By Joe Rector
Maybe our memory banks dredge up selective events as we grow older. My work buddy Steve and I were talking the other day and began recalling some of the things that occurred during our years in elementary school. They came flooding back in living color and might have been embellished by the span of years since they took place.
Some of those memories involved girls. I never understood why some guys declared that they hated them; I always found them to be interesting and perplexing. In my first year of school, I developed a crush on a girl named Andy Underwood. She was in the eighth grade, but I still pined away for her. At some point, I decided that the right thing to do was pen a love letter to her. Back then, paper wasn’t something that we wasted on such foolishness. So, being a determined goofball, I wrote what seemed like a War and Peace-length letter on a roll of toilet paper. I’d like to think that Andy got that note, but to be honest, my memory fails me.
Arlene Moore was a rather mean female who tormented me in fourth grade. Every day, she’d kick me in the legs, and every night I whined about how much my skinny legs ached. Mother listened to my pouting for as long as she could, and then she sat me down for a talk. She first told me that hitting a girl was wrong. Then she added that enough was enough; if I came home one more time with complaints of my legs hurting without having retaliated against Arlene, she warned a spanking would be coming. I left for school the next morning “loaded for bear.” Never again did I have a problem with the girl.
Suzanne Fletcher came to Ball Camp Elementary, and I was smitten immediately. She was taller than everyone in class, had curly blonde hair, and was already developing. To my surprise, she seemed to like me back. I fell head over heels for her, but before love’s embers glowed too brightly, her family moved to Tunnel Hill, Georgia. I wrote her a few letters, but replies soon dwindled. It was the first of many heartbreaks I experienced during my school years.
I also recall some strange occurrences during those years. I was hefty in those years; more accurately, I was fat. Finding a place on the classroom field day team was difficult. I couldn’t run fast, jump high, or throw far. However, I did eventually find a spot on the tug-of-war team. Steve Buffalo, Steve Cox, and I were the heavyweights that anchored the team, and we did fine until another team supplanted weight with might.
In first grade, I sat in my desk the first day and shook in fear. Other kids were leaving the room to get shots. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew that those gigantic needles hurt worse than anything I’d experienced before. I pouted and tears filled my eyes as I waited for the teacher to come for me. As it turned out, the kids who received shots were ones who had failed to get the required inoculations to enter school.
In the spring of the seventh grade, I stood at the window of the classroom as one wasp chased another. They soared toward the ceiling before dive bombing into my shirt. The stings began immediately, but I refused to take my shirt off because I didn’t want girls to see my fat body. Eventually, the insects exited the bottom of my shirt that I’d pulled away from my body. The teasing that followed was brutal.
Lots of other things come to mind, but space limits me to these few events. Elementary school memories are always more interesting when they come with 50-plus years of time passing. Given the chance, all of us can conjure up those mind pictures that bring smiles and grimaces.