My son used to call my own adolescence as “the days of yore.” Yet there are some interesting memories. My cohort is the eldest of the Baby Boomer generation. Our grammar school, in an inner city, was a former cheese factory, where there was always poison positioned for the omnipresent rats.
Periodically, a doctor and nurse came into the classroom and checked each student’s hair for lice. If any were found, the student was sent home and had to be cleared medically before returning to class.
Periodically, the underweight and overweight students left class and reported to the nurse’s office where they were weighed and their status updated. Parents were informed of the deviations from recommended weight ranges.
Every day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the 23rd Psalm or the Lord’s Prayer.
We wrote with fountain pens, using inkwells, and were taught cursive writing.
We were drilled on the eight parts of speech and punctuation and learned how to diagram sentences. We were tested on memorizing the multiplication table through “times ten.”
Everyone took gym, no excuses, and not coed. Everyone was expected to take part in the games and get exercise.
We were taught how to dance and once a week there was an informal dance with records in the gym (which was just an empty classroom) with the gym teacher as chaperone at the end of the school day.
Music and art were mandatory, taught on a monthly basis by special, visiting instructors.
Teachers were respected and feared. They dressed professionally, suits for the men, dresses for the women. They kept order. They held an “open house” on an evening every year which parents were expected to attend (not during the day when parents can seldom attend but teachers don’t have to put in extra hours). They were subject experts, and knew more than the theory of education and how to write a syllabus.
Most of the students had “jobs” and responsibilities in the classrooms: cleaning erasers, locking the fire doors at day’s end, serving as messengers, etc. One of mine was to fill those inkwells from a huge bottle, which was terrifying.
Homework was due on time, no excuses, and parents were contacted if it was late. A truant officer visited the home if a student did not show up for school and there was no notification for the absence.
Students who did not meet advancement criteria were “left back” and had to repeat the grade. This was far from rare.
Awards were bestowed at the grammar school graduation for the top performers in various categories. No one received any special notice for showing up except for perfect (100%) attendance.
The Junior Police maintained order in the schoolyards and halls, and helped at the crosswalks. (I, of course, became captain.)
© Alan Weiss 2016