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!

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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”.