Alice Cooper rocked us with "school's out for summer" back in
1972, the year I graduated high school. But right now kids all over
the country are returning to school after what I am sure appears to
have been an all-too-quick summer vacation.
The start of the new school year means leaving the house 15 minutes
earlier for the commute to work lest I get caught up in the school
drop-off traffic. Big yellow buses are also hogging the roads now,
making their wide turns and stopping at railroad crossings for what
seems to be an eternity.
My own girls are long past school age, but my grandchildren are
inching toward the elementary years. I am sure I will be
flabbergasted when I see the inside of the modern-day classroom
filled with computers, electronic whiteboards, digital textbooks
and teachers that look like kids themselves.
The start of the school year still invokes memories of my own
school days. While humming "no more pencils, no more books" and
dreaming of a lunch box filled with a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich, I think of these:
The Bus Ride
I lived on the outskirts of town, so my bus ride, including all the
stops, took about a half hour. This was the time to catch up with
friends. If you were lucky, you had a good friend who boarded the
bus on an earlier stop when seats were still empty. They would grab
a good one and save a spot for you. If you were lucky, other
friends got the seat in front or behind you. With no confining
seats belts, you could lean forward or turn and face backwards.
What I don't miss were the days of walking to the bus stop and
waiting for the bus in the rain. I don't remember having an
umbrella as a kid. It would have been a luxury item, plus there
would be no place to put it once in the classroom. So rainy days
meant soggy clothes and bad hair.
Grades 1 through 10 were at Catholic schools, uniforms required. In
the younger grades, it was a jumper over a white blouse. We went
from all navy cotton to plaid woolen during my tenure. There was
nothing flattering about that jumper, especially when it was
accessorized with our saddle shoes and anklet socks.
In the upper grades, we switched over to a skirt and blouse with
a vest. I assume this was in direct correlation to the onset of
puberty and what would fit better. The skirts were pleated and we
were measured for a length well below our knee. At the bus stop,
skirts were rolled up at the waist and knees were exposed,
sometimes even a bit of thigh along with it. But once we reached
the hallowed halls, the Sisters performed spot checks of skirt
length using a ruler for a precise measurement.
The ugliest accompaniment to the uniform was the beanie. It was
also fashioned from the woolen plaid material and was adorned with
a white, fuzzy snowball. As the school year progressed, those
snowballs started to disappear with stories of them being lost. The
trick was to know the right date to "lose" it - this is when the
nuns deemed it too late in the year to require the purchase of a
As much as I hated wearing a uniform every day for the first ten
school years of my life, today I would give my eye teeth to have a
job that required uniforms. How nice it would be to not stand in
front of my closet every morning wondering if it was a black day, a
stripe day, a skirt day or a day to focus on the "fat clothes."
Recess was like a mid-day bus ride. If the weather was good, we got
to go outside. Best of all, we got to talk. In the younger years,
we played. Girls jumped rope while boys played marbles. As tweens,
we sat on staircases and gossiped about boys, wondering who would
be the next one of us to be bestowed with a tie clip when asked to
go steady. The saddest sound of the school day was the bell ringing
to signal the end of recess. Of course this same bell rang at 3
p.m. announcing the end of the school day. It sounded downright
School memories are universal for Boomers. They include football
games, dances, bad lunches, getting caught chewing gum, getting
caught smoking, teachers we loved, teachers we dreaded, teachers we
wish we could see today to say "thank you." We remember the first
time we fumbled with a locker combination, cramming for tests,
trying out for sports, getting a part in the school play, watching
a fight break out in the lunch room. We remember the SATs, filling
out college applications, touring schools and writing the essay. We
remember getting sent to the principal's office and Saturday
detention. We remember report card day, school picture day,
yearbook day and field trips.
But the best, most vivid memory of school was the joy, the relief,
the freedom, the hopes and expectations and the outright feeling of
"nothing's gonna stop us now" at the moment that school let out for
summer. Don't you wish you could feel like that again?
Cindy Phillips is a freelance writer for The Mountain Times. She
can be reached directly at email@example.com.