Willowdale Elementary School

I walked to school and went home for lunch.

The school was a rough, dark brick, two story edifice. Willowdale Elementary School carved into the lentil above the front door and there was a broad walk leading up to the front doors. No one was allowed out front during school hours, but the principal (Mrs.Marian Diener) let the older girls jump double-dutch on the front walk during recess. It kept the boys from tormenting the jumpers. I was very proud when I was finally old enough to go out front and jump. Yearly school pictures were taken out front also.

Top 2nd Grade. Bottom 4th or 5th

Top back standing from left: Frank Cows (like Bill Gates, Frank often required a bath),Ralph (had magnificent red hair), the others I can’t identify for sure. Teacher, Miss Angeline Perry.

Next standing row from left: Mary Ann Corner on end. Bill Smith, Terry McCormick. Can’t recall next girl, then me. On End is Steve Snyder.

Kneeling from left: Ethel Rinker (Sis), Diana Owen, Robert Robert, Amy (her dad built flutes in their house for a living), not confident about rest of row.

Bottom photo is 4th or 5th grade. Mrs. Diener taught both. I’m standing in front of her with the striped shirt. Diana is on my left. Sis is second from left. Terry is in front with his finger in his mouth, and to his right is Steve.

The floor plan was a functional, rectangular design: Four classrooms, the principal’s office, boy and girl bathrooms off a large main hall on the top floor; water fountain between the bathrooms. Broad dark wood plank stairs going down the south end that went out to the playground and a pair of stairs going down to a landing at the front door. These stairs continued down both sides to the basement. Lower area had three more classrooms, a kitchen, the boiler room (that was strictly the janitor ‘s realm) and a small stage with curtains.

The open area in the basement had a concrete floor. This space was used for PTA meetings, potluck dinners and school ‘educational’ movies. I remember one movie in particular that was animated, black and white, intended to demonstrate the correct way to brush our teeth. It’s the only movie I remember because the little germ character was so creepy and the toothbrush just came out of nowhere to push him screaming down the throat in the back. I still have all my teeth. Maybe it had more of an impact than I thought. It was creepy.

The basement area was also where we would have tumbling when the PE teacher came to the school. He would spread mats out on the floor and we jumped and flipped and tumbled. I loved it. Otherwise, PE was kickball, or dodge ball, sometimes softball. I hated it. When I graduated high school I swore I’d never touch another ball larger that a tennis ball.

The playground was a tarmac surface of some kind surrounded by a large grassy field. It had a maypole, merry-go-round, tether-ball, swings (low and high) and three heights of metal bars made out of what I’m guessing were water pipes. I suppose their purpose was to encourage chin-ups, but I really don’t know. It was far more fun to wrap a sweater or coat around the bar, then place your leg over the bar so that you could grab your ankle and swing yourself around and around and around. Ya, you’d get really dizzy.

The swings’ wooden seats were attached by metal chains; lower ones for the smaller kids, higher for the older or more adventurous, or those just wanting to show off. As I recall, there was no shortage of raging testosterone even at this age. In the summer it was important to be careful not to slide on the seats or you might get splinters in your legs.

While you could wear shorts or slacks on the weekends or after school hours, girls were required to wear dresses or skirts and blouses while at school. You can see this in the photos above. When it was cold and snowy it was OK to wear warm slacks under your dress to walk to school, but you had to hang them up in the coatroom along with your coat and boots when you went in for class. Everyone walked to school. There were no school buses.

The maypole had long chains connected to the top of a tall metal pole. When the wind was blowing these chains clanked loudly against the pole. This sound carried so the chiming could be heard from my backyard. Each chain had three wooden handles that you grasped as you swung around the pole. Scrapped knees were common. I learned early that thrills usually have a price.

I could hear the school bell if I was in my room at home. On occasions when I was still in bed, I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to get up and get dressed before the tardy bell. Mom would yell up the stairs but it was my responsibility to get up, dressed and to the school. I was the last one through the school doors a lot. Luckily it was a small school. Maybe 120 students tops. Teachers and parents knew each other and there was leeway given.

Mornings have been my Sisyphus rock. Days should begin around noon because the best creative time is between 10:00pm and 3:00am. When left to my own scheduling I will wake up on my own at 8 hours sleep. My bio-rhythms just do not match the cultural norms.

Next, a quick run-through of some trials and tribulations of surviving Willowdale.