Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wardogs--Pieces of Memories, The Test

I ran down the hallway screaming, "I passed.  I passed.  I'm a fifth grader."  Mother was sitting in Miss Hamilton's office at Roosevelt School waiting to hear her daughter's fate.  That night dad took us out to dinner to celebrate at "Billie Mendenhall's" in Commerce, and I ordered mashed potatoes with yellow gravy.  

In order to pass from fourth to fifth grade the teachers decided that I must know the following skills and take a test when school started in the fall: 1. Times tables to twelve; 2. Name and identify the seven continents; 3. Name and identify the five oceans.  Thank heavens I wasn't required to pass a spelling test, but I most certainly understood that the teachers would be watching me.

Here's what I did know:  Jump rope rhymes like--
  Cinderella dressed in yellow
Went downtown to kiss a fellow
  How many kisses did she give 1, 2, 3...
  **Night after night we'd jump rope on our driveway, and everyday at recess.

That summer between fourth and fifth grade I was  determined to pass the test, and prove that I was smart enough to stay in my class.  My parents were as determined as I was.  We bought a set of flash cards for home and one for the country club.  It was a total team effort and flash cards appeared at dinner, at parties, in the car when we traveled, on top of the TV, on the counter at the club where I would sometimes clean the members clubs, and other places where my mother could surprise me. I practiced memorizing the cards so I could see the
answers.  Dad and Mom worked as hard as I did, and we tested each other. My little sister even learned her numbers and played school with us. After a month I began to make progress in memorizing facts. Mother bought me a slider puzzle to help me enjoy math.  I mastered the 1-15 puzzle, gained skills in the 1-30 puzzle, but when the rubik's cube came out, my fingers and brain were no longer young and eager. 

  Will I marry, tell me so
  Is the answer yes or no?
  Yes, No, maybe so, Yes, No, maybe so....

World map 1958
Our red set of Encyclopedia Britannica's became my best friend.  I had already worn the edges on the D book for dogs and C book for cat.  That summer I discovered X,Y, Z because the back contained the maps.  Luckily, understanding the maps and learning continents was easy.  I think in part because dad had already taught me how to read a map when we traveled.  

Neighbor, Johnny Badger
Jacks:  Onesies, Twosies, Threesies; Pigs in the Pen; Pigs over the pen; Around the World; and we learned the rules.  *We kept Jacks in our desks at school, and I always had golf balls to share, which were much more reliable than silly rubber balls

My free time was spent playing with the neighborhood kids, playing golf, swimming, but my favorite time was going to NEO in the morning three days a week for some type of activity camp. The girl who organized it was the daughter of Red Robertson, the football coach at NEO.  I learned all kinds of crafts, games, and my neighborhood acquaintances increased with kids ages 6-12.  Suddenly, I knew kids who lived all over giving me more room to run and play.  

Card games:  Crazy 8, pairs, rummy, slap jack, old maid, war, but concentration was my favorite (and I still like that game). 

Playground and evenings in the neighborhood we played these games: Tag, Hopscotch, Marbles, Red Rover, Kick the Can, Blind Man's Bluff, Freeze tag, Hide-an-Seek, Grey Ghost.  
LuJean Howard

Even though I continued to struggle and lag behind in many areas through junior high, slowly but surely I began to catch up with my classmates.  In sixth grade, Mrs. Murphy taught us all of the states and capitols.  Our test was on a blank US map, and we had to label each state and mark where the capitol was located and it's name.  After we handed in our papers, she asked, "If any one thinks they got all of the answers correct please stand." Tommy Spaulding and I stood, then I began to shake and nearly cry.  She graded Tommy's first and he missed one, then she graded mine.  It was perfect.  I knew then that I had passed another test, and belonged in this class.  Little did I know that my life would present me with many more difficult tests. 

Board and paper games:  Monopoly, Sorry, Tiddly Winks, Pick-up-sticks, tic-tac-toe, hangman, bingo, hidden pictures in Highlights magazine.

**Please feel free to comment below with people you remember, moments you recall, or games you played.  I approve the comments before they are posted.  


  1. Letty,
    This is a beautiful piece of writing that is so evocative of that period in our lives -- elementary school as it was in the 1950s. Thank you for that reminder!

    1. Thank you Martha, we have our 50th reunion this fall, and I hope I can remind all of us how precious and how much fun we had growing up.

  2. Thank you Letty. You're the best. I enjoy your stories. mh

  3. Another great story Letty. I recall the days at Roosevelt. I also struggled with the learning process and thought I would never make it out of 6th grade. ru

  4. This is just how I grew up, too. We had some flash cards, jumped rope all the time, played some board games, but mostly outside doing stuff. Love the pix!