Monday, October 30, 2017

Things I Should've Put In The Book, But Didn't - Episode 4

Episode 4
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- 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Things I Should've Put In the Book, But Didn't- Episode 3

Things I Should've Put In the Book
But Didn't
Episode 3
East Ward Elementary School
later Everhart Elementary School

Joanna and First Grade Memories

On the very first day of school in the first grade, I met this girl named Joanna Rodgers. She came up and introduced herself to me and asked me what my name was. After I told her, she wanted me to sit at the desk besides her desk. I didn’t argue or walk away or just say “no”; I went ahead and sat by her. She was the first kid in the room who had spoken to me, and she seemed to be a real friendly person, so why not? I was new to the school, having moved from New Mexico over the summer, so I didn’t know anybody. As the new kid on the block, one mainly would be to one’s self until someone would approach them in a friendly manner. And you hoped that someone would approach you that way, rather than the opposite, or else you were going to spend a lonely school year. So I had no problem sitting by Joanna; she looked interesting to me anyway. She was a red-head, had long red hair, and a lot of freckles. She was a little taller than me, not by much, and obviously very outgoing, talkative, and friendly. She basically made it up in her mind that she and I were going to be friends and do everything together in class. We did, and I didn’t have a problem with that at all. We worked together whenever we did worksheets, art projects, and crafts; we went to all of the centers together; we sat in the cafeteria together at lunchtime; and we played together during recess. I’m not ashamed to say that she was my best friend in the first grade, because she was. I enjoyed doing things with her. In time, others in my class would become my friends as well (Jennifer, John, Deyavor), but she was the first, and we stayed like that for a long time (all the way through the second grade).

As one grows older, one’s memory of their childhood starts fading away in spots, and there are things (and people) I don’t remember. For instance, one of my classmates and a good friend to this very day remembers me in the first grade and says that we sometimes played together at recess. He was in a different first grade class from mine, and I’m pretty sure I played with classmates whom I wouldn’t actually get to know until middle school or high school. This particular classmate even lived down the street from me on Young Street on the other side of the barber shop I used to go to on the corner of Young and 16th. But I never went to his house, and I didn’t really know him back then. But we attended East Ward together at the time and crossed paths at recess. I just don’t remember that or him being at East Ward. I really wouldn’t meet and get to know him until we attended Judson together for a short while, and that’s when we became really good friends. His name: Wray Wade.

I might not remember everybody or everything that I did in the first grade, but I do remember some things:

There was a kid named Jimmy Wheat who would come to school every morning and tell us about how he watched ‘Batman” in the morning before school. We’d be like “Really? What channel does it come on?” He said, “Channel 11. At 8 o’ clock.” Now back then, there really wasn’t any cable, and the only channels you picked up were channels 3, 6, 7, and 12, if you were lucky. Channel 11 was from a station out of Dallas/Fort Worth (KTVT), and the only way one could get it would be through a good antenna or a satellite dish. I think that cable might have come along by the time I entered the 2nd grade, but at the time, only a very few had it, if it existed. 1974 was also the year I started buying and reading comic books, so I knew who Batman was (the second comic book I ever bought was a Batman issue; the first was Scooby Doo). Batman had been very popular when it came on in the late 60s, so this was the syndicated version which came on. So the next morning, I got up early and turned on the black and white TV and at 8 o’ clock changed the channel to 11, and I saw….nothing. Nothing but snow. Or I think I saw an image through the snow. I strained and strained, turned the antenna until it fell off, adjusted the horizontal and vertical holds (old-timers will know what I’m talking about), and actually made everything worse. When I got to school, obviously I wasn’t the only one who tried to watch Batman, because half of us wanted to kill Jimmy and the other half called him a big liar. He swore up and down he watched Batman in the morning, but we didn’t believe him. The funny thing about the whole thing, I wouldn’t realize he was telling the truth until way later on, when my mom and I went to a store which sold color TVs, and on one of the TVs, on channel 11, was Batman. I told my mom, “I want THAT TV.”

One day, we were coming from recess, and Ms. Eckhardt told us all to line up. I got in line, and one of the other kids pushed me out of line. I pushed him back, we scuffled a little bit, and then the teacher got both of us and told us to stand off to the side. And so, while the rest of the first grade class looked on, the two of us got something which was new to me as far as school was concerned (and maybe something we need to bring back into schools): We got paddled. I didn’t cry; I was more in shock and embarrassed than anything else, and my main concern was that I didn’t want Momma to know, because she’d surely give me a real whipping when I got home. So as the end of the school day came about, I planned to run out of the room before everyone, go out front where my mom would be waiting, and just jump in the car and not say anything and go home. As soon as the bell rang, I thought I had beaten everyone out the door and to the front of the school. But standing there with Momma was another one of my classmates, a girl named Judy Buchanan, and the first words out of her mouth as I approached was, “Cedric got a paddling today!” Thank you very much.

It seemed like everything bad that happened to me happened at recess. One day, Joanna and I went and got on one of the seesaws. The seesaws back then were made of wood, and these seesaws looked like they had been through hell. Large pieces of wood were sticking up, but we got on them anyway. Well, a big kid wanted to get on the seesaw, so when the seesaw got level, Joanna and I tried to get off of the seesaw. She got off first, but before I could get off, the big kid got on, sat down hard on the seesaw, which made me fly up fast, which caused a large piece of the wood to embed itself in the back of my left thigh. I didn’t scream (that would come later), but it felt like I had been stabbed. This wasn’t no little splinter which had went in the back of my thigh; this was like being shot by an arrow. The school called Momma, she came and got me, took me home and tried to pull the large splinter of wood out of my thigh. Well, much to my chagrin and dismay, it broke at the point where it had entered, and so I had to go to the childrens’ hospital, which at the time was on Center Street near downtown. My doctor, Dr. Brown, after futilely trying to convince me it wouldn't hurt, had to cut around where the long piece of wood had went in to be able to get it out. If that wasn’t bad enough, I received no anesthetic or pain-killers or anything, and as he cut me, I screamed and screamed and SCREAMED. It hurt like I don’t know what, but finally he got what felt like a log out of my thigh, and I was overcome with relief. So were my mom and little sister, who sat in a little chair during the whole ordeal looking totally petrified and terrified. East Ward, with Momma’s urging, got rid of the seesaws, and I was left with a scar on the back of my thigh which I’ve got to this day.

Finally, another time we were at recess, and Ms. Eckhardt decided that since the entire class had acted so good that day, we would spend the rest of the day playing at the 16th Street Park (Broughton) on its playground. We were ecstatic, of course, and we all took off running for the park. I realized I had an urge and need to use the restroom, but I was so caught up in going to the park, I felt I could hold it until we came back to the classroom. We had played for about 15 minutes until I realized I couldn’t hold it anymore, I’ve really got to go. I asked my teacher for permission, and she said, yes, so I started walking back towards the school, which looked like it was miles away. Then I started trotting, then I really took off running. I didn’t come close to making it. By the time I got to the school, I had literally drained myself and I was crying big-time. (Why? One word: Momma) My bestie had obviously followed me because after I went into the school and sat down in the hallway crying my eyes out, she came in and asked me what was wrong. I told her and she walked with me to the office and told them what happened, and of course they had to call Momma. Joanna stayed with me until Momma got there (with a change of clothes thankfully- one can’t smell like pee in front of a friend for very long), and Momma wasn’t mad when she heard how it happened. After a cleaning and clothes-changing, I was back to my old self and Joanna and I ran happily back to the park.

Next: 1975

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Things I Should've Put In the Book, But Didn't- Episode 2

These days I help teach U.S. History, and I really do believe in the quote, Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I have always been interested in reading and learning about U.S. and World History, as well as city and church histories. I hope to someday write another book on the history of a certain place I have in mind. My current book, although it was a fiction, was kind of a history of my life in high school, and if I ever get around to it, my next book will be based on my life in college. This blog currently is covering “Things I Should’ve Put In The Book, But Didn’t”, and I’m basically looking back on my childhood experiences in Longview. I’m doing this because 1. I am not getting any younger and my memory is starting to fade a wee bit; 2. I want to leave a record for my grandkids (and future relatives) of my life’s experiences; 3. I want to share some things which may help someone in something they’re going through, plus I want to make some of my friends and classmates laugh and remember similar things; 4. And last but not least, I might make a book out of this someday.

So after that lengthy intro, on to Episode 2- (I don’t call them chapters; I call them episodes-)

Episode 2: East Ward Elementary School

I very nearly didn’t attend East Ward, due to my age at the time.

If the administration had had their way, I would’ve graduated in 1987, instead of 1986.

There was a certain rule back then that, in order to be in the first grade, you had to be six years old on September 1st. If you wasn’t, then you was held back. I started school in New Mexico, who had no such ridiculous age rule. So, when I got ready to start the first grade, I was 5 years old. I already knew how to read, write decently, and could count and write my numbers up to, oh probably 10,000 or something; I’m not bragging, I was pretty advanced for my age. However, when my mom went to enroll me, they (the school) weren’t going to take me. I don’t know how I ended up going anyway, but I think it had something to do with me lying about when my birthday was. (I don’t remember- Lol) I think I was told to say my birthday was September 1st, and that I was turning 6 on that day. It’s not and I wasn’t, of course. The very first day of school, I went into my first grade classroom being just 5 years old.

Well, not quite. Then a problem popped up where all of a sudden, they figured, Well, he lives in an area where we plan to bus kids to a different school. Huh? To explain, they wanted to send all of the kids who lived on Young Street west of 16th Street, to a school called Mozelle Johnston Elementary. Yes, technically, I was supposed to go to a school I had never heard of waaaay on the northside of town and a school where we (my mom and I) had no idea where it was located. When my mom found out where it was located, which was way out there by Judson Middle School OUTSIDE the Longview city limits, she was like, No way, Jose- And so, through what I suppose was lying about my address, too, I didn’t go to Mozelle Johnston and meet my future classmates at Judson five years early; I went on to East Ward. (Maybe my daddy being in the service had something to do with me staying where I was at. I don’t know.) So every morning, I watched my neighbor, who was also in the first grade, come outside around 6:50am and catch a bus to Mozelle. I never did think why him and not me, and to be honest, I didn’t actually care all that much. I was going to a new school regardless of whether or not it was East Ward or Mozelle.

What do I remember about the first day of school? The very first thing I remember was the smell of the classroom. It smelled like lunchboxes with fresh salami sandwiches and fruit, my teacher’s perfume, and like pencils and Big Chief tablets. I remember seeing the different centers, for instance library and grocery store centers, and all the different books we would read during the year. Pug. Zip, Pop, Go! Blue Dilly Dilly. Mustard Seed Magic. I loved to read, and I couldn’t wait to read those books. I remember meeting my teacher, Ms. Eckhardt, who from first appearance, looked to be a really nice, pretty, and friendly teacher. And of course I remember my first grade classmates (some of them anyway) and meeting them for the first time- Jennifer Anderson, a true friend for a long, long time; John Young, my buddy and another true blue friend; Kevelyn Peoples, someone I will never forget; and Deyavor Harnage, who was as pretty as she was smart, and who’d be my main competition when it came to who was making the best grades.

Deyavor and I got along like the way most little boys and little girls got along back then: we mostly argued about who was smarter, and we’d try to outdo the other in certain things. But for the most part, we got along pretty good. (At least, we didn’t fight one another.) Jennifer and I got along really well; our mothers became really good friends back then, so we’d visit often. John was my buddy in catching bugs and stuff like that, and I think Kevelyn tried to catch me a few times back then- I remember her chasing me around a lot.

However, the person who was what would be called today, my bestie, was someone I haven’t seen since the end of the 2nd grade. This person was the FIRST first grade classmate who spoke to me on the first day of school, this person would sit next to me on the first day of school and continue to do so everyday the next couple of years, and this person and I would do everything together in the first grade, from artwork to singing to playing during recess to actually holding hands at different times when we were walking to different activities. I wouldn’t even hold Deyavor’s hand back then, so this was different, in more ways than one. Her name was Joanna. Joanna Rodgers. And she was white. And she was my best friend in the first grade and in the whole wide world back then.

Next: Joanna

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The three water towers in Longview back in the day

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Starting Now- Things I Should Have Put In the Book, But Didn't

I am starting a new series called "Things I Should Have Put In the Book, But Didn't"

This series will focus on things that happened in my childhood during my time in Longview, that for some reason or another, I did not mention in my book. 

So I decided to do it here. 
And no names will be changed to protect the innocent- :-)

(Basically I'm doing this because I don't feel like drawing right now-)

Without further ado, here we go:

Stuff I Should’ve Put In the Book, But Didn’t-

Episode 1: Moving to Longview For The Second Time

My family and I moved (back) to Longview in 1974. I remember the trip going from Alamogordo, New Mexico all the way through eastern New Mexico and northern Texas. I didn’t have any feelings of happiness or sadness; I don’t think it had dawned upon me what we were doing exactly. Therefore, I had no idea I would never see New Mexico again for another 30+ years. I didn’t know I was leaving my friends behind, never to see them again. I didn’t know I would never go through the mountains again for a long time. The same mountains I hated when I was really small, but grew to admire and love viewing them. All I knew at the time was, We are going on another trip to Longview, Marshall, and possibly Tyler. In the past, we had taken trips like this during holidays and the summer, and since it was June, this one didn’t feel any different. So, as we went through Abilene, Fort Worth, Dallas, and on down Interstate 20 all the way into East Texas, I didn’t feel anxious or anything; I was just looking to see what would happen next.

My grandparents on my daddy’s side still lived in Tyler at the time, but I think they may have moved to Marshall shortly after we moved or a little before. My grandmother on my mom’s side was living in Marshall on Key Street (I remember that because it was easy to spell and read), and I’m positive we went there first and stayed until the moving truck brought our things to wherever we were going to live. I liked my grandmother’s house at the time; I remember I liked it because there was a giant hole in the front yard that my mom told me to stay away from, and I’d imagine that all kind of people lived down that hole. My grandmother would move into a different house on a different street in Marshall after we settled in Longview, and although the house was bigger and a little nicer, it reminded me of a haunted house more than anything with humongous spider webs and bigger rooms which looked like anyone and anything could’ve been hiding in them. (I usually went no further than the living room and the first bedroom.)

I can remember Daddy, Momma, Poinsettia, and I riding around looking for a house to live in Longview. Even though they were from Marshall, they did not want to live there, which was kinda interesting later on as I grew older and thought about it. Longview in 1974 was TOTALLY different compared to the Longview of today. Everything was downtown. There wasn’t anything on the Northside. There was no mall, no high school, or any shopping centers on the loop back then. The loop was mostly just 2 lanes, some of it might have been 4, but it was very seldom I got to go on that side of town. Again, everything was in South Longview. All of your department stores, Dillard’s, Sears, JC Penney’s, Anthony’s, Perry’s, and Montgomery Ward, were located downtown, mostly on Tyler Street. There were grocery stores and neighborhood churches on all the main streets: On Mobberly, there was Brookshire’s and Krogers; On Green Street, there was Safeway; and on High Street, there was Brookshire’s. There wasn’t any dollar stores back then; The places to go to if you was a kid like me were Gibson’s, T.G.& Y., and soon to be our favorite, M.E. Moses. With everything being on the southside, there really wasn’t any reason for us to go on the northside. I wouldn’t know of Judson Road and McCann Road until later on; North 4th Street was basically a neighborhhod street which ended at Hollybrook back then; Gilmer Road and Pine Tree Road seemed to be in another town altogether. Airline Road was a dirt road. The only McDonald’s in Longview was on Highway 80. There were hundreds of Dairy Queens, a couple of Whataburger’s, and no Wendy’s or Sonics. Longview High School was in downtown on Whaley Street. There were three water tanks in the middle of Longview, one big one and two small ones (and another off S. 16th Street, the future MLK Jr. Boulevard). Highway 259 used to come from Kilgore through the center of town and on down Judson Road. Then it came down east Highway 80 all the way to N. Eastman Road, then would continue north on that thoroughfare.

In other words, Longview was just beginning to grow. I don’t recall if we looked at too many houses, and I think we may have looked at just a very few, if that. All I remember is we came down Young Street and stopped at a yellow house which was empty. My parents talked to a man outside the house, and the next thing I know, I was told this was where we were going to be living. Being five at the time, I was naturally excited about the move (now I realized what we were doing) and couldn’t wait for the truck to bring our stuff. My excitement died somewhat when I realized Daddy would not be staying with us; He would be stationed in Hawaii and would only come home when he was granted a leave by the Air Force. Daddy had been gone before, to Vietnam and Thailand, I believe, but I was too little to realize he was gone back then. Now I realized it, and although Poinsettia was 2 going on 3 at the time, she realized it, too, and she let herself be heard what she thought about that, as she would cry and scream nonstop everytime Daddy had to go back to Hawaii. (Yes, by this time, she was definitely a “daddy’s girl”.)

The house on Young Street wasn’t all that bad; it was ok and comfortable, and my sister and I shared a room with a window unit. In time, the truck brought our things and the yellow house on Young Street became our home for the next couple of years.

Next: East Ward Elementary School