Saturday, March 10, 2012

School Days--Mary Ellen

 I hope that School Days will be a recurring feature in which I ask people about their early memories of school. Everyone has a story to tell about this and I hope to give them a voice here. 

Here is today's story.   

Mary Ellen started school in 1957 at age six. She attended school in a small West Virginia town.

Tell me about starting school or an early memory of school.

Mary Ellen -- First Grade, Age Six
I don't remember much.

I started school in the first grade when I had just turned six. The school was in a complex of three turn-of-the-century buildings. One was for the older kids, one was the gym, and one was for the younger kids where I went. The buildings were old red brick with oiled wooden floors. When you entered the school, there were wide, steep steps that went to the second floor. I remember them as concrete, but I'm not sure if that makes sense now. I fell down them once, but didn't get seriously hurt. On the second floor, there were two classrooms—one on either side of the steps. My classroom was on the right hand side. The classroom on the other side had a fire escape that was a long enclosed tube. When we had a fire drill, we went down that tube. Other times it was locked at the the bottom.

When you went the other direction away from the big steps, there were a few steps down to where the boys and girls bathrooms were. The boys bathroom was on the left and the girls bathroom was on the right. There was a janitor's closet between them. One time I got lost and ended up in the boys bathroom. The janitor found me and directed me back to the girls bathroom.

The cafeteria was on the first floor on the left. We got milk in bottles here with round cardboard lids like Pogs. There was also another classroom on this floor on the right.

My teachers name was Mrs. McCullough but that was hard for first graders to say, so she told us to call her Miss Taylor.

One day we had to line up in the gym for TB tests. I got very scared and cried and cried. They tried everything to get me to stop and to take the test. I even got offered a candy bar, but I refused. They had a make up day for the test that was held at the public nurse's house. My mother took me there for the test and made certain that I got it.

Mayfield Museum

The town I live in, Mayfield,* has a heritage museum which features rotating exhibits of things from the local area. The museum, which is run by volunteers, is in a one room building and has been open two years. They have had exhibits on standard museum fare such as business, education, and churches in the Mayfield area, as well as an exhibit of miniatures.

The current exhibit, "From the Attics of Mayfield"  has me the most excited. The museum committee thought that non-native Mayfieldites needed a chance to participate in a show and issued the invitation of, "Come one, come all and show us what you have hanging around in your attic."  I answered them with a few items of my own. Now I feel kind of proud as I get a chance to show off some of my heritage to others. It's nice to live in a small town where these things happen.

In case you can't make it to the exhibit, here are some of my things that are on display.

This is a picture of my great, great grandmother which is probably of not much interest to anyone but me. But here's something that you might be interested in. Look at the pink arrow pointing to the black bump on top of her head. That is the top of a rod that was holding her in place. The picture was taken sometime in the late 1800's when a picture subject was required to be still for as long as ten minutes. There were poles with clamps on them to help with this process. Usually, the "clamp" was painted out or hidden behind hair, but this one was left visible. Interesting, right?

This folder belonged to my great grandmother, daughter of the lady above. It carried the catalog for Maisonette Frocks that were sold door to door for a few decades in the early and mid-1900's. The dresses started out in department stores, but door-to-door sales proved to be more successful since most women at that time didn't work outside the home. Eventually, door-to-door was the only way they were sold. I have no idea if Great Grandma was a good saleswoman or not, but I can tell you that she didn't get rich from it.

This booklet, from 1912, was campaign literature for the Prohibition vote in West Virginia. West Virginia approved Prohibition in 1914. This booklet came from my grandmother, daughter of the frock saleswoman.

Children's books from the 1930's.  No story here (except in the books.)

*The name of my local town has been changed to protect the innocent. Mayfield is where the original June, Ward, Wally, and Theodore lived.