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August 31, 2016

School time memories

The ads for “Back to School” items have been appearing in flyers for most of August. They bring back memories that are happy ones for me. Back in the 1950s every neighborhood in Rutland had a public school close by. I would have attended parochial school at Christ the King but they didn’t have a kindergarten back then. Dana School was just a few streets from my home, so my educational experience began there. I don’t have a lot of memories at age 5 but I can still picture a candy machine as you entered the front door of the school. You put in your coins and pulled a lever to get your candy of choice. Must be the local dentists weren’t consulted on that arrangement!
When it was time for first grade I entered Christ the King School. I had a wonderful teacher, Sister Gerard, who made everyone feel right at home. We all were quite fascinated with the nuns, who had only their face and hands showing from their habits.
When we arrived at school to start our day the girls were on one side of the building and boys on the other. Both sides were blacktopped, but the girls’ side had a pretty steep slant to it compared to a nice flat surface on the boys’ side. I remember that jumping rope on an incline had its challenges.
There were no physical education classes back then but recess always involved fun games like kickball and volley ball. A real treat was when Sr. Margaret Henry would take our class across the street to Main Street Park to play kickball. The veil of her habit would be flying behind her as she joined in on the fun.
After eight years at Christ the King, most of us went to Mount Saint Joseph Academy. It was a whole new world of uniforms, lockers and moving from one classroom to another for the various subjects. The girls wore green jumpers with a white blouse and either a green or white sweater. The required uniform length was well below our knees. Most of us didn’t want to wear green for many years after graduation!
Classes like biology and chemistry involved lab work, which was a new and exciting experience. Hands-on was entirely different from just sitting at a desk and listening. There were many clubs to join and after school activities to take part in. Back in the 50s and 60s, school sports were mainly for boys. The fall night time pep rallies and bonfires are fond memories. Snake dances through downtown were often held the night before a football game.
As students entered their senior year a serious college hunt began. I chose Trinity College in Burlington, Vt. It was an all-girls’ school and very strictly run. Roommates were chosen for us when we were freshmen. Each of us got a letter in the mail early in the summer with the name and address of our roommate. Mine was from Syracuse, N.Y., and had just won a beauty contest with a prize trip to Bermuda. I could tell that life was going to be a whole new experience for little ol’ me in September. When we met we both knew right away that it was going to be a very long year! We were as different as night and day, but because the nuns felt that enduring differences built “character,” we had to stick it out! As you might guess, we opted for different roommates in our sophomore year. Unfortunately, Trinity College no longer exists.
Life would probably be a whole lot better if some of the standards from those days still existed. I am not sure how well received a 7:30 p.m. curfew would be. But it was accepted back then, along with one weekday curfew of 10 p.m., which was cherished by all of us. Weekends were extended to midnight but we had to sign in and out and beds were checked by a nun who resided on each floor.
My college major was Latin with a minor in English. What else do you do with Latin but teach it? My connection with schools continued as I became a teacher after graduation. As they say, “Timing is everything,” and Latin was dropped from the curriculum of most schools right about the time I started teaching. I loved teaching Latin a lot more than teaching English so that career ended after three years, when Latin all but disappeared.
If someone paid me to go to school, I would probably still be going! Every year when the “Back to School” ads appear, I look back at my school days and realize what a wonderful education I had from age five to 21. An added bonus is that the school friends I made along the way are still in my life.
Many colleges offer reduced rates for seniors. Maybe it’s time for me to see how the word of education has changed. Stay tuned!

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