Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Believe it or not, the above picture was taken in 1998!
I'll have to tell the story later. It's time for music practice.
Oops. Sorry. I thought I'd be back in an hour or so.
This is Front Street in Naylor, looking vacant and a bit worse for the wear more than 30 years after the story.

It was not the opera

The windows in our little schoolhouse were opened wide and the Spring breeze blew in along with the wasps and flies. The teacher kept a flyswatter on the windowsill in the back of the room and one on his desk. The one in the back was for our use if one of the pests bothered us over much. I was in eighth grade, thirteen years old, and about to graduate from elementary school. Graduation was recognized by an eighth-grade diploma given by the County Superintendent of Schools, if one had passed the county test. I had. In fact, I had scored among the highest in the county and was feeling proud of myself. I knew that my Grandmother could have taught school (first through fourth grades) with an Eighth-Grade Diploma and thought about it. I never knew why she didn't. My Mom had wanted to teach, too. But by the time she graduated from eighth grade, the requirement was a High School Diploma. I was feeling fairly accomplished that day.

Our Eighth grade class consisted of five girls. Carol and I were both motherless. Hers had died when she was in 4th grade, mine earlier that year. Sandy lived with her mother and brother. She said her father died of cancer; the scuttlebutt was that her father had never lived with them. They were recent additions to our rural neighborhood. No one knew much about their past. Only Ruthie and Ellen Kay came from two-parent homes. Did I mention that this was 1961?

Ruthie and Carol were inseparable best friends. Ellen Kay, Sandy and I were a forever melding twosome with one left out. More often than not, I was the left out one. Most of the time it didn't bother me. I had dreams to dream and books to read.

Our little school boasted a row of shelves on one side of the room . By the 6th grade, I had read every book on the shelves and decided that I would just start at the bottom row and go up re-reading every single one in the next two years. By now I had read James Powell's Lost Horizon, (At least 3 times). Delved into Dickens Great Expectations, (the ending greatly disappointed me, but I resolutely read it again) and David Copperfield. I had learned to loved everything that Louisa May Alcott wrote. Our little library sported Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, Eight Cousins (one of my favorites), Rose in Bloom, Under the Lilacs and An Old-Fashioned Girl. Today was the day to re-read An Old-Fashioned Girl. I didn't care for the part where Polly falls in love with Tom, but I loved when she dressed up in borrowed finery and went to the opera. Today I'd dream of Opera visits because tomorrow night we were going to Naylor.

Now that my Mom had died, my Dad had taken to spending Saturday night out. But tonight we were all going to Naylor, the only place around that sported a family-style nightlife. Saturday night in Naylor. It had a ring to it. But I knew that in order to go, I'd have to have the laundry done, the house cleaned, lunch and dinner cooked and served, and clothes ready for Sunday morning church. That would make a busy day for Saturday, but I knew that I could do it.

I was so excited, I could hardly sit in the cab of the truck. Other than warning me not to let my sister out of my sight, Dad gave few instructions. He handed me three dollars--untold wealth for two kids in those days--so we could have an ice cream soda or a malt at the drugstore. We were to be back at the truck by nine-thirty.

It was our first such adventure. With my sister firmly in tow, we set out to explore the wonders of Naylor on Saturday night.

The street was already busy at 7:00. The main street in town had businesses on one side, parking spaces and a park on the other. Old men whittled sitting on benches in front of the grocery store. Young Moms congregated outside the store discussing the latest on-dits before purchasing supplies for the week. A few doors down the general store was full of customers, mostly men, inspecting the latest in gardening tools for spring. On a vacant lot, a flat-bed truck sported a microphone and loud speakers. The MC (if one can call him that) made frequent announcements asking for volunteers to sing, while several musicians warmed up their instruments. I remember a guitar, a trumpet, a saxophone and the prerequisite bass fiddle. This was fancy stuff; the guitar was electric. My sister and I watched the excitement for awhile. We didn't seriously consider singing. Our music was limited to church, and we believed it ought to stay that way.

By the time we made our way to the drugstore, the boardwalk was jammed with people, many spilling out into the edge of the street. Little boys shrieking with excitement pushed past us as they chased one another into the alleyways between buildings. Toddlers were loosely accompanied by older siblings, all younger than my sister and I. Parents didn't bother to keep track of their children. They probably had instructions much like ours to meet someplace at a specific time. This was nearly as good as the Opera.

Tentatively, I led my sister into the strange wonders of the drugstore. We ordered ice cream sodas and sat at a little round table on fancy little chairs sipping our drinks.
I wondered if Polly had ever been to someplace as exciting as Naylor. It was my first visit to an eating establishment without adult accompaniment, and I felt very grown up.

All too soon, nine-thirty arrived. With ten minutes to spare we made our way down the street, past the singers in full voice now. I noted briefly that we could sing much better. (Think Karaoke open-air with a rustic band replacing the track.) But it didn't dull the thrill I felt at a real night on the town, although I did realize it wasn't the Opera.

This schoolhouse is not the one room school I went to, but it has the potbelly stove in the middle. The one on the right has the kids that look about the right quantity and era, but our building was more like the other, only wider. I looked everywhere for a picture of the real school. This was the best I could do. Samauri talked about his early school experience and reminded me of my elementary school.


marina said...

can't wait to hear the story! marina

ann said...

Me too! I'm looking forward to hearing the story too!

the teach said...

Great pictures! I'm going to wait for the story too! :)

truth said...

You can't leave us hanging like that.

PJ said...

Sorry about the false start. Truthfully....I accidentally posted the pictures instead of saving them, so then I just added the "Be back later" part. And as is typical in my life, later was MUCH later!!

MyKidsMom said...

I love this post and the pictures. You reminded me of Mrs.Darling (a real-life friend of mine) as I've heard her tell countless tales from her youth. These sort of stories have a bit of magic to those of us who grew up more "modern".

Linda said...

I love stories like this. I could read and read and read them. And you could make a novel, or at least the beginnings of one, out of this narrative. I'm pretty wowed by you.

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