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Grade school memories

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Gayle Wiley, a former Shelbyville Middle School teacher and current member of the school board, shares one of her childhood picturesfrom attending Pearson Elementary School.
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Dear readers,

When I told my wife Sandy that I would be writing my special “back to school” column this week, she said, “I’m sure that all of your readers are waiting with great anticipation to relive your first day in school.”

“Every year they get to share that 1960s moment when you were issued your first crayon.”

“They will once again be amazed at how you discovered one side of the crayon was flat so it wouldn’t roll off of your desk.”

“It’s a story that never gets old.”

It wasn’t so much what she said, as how she said it. I noted a hint of sarcasm. So instead of my school memories, I sharpened my No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil and did some real reporting. Here are grade school memories from some other local old-timers. Enjoy.

Lifelong resident, former teacher, and current school board member Gayle Wiley began her education at Pearson Elementary. One of Gayle’s favorite memories occurred in Norma Mount’s classroom. Mid-morning the students were always treated to a milk break. The case of milk cartons was already placed in front of the class. Mrs. Mount had finished reading the story “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Several of the children were chosen to act out the parts of the story. One of the boys, no doubt a method actor, had a hard time getting out of character. Mrs. Mount had to move like a toreador to avoid the goat. Unfortunately, she ended up seated in the case of milk cartons.

Local business tycoon Ted Wells got his start at Addison Township elementary school. It was sometime after the invention of rock ‘n roll but prior to the Beatles. Ted’s first love was music. Art Edington taught Ted how to play the tonette. However, after noticing that none of the rock ‘n roll bands of the era had tonette players, he switched his major to business. The building custodian, Jim Jenkins, gave Ted his first job – eraser cleaner. Every successful business owner starts somewhere and for Ted it was in the basement of Addison Township School. Years later Ted would become famous in Shelbyville as a sponsor of a little league baseball team.

Renae Skinner was a first grader at Hendricks Elementary sometime after the launch of Sputnik but before John Glenn successfully orbited earth. Like most old-timers she had to walk to and from school each day in all kinds of weather. Some old-timers have been known to claim it was uphill both ways. We all know that can’t be true, but Renae did have to walk up hill twice a day. All of the children in those days walked home for lunch. So, it was two trips back and forth to school every day. Renae has fond memories of the old Hendricks school located at Five Points.

Local lawyer Curt Johnson and local baker Evelyn England both were students at Little Marion. Curt’s favorite memory was playing a game called Heads Down, Thumbs Up. Evelyn’s teacher was Mrs. Clink. She’s not sure but she thinks Mrs. Clink’s husband was Colonel Clink. Her favorite memory was having jello at lunch. It was lime jello with carrots suspended in it. She liked it so much that she enjoys making it for special occasions.

Mayor Tom DeBaun is still “cardinal proud” from his days at Flat Rock Elementary. Tom was a legacy in Dorothy Hill’s class. She had taught Tom’s father a generation earlier. Tom’s not sure what happened in that generation, but he is quite sure that being a legacy didn’t come with any advantages.

I enjoyed doing some real reporting this week. Listening to the grade school memories of some of my contemporaries was interesting. However, I was a bit disappointed that none of them mentioned the big fat crayons with the flat side.