Third Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School


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.

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 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 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:  I have several articles such as “God’s Waiting Room”, and “Moving Beyond Fear to Courage”.