because of my many memories associated with those school years, I decided to do a series of blog posts about attending school in Hinckley Elementary and Delta High School.

Here is the first in the series about Hinckley Elementary which was originally the Millard Academy completed in 1912. Later it became Hinckley High School and was used in that capacity until 1953 when it changed to Hinckley Elementary School. The community didn’t have enough students to warrant having a teacher for every grade so the second graders were split between first and third and the fifth graders were split between fourth and sixth. Even still, the biggest class I ever had was 18 students.
This is how the building currently looks with the doors boarded up and all the window missing. It was a beautiful, stately and well-proportioned building with many large trees surrounding it and a large playground to the northwest side and several baseball and football fields in the back.

I walked to and from Hinckley Elementary from kindergarten through sixth grade in every kind of weather. I don’t think it ever occurred to me to ask to be driven to school. We lived about a half mile from the school so it wasn’t a great distance, but the thing to bear in mind is that girls wore dresses every day no matter how high the snow was piled up or how hard that Millard County wind blew. Also for the first few years of elementary school, I walked back and forth for lunch each day too. Fourth grade was the first time I remember eating lunch at school. Hinckley’s cafeteria wasn’t in the school; it was a barrack building from Topaz Interment Camp which had been located west of town. The building had been brought from Topaz sometime after 1948 when the Japanese/American citizens who were relocated there for three years during World War II had finally been allowed to disperse.

A photo of Topaz camp circa 1944. One of these buildings served as my lunchroom at Hinckley Elementary School.

The Hinckley students would have to walk from the school along a sidewalk to the north of the school and wait in line outside for our turn to get a tray and collect our lunch from the counter before sliding into a long table and eating a hurried meal so there would be enough time to have fun on the playground. Some of my favorite memories of recess activities were playing Go-To-The-Bars on the swings. It was a tag-type of game where the one who is ‘it’ tries to catch someone who isn’t clinging to one of the metal bars between swinging. We had elaborate rules including having to swing at least once between the time ‘it’ ran from the end poles. The other favorite recess activity was spinning on the monkey bars. We used our coats to limit the friction and would use one knee up on the bar and then spin around and around. I would do it until I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up, it was so much fun! It did cause a problem when we moved to Pleasant Grove in third grade because I tried to show someone the trick and realized the bars were closer together at that school when my nose impacted on the lower bar. I had never before or since seen so much blood as the day I broke my nose.

I loved all of my Hinckley Elementary teachers, but the two who stand out most in my mind was Mrs. Hardy, my fourth and fifth grade teacher and Mr. Farnsworth, my sixth grade teacher. They were both instrumental in helping me discover who I was and finding worth in myself. Mrs. Hardy died of cancer a few months into my fifth grade year and that was a monumental occurrence in my life. I still think about her often and miss her.

In addition to teaching sixth grade, Mr. Farnsworth was also the school principal. He was an amazing man. I understand he is still alive and about four years ago I wrote him a letter to tell him how much I appreciated his efforts on behalf of his students. Until Mr. Farnsworth started teaching me, I was convinced I was stupid. He made me realize that I had strengths and abilities and always praised me in a way that made me want to do even better. While in sixth grade, we had a school paper, we put on several plays, we learned and performed different dances and we decorated the bulletin boards in the halls of the school. The sixth graders also were in charge of keeping the school grounds looking nice. We had a day in the fall and a day in the spring when we brought rakes and shovels to school and worked outside all day cleaning and pruning and burning to keep the grounds looking nice. I have never before or since heard of a school that does that.

I still have dreams which take place inside the walls of Hinckley Elementary. Going to school there was the best thing about living in that tiny town. I am so grateful for the education I received there, for the friends I made there, and for memories which warm my heart all these many years later.