Thursday, August 09, 2007

Maps of Flour Salt & Water

This was the year teachers began to make us do more than make gifts for our parents. We were asked first to make maps that showed geographical forms and places using a paste made of flour, salt, and water. You would first draw a map on a piece of card board.
Usually the cardboard was the cleaners cardboard from your fathers dress shirts for work. My dad got his from G. Wayne Post. It was the only men's store/dry cleaner in Wenonah. G. Wayne was a good guy. A little droll, sharp dresser, and as I recall, a pencil mustache. He would deliver the shirts of the men of Wenonah each week and their wives would stack them neatly in their shirt drawer.
Then when you had a project of some kind there was cardboard without end. Okay, so you draw a map...say, the state of New Jersey, then you identify the important rivers and mountain ranges. The Delaware, the Kittatiny's, the swamps of the the Delaware Bay. Then the important metropolitan centers. Of which you know nothing. Elizabeth, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton, Atlantic City, Camden. Then you mix the paste. Here's a link for the recipe for the paste:
You spread it evenly over the area of the map. Where there are highlands or mountains you apply more, wetlands and lowlands and shore lines, less. For mountain areas you use your fingers to lift up mountains. You take a number two lead pencil, say, a Ticonderoga, or a Dixon, made in Jersey City, NJ, and trace the rivers. Then you let it dry. It only takes a few hours. Then using water colors you paint the areas green, or blue, or brown, depending on their geographical make-up. Brown...mountains, green...forests, blue...bodies of water. Then you write with unerring hand the names of these places.
Then you carefully pack your finished project in a paper bag, or box, and carry it to school for judgement.
If you are artistic, or have an engineering bent, or can color within the lines, then all is well.
If you are, say, like me, then you are fucked.
You spend hours screaming at your inability to create a beautiful object filled with information. The paste is too watery, it cracks, your colors run, your outlines are blurred, you are in short a miserable, abject failure. Doomed to a "B" in Citizenship.
Doomed to watch others succeed. Doomed to fail again, and again, and again. The only way you escape this terrible mess is to grow up.
No one does this shit after 6th Grade. Thank God, Praise Jesus!
For me in 4th Grade it was a map of my failures I made over and over and over and over.
With rivers and creeks and mountains and miserable printing and poor choices of color.

1 comment:

Jim Maddox said...

We made the same thing in 4th Grade in Woodbury Heights too. We made geographic features, like an isthmus or a peninsula. I had to do a mountain that was next to a cove. It seemed to me that the paste we used was kind of like soap, at least that's what it looked like. My paint job wasn't too impressive either.