Thursday, June 25, 2015

WARDOGS -- Pieces of memories

Roosevelt 6th grade, 1959-60
My world was much smaller then. Fifty classmates who shared teachers, textbooks, pencils, paper, playground games like softball, tag, jump rope, jacks, swings, and teeter-totters, no libraries, very few books, and through this we created memories. 

In fifth grade Miss Garman's class I learned that if I didn't have a pencil I had two choices:  borrow one from friends or the teacher, or bring a nickel and buy one from Mike Westfall, who kept a stash of new pencils in his cigar box.  He was a salesman even then. Jackie Rundell fell in love with me and gave me a tiny yellow plastic clothes pin to put on my blouse collar, to show his love. I was too embarrassed and hid the collar clip in a drawer.  

Remember these:  I love you little,  I love you big,  I love you like a little pig.

In fourth grade I felt out of place and lost in Miss Bloomberg's class.  I didn't know many things that I should by fourth grade and I missed my friends from Lincoln school. Gay Turner sat in my class and even though she was older than the rest of us, she was my neighbor and during that fourth grade year became my friend both at school and at home. Luckily, our neighborhood was filled with kids, so after school we could all play tag, hide-n-go-seek, blind man's bluff, kick the can, or just sit on the sidewalk and play jacks.  
*When you get old and think you're sweet, Take off your shoes and smell your feet.  

I began school in Kansas at a Catholic School where I could enroll in first grade at age five.  I finished my first year in the Catholic school in Miami and met the Burford's and other families from the country club.  My second and third grade years were spent at Lincoln school where there were plenty of playmates in the neighborhood.  Just having the Cantrell's or the "Sixes" as we used to call them, just two houses up filled my day with plenty of fun and excitement.  

*Don't be what you isn't, Just be what you is, Fore if you're what you isn't, You isn't what you is."

I felt grown up in second grade because I could walk to Doc's BBQ or Gene's Tarry-a-While and buy a coke or ice cream as long as Sherri or Judy Cantrell was with me.  My mother sent me, with money, to Doty's grocery store where I could purchase food and return home, feeling proud.  We were even allowed to walk to town and buy a donut or cookie at the baker.  The "old" Ottawa and Miami theaters were at the south end of Main street.  Occasionally, we were allowed to walk to a Saturday matinee without parents. 

*Remember me in the country, Remember me in the town, Remember me as the girl, Who wrote in your book Up-Side-Down.

At last mom and dad bought a home by NEO, and I began fourth grade at the age of eight at Roosevelt.  This was the year my classmates began to learn the times tables, continents, and oceans while I looked out the window and pretended to do the work.   Reading with SRA reading kits was my favorite thing besides penmanship. I never climbed to gold in SRA, but it certainly motivated me to work harder.  One time I reached a color (?) I liked, so I decided to stay in the color until I read them all.  That meant that even when I knew the answer to the short quiz I made sure I missed just enough to stay and read the next story in that color.  When Miss Bloomberg quizzed me on this I explained that I liked the colors and the stories.  

*You are 2 sweet
                2 be
                4 gotten
During fourth grade I met one boy, who admired my artwork, thank you Scotty Haralson.  One other time in Jr. High, when Scotty and I had become friends, I won $2.00 from the Student Council for an essay, and Scotty called me up on stage to give me the award.  I was thrilled and thought perhaps that might be my academy award moment.  ( My friend, Scotty, died last week, but he left me and many of us with memories we will cherish.)

 *Roses are red, Violets are blue, You have a nose like a B-52.

At the end of fourth grade Miss Bloomberg called my mother in for a parent meeting.  I had to sit outside the door, however, I leaned into the door crack and did my best to listen to every word.  The good words were, "Letty is very smart, and she has many talents and abilities. She likes to draw, to color, to write, and she can certainly tell a good story."  But the bad words followed, "She is a baby, very immature.  She doesn't even know her times tables nor her geography.  I want to suggest that we hold her back to repeat fourth grade again.  Then she will be with her neighborhood friends, and the right age group.  She could easily be a leader if she stayed behind just one year."  

* The stork flew North, The stork flew South with Letty in his mouth.  When he found out she was a nut, He dropped her off at the Stapp's hut.

I listened, and she was right. School was really hard for me, and sitting still even harder.  My life was bigger than the school room the minute I left that building.  I had a neighborhood of friends some older and many more younger than I, and we played outside night after night, plus we had Tar Creek to explore and the NEO campus to claim as a playground.  On weekends I spent time at the country club, learning to play golf and meeting people. 

* Roses are red, Violets are blue, Pansies are lovely, just like you. 

The meeting ended, and they found me hiding down the hallway crying. I jumped up and screamed in their faces, "I know I'm a baby, but I'm smart, too. Please don't leave me in fourth grade next year."  Negotiations followed for the next few days.  At last it was agreed by father, mother, teacher, principal, and next year's teacher, Miss Garman, that on the first day of fifth grade I must know certain things, and a test would be given on the first day of school to see if I could pass.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Adventures with Art

One spring while with a group of antsy sixth graders in our old dilapidated prefab "Library" at McCandless School, the intruder alert alarm sounded.  Even when I knew we'd have a drill sometime during the day, the moment the alarm sounded it hit me in the gut like a baseball not caught.  The normally talkative wisecracking kids were suddenly silent and still.  

Cindi, my level headed assistant left her desk, checked to make sure the doors were pulled shut (we knew they were locked as long as they were tightly closed), and came back to the area where the kids and I were standing. Then I smiled at the kids and walked them between the stacks of books and away from doors and windows.  There we sat in a very warm sweaty prefab waiting out the situation.

Luckily, I sat within reach of a world of stories and ways to escape the present.  As only a librarian might describe it, I pulled a small book from the 700's, the arts, because I knew we'd only be there a few minutes and why not tease them with places in this world to visit someday, like MoMA, the

Museum of Modern Art.   Seen Art by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, is a humorous  picture book tour of the MOMA.  The sixth graders were enthralled.  Scieszka has a way of stealing our interest in his verse.

The story begins--It all started when I told my friend Art I would meet him on the corner of Fifth and Fifty-third. I didn't see him.  So I asked a lady walking up the avenue, "Have you seen Art?"  
"MoMA?" asked the lady.
"Uh... o, he's just a friend."
"Just down Fifty-third street here.  In that beautiful new building.  You can't miss it."
She was right.  It was a brand-new building.  I couldn't miss it. .....
"How do you like our new look?" asked the lady just inside.
"Nice," I said, "I'm here for Art."
She smiled and nodded.  
"MoMA," I added.
"Right this way," she said.  And she took me up the stairs.

In his search for Art, he admired and questioned the works of Van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse, Miro, Picasso, and more. When he stood before Dali's Persistence of Memory he said,
"What's with the ants attacking the gold watch? And time is messed up here, too.  But where is Art?"
"You said it, brother."  A painter put his arm around me.  "Is it trying to capture dreams?  Or is it making images everyone can recognized? Look at those shapes.  Are they letters of the alphabet? Are they something more?"
"I guess they could be both," I said...But I"m just looking for Art."

The students and I stopped from time to time to discuss and pull out other books on art and artist. Picture book biographies can be works of art themselves, such as, Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail, Henri's Scissors, Degas and the Little Dancer, or Through Georgia's Eyes

Cindi and I began to notice that perhaps time had stopped. No one came to the door to give us the all clear. The coloring began to drain from our faces as we thought the worst.  But Art was on our minds.  For nearly 45 minutes through whispers we studied art respectfully in awe of what there is to behold in the world.   Now we had more books spread out in the rows between the stacks than we had children.  Thanks to Art no one even suggested the worst or a call for help.

At last the police and the principals knocked at our door. Since they didn't properly tell me what I needed to hear in order to open the door, we sat quietly like ghost in the snow. With a final knocking I heard the all clear words. Clouded in doubt I crept to the door.  I could see in the eyes of the children a restless fear, but an urgency to know if we were safe.  Safe we were, relieved and reassured.  With the behavior of angels the students lined up and left the prefab for the main building thanking us for the time spent.

Cindi and I stepped outside to feel the fresh air on our skin. Smiles crossed our faces with relief and new insights to children. We learned that in less than one hour a group of antsy sixth graders did indeed find Art that day.