Monday, February 26, 2018

Jodie McClure Memories Episode 13: Memorable Field Trips

Continuing the Jodie McClure Elementary memories of 1978-79:

Episode 13
Memorable Field Trips

Another memory I have of my time at Jodie McClure are the field trips we used to take to different places. We went to places that they wouldn’t even dare think about taking elementary school kids today. In fact, if I wanted to discuss it at length, it’s a sad commentary of how low discipline and accountability has fell within our schools today, and it also shows how my generation was raised to respect our elders, parents, teachers, etc., and how today’s generation of kids and their parents have not made that a priority. But that’s a soap box for another time. Back when I was in elementary school, we got to go on plenty of field trips to many different places. I can remember when I lived in Abilene, we went to the base airport control tower and got to see not only an incredible view of the base itself, but also what those who worked in the tower did and what their jobs were. It was very interesting to say the very least- especially having to climb what felt like ten stories of stairs and then climbing a real long ladder to reach the top. We got to see a few of the jets take off, and that was really cool. Of course, we also went to places such as the zoo and the city museum, but going to the base tower was probably the best trip of all at that time.

We also had our share of interesting field trips when I was at Jodie McClure. We attended a symphony at T.G. Fields Auditorium, and I also remember going to a magic show which I believe was also held at T.G. Fields also. (However, it might have been held at the school in the cafeteria. I don’t really remember.) I look back on those times and I don’t think the entire school went at one time; I think it was just the 4th and 5th grades on certain days and K-3rd grades on other days and/or times. I’m pretty sure it was done this way back then because Longview had around 8 or 9 elementary schools at the time (Let’s see: Jodie McClure, South Ward, Pinewood Park, Ware, East Ward, GK Foster, Bramlette, Valley View, Mozelle), and I’m sure that each school basically was K-5th grade back then, so each school sent the assigned grade level students on the field trips. I can remember seeing a lot of kids I didn’t know or recognize on these field trips from other schools who were to become my future classmates at Judson and LHS. I couldn’t tell which kids came from East Ward, but I’m sure all of my old friends from the 1st and 2nd grades were there also. I can also remember that for the most part things were organized very well and that there weren’t many issues of kids acting stupid or doing stupid things. The teachers from all the schools really kept things under control back then.

One day, we went on a career-based field trip. This meant we went to places where we might want to work at, or become someday. We went to the fire station (the one which used to be on Mobberly), and to Good Shepherd Hospital.  No, we didn’t go into any patients’ rooms thankfully; we went to nurses’ stations and the cafeteria and laundry room- which were safe for kids. We walked and mainly looked around, and we knew not to touch anything, so there weren’t any problems. But there were two other places we went to that day which not only brought back some interesting memories, but also let me see the total irony in it today as I write these words.

First, we went to McDonald’s, of all places. Back then, the only McDonald’s in Longview was on Highway 80/ Marshall Avenue, and it was, by far, the most popular hamburger restaurant in the town, with the possible exception of Dairy Queen. (There were Dairy Queens all over the place back then.) We didn’t go there to buy anything; we went there to see how they make the hamburgers, fries, etc. I don’t think any of us had any money on us anyway, but that didn’t stop us from being really, really hungry. As we watched the cooks fry the burgers, half of us had already decided this was where we wanted to work someday. And they wouldn’t even have to pay us; just give us all the cheeseburgers, Big Macs, and fries we wanted. I’m sure Ronald McDonald or whoever ran McDonald’s back then would have said, “Cool!!” I look back on that now and wonder just how much those cooks were being paid back then. The minimum wage couldn’t been no more than $2 dollars and something. Come to think of it, those cooks (who looked to be in their 30s and 40s by the way) did not look too excited to be there, especially doing all that in front of twenty-something hungry little kids. The restaurant manager of course was gung-ho about the whole thing and making the job sound like it was the best job in the world. The funny thing was we actually believed him. Then, when we became teenagers and started high school and started working at McDonald’s or similar places, we realized that it wasn’t the best job in the world. Not even close. One can only eat so many burgers and french fries until it doesn’t matter and then you’re sick of the stuff. So, if one decided that when he or she became an adult, they weren’t going to work anywhere and just lay on their parents’ couches until they got put out, or decided to make money without working a honest job, well, that brings us to the OTHER place we visited.

Incredibly, we visited the GREGG COUNTY JAIL.

I am very serious. They actually took a bunch of us 5th graders into the actual jail. The jail where today, no one goes to unless they are an arrestee (prisoners) or arrester (sheriffs, deputies). I look back on that and think, There’s no way in you-know-where they’d do that today. There are prisoners’ rights, and kids’ safety, and sheriff and deputies’ safety, rules, rights, and so many other issues to worry about now, things they didn’t even think about back then. I remember the cells were bars and glass, and some were double barred and double glassed. Some you couldn’t even see into the cells. I remember for the real dangerous ones, you had to look through a small rectangular glass to be able to see them. Of course, we were all taking this kinda seriously, and the girls were very afraid to say the very least.  Most of the prisoners didn’t react when we came in there, they just sat there with blank looks, some were asleep (or pretending to be asleep more than likely), while a few just waved and that was it. There were blacks and whites in there, so there wasn’t no majority of any particular race. But of course, you had to have a couple of fools who acted like that’s where they truly belonged, because they decided to start yelling at us and scream, “We’re going to get you kids when we get out!!! GROWL!!! HAHAHA!!!” Then they started banging on the bars, or glass, just to make sure they had our attention. The girls nearly peed on themselves when they did that, and I’ll never forget Rhonda literally jumping into my arms like Scooby Doo seeing the boogeyman or something. Myself, I wasn’t exactly the man without fear right at that moment, and I was very thankful that there were bars and glass separating us from them, or else it would’ve been chaotic with kids running around all over the place from prisoners, who probably would not have been running after us, but running to GET OUT.

But the main thing about all this is this: they were trying to show us 10-year olds that this is NOT the place you want to be when you grow up- not unless you want to be a sheriff or something like that. And most of us realized that right then. I remember thinking, I ain’t never coming back to this place. I’m pretty sure we all thought that, and for a few of us, sadly, we came back to stay awhile.

Field trips were fun back then, and a great way to break the monotony of sitting in school doing schoolwork and learn about places we probably would’ve never visited on our own. Again, there is no way they’d do this now, and it’s a credit to the teachers and us students how we acted on those trips back in the day.

Image result for longview texas school bus 1980s

The Gregg County Courthouse and Jail at the left

Monday, February 5, 2018

Jodie McClure Elementary Memories 1978-79 Ep12

My Memories of Attending 
Jodie McClure Elementary 

Becoming the President

In October 1978, Kelly Herron, the class president, came up to me and told me that she and her family were moving out-of-town, and that I was going to become the class president in her place since I was the vice-president. I was like, "Ok", and I wondered what was I supposed to do since I'd never been the president of anything before. Well, basically all I had to do back then, was act like a leader, lead the class in the pledge sometimes, in prayer before we went to lunch sometimes, help some of my classmates with their work, help grade papers, and act as kind of a go-between between Miss Stone and my classmates. Really, not very much. Who became the vice-president in my place? Why, none other than Rhonda Jackson, who was a big help to me in our class' activities.

Number One With A Bullet

There were a couple of unfortunate incidents which took place in class during my 5th grade year. One of them involved Orlando Humble, whom I was somehow related to via marriage and someone whom I got along with only sporadically at that time. Orlando could somewhat be kind of a prankster back then, but sometimes his pranks were definitely not funny and probably made sense only to him. One day, we were all getting ready to either change classes or go to lunch, when all of a sudden, BANG!!! It sounded like somebody had shot a gun right there in the classroom. The girls screamed (even the tough ones like Tammy Allen, Daphne Thompson, LaShanda Robertson, Kim Harris, and Rhonda), and Miss Stone turned a shade of red I had never seen before. She was shook up. Well, we came to find out that no one had a gun in the room, thank God, but Orlando had a bullet, and I guess he was trying to show out and scare somebody, because he threw the bullet on the ground, it ricocheted and made a loud noise, and it wound up going into the ceiling. Mr. Taylor and his class came running to the door, and it was determined what had happened and who done it in a matter of minutes. Orlando, whenever he did something that was wrong, stupid, senseless, moronic, etc., would usually have a defiant and amused look on his face, like he was proud of what he had done. However, on this day, I think even he realized he had gone too far, and he looked like he was about to cry. Miss Stone had to leave the room for a while, and Mr. Taylor came in there and lectured us about the dangers of playing with bullets and guns, and the way he was talking, you would have thought it was Judgment Day. The rest of the day was very subdued, and Orlando got suspended from school for a very long time.

The Coat Conspiracy

Another unfortunate incident which occurred and involved yours truly happened in the late Spring. We had gone to the cafeteria for lunch, and on certain days before lunch ended, Miss Stone would send either Rhonda or myself to go open the classroom door, and either bring something from the classroom or to just have it unlocked so the class could enter the classroom after lunch. On this day, Miss Stone sent both Rhonda and myself to the classroom to retrieve something (I can't remember what it was), which was a good thing considering what happened a little later. Anyway, we went into the room and of course the lights were off and it was a little dark, and we got what we came to get and got ready to leave. I stopped because I thought I heard something in the closet. The door to the closet was closed, and I thought that maybe it was a rat or something. I went to look in the closet with Rhonda right behind me and opened the door, and lo and behold, it was one of our classmates, a girl named Lynita, who seemed to be hiding in the closet. "What are you doing in there?" I asked her. She replied, "Hanging up my coat." She had a coat in her hand and looked to be doing just that. I noticed a bottle of glue on the top shelf and briefly wondered why it was there. "In the dark with the door closed?" I said. She said something silly like she can see in the dark as good as in the light, and then she asked me and Rhonda not to tell on her because she obviously didn't go to lunch and had hid in the closet the entire time. So, we said, "Ok", and we closed the door and left her in the closet. I seriously didn't think she was doing anything terrible, I had always felt she was a little crazy anyway, and maybe she liked sitting in dark closets to meditate or something. I felt like she would come out as soon as the class came back from the cafeteria, which she did, and nobody but myself and Rhonda would have known the difference. 

Anyway, the next day, I had totally forgotten about Lynita and her closet issues, and I had my mind on other things such as kickball and 4-square. We were working on our math work when I noticed that Miss Stone had left the room. Then, the next thing I know, Mr. Taylor had entered the room and told all of us he wanted our attention. He looked totally pissed off and I thought, What has happened now? The way Mr. Taylor was talking about "something really serious has happened", one would've thought Orlando was back with a couple of guns this time. Then Mr. Taylor said it was something that happened to Miss Stone. We all looked at one another. What happened? Did she have a heart attack? Is she dead? We were getting scared until Mr. Taylor said, "Or more specifically, to Miss Stone's coat. Somebody poured a whole bottle of glue into her coat pockets."

The class gasped. Me, I turned around and looked at Rhonda, who sat right behind me. She looked at me, and we didn't have to say anything to each other- we knew who had done it. While Mr. Taylor went into his fire and brimstone speech about vandalizing other people's property and the wages of sin being death, I didn't have to think about whether or not I would tell Miss Stone, because I was going to tell her anyway. I just wondered if Rhonda would back me up. I didn't have to worry about that because as soon as Miss Stone had sent the class to PE, Rhonda and I went to her at the same time and let her know what we'd seen the day before. Miss Stone did not look too shocked; she knew that there was a small part of the class who did not like her, which included Lynita, and she had narrowed it down to one of them anyway. Rhonda and I couldn't understand why anyone would dislike Miss Stone- she was in her first year of teaching and was nice and fair, and only hard on us when she had to be. I don't recall her paddling anybody, and most of the time she was happy and we really had fun learning in her class. When I look back on it now, it's interesting to note that the kids who did not like her were all white (Miss Stone was white), and maybe they didn't like her because she got along with her black students way better than them. We truly adored her, and to this day, she's my favorite teacher of all-time. But I had no idea why they'd treat her this way. Anyway, we told Miss Stone, who told Mr. Taylor, who told the principal, who pulled Lynita out of class, and like Orlando, who disappeared for the remainder of the year. Later on, one of the other students in the "I Hate Miss Stone" club got caught putting (or trying to put) Miss Stone's tires on flat, and he got put out of the picture, too.


From the time I was born to my attending Jodie McClure, my parents had always kept my hair cut short. Always. Living on base, I imagine not only did all of the daddies have to keep their hair cut short, but the sons, too. I can only recall two boys who had long hair living on base, and both of them had moved onto the base in the middle of the school year, and both of them were step-kids. Other than those two, everybody else had short hair, and not a single black boy had an afro. I didn't think about or care whether or not my hair was long or short when I was real little. Momma would take me to go get a haircut, and that was that. So, again, I didn't think about it-

Until I started attending Jodie McClure.
Then I noticed I was the only one who didn't have an afro. I know I shocked my momma when I told her I didn't want a haircut anymore; I wanted it to grow. So, she didn't take me to the barbershop. Every day I used a pick and tried to fluff it up, but it looked like it just wasn't growing. I was a little distressed at first, then Momma went out and bought an afro-kit, which consisted of some cream she rubbed into my hair, then let it sat for a certain amount of time, washed and rinsed it out, and viola! Instant afro! Momma had to plat it up overnight for it to stay, and the next day, I was excited to be able to go to school with an afro for the very first time. Well, at first I was excited- then I was scared. What if it looked lopsided? What if it looked stupid? What if the kids laughed at me? I got so scared that I put on a jacket with a hood, and I kept my hood on over my head for most of the morning. However, finally, Miss Stone told me to take the hood off, and everyone saw how much my hair had grown. The girls, Daphne, Rhonda, Tammy, LaShanda, Kimberly Harris, and Sherry Mapps were all impressed, and the boys were like, Welcome to the club, it's about time. I liked it so much that I kept it until halfway through the 7th grade. Then I got my hair cut and got laughed at severely.

You're Blind and You Can't See

Another physical change I went through at Jodie McClure was my vision. Somehow, it had gotten worse. Previously to Jodie McClure, I had always passed my eye exams, then all of a sudden, here I am in the 5th grade, and I can't see. Which meant hearing one of the worst things a 10-year old boy doesn't want to hear (besides, "You're taking piano lessons." Or, "I'm going to whip your butt."):

You're going to be wearing glasses!

There were a couple of kids in my class who wore glasses, but they didn't wear them all the time. In fact, they barely wore them at all. Because they knew they'd be called everything from blind to four-eyes. I was very unhappy at the thought of wearing glasses and being called those names, and I felt I would no longer be popular (and be  popular in all the wrong ways). There was no way to avoid it, so by that Spring, I was sitting in class with glasses on, and of course, the kids called me Four-Eyes and Blind Mellow Jelly, and I only wore my glasses when I had to the rest of the year. Which means I barely wore them-

Fight! Fight! Fight!

For a while, there seemed to be a fight almost everyday at Jodie McClure, usually afterschool for whatever reason. And it seemed the 4th and 5th graders had the majority of the fights, again, for whatever reason. I can remember 4th grader Staria Cleaver fighting the whole world it seemed, I remember her and Benita Loyd had a really good one one time, and I remember LaShanda and Daphne having a fight in the bathroom back then. Unfortunately, while I would love to say I didn't have any fights at Jodie McClure, that would be a lie- because I contributed to the quota of fights held at that school that year also. I was just fortunate I never got into any serious trouble for the fights. The first one I had was with a boy named Tony, who was white and in my class, and who really wasn't a violent person, he was just fat. I don't know what we were fighting about, nor can I recall, I just remember punching him in the stomach, and it bouncing off. We were both probably just having a bad day, and we got along after that. We actually got along before that, and we were friends, so I think it was just a bad day all the way around when we fought. 

The next one I had was with someone I didn't get along with until we attended high school. He was in Mr. Taylor's class anyway, and so therefore, he was the enemy, and well, at the time, I just did not like him. His name was Billy Craig. Billy was very much a prankster and kind of a bully back then, and he really did things to agitate. We were having one of our football games, Miss Stone's class vs Mr. Taylor's class, and it had been raining. The coach told us to go play touch football due to the ground being a mess because of the rain, and so that's what we were doing. At least, some of us were. I caught a pass and started running. Instead of tagging me, Billy decides to grab me and throw me into the biggest mud puddle this side of Highway 80. I was a total mess. Worse, my momma had told me that if I got my clothes dirty that day she was going to give me a butt-whipping, and so anyone could see that I was angry. Billy laughed as though that were the funniest thing he'd ever seen, and I jumped up and hit him in the head with the football. "You SOB!!!" I yelled. We lounged at each other and our teammates had to pull us apart. Billy was way bigger than me, but I didn't care- I wanted to beat the devil outta him. I also recall that no one on my team was laughing, and that Marion, Roy, and Robert were about as mad as I was. Marion wanted to fight him, too. He and Robert were holding me back, but the way he was acting, you'd have thought he got pushed into the mud, too. (Of course, the coach was nowhere around.) I left the field and went into the building and into the restroom, took my clothes off, and washed them in the sink. I squeezed them out, put them back on, and sat there at my desk hoping they'd air-dry before it was time to go home. That made me even more angrier, sitting there cold and damp.

The last one I had was not really a fight, but more of a war of words. Bad words. Once again, it occurred during PE, but this time we were in the cafeteria playing 4-square. 4-square was a game in which four individuals would be in four squares like a box, and each person would hit the ball to another person in a square, kind of like ping-pong, except there's no net and you're using a kick-ball and your hands instead of a ping-pong ball and paddle. The ball must bounce once in the square before you can hit it to someone, but if you miss it, or it bounces more than once or not at all, then you're out. Those of us in Miss Stone's class always tried to make it where it was four of us in the four squares, then we'd monopolize all four of the squares and not try to get one another out. If a member of Mr. Taylor's class had a turn and was placed in a square, we'd go all out to get him out. Marion, Roy, Robert, Charlie Templeton, Shelby Murphy, and myself- we were all good at that, and it made the guys who were in Mr. Taylor's class mad.

So one day, it happened to be me, Marion, and Roy getting rid of members of Mr. Taylor's class one by one until we could get Robert or Charlie or Shelby into the game. Finally, it came down to Tracy Buchanan, who was left before Robert could get into the game. Marion and I set Tracy up, and bam! I hit a ball which went straight between his legs and out. Marion and I high-fived each other, and Robert came in. To say Tracy was livid would be an understatement. He was really pissed off at me thinking and believing I couldn't do that again in a million years. I told him I could do that whenever I wanted to and that he couldn't talk because he was the one on the sidelines and I wasn't. However, he kept talking and getting more and more angry, and I wasn't backing down, either. When the game was over, he still was talking, and so was I, and everyone was surrounding us like there was the possibility of a fight. Finally, he said something like why don't I meet him afterschool so we can settle this, and I said, fine, I'll be there. Of course, we were calling each other names, bad names, I was saying things that if my momma had heard me, she'd have slapped me down into the ground right at that spot, and then we went to our respective classes. I was mad, but not as mad as I'd been with Billy. And because of that, as I sat there, cold reality began to set in. I really did not feel like fighting Tracy afterschool. Not at all. I wasn't scared of him; Actually, I was more scared of my parents than anyone. I knew I could get in some serious trouble for fighting. And if I got in trouble, part of it, if not most of it, would have been my fault, and my parents would have dealt with me accordingly. So, when it came time to go home, I left the school and went straight for the house and didn't look back. I thought I would catch it the next day, but nobody said anything, and Tracy and I basically buried the hatchet and became better friends as a result. 


The girls in both 5th grade classes were for the most part bigger and taller than most of us boys. In fact, almost all of the girls were taller than me at the time- Heck, even my sister was gaining on me and everyone in my family was letting me know it. I wasn't concerned; I didn't think I'd be short for the rest of my life. But in my class, the girls were definitely taller, and it wasn't even close. I had to look up to girls like Sherry Mapps, Tammy Allen, Bridget Wallace, Lisa Miller, Wytaine Smith, Regina Davis, Sheryl Perry, and someone whom I'll never forget, Daphne Thompson. Daphne was the first truly aggressive girl I'd ever met, and she was something else. She made it up in her mind back then we were going to be friends, and I'd been a fool to argue with her. One thing for sure back then: since we were friends, she was very protective of me, and she wasn't scared of anybody. If I had been a girl, I wouldn't have wanted to fight her either, because she could fight. I knew she could've probably beaten me up if she wanted, but thankfully, she didn't. She talked to me everyday, and I did like talking to her. Sometimes she'd come by the house and say hello, and my parents really liked her. My parents would tease me about her, but we were little kids back then and we never went no further than just liking one another. 

I have two memories of Daphne back then which will never go away. One was that in class, we used to play this game called 7-up just about every Friday. And almost every single time, either Daphne would push my thumb down when she was up, or I'd push her thumb down when I was up. The only times we didn't would be when someone beat us to the punch, but I remember doing it almost every time because she'd almost always would pick me. 

My other memory is one that is kind of funny and one which led to the entire class thinking we liked each other/went together. One day during PE, the boys were play-fighting and/or wrestling the girls, and it was pretty even. We were out in that field on the side of the school, and we were all going at it. It wasn't anything malicious; we were all having fun. Anyway, Marion and I were basically watching each other's back, and Daphne had decided to attack Marion along with another girl. I saw this, and I ran and jumped on Daphne's back and pinned her to the ground. She seemed to be mad about this, and I quickly let her up, but she said she was not going to forget what I had done. About a month later, the class headed for PE- but this time, we were having it in the cafeteria. Somehow, I was the first to arrive in the cafeteria, and so I walked over toward some seats. The next thing I know, somebody jumped me from behind, and before I knew it, I was pinned to the floor by none other than "I'm not going to forget this" Daphne. And she had me pinned good and told me that this was payback for when I jumped on her back. I tried to get loose, but couldn't. Then, the rest of the class came in, saw us on the floor, her on top of me, and well, little minds went crashing into the gutter. Daphne finally let me up, but her revenge had been complete.

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