Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2nd Grade 1959

Sorry it's been so long. Normally I wouldn't comment but I've been busy with personal issues. Let's move right into my second year of grade school. It was the last uneventful year. I had friends. I played. I walked to school. I was still largely a child. The failures and successes of growing up were yet to come. I went to church each Sunday. My friends and I were excused from school for a few hours to attend Mass on Holy Days. All Saints for instance. This was the first year I went trick or treating. My brother and I dressed in costumes and in the company of our parents went door to door seeking candy.
In Wenonah a great deal was made of who was behind the mask. Everyone knew everyone else so everyone offered opinions as to your identity. We collected a bag of candy and devoured it in our room.
Our room. My room and Mick's room.
Two small beds. Red, wooden beds. Small.
Three windows, no, maybe two.
One on the side yard, one on the rear.
Mick and I fought fiercely. Mick was now in First Grade and our lifelong rivalry was now entering it's richest phase. My brother Mick could enrage me with the most foolish acts. He'd sit at the table in the morning and look at me and say yah, yah, yah over and over till I could kill him. My mother said, "Ignore him, he's looking for attention" and attention he got. We'd spill into roiling fights across the linoleum floor. We'd fight over anything. I detested him.
Now he's a beloved brother who saved my life. Then he was a monster from hell. A fat, squat monster, that belched evil curses that demanded recourse.
Plus, everyone liked him. My friends. His friends. My parents. Other parents. He was likeable, amiable, and cute. Evil, little spawn of hell, I hated him.
My brother Ted at this time was just becoming more than a pawn in our games. He was truly mobile and alive. Five years younger than me he was found one afternoon perched on the kitchen table with a stick of butter wedged in his mouth. A boy of prodigious appetite and imagination he dreamed of tools and trucks. As he grew older he loved Tonka trucks but even at this age or perhaps just beyond his favorite toy as a hand propelled, professional grade, Sears push lawn mower. Not motorized. The older variety. A deeply deranged young boy with his own mark on the world.
Together the three of us over the next two years would bumble through the world.
I'll post a photo of Miss Quigley's second grade class tomorrow as well as the photo of Mrs Kaufman's class with names and identities for all the world to see.
You might ask where are the public events in Wenonah? For a second grader during the school year there were none. There were lighted displays in the park for the Christmas Holidays but beyond that we had no role in the life of the town. Happily. We were content to play our games, roam our blocks, fight our foolish battles and dream of the day we could enter Cub Scouts or play Minor League baseball.
It was in 2nd Grade thought that Mario Contarino joined us. His family emigrated from Italy and Mario spoke barely a word in English. But by the end of the year he was as fluent as any of us. What a tiny world. What a small place.

1 comment:

BLT said...


Your articles about growing up in Wenonah are great.

There is one public event in Wenonah that involves and impresses children and adults from toddlers on up - the 4th of July parade and festivities. Many former Wenonah residents return for the 4th every year even if their family no longer has a house in town.

Last sleepers are alerted to the parade by blasts of the fire sirens. People would walk to Mantua Ave - the main street carrying lawn chairs for the adults. Even by parade time which was about 8:30 AM or so it would be pretty hot as the sun climbs blazing into the sky and reflects brightly off of the light yellow concrete of the street. I can hardly ever remember having a cloudy or rainy 4th of July.

Mantua Avenue is a very wide main street and the shade trees planted on either side don't shade it well they like do all the other streets. I have heard that it was built extra wide so that Wenonah Military Academy cadets could parade on it.

Adults would arrange their chairs in the shade and kids would find a seat on the curb and wait for the parade to approach.

Then you hear the fire engines and drums of the high school bands. Cub scouts and brownies march in their uniforms. Kids ride bikes with red, white and blue crepe woven in the spokes of the wheels. Some kids might even be on tricycles. Even smaller ones might be pulled in decorated wagons by older siblings or parents. Politicians and beauty contest winners would ride in the back of open convertibles and wave to many individuals that they knew personally on the side of the street. The Bonsal Blues Military Band would march.

Before baseball cards were high value collectibles they would be used to clack against the spokes too. Some of the fire trucks and/or floats would toss gum or candy and the kids would scramble for it.

Mantua Avenue is so wide that the parade would turn at the end of it and go back to the start on the other side so that you got to see everything twice.

After the parade for one day in the year you could get a beer in the normally dry town - at the firehouse - if you bought a $10 fund raiser mug. They limit you to 2 or three refills.

Sometime during the day there is or used to be a married men vs single men softball game (or was it hardball?).

There is a lull in the afternoon as people go home to barbecues. Things pick up again just about dark. Events in the park attract people.

The Original Pitman Hobo Band would march and play in the parade and return for a concert in the park in the evening after speeches by the mayor and the Lions or Rotary Club members. Kids would run around with sparklers and other would have firecrackers. Kids who had gone off to college would roam around and see who they could find that they hadn't seen since Easter or Christmas or even graduation.