Remembering the 1975-1976 school year
The 1975-76 school year saw me in the 2nd grade still attending East Ward Elementary and starting to lose the majority of my baby teeth. In fact, my 1st and 2nd grade pictures are probably the worst out of all my school pictures (the 9th grade picture is up there, too), because I looked like a snaggle-toothed weeble (remember those toys?).
However, my appearance would be the least of my concerns in the 2nd grade. This particular school year saw me with the meanest and most intimidating teacher I’ve ever had in all of my years in school. Her name was Mrs. Zelma Moore, and like most of the teachers during that era at East Ward, she DID NOT PLAY. She very seldom smiled or laughed; she basically taught with a total scowl on her face. She was not there to help us adjust to the 2nd grade as painless as possible. She was there to make our lives miserable as much as she could. She was like an Army drill sergeant, even going as far as to call us by our last names whenever she wanted something- “EDWARDS, BE QUIET!” “ANDERSON, DO YOUR OWN WORK!” “HARNAGE! TURN AROUND!” She was the only teacher I had with the exception of coaches who ever did that. She’d wear these pointed shoes every single day which seemed to make her look even more evil. And if you did something major that you knew you shouldn’t have done, that’s all she wrote. According to some of my classmates, she could swing a mean paddle- Seriously, when she popped somebody, it sounded like a rifle shot every time. I just mainly tried to stay out of her way and stay on her good side (a small area to be sure), but it was difficult.
The things that have stayed with me about that particular year were branded into my memory- I don’t think I won’t ever forget that period in my life. For instance, the class was divided into two- we had second graders and third graders in the class. There were 12 second graders and about 15-18 third graders. The interesting thing when I think about it today was that Mrs. Moore taught on a second-grade level, not third-grade, and that the third-graders in the class were basically (and barely) on second-grade level. All of us second-graders who were in the class were pretty smart; We made mostly As and Bs. There was Deyavor Harnage, Jennifer Anderson, Joanna Rodgers, John Young, Amber Knight, Fay Hill, Jimmy Wheat, and some others I don’t recall. We were also for the most part well-behaved. The third-graders, however, seemed to constantly stay in trouble. Mrs. Moore seemed to paddle someone every other day for talking too much, horse-playing, not doing their homework, running in the hallway, not sitting at their desk, etc. A lot of times, the classroom atmosphere was very tense. I can remember one day when Mrs. Moore was pissed off about something and she seemed to take whatever it was to the nth degree- We would’ve been better off sitting at a funeral. She was grading papers and had obviously gotten to mine when suddenly she snapped, “EDWARDS!! GET OVER HERE!!” I practically ran to her desk, thinking, oh sh**, what have I done-? She didn’t call me to her desk to cut off my head thankfully, but she almost might as well had. She was showing me how to work a particular math problem when suddenly she turned to me and said, “STOP BREATHING ON ME!” So, my 6-year old brain took that as to literally stop breathing period, so I stood there and held my breath until she got finished talking. I almost passed out for real, she talked so long. When I went back to my desk, I practically collapsed into my chair. That was a dumb moment for me, I’ll admit.
Another lowlight occurred when, once again, we were lining up to go to lunch, and of course, one of the bad third-graders decided to push me out of the line, and of course, I retaliated and pushed him back. So, of course I’m the one who got in trouble. This time and probably not the first time, Mrs. Moore decided to use psychology instead of a paddle. She announced to the class, “SINCE EDWARDS DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO STAND IN A LINE LIKE A NORMAL PERSON, I WAS GOING TO TAKE THE CLASS TO THE PARK, BUT I’VE CHANGED MY MIND- WE’RE GOING TO DO WORK INSTEAD, AND YOU CAN THINK EDWARDS FOR THAT- NOW GET YOUR LITTLE A**ES TO THE CAFETERIA!” No, she didn’t say that last sentence- but the rest, she did. And you talk about a class turning on someone like the plague- That day I hated Mrs. Moore like never before, because I knew she wasn’t going to take us to the park regardless. We all could’ve acted like total angels and saints, and we would’ve still been doing work. And yet, the dummies (especially the ones in the third grade) couldn’t figure that out. To give credit where credit is due, Joanna, Jennifer, Deyavor, John, and Jimmy didn’t turn on me; but the rest of them did, and I’ve never forgotten that.
Sometimes I felt like Mrs. Moore just didn’t like me- (the feeling was mutual) I felt she had tried to embarrass me a few times on purpose, and if she was trying to teach me humility or whatever, it wasn’t working. We were at recess one time, and we were having running races, second-graders vs. third-graders. We would run to the fence, touch it, then run back and tag the next person to run. There were more 3rd graders than 2nd graders, so she put the slowest 3rd graders on our team. Of course. And all three were girls, who sadly were slow in more ways than one. We only had four or five boys anyway, so we were already at a disadvantage anyway. But we all tried our best, and we lost the first two races. The third race we were determined to win, and we would have, because one of the third-graders fell down. But unfortunately, I unintentionally caused us to lose. When it came for my time to run, I ran to the fence as fast as I could; we had a two-person lead due to the fall. I hit the fence, and turned to run back, and…fell. My foot had gotten caught underneath the fence, and I couldn’t pull it loose without pulling some flesh. I yelled for help, but Mrs. Moore told my team not to help and for me to pull myself loose. The bottom of the fence had went through my sock and into my foot and ankle, so I couldn’t pull loose without hurting myself badly further. I tried, but I couldn’t. While I was struggling, the 3rd graders had caught up and went through the entire team and finally won the race. I wasn’t going to give Mrs. Moore the satisfaction of seeing me cry, but I was having a hard time holding back the tears. Then to make matters worse, she told the class to go into the building! She wasn’t and didn’t even try to help me get loose! The 3rd graders went in, but the 2nd graders stayed and helped me pull loose, and yes, that’s another scar (on my ankle and foot) I have to this day.
There was another instance that I won’t go into where Mrs. Moore and I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye, and her inclination was to give me a C on my report card because I couldn’t do something she had wanted me to do. Enough was enough, and this time I went and told Momma, and she and Mrs. Moore had some serious words. Whatever Momma said worked, because she changed my grade to a B.
By this time, I couldn’t wait for the school year to end. It hadn’t been too bad, due to the friendships I had, but having Mrs. Moore had been very stressful. I could, however, look forward to being in the 3rd grade and being at a different school. Mrs. Moore had recommended me, Deyavor, and I believe Jennifer and Joanna, to be placed in Hudson Pep Elementary School, which was a school for very smart kids. I can remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go, and I told her yes, after finding out that my friends would be going also. I was ready for a different challenge.
Unfortunately, that challenge would come at a new school all right; but it wouldn’t be Hudson Pep. My daddy got transferred to a new military base, and we were moving once again. This time, I knew and understood why we were moving. I just wasn’t happy about it because I was leaving some true-blue friends behind, and a lot of memories-