First Grade

Do you remember when you started First Grade?

I was so excited to finally go to school although I had no idea what it was going to be like.  My mom bought me a red plaid book satchel that held my pencils, paper, colors and scissors and a Roy Rogers/Dale Evans lunchbox; you know, the same one that I used on the bully. We learned how to read and spell and learned how to add and subtract.  The first books we learned to read were the Dick and Jane books.  I always loved the Dick and Jane stories. Remember Spot?

There was a little boy in my first-grade class who was both physically and mentally disabled; he was the sweetest little boy.  He came to school almost every day and almost every day he would mess his pants.  Our teacher always cleaned him up but would spank him when this happened.  He would just cry and cry; this upset me very much because he did not know what he was doing and didn’t mess his pants on purpose.  Even though we were only in First Grade, all of us kids kind of looked after him as best we could.  His parents eventually took him out of public school and enrolled him in an organization called Easter Seals Center, now called Easter Seals West Kentucky.  Easter Seals could not only help him learn, but could also take care of his physical needs.

Let me tell you a little bit about this wonderful organization.  Easter Seals West Kentucky began in 1954 through the merger of the McCracken County Cerebral Palsy Organization and the Crippled Children’s Clinic.  Today, Easter Seals serves 19 counties in western Kentucky, plus areas in southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri.  The Paducah Lions Club and WPSD NewsChannel 6 sponsor a telethon each year to raise money for the local centers.  In the early years, the children from the Center would put on a show on the last morning of the telethon.  They would sing songs and Miss Dorothy would talk to them on camera; many of them would bring donation cards with them.  My little friend participated in this part of the show for several years and I always watched the telethon so I could see his sweet smiling face.

I rode a small bus to and from school and our bus driver ran a tight ship.  It was always kind of funny because we lived on a one-lane gravel road; and if the older boys got a little rowdy, he would just turn off the motor, stand up in the front of the bus and chew those boys out good.  And let me tell you, they knew he meant business and also knew he would tell their parents if they didn’t settle down.  Then their troubles would only just begin.  As I said, the bus was small and you could barely fit three kids on a seat; but since we all knew each other, it didn’t matter if we were squished in our seats.   Sometimes kids had to stand up because all the seats were full.  On the day school let out for Christmas break, the driver gave all of us a little brown paper bag filled with an apple, orange, and two peppermint candy canes.  On the last day of school, he gave us a Coca-Cola to drink on the way home. I tell ya, any time I got a soft drink in those days was a real treat for me.

See ya next Wednesday.