The First Grade

When I reported to the first grade in that one-story redbrick building near downtown Richland, the elementary school teachers were the same ladies who had held those positions for an untold amount of years.  Over countless decades they proudly instructed generation after generation of resident families in reading, writing and arithmetic.   

The year was 1954, and in our hometown, formal education began when you reached the age of six; there was no pre-school or kindergarten, although later our system modernized and offered programs for four and five year old students. 

My first grade teacher was Miss Pauline Norman; she resided in an apartment located in the home of her nephew, Pat Cureton and family, that was located less than a block from the schoolhouse.  Miss Pauline never married and did not own an automobile.

My second grade teacher was Miss Maggie Dillard; she and her sister Miss Carrie, lived in a wooden duplex residence next door to the First Baptist Church, and a few blocks from the school.  Neither Miss Dillard nor her sister, a seamstress by trade, ever married and they did not own an automobile.

My third grade teacher was Miss Audley Elrod; she lived with her brother and sisters in the two-story family home at the corner of Nicholson and Walker Streets.  Miss Elrod lived three blocks from the school, never married and did not own an automobile.   

Our grammar school teachers took great pride in being a parent away from home; although they were allowed to paddle a student who misbehaved, it was a rare occurrence that they actually punished a child.  If a student forgot their homework or misbehaved during class; the teacher simply telephoned the parents and discussed the situation at length.

During those years there were only two grades for deportment; S for satisfactory and U for Unsatisfactory.  We heard stories that a child once received a U but we were never told their name or the circumstances surrounding the shameful behavior. 

Everything seemed to be agreeable until that unforgettable night that Miss Elrod telephoned our house.  Our parents had dinner guests and my instructions were to answer the telephone in a polite manner, and carefully write down any messages.  My heart nearly stopped when she properly identified herself, and requested that mother return her call.

When the guests departed, I handed the message to momma, and quickly retreated to my room.  When daddy left for work the next morning, I joined momma in the kitchen while she preparing our breakfast; thankful that she did not seem upset. 

When she began inquiring about events during the past school week, I blurted out; Iím sorry mamma; I am sorry that Miss Elrod called you last night.

She laughed and then finally admitted that the phone call was to remind her about baking cookies for the class the following week.   To this day I still cannot adequately describe that feeling of relief. 


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