Playing Tennis in Highland Park

The 1972 Highland Park High School Tennis Team

The 1972 Highland Park High School Tennis Team

Our trip to Epps Sporting Goods would affect my life even today. Dad took me to buy my first tennis racket.  I was about twelve years old and I had decided to learn to play tennis because my older brother played tennis and I wanted to be like him.

Dad checked out the cheap tennis rackets and found one that would fit into his budget.  He didn’t want to buy an expensive racket because he didn’t know if my desire to play tennis was just a passing fancy.  When we arrived home, Dad gave me my first and only tennis lesson.  He took me out in the backyard.  Then, he handed me a tennis ball and told me to keep hitting the tennis ball up in the air. This would get me use to hitting the ball as well as keeping my eye on the ball.  I continued to do this every day.  I began to imagine myself becoming the next Rod Laver.

By the time, I was in eighth grade, I would take my tennis racket to Ford Park and hit the tennis ball off the tennis court wall. The problem was that I would often hit the ball over the wall, which meant I spent more time retrieving my ball than hitting it.  Eventually, I could hit the ball with some regularity. Now I was ready to hit with anybody who was willing to hit with a young person who had a great desire to play tennis, but not much ability.

One man, who took a special interest in me was Ed.  He was a man in his late fifties or early sixties.  I was always excited to see his large white Chrysler park in the alley behind the tennis courts.  Ed patiently would hit with me, which soon gave me some confidence in playing tennis. There were others who hit with me because I was never shy to ask anybody who didn’t have a tennis partner to hit with me.

My getting ready to go play tennis at Ford in 1969.  Notice the Highland Park Recreation Baseball T-shirt.  I played in Class F for the Royals.

Getting ready to go play tennis at Ford in 1969. Notice the Highland Park Recreation Baseball T-shirt. I played in Class F for the Royals.

My first experience of playing organized tennis was in ninth grade when I played on the
U of D High School tennis team.  I definitely was the low man on the totem pole, but going to the practices and hitting with others helped my game. My coach once encouraged me by saying the my serve was so slow that he could catch it with his bare hand. However, I wasn’t going to quit. I was determined to succeed in tennis.

In tenth grade, I was back at Highland Park High School, and I joined the tennis team.  Tennis was not an important sport at the school; so I became the number one singles player in my junior and senior year.  This may sound impressive, but when we played schools like Grosse Pointe South, it meant that if I won a game or two, I was doing well.

There were perks to playing on the tennis team.  At the beginning of the season, we received three or four pair of tennis socks, four cans of tennis balls and the best of all, a brand new pair of Jack Purcells tennis shoes. These shoes were the top of the line.  By this time also, I had graduated to a Jack Kramer Autograph racket.  This was the top of line in rackets.

A Jack Kramer Autograph Tennis Racket with a bracket to keep the racket from warping.

A Jack Kramer Autograph Tennis Racket with a bracket to keep the racket from warping.

Another perk was that I received physical education credit for playing tennis. This was a big perk because it meant I didn’t have to take swimming class or gym class during my time at Highland Park High School.

Practicing at the Ford Park tennis courts.

Practicing at the Ford Park tennis courts.

One problem about being on the tennis team was that our coach never played tennis.  We never did any drills. We never received any instructions on how to serve. He basically would go with us to matches and tell us to try harder.  When we played schools like Ecorse, River Rouge or Ferndale, our lack of ability didn’t show; however when we played Grosse Pointe South, Monroe or Dondero, it was embarrassing.

Speaking of Monroe, this was our favorite place to play. After getting beaten by Monroe, the coach would take us all to a restaurant and we could eat all the chicken we desired.  It definitely made the thrashing that we had received go down better.

In my senior year, Highland Park was no longer in the Border Cites League. This meant that our competition was more on our level.  We actually won a few matches during the season. At the end of the year, the Detroit News selected me to be on the All-Detroit tennis team. My photo was in the Detroit News with the other players who had been named for this honor. Before I could get too proud, somebody in the school told me that the Detroit News writer who selected the All-Detroit team was a graduate of Highland Park High School. This took the wind out of my sails.

After I graduated from Highland Park, I would continue to play tennis.  I played on the Olivet College team as a freshman; however, I soon played less and less tennis.  It has only been in recent years that I have taken up tennis again. Playing tennis again brings back memories of those great days of playing tennis at Ford Park in the early Seventies.

My Eating Out Experiences Growing Up in Highland Park

sign

Eating out was a rare treat when I was growing up in the Sixties. There were no McDonalds, with their Happy Meals and Playlands near Highland Park. Yes, I survived the first sixteen years of my life without entering the door of a McDonalds.

My Mom was a stay at home mother who dedicated her life to taking care of her children. She made sure that I had dinner each night.  There was always a meat, vegetables and a dessert of some kind. Occasionally she would treat us with a pizza that she made from the  Chef Boy-ar-dee@ pizza mix. For this reason, I never remember eating a take away pizza while I was growing up.  I always thought it would be nice to try the pizza from Lido’s on Six Mile Rd, but I don’t remember ever tasting a take away pizza while I lived in Highland Park.

chef-boyardee

KOW-KOW INN

One of the first words that came out of my mouth was Kow-Kow.  Whenever we would pass the Kow-Kow Inn on Six Mile, I would cry out the words, Kow-Kow with great excitement!  My first remembrance of eating Kow-Kow Inn food was not in the restaurant, but the little white boxes that found their way into our home.  Our meal of choice was Chicken Chop Suey. Only later, when I was out of high school would I visit Kow-Kow. The decor wasn’t fancy, but it made you feel like you were in an authentic Chinese restaurant. The two complete meals for eight dollars was a delicious bargain.

Kow-Kow Inn today is no longer in business.  A special thanks to Charles Powell for the photo.

The Kow-Kow Inn is no longer in business. A special thanks to Charles Powell for the photo.

THE RED BARN

My first fast food experience, like most Highland Parkers, was the Red Barn on Grand Avenue and Woodward.  We went there a few times when it first opened. My Mom probably liked the fact that she was able to get out of the kitchen.  We would order our meal and then take our treasure out to the car and eat the food in the car.  I would eat and look at the Granwood Hotel sign advertising rooms for four dollars.  I also looked at the WMUZ sign on the side of the Grand Bible and Book store.  We ate in the car because, in the beginning, the Red Barn only had only few places to sit. The seating consisted of what looked like white school desks facing the order counter.

The food at the Red Barn was not health food. Their hot dogs were in toasted buttered buns. To this day, there is no hot dog like the Red Barn’s.  I don’t know why a fast food franchise doesn’t try to sell this type of hot dog today. As for the fries, they were stringy and had no real taste. We would wash down this gourmet meal with a small carton of white milk. Mom never allowed us to order pop. After my early childhood years, I would walk pass Red Barn on the way home from high school, but I never ate there again for some unknown reason.

THE CLOCK RESTAURANT 

As the novelty of the Red Barn wore off, Mom took us to a more upscale restaurant called The Clock. This was a real sit down restaurant with a menu. The most fascinating thing about The Clock was that each booth had a its own little Jukebox. Mom would let us a pick out a song or two to have played at our table while we waited for our food.

THE VICTOR CONEY ISLAND (RED HOTS)

As a child, I never experienced eating the chili dogs at Red Hots.  My Dad had his own favorite coney island restaurant which was the Nevada Grill. This was on John R off of Nevada in Detroit. I don’t remember much about this place, but Dad was sold on it.

When I became an older teen, I began to venture out on my own to eat out occasionally.  My favorite place was Red Hots.  I would order two chili dogs and a Vernors that would come out of a machine. There was nothing to compare with this great combination. When I took my wife there a couple of years ago, she wasn’t impressed, but the chili dogs tasted just the same. Unfortunately, the Vernors came in a can.  It didn’t have the same taste.

Red Hots is still in business today.  Photo by Randy Dyle

Red Hots is still in business today. Photo by Randy Dyle

OTHER EXPERIENCES 

There were a few other experiences of eating out in Highland Park. When I was in elementary school, one of my friend’s mother took several of us to Howard Johnson for his birthday party.  This seemed rather excessive, but I enjoyed the novelty of eating at Howard Johnson. As a family, we never ate there because Dad didn’t like it. Even to this day, I avoid Howard Johnson.

Though the Victor Bakery is not a restaurant, I remember that we would go there to buy fresh French Bread. This was my first experience with bread that had a hard crust and a soft dough inside. To this day, I still enjoy fresh baked French bread.

The Victor Bakery looks much the same as when I was growing up.

The Victor Bakery looks much the same as when I was growing up.

It is hard to believe that many people in my generation grew up without McDonalds and other fast food restaurants. However, I have no regrets. Eating out was a rare treat.  I am thankful for the effort my mother made to keep us fed by cooking delicious meals at home, but I will always remember the rare treat of eating out.

P.S. You can find all that you need to know about the Red Barn at: http://www.barnbuster.net

P.P.S. If you are interested, I also have another blog where I focus on spiritual subjects from a pastor’s perspective. http://www.markjemilbooth.com

My Fourth Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School

Midland School, a few years ago.  It is now torn down.

Midland School, a few years ago. It is now torn down.

How did I lose a whole year of my school life?  Out of all my years of schooling, my fourth grade experience is probably the one with the least memories. Perhaps, my fourth grade memories were erased by my first year of swim class (See my post: Facing My Greatest Fear: Swim Class). I would go to school every Tuesday with a great dread of the afternoon trip to the Liberty School swimming pool. Such a bad memory probably clouded many of the good experiences in fourth grade.

My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Jung. I don’t remember a lot about Mrs. Jung except that she was middle-aged, and she wore glasses.  I also remember that Mrs. Jung was the most lenient teacher I had at Midland Elementary School. She allowed the class to have an abnormal amount of freedom. An example of this freedom was that she allowed us to place our desks in groups of four. Two desks would face two other desks. I don’t remember the point of this exercise, but looking back I could see that it was problematic.  Can you imagine the mischief we were able to do in such a setting? I don’t remember if this was a typical situation or a temporary experiment.

Speaking of desks, I had a full desk which had a top that lifted up. Inside the desk was where we were to place our books, folders and other essential educational materials. I often had a problem with my desk.  My top wouldn’t close!  This wasn’t because of a defect in my desk, but a big defect in my neatness.  I think I had the second messiest desk in the class. The person with the messiest desk will remain unnamed.

One of the highlights of fourth grade wasn’t in the school, but after school.  Fourth grade would be the first year that I participated in Highland Park Little League football.  I was on the Freshmen team. The practices were at 4:30 P.M. each night at Ford Field. This was great for me because I could walk to practice from my house on Candler Ave. Yes, I would have to cut through two yards to get there, but this was never problem in our neighborhood.

Being part of Little League football was my first experience in organized athletics.  Our coach was the Mayor’s son, Mark Storen Jr.  I guess I didn’t become a star because I was on the blue team, which was a nice way of saying the second string team. We played one set of downs each half and I played offensive guard.

One other memory that still sticks in my mind was the Christmas gift exchange for our class. I had bought a rather expensive gift to exchange. It was a plastic bowling set that cost almost two dollars. I was excited when I received my gift in a large Hudson’s box.  What could be in such a large box?  I opened the box and found a twenty-five cent rubber baseball. I felt quite disappointed. This showed that I had a long way to go in learning the joy of giving.

The rest of my fourth grade experience is quite a blur.  Yes, we had the usual recess.  The visits to the library. The same lunch that I always brought to school. The same walk home from school going through the dreaded Second Avenue tunnel.

I am sure that Mrs. Jung was a fine teacher and she taught me many important things, however, I don’t remember anything in particular that I learned in class.  I  am thankful that she did care for her students.  I am also thankful that I survived swim class!

A Detroit Tiger Fan Growing Up in HP

Dreaming of Playing for the Detroit Tigers

Dreaming of Playing for the Detroit Tigers

When I was a child the baseball season was a magical time. I would grab my plastic bat and wiffle ball and go out to the back yard. I pretended that I was the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees.  I would throw up the ball in the air and hit it.  If it went over the fence, It was a home run.  If not, it was an out.  I had the lineups of the Tigers and the Yankess memorized.  I still remember Jake Wood (2b) Bill Bruton (CF) Al Kaline (RF) Rocky Colavito (LF) Norm Cash (1B) Chico Fernandez (SS) Dick Brown (C) Steve Boros (3b) and of course Frank Lary, the Yankee Killer was always my favorite pitcher.

1961 Detroit Tigers from Baseball Fever. Com

1961 Detroit Tigers from Baseball Fever. Com

The Detroit Tigers were in my blood already at the early age of six years old. In 1961, the only team that mattered other than the Detroit Tigers were the much hated New York Yankees.  Yes, they had Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, but the Tigers had Kaline, Colavito, and Cash.  Unfortunately, the Tigers faded in September and the Yankees went on to the 1961 World Series.

Dad started to take me to the games when I was six years old.  He always liked the $2.00 lower deck reserved seats in section 17 by third base. He also liked the special days, such as Free Ball Day, Free Bat Day, or Picture Day. One time on Picture Day, a free-lance photographer had me stand by Joe Sparma. A couple of weeks later there was my photo in the Highland Parker with Joe Sparma!

Dad had a special tradition about going to the games at Tiger Stadium. He had the idea that we needed to be the first ones there; so that we could get a good parking spot on one of the streets near Tiger Stadium. Dad never parked in one of the parking lots around Tiger Stadium because of the expense. Being early, had its advantages, we could see the grass grow, and then batting practice take place and get settled into our seats. Dad would buy me the fifteen cent program because I liked to keep score of the game.

Dad didn’t believe in spending money on the ballpark food because it was way too expensive. Occasionally, we could buy the popcorn, which came in what looked like a megaphone with the Detroit Tiger symbol on it.

My most exciting time at Tiger Stadium were the few occasions when my cousin was able to get us free tickets for the box seats at the side of the Tiger dugout!  She was Max Fisher’s secretary, and when he wasn’t using the seats, he would give the seats away. We would occasionally be the beneficiaries!  It was great to see all of my favorite players up close, such as Mickey Stanley, Norm Cash, and Bill Freehan.  For some reason, Dad had a strong dislike for Al Kaline, so I never included him as one of my favorites.

Being a Detroit Tiger fan, also meant that I would listen to the Detroit Tigers on WJR.  Ernie Harwell was the best broadcaster.  When he was announcing, it felt as though you were right next to him in the broadcast booth watching the game.  I never knew until I was an adult how he knew that a fan from Kalamazoo, or Muskegon caught the foul ball.  Even when I would spend a week or two in Pennsylvania, I would take my transistor radio to bed with me and listen to the game.  I was glad that WJR had a powerful signal.

The Ernie Harwell of my childhood.

The Ernie Harwell of my childhood.

The highlight for any Tiger fan was 1968.  It was the magical year of Denny McLain winning thirty-one games. The Tigers were the American League champs. The World Series was my total focus. I was glad that the teachers at Ford Middle School brought their televisions to class. We received an education about what it was like to have a team in the World Series.  Mickey Lolich was my hero because of his amazing feat of winning three games in the World Series. Can you imagine a pitcher today starting a World Series game on two days rest!  Lolich did it and won the game against Bob Gibson!

All Tiger Fans remember this!  From PBS. Org

All Tiger Fans remember this! From PBS. Org

After 1969, my interest started to wane a bit in the Detroit Tigers.  Yes, I was glad when they made the playoffs in 1972, but I was a teenager and the magic of the Detroit Tigers had worn off.  I no longer collected baseball cards. I no longer played baseball. I no longer listened to Ernie Harwell. Our trips to Tiger Stadium became very infrequent.  I wonder if Dad missed my enthusiasm for the Tigers. If so, he never told me.

When I became a parent, Dad kept my children in Detroit Tiger gear.  He wanted my children to be Tiger fans as he was all of his life. I am glad to say that all of my children are Detroit Tiger fans.  Yes, I still keep up with them and I am excited with the possibilities of winning another World Series, but the magic of the Detroit Tigers of my childhood is no longer there. However, I am thankful that my Dad made the Detroit Tigers a very special part of my growing up years in Highland Park!

P.S. Please visit my other blog; http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I share spiritual thoughts such as “Does Jesus Care” and “Candid Thoughts about Crowds”.

Easter Memories of Growing Up in Highland Park

Easter 1959

Easter 1959

My mom enjoyed every holiday on the calendar. She wanted to make each holiday special for her family by decorating for each holiday and help us get excited about the upcoming occasion. Easter was no exception. Mom made this holiday very special to us.

My Easter celebration started sometime before Easter with a trip to Robert Hall clothing store on Woodward and Candler. Normally, my clothes were purchased at Sears and Roebuck, or the Hudson’s Budget Store, but for Easter Mom would go all out. A trip to Robert Hall meant a new suit to wear for Easter. I never liked suits (I still don’t) but to Mom it was important that we looked our best on Easter. Mom would pick out a “perfect suit” for me and then get a clip-on tie to go with it.  I don’t know what Dad thought about the cost, but I was now ready for Easter!

The old Robert Hall building on Woodward and Candler

The old Robert Hall building on Woodward and Candler

Before Easter was Palm Sunday. I never learned until later the meaning of Palm Sunday, but it was a special occasion at the Highland Park Congregational Church where we attended.  Normally, the children didn’t enter the church sanctuary, but on Palm Sunday we had our chance to have a small part in the worship service.  We would be given a palm leaf. Then we would line up and march down the long aisle of the church. This seemed to make the older people happy.  For me, it just seemed neat to see people smile.

The center aisle of the sanctuary of the Highland Park Congregational Church

The center aisle of the sanctuary of the Highland Park Congregational Church

During the week before Easter, Mom would get everything ready to color our Easter Eggs.  She would buy special egg coloring and then boil the eggs that we were going to color.  Mom would prepare several bowls with different colors. Mom would give me an egg dipper for my egg. I would place the egg tenderly in the dipper then place it inside the bowl.  I would marvel as the egg would change colors before my eyes. Though I enjoyed coloring the eggs, I never ate them because I didn’t like eggs in any form or fashion.

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When Easter morning arrived, our job was to find our Easter baskets. Mom would take great pleasure in hiding the baskets from us.  I remember one year she had hidden my basket in the clothes dryer. Once the basket was found, the eating began. The baskets generally had jelly beans, small chocolate eggs (my favorite) marshmallow eggs (not my favorite), a few small chocolate bunnies and one large chocolate bunny.  The treats in the basket would last awhile. It wasn’t often that we would have so much chocolate to enjoy.

After we had a start on the baskets, then I would go with Mom to church. I don’t remember much about Easter in church because the children had their own church time. I am sure we heard something about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, but at that time in my life, the death and resurrection of Christ were very vague to me.

As I look back upon my Easter celebrations, I know that I didn’t really understand the true meaning of Easter, but I am thankful for my mother making it a special occasion in my life.  I know that she went out of her way to make us happy to this special time of year.  When I was young, I just took all of this for granted.  I am thankful for my Mom who cared enough to do the extra little things in the life of her family.

Looking good in our Robert Hall suits.

Looking good in our Robert Hall suits.

Third Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School

kennedy-killed-newspaper

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, Miss Rebe, our principal, made a PA announcement as we were sitting in Mrs. Cross’s third grade class. With a very sad tone of voice, she informed us that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.  She didn’t give us much details, but even at our young age,we could understand that this was a great tragedy. As an act of remembrance, she also told us that we were immediately dismissed from school.

The walk home with a couple of friends seemed longer and slower than normal. This was a great shock to me. I had never really experienced tragedy in my first eight years of life. I also had a fear that came over me. I felt quite insecure. It was the most personal death that I had experienced up to that time.

When I arrived home, everything on the television was about our President and his death.  For the next several days, my family stayed glued to the television. We saw the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. We saw the funeral of our President.  In my eight year old mind, it seemed as though my world had changed.

This memory of the Kennedy’s assassination was my most vivid memory of third grade, but I did have a few others. Third grade would introduce me to Mrs. Cross as my third grade teacher. We would like to make fun of her name behind her back. She kept a very well-disciplined class room.  I don’t ever remember her becoming angry, but we didn’t want to cross her either.

Third grade would be my first opportunity to be in a play. The play that was chosen for us to perform was Alice in Wonderland. I must have failed the tryout for an acting part because they made me the narrator for the play. Perhaps, my loud voice, which I still have today, had a part in my being selected a narrator. The best thing about being the narrator is that I didn’t have to remember any parts. because I could read my parts from a script. I don’t remember how well the play went, but I am sure every parent was proud of their children who participated in the play.

2nd or 3rd Grade School Photo.  Yes, I started wearing glasses at an early age!

2nd or 3rd Grade School Photo. Yes, I started wearing glasses at an early age!

Mrs. Cross did teach us a lot of things, but there is only one thing that I remember with any clarity. I had the habit of answering questions from my book in sentence fragments, such as: “because of the wind.” Mrs. Cross brought it to my attention that I should write a full sentence in answering my questions. To this day, I am quite sensitive to this matter.

By the third grade, I was also able to walk to school with a couple of friends. I enjoyed the walk to and from school because we would pass the Uptown Radio Company on Woodward Avenue. It was interesting to look at all the televisions, stereos, and other stuff in the window. We would also pass the Ferris Car Wash. The worst part of the journey was the dreaded tunnel on Second Avenue and Pilgrim. Not only was it a bit dark, but it also a had very unpleasant smell.

During the Christmas season, we enjoyed checking out the Christmas decorations on our walk home. There were a couple of houses on Ferris Avenue that seemed to always compete for the best decorated house in the city. One of the houses had an upstairs porch which they also decorated with a neat nativity scene. There were several houses that took a lot of pride in their decorations

After school ended in June, one of my best friends, Jonathan, would move away.  Yes, I still had many of my neighborhood friends and we enjoyed playing out in the alley all summer long. I never wanted to see the summer end, but soon September came, and I would find myself in the Fourth Grade.

Facing My Greatest Childhood Fear: Swim Class

The Liberty School Pool as seen recently.  The school and pool are closed.  A special thanks to Kennedy Baughman for the photo.

The Liberty School Pool as seen recently. The school and pool are closed. A special thanks to Kennedy Baughman for the photo.

My elementary school years went fairly smoothly until fourth grade.  This is when we were introduced to swim class.  My greatest fear would be met head on, and I would lose the battle for several years.

Midland school didn’t have a swimming school.  Every Tuesday afternoon, we would take a school bus to Liberty school for swim class. The bus ride was the highlight of this most difficult time in my life. The bus driver always seemed quite cheerful and talkative; however, his cheerfulness couldn’t help ease the pain of my worst hour of the week.

Hank is the first one on the left. He is remembered by most of the students during my era.

Here are some of the bus drivers.  Seth is the one I remembered the most.

After arriving at Liberty school, we were introduced to our routine for the year. Mr. Munro, our teacher, told us that we were to totally undress. This was difficult for me because I had never done this before in public. What even made it more difficult is that we were not to wear swim trunks. We would be spending the whole time in swim class in our birthday suits. To this day, nobody has given a satisfactory explanation to this rule. The girls wore swimsuits during their swim time. Why didn’t my parents complain? Why didn’t any parent complain?! Why didn’t some newspaper expose the practice? I can’t imagine this happening today.

After we took off our clothes, Mr. Munro told us that we had to shower before we entered the pool area. After the shower, he would inspect each one of us by rubbing our collarbone area and our wrist. If no dry skin came off, we were good to go. Eventually, we learned that we only needed to clean our collarbone area and our wrist.

Now, the worst part would soon come.  We were to get into the pool.  The pool at Liberty, looking back, was not very large, but it looked like an ocean to me.  The largest pool I had ever entered was my bathtub.  I would have been quite content if it had remained that way.

When I entered the pool, I lived in the shallow end. I may have ventured out a bit with a board to keep me afloat, but I still didn’t go any further than where my head could stay above water. Mr. Munro probably taught many a boy to swim, but I wasn’t one of them.

There were many Tuesdays when I would come to school feeling quite well, but by afternoon, I would develop a stomach ache. I wasn’t making this up, I was so afraid of swim class that I would literally get sick. I would be sent to the nurse’s office and she would give me some kind peppermint to settle my stomach. The bus would leave and I was spared one week of agony in swim class.

When I arrived at Ford Middle School, I think Mr DeSantis, our swim teacher, took me on as a personal challenge. It seemed like I was the only student in sixth grade who couldn’t swim. Mr. DeSantis tried and tried to get me to leave the float board and start swimming.  Soon, he threatened me with an “F” if I didn’t start to swim. Finally, the day came when I actually swam the width of the Ford School pool. I had learned to swim! I avoided my “F”!

However, Mr. DeSantis was not done with me. In eighth grade, I had a new challenge.  Mr. DeSantis said that I must JUMP into the deep end feet first and hit the bottom of the pool and bounce up and swim the LENGTH of the pool. If I didn’t accomplish this feat, I would receive an “F”.  I don’t know how many weeks passed, but every time I would get to the edge of the pool, I would think that I would never survive the JUMP.

You also had to know that Mr. DeSantis was a bit overweight. Could he save me if I were to drown?  I had even asked him once: “Why gym teachers tended to be heavy?”  I do not know what possessed me to do this, but he chuckled and said: “When we were younger we ate a lot and we exercised a lot.  When got older we kept eating, but we didn’t exercise as much.”  I have not forgotten this lesson in my life.

Finally, judgment day came. If I didn’t jump, I would get a big “F” on my report card.  With great fear, I looked over the side of the pool. I looked at Mr. DeSantis, who said: “Don’t worry, you can do it.” I don’t know how I did it, but I jumped in and my feet hit the bottom of the pool and I bounced back up and swam the length of the pool. That was the last time I have ever jumped into a pool.

Even today, I am not much for the water, but I can swim a few laps in the pool, and maybe swim enough to save myself.  I am thankful for Mr. DeSantis and his great patience with me.  He helped me to finally meet my great fear and win the battle.

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I talk about spiritual topics such as: “Candid Thoughts about Crowds”, and “Five Great Promises as I Travel this Life”. The address is: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.

Second Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School (1962-63)

My friends and I ready to go to Midland School in the Spring of 1963. Notice that we had no backpacks, because we had no homework!

My friends and I are ready to go to Midland School in the Spring of 1963. Notice that we had no backpacks, because we had no homework!

The buzz, buzz of the alarm bell went off. We quickly lined up to leave our classroom. This drill was not the typical fire drill. In a fire drill, we would leave the building as quickly as possible. This alarm bell’s urgent buzzing was different from the fire alarm. Also, instead of going outside, we went downstairs to the gym. Then, we were herded to the back of the stage, where we sat down on the floor with our legs crossed. The final step was to place our hands over our ears and bend down towards our legs.

There was one of these posted on the Midland School Building.

There was one of these posted on the Midland School Building.

The school repeated this drill several times in the fall of 1962.  As a second grader, I had no idea why we were doing these drills. Our teacher, Mrs. Schlabach didn’t explain; neither did my parents. Only a few years later would I learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The first day of our new school year, Mrs. Schlabach, stood in front of the class. It seemed like every year my teachers were getting older. Miss Robbins, my Kindergarten teacher was quite young.  Mrs. Thomas appeared middle-aged.  Mrs. Schlabach had gray hair and was short and a little plump. She looked like a grandmother instead of a teacher. However, looks were deceiving, because Mrs. Schlabach did a great job of teaching. She did care for each one of us like a grandmother, but she wouldn’t let us get away with anything unlike a grandmother.

On the first day, Mrs. Schlabach gave us a list of things that we would need for the class. She also asked us to bring money for some classroom expenses. I can’t remember all that was on the list except five cents for Kleenex. I remember this because Dad seemed quite unhappy that we had to pay for such a thing. I think it might have had something to do with taxes.

Second Grade was memorable because  I was able to leave my first grade friends: Dick, Jane and Sally. Mrs. Schlabach introduced me to some new friends called Thomas, Abraham and George. These new friends introduced me to history.

Mrs. Schlabach shared the story of Thomas Edison with us. He was raised in Michigan, which made him a very important historical figure for our class. The story of how he became hard of hearing is still in my memory bank.  Also, his persistence in his work as an inventor still inspires me to this day.  Mrs. Schlabach marked Thomas Edison’s birthday (February 11th) on our calendar. I still celebrate February 11th as Edison’s birthday.

Of course, the other two friends that taught me history were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know how we did it, but we made silhouettes in black pasted on white paper of these two presidents. I enjoyed the stories that Mrs. Schlabach shared of these two presidents. She was giving me a love for history that I still have today.

In early November, Mrs. Schlabach wrote on the blackboard, which was green. She wrote that George Romney had won the election as governor of Michigan. This was my introduction to government  I soon had a small understanding that we have a President of the United States, as well as a Governor of our State of Michigan.

I was beginning to see that the world was bigger than my family, my neighborhood and the Detroit Tigers. I had a desire to learn more about the world around me. My Weekly Reader helped me with this, but I also enjoyed watching George Pierrot after school. He would take me to far away places every afternoon when I wasn’t playing outside.

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One other memorable event in second grade was the big freeze. One day, the temperature went down to minus twelve degrees. This was cold! For some reason, Mom didn’t see that it was a problem for me to go to school; however most of the other mothers did. That day only five students were in attendance in our class.  It was a strange feeling to have so few students at school.

As I look back on Second Grade, there were a few special milestones. I had finally learned to tie my shoes. I also developed an interest in history.  I also realized that I was better in math than I was in reading. I am amazed that I spent nine months in second grade and yet I have only a few memories of those days. However, I am thankful for Mrs. Schlabach, who introduced me to so many new things, especially history.

I am sharing this post by Marsha Lynn Battle Philpot, aka Marsha Music. She does a great job of writing about my Latin teacher at Highland Park High School. How can I forget a teacher who invited me and a couple other students to her home for dinner! She was an excellent teacher who cared about her students. I am sure you will enjoy this essay by Marsha!

Marsha Music

Latin was one of my favorite studies in high school. It seems odd, in this day of sorely challenged school curriculae, but believe it or not, in those days – the 1960’s – Highland Park, Michigan had one of the best school systems in the whole country. This was before the disintegration of the city’s tax base with the decline of the automotive industry that was headquatered there -the city’s core of support.

In those days many of us took Latin, and many of us who took Latin truly loved the subject – due, in no small part, to our teacher – the dear, genteel Mrs. Banton. She looked a little like Rosa Parks, and though she was surely younger then than I am now, she seemed really old to us, even back then – for she joined none of the other teachers in their late-60’s’ efforts to be hip…

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First Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School (1961-62)

Midland School, a few years ago.  It is now torn down.

Midland School, a few years ago. It is now torn down. Try to imagine what it looked like new!

It was early September 1961, the summer was past. I would now begin a new stage of my life called elementary school. This five-year adventure would take place at the newly built Midland Elementary School.  The school looked very modern compared to Ford School where I had gone to kindergarten.  There would be no meandering hallways. There would be no buying milk in what seemed like a dungeon.

The school building had two floors. The upper floor contained all the classrooms except for the kindergarten classes which were on the ground level. The ground level contained the combination gymnasium, lunchroom and auditorium.  Also the ground level had the school offices and the teachers’ lounge. Everything in the building was fresh, clean and new. This is where I would get all the basics of a good education!

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Thomas.  I can see her appearance in my mind’s eye, but there was no outstanding thing about her that I can bring to mind.  First grade introduced me to some new friends called Dick, Jane, Sally and a dog named Spot.  They would visit our class every day via a filmstrip presentation and in our reading books. I soon learned Dick and Jane liked to look a lot as well as run.  Slowly, but surely Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot were helping me to learn to read.

Dick and Jane

One of the new things about first grade was our gym class that we would have once or twice a week. This was a time of embarrassment for me because I still hadn’t learned how to tie my shoes.  I would have to ask a friend or Mrs. Thomas to tie my gym shoes. You may think I was a bit slow, but the excuse my family gave me is that they couldn’t show me how because I was left-handed.

Being left-handed would be a problem all throughout my elementary school years.  Not only was I slow to learn how to tie my shoes (I did learn by 2nd grade). The other problem was learning how to write.  We first learned how to print with rather thick pencils. As I would write, I found that my hand followed the pencil instead of vice versa for a right-handed person.  This caused a large pencil mark on the bottom side of my hand.  I never figured out a solution to this problem.  As a result, my printing and penmanship are terrible even even now.

Another new learning experience of first grade was lunch.  Kindergarten was only a half day so lunch was unnecessary.  Children who lived close to Midland school would go home for lunch, but my house was a long walk from school.  For some reason, I refused to take a lunch pail. Mom would kindly fix my lunch and place it in a brown sack.  My lunch usually consisted of celery sticks, a peanut butter sandwich (with just butter, no jam), an apple or on bad days a banana, and then a dessert such as a cookie or a Twinkie.

We would all go down to the lunch room, which was in the gym. Tables were set up and we would begin eating our food, or trading our food with others.  There were also adults  to supervise us because I am sure that we needed all the supervising that we could get. I can still remember that one of our supervisors was Mrs. Street, who tried to keep us fairly quiet and make us eat our lunch.

After lunch, we would be able to go outside and play.  The playground had all the usual equipment, such as a slide, a teeter-totter, and swings.  There was an open area in the far corner where I enjoyed playing Pump Pump Pull Away with others. We also played King of the Hill on a cement slab, as well as Tag.

First Grade also was my first introduction to the space program.  One morning, we went to the library where there was a black and white television set up on a very high stand. The lights were turned off and we saw John Glenn blast off in his Mercury capsule.  Later that day, we were treated to seeing him splashdown. Many of us wanted to be astronauts as a result of the early Mercury flights.

Around Christmas, we would also be herded to the library to watch a couple of short movies for Christmas, one including the birth of Jesus Christ. I was also exposed to my first sighting of a silver aluminum Christmas tree outside of the teachers’ lounge. This was a curiosity to me because there was a wheel that would turn around in front of light which would show the aluminum tree in different colors. This just didn’t seem right to me.  Why couldn’t they just have a real Christmas tree?

This is what the tree looked like at Midland School.  By the way, if you are interested you can buy this tree on etsy.com for $450.00!

This is what the tree looked like at Midland School. By the way, if you are interested you can buy this tree on etsy.com for $450.00!

In first grade, I also learned a couple of new words; “room mother”.  A room mother would be called on to organize a special party or bring cookies on special occasions. One thing I could never understand is that the cookie of choice always seemed to be the Windmill cookie. My mom would become a room mother a couple of times during my stay at Midland.  I always thought that she was the prettiest room mother at Midland school.

Soon, June arrived.  First grade was over. My report card said that I had passed on to second grade.  There would be a whole summer of playing baseball, collecting baseball cards, and playing outside with my friends.  It would also mean attending some Detroit Tigers games. Summer would also mean going with my mom to Patton, Pennsylvania for a couple of weeks. This small town had all sorts of adventures for me.  However, September would soon return. Second grade, here I come.

My First Grade Photo

My First Grade Photo

P.S. Please visit my other blog at: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have several articles such as “God’s Waiting Room”, and “Moving Beyond Fear to Courage”.