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THROUGH THE WOODS: Summer is here!

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THAT OLD FEELING that summer is here and the school year is ending never fades. We couldn’t wait until we were home on our farm to enjoy all those sunny days with no homework and no tests even if we would have lots of farm chores to do. My first memory of school was at age 4, coming through Philmont in June 1950. I sat between my grandparents in their 1930s dark green pickup truck and saw grade school children walking along a street waving rolled white paper tied with ribbon and looking so happy! I asked my grandmother what they were doing, and she answered. My first words on the subject were, “I can’t wait to go to school.” She smiled and my grandfather laughed.

Gram flunked out of High School in Great Barrington, MA, and my Gramp went to a one-room schoolhouse through 3rd grade. We lived on our family farms in the Town of Austerlitz in an isolated community with only a few distant neighbors’ children and school sounded fun to me.

My parents decided to wait until the new Ockawamick Central School in Claverack was built to send me straight to first grade, no kindergarten. My father was on the first OCS school board and often took me along when he visited the construction site. I remember going into the huge foundation holes and picking up electrical box metal knockouts to use as play coins. We were poor and had fun making up our own games and toys.

For my first day of school in 1952, my grandmother gave me a white handkerchief with embroidered rosebuds for my pocket. I was nervous getting on the school bus but enjoyed the half-hour ride and seeing other kids. People helped us to our classrooms. I met and liked my teacher, Mrs. Breeds, and was assigned my desk. Unfortunately, I lost my handkerchief and felt so bad telling my grandmother, who was very understanding.

“Dick and Jane” readers seemed kind of dumb, and I had the worst time remembering to spell the word orange. At the end of that year and in subsequent years, I was always terrified that I had failed and I wouldn’t get that rolled-up diploma with the ribbon. I usually got good grades and don’t know why I had so much apprehension. Maybe I picked it up from classmates who were worried. On the last day of school, we sat at our desks and looked at the pile of neatly tied scrolls on the teacher’s desk as we were called up one by one to receive our diplomas. I always unrolled mine to be sure I really did make it. There were lots of smiles and I don’t know what happened to those held back. For the most part, I really did like school and missed my friends over the summer vacations.

Have a happy summer everyone, teachers included. Congratulations and best wishes to all the graduates! May you always have good memories of these days.

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