Welcome to Jodie McClure - Fall 1978
On August 28, 1978, my sister and I attended Jodie McClure Elementary for the first time. This would only be my sister’s second school she had attended up to this point; this would be my fourth. We had no idea what to expect, other than we didn’t know anybody that was going to school there, except for our next door neighbor, Tony. Tony would also be going to the 2nd grade along with my sister, but Poinsettia was still scared of just about everything that had to do with Jodie McClure, and she was not looking forward to going at all. Myself, I had been the new kid too many times to be afraid, but I still was apprehensive about what to expect. At least the school was right down the street from my house; I could walk there with my eyes closed. However, my momma and daddy both took us to school that first day, and so as we entered the building, we were shown where each grade level’s classes were, and I took a deep breath and said to myself, Here we go again.
We went to Poinsettia’s class first, and we met Poinsettia’s teacher, Mrs. Elder. She was a large, heavy-set black woman who looked like she didn’t play not at all with little kids, and Poinsettia almost had a panic attack when she saw her. But Mrs. Elder, although she really didn’t play when it came to behavior and learning, would turn out to be one of the nicest people we’d ever meet, and Poinsettia would enjoy going to her class and grew to be one of Mrs. Elder’s favorite students.
Then we went to my classroom, which was on the opposite end of the school. The 4th and 5th grade classrooms were in that hallway, and my class was the last classroom on the right. My teacher turned out to be someone who was in their very first year of teaching. So, as it turned out, my teacher and I, along with a couple of other kids, were new to Jodie McClure. My teacher’s name was Miss Stone, who turned out to be the chief of police’s daughter. She was young and pretty, and really looked anything but mean. But as I and my classmates would learn as the year progressed, Miss Stone might look petite and nice, but she could be tough and mean when she had to be.
I liked Miss Stone from the very first day of school. One thing she did was let me, a boy named Douglas Coats, and another boy named Willie Harper, know that we were all new and that we had that in common if nothing else. I looked around the classroom and saw most kids were talking to one another, and that they obviously had known one another for quite some time. I sat in the desk closest to the door, to the far right in a row; Doug sat in the desk next to me, and Willie sat right behind me. That first day of school, I talked mostly to Doug, and just mainly kept to myself.
The second day of school, Miss Stone moved us around. Doug and Willie got moved, but I kept my desk. In front of me, a girl turned around and introduced herself to me. Her name was Tammy. Tammy Allen. We started off being friends at Jodie, talking to one another everyday when she sat in front of me, we would attend the same church later on, go to LHS together, and we’ve been friends ever since. She was the first person who wasn’t new like me who I became friends with. We worked together and laughed together until Miss Stone moved her to the front of the classroom, which really didn’t make me too happy. Then right behind me sat Rhonda Jackson. Rhonda and I would be friends all the way through Jodie, Judson, LHS, Kilgore College, and SFA, but we started out at Jodie also as friends who talked everyday because we sat in front of/behind each other. Rhonda was (and still is) cute back then, and she was not conceited about it at all. Plus, she was very athletic. She could probably kick the ball further than I could back then. Next to her sat Kimberly Harris. Kimberly was a short, very petite girl, who used to call herself picking on me almost everyday, but it was done good-naturedly, and I’d pick on her right back. The way we acted back then, you’d have thought we liked each other, which might have been true. But I never found out for sure. Kim moved away after our freshman year in high school, and by that time, we had gone in separate directions. Next to me (for a short time anyway) sat Marion Burton. Marion was probably my best friend in the 5th grade, although Tammy and Rhonda and a couple of others who I haven’t mentioned yet were also close to me back then. Marion was funny, down-to-Earth, and pretty smart. We used to call one another “buddy” or “buddy-ro” all the time, and anytime we had to do things which required partners, he was always my first choice. I kind of lost track of Marion when he went to Foster, and when we entered LHS, he was somewhat different from the person I knew at Jodie McClure. Still, he was a cool guy and someone I really enjoyed being friends with. Another classmate of mine whom I became close to at Jodie was Roosevelt “Roy” Craine. Roy and I became friends rather quickly, and he and I usually would walk home from school together, along with his best friend who was in the other 5th grade class taught by Mr. Taylor, a guy named Tracy George. One thing we all learned about one other was our love for sports, mainly football, and we’d have football games, kickball, and later basketball games in my front and backyard nearly 2 or 3 times a week. Roy, Tracy, and I have stayed friends to this day, and I really hope we can get together someday and play a basketball game just for old times’ sake.
Other classmates who were in my fifth grade class and who I became friends with as the year went by included Robert Taylor, Charlie Templeton, Daphne Thompson, LaShanda Robertson, Shelby Murphy, Chris Edwards, Tony Reardon, Sherry Mapps, Marty Rives, and Kelly Herron. In the other 5th grade class, although our classes were in competition with one another, I became friends with Danny Polk, Tracy George, Wytaine Smith, Sheryl Perry, Bridget Wallace, Evelyn Johnson, Renee Owens, Keithen Andrews, Donald Jones, Greg Patton, Ozella Johnson, Tracy Buchanan, Shelia Deutsch, Regina Davis, and Dee Dee Brewer to name a few. And of course, there were a couple of classmates who I just didn’t get along with for whatever reason. More on them later.
When I look back on my 5th grade year, the number one thing which amazes me is how quickly I made friends with my classmates and without sounding conceited, how popular I was with my classmates in such a short period of time. I say this because I was (and kinda still am) a naturally shy person, and I didn’t approach anyone, they all approached me and wanted to get to know me, probably because I was a new black kid. I remember drawing pictures of super-heroes and football players when I didn’t have nothing else to do, and everyone was impressed with how well I could draw. I can remember all the guys wanting me to draw pictures for them to put in their binders, mostly football pictures. I can also remember how impressed they were at the grades I was making, which were mostly A’s and a few B’s. Miss Stone would let me go around and help some of the classmates who needed help, and not only was it greatly appreciated, but it really seemed to help those who needed it. I really think my classmates liked me more than I thought for that, and it showed where before the end of the month of September, my classmates nominated me for class president.
I was truly surprised at the nomination, and it actually came down to me and Kelly as to whom would win the title of president. The loser would automatically become the vice-president. I lost by one vote, and it’s funny now, but the one vote I lost by was the one I cast for…Kelly. I felt like she deserved to be president more so than I did because she had been at Jodie McClure since kindergarten, and she was smart and nice and friendly, and just a decent person. Of course, most of my classmates/friends didn’t see it that way, and they were mad at me for not voting for myself. But it didn’t really bother me one way or the other, and I’d rather Kelly won anyway. As it turned out, a couple of weeks after the election, Kelly came up and told me she and her family was moving to another town and that in the order of succession, I was going to become the class president. I just stood there in shock and then I wished her well.
Next time: Part 2
Jodie McClure Elementary School, 2008