Class reunion: remembrances of jump rope and jackstones
As I looked around a room of mostly silver-haired people Saturday night, I listened to their memories of an elementary school I hadn’t attended and a high school I had – but not with them.
It was a joint reunion of classes before and after my husband’s graduation year at Druid Hills High School. That’s in the Atlanta area in Emory University’s back yard. Although much of what they were talking about weren’t recollections, the setting was familiar. I went to school at Druid Hills 10 years after my husband.
My class went through sixth, seventh and eight-grades in the lower school building, then straight to high school in the ninth grade. I don’t remember little kids in the building, so they must have been at the newer Fernbank Elementary by then.
As a person who went to five schools between third grade and my senior year, I don’t really have lots of memories to share with anybody from my school years. Still, I could almost picture little Billy Hibbert and his friends racing out of the far end of the three-story building and heading for the dirt playground where they went at recess.
Funny, I had never thought about the school as their elementary school, although all our dating and married life I’ve heard Bill and friends talk about the red brick building where they went all 12 grades.
His memories were of playing ball at recess. Mine at that age at Annie Bell Clark Grammar School in Tifton, Ga., were jumping rope. Little girls wore cotton dresses then, with irritating sashes that didn’t stay tied in the back. And jumping rope or playing hop-scotch made our thin socks slip down into our shoes. As we said, “My shoes ate my socks.”
Jump ropes weren’t the individual ropes with handles used now in exercise classes. Two girls at opposite ends of a really long rope would turn it up and over, singing out rhymes that set the cadence of how fast to jump. Or you could tie one end of the rope around the trunk of a 50-year-old oak tree, so only one girl had to do the swinging. It didn’t work so well.
By fourth grade – at Horace Mann Elementary School in Beverly Hills, Calif. – we girls played jacks, sitting on a rubbery asphalt-like playground that made black marks on your legs and clothing. When I mentioned jackstones to my husband, I had to describe the handful of 3/4-inch spiky metal shapes you scattered in ascending groups, then tossed a small, red rubber ball about 10 inches above them so you could grab all the jacks before the ball came down. While we were playing jacks in the spring, the boys were playing marbles.
By the time I was at Druid Hills, instead of playing games at recess I remember those one-piece gym suits we had to wear for physical education classes. The ugly, faded green uniforms had bloomer legs that we tried without success to roll into fashionable short-shorts.
At Shades Valley High School in Birmingham, Ala., and Albany High School in Albany, Ga., in addition to the challenges of academic classes like algebra, chemistry and Spanish, I remember marching band and the people in it. They were my group. Yes, I know, being a band kid used to be like being in the computer club, but we knew we were special, in a good way.
So while the graduates of the Class of ’52 and ’53 talked about basketball Coach Morrow, Mrs. Kellogg – who could draw a perfect chalk circle in one softball pitcher-type swoop of her arm and who was a substitute teacher when I came along – and many I didn’t know, I remembered my elementary school teachers from other places.
I thought about knowing how to read because of my mother’s encouragement by the time I got to first grade and wondering why everybody else couldn’t, too; learning to tell time in second grade, accidentally sticking a pencil in somebody’s arm when I turned around too quickly in the seat of our connected desks, being envious of kids who could fold paper into interesting shapes, and those who were double jointed.
The things we learned in school. Life lessons – and more.