NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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I happened to come across some old pictures the other day that reminded me of the good old days attending Hammer School. One of the pictures was of all the classes and was dated 1955; the other was of just my class, but dated. Looking at those pictures brought back fond memories of my early school days. Those were simple times when a kid didn’t have any worries outside of school, and back then my only other concern was what I was going to do after the last bell rang.

We started each day by standing, facing the flag with hand over heart, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which never offended anyone back then, but only taught us to respect our country. I have mentioned in past columns about the seating order which went from youngest by the inside wall to oldest by the window. There were only two rooms in the school with the library and restrooms on the north end. Other than books, the library was also where they kept the construction paper, glue, scissors, writing paper and paper cutter. The basement was used as a lunch room where I ate many an egg salad or peanut butter sandwich. That part of the school was also used for recess whenever the weather was bad.

Our school still had some of the older desks with ink wells in them. Ink wells were where you would put a bottle of ink and you would then take a fountain pen and draw the ink out, filling the pen for writing on paper. We all had to have a “Big Chief,” which was a heavy, coarse paper in which you could almost see the grain. It had two sets of lines, one for capitals and the dashed line for lower case. This also worked well for learning to write in cursive. I can’t believe they don’t want to teach that anymore.

Recess, like lunch, was usually a time when we went outside and were allowed to play without structure. When kids are left to find their own fun they can actually become quite creative. One of the games we played we called “chicken,” and in it one kid rode on another’s back and would challenge two other kids with the object being to knock the opponent off the other kid’s back. This was fun and seemingly harmless until someone (me) broke their arm. From that time on we were forbidden to do this type of “fun.”

Not to be deterred by this setback, we moved on and created another fun thing to do at recess. We were not even 10 years removed from WWII, so playing army was a popular game. We used sticks for guns and took turns being the enemy, but of course the older kids were usually always the good guys even if the younger kids felt they should really have been the bad guys. The thing that brought us all together wasn’t necessarily the game itself, but the digging of fox holes. Now, we didn’t just pretend to dig fox holes. We actually dug some pretty elaborate holes and to keep them from being noticed we dug them at the far end of the playground and spread the dirt out. We even found some old plywood to cover them up with so they wouldn’t be found. This went on for a couple of weeks until someone ratted us out or the custodian found them when he was mowing. Either way we were made to stay after school and fill our creation with dirt and were told, in no uncertain terms, that it was not to happen again.

Yes, school was fun and most of the time uneventful, but once in a while our creative genius would kick in and we would try to push the envelope. One of my favorite things to do on an indoor recess was to play with modeling clay. I could take that clay and make anything from army men to football players or even stock cars. The best part was when you were finished you could roll everything into a ball for the next time. I carried my modeling clay habit home and found that, although I didn’t have much money for toys, I could buy a box of modeling clay at the Ben Franklin store for a quarter and make almost any toy I wanted. Even though I had long outgrown the modeling clay thing, my mother would always make sure I got a new box every year for Christmas.

When I was overseas in the service I received a package from home at Christmas time. It was from Mom and Dad, and when I opened it up I found some clothes and, there in the bottom of the package, was a box of modeling clay. Even though I was halfway around the world, that box of clay sure made it feel just a little more like Christmas. I guess that’s just what moms do.

Once the school day was over, I would walk home and sometimes Larry Hubbell, who was a little older than me, would ask if I wanted to stop in for a while and watch “Crusader Rabbit” on TV. I always looked forward to that because we didn’t have TV at our house. We still hadn’t evolved from the entertainment-by-radio era.

Until next time, there is still time to enjoy the outdoor rinks, sledding and fishing on our area lakes, but always be careful when you do decide to venture out because no ice is ever 100 percent safe.

Please, remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, in not only during the holiday season, but for the rest of the year. They are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

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