Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sharing Memories: (Week 20) Westwego Elementary School

Some things change very little over time. Westwego Elementary School still looks the same as I remember it, back in the 1960's. It was built in 1940 and still serves the same function... I find that incredible. This building is nearly 70 years old! I attended this school from first through third grades.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Marquis. I remember her being a stocky older woman with short gray hair. She had a double chin that drooped with loose skin. Ugh.. like mine will be in just a few short years. She wore red lipstick and black eyeglasses. She was stern yet kind- she would not have allowed students to act unruly in her classroom. Of course, back then teachers were shown more respect, from both students and their parents. I remember those first grade readers... "Run, Jane, run!" "See Spot go!".

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Songy. She was a tall thin lady, probably in her 40's back then. She was very plain and also strict.  Her classroom was so quiet one could hear a pin drop.  If one of the students got out of line, Mrs. Songy was quick to get her paddle out.   She was serious about the rules in her class room, but she earned everyone's respect. 

During third grade, I had a wonderful teacher... Mrs. Marrero. She was a lively younger woman, probably in her 20's. She was also very attractive, with her blonde pixie cut hair and blue eyes. The little boys often fell for her. She was enthusiastic about teaching and went the extra mile to ensure that we understood the lessons. Mrs. Marrero encouraged summer reading programs, penmanship programs and volunteered to stay after school to assist students as needed. While in third grade, I was the Spelling Bee Queen. I looked forward to our spelling bees because Mrs. Marrero always had a neat little "prize" for the winner and runner-ups. I breezed through them, beating out the other nerdy kids every time.

Behind the school there was a huge shady playground. During our breaks, the girls would usually play hop-scotch or jumprope, weather permitting. Sometimes we would split into teams and have a hop-scotch contest. Our little hop-scotch maze was drawn out onto dirt with limbs from the nearby trees. I wonder if modern kids even know what hop-scotch is. The ropes we used for jump rope were those heavy straw-colored ones... what a good way to build arm strength! We had certain little tunes we would sing along to as we jumped. I don't remember them now. Then there were the little hand games we played. As we clapped our hands together up and down, in and out, we sang more little tunes, and the one who missed a clap lost the game. There was a "chinese jump rope" game we played as well. We used a big stretchy colored rubberband that was pulled taut between two of us while the player held the band around her ankles and performed various jumps with it. We had to follow a certain pattern and when we missed a jump we were counted out. The person who accomplished the most jumps correctly in the pattern won.

In the spring, we would have "free" days when we would gather on the playground and have lunch on the grounds. We were each responsible for bringing a boxed lunch and the teacher would number the boxes. We would draw a number and find the box that matched it. We would then sit in groups on checkered blankets and have lunch with our teachers. There were times I wished I was able to keep my own lunch though. 

Of course, we had our little crushes then. Boys would pick on the girls, and the girls would whisper to each other about the boys. Love notes were exchanged... "I love you, do you love me? Check yes or no".  I had my share of crushes... but most of the time I was too shy to let the boy know it.

One of the things I remember best about those days is the sense of respect. Children respected adults. We were expected to behave in school, or else! Teachers did not have to deal with smart-mouthed kids who made the classroom their personal two-ring circus. If someone stepped out of line, they were either paddled by the teacher or sent to the principal's office... to be paddled. Then, when they arrived home their parents usually paddled them more, or punished them. We were taught more responsibility toward our fellow students and school property. It is far different in some schools of today.

During the mid-60's, the schools remained segregated. I don't recall seeing children of any race other than white while attending Westwego Elementary. Soon that would all change.

Example of a chinese jump rope
Typical hop scotch drawing

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