Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Miss Moats

In early September of 1957 I was introduced to Betty Jean Moats.  I had reached that marvelous apex of five years of age and I cannot describe the joy I felt now that I was able to go to school.  So Mom marched me up the street to the big ol' redbrick building that housed Samuel Woodfill School.  

On the distal right rear corner of this edifice there was a brown metal door which was the entrance to the kindergarten where Miss Betty Jean Moats was in command  I joined the throng of about 40 or so students who were already there in their places with bright shiny faces.  In those days I suffered from terminal tardiness, so my first day was no different  I was also an alleged daydreamer.

Miss Moats or Moatsie as some of the Moms called her was in her early thirties although she looked really old to a lad of five.  She was of average height and weight, but what distinguished her in the eyes of us kids was her hair.

Those were the days of the greasers who wore black leather jackets, tight jeans and boots. Their desired coif was what was called a Pompadour with a DA.  DA being the abbreviation for ducks ass.  

This condition is achieved by slathering Brylcream or Wildroot on ones hair and combing the top hair toward the back of ones head, then combing the sides in an upward fashion.  By doing this, the effect achieved on the back of the head is that the center hair is plastered down the head, while the sides overlap the downward slope.  The result resembled the rear end of a duck.

Miss Moats wore her hair in this manner and probably used Brylcreme or Wildroot.  For all I know she may have got her hair cut at Smitty's, who was the town barber.

Aside from the unusual hair-do, Miss Moats choice of transportation was also odd.  Perhaps it had something to do with lack of funds or perhaps it was just her choice?

She did not own an automobile. Instead she arrived to school each morning on a Cushman motor scooter.  

To a five year old, this was fascinating.  We all wanted a motor scooter like hers or at least a jitney, which is the name we gave homemade vehicles made from wooden planks, wooden orange crates and roller skate wheels.  However the motor scooter was preferable.

Miss Moats never wore a dress.  In fact years later when I saw her around town it was never in a dress.  She wore pants and a blouse.  It is sort of a misnomer to call it a blouse for it was more of a shirt.

Strapped around her neck was her ever-present whistle on a homemade lanyard.  The whistle signaled it was time for recess to end or more often, "you boys are misbehavin', cut it out!"

Kindergarten lasted from 8:30 in the morning until 12:30 in the afternoon.  Around 11:30 we were escorted to the cafeteria for a delicious mid-day snack of a half pint of milk and the black cookie.  Black cookies are those cheap round things with patterned edges used to make ice cream sandwiches.  We each got one sans the ice cream to go with the milk.  It cost Mom a quarter every week.

After this we were lead through the frightening furnace boiler room to a metal door that had a small window, which had wire mesh inside, This led us to the kindergarten class. 

We all knew that metal door was a blast door that would save us when the boiler blew up. Thankfully we survived Kindergarten with no casualties.

Miss Moats taught us valuable skills such as finger-painting, counting up to ten, and how to paste papers together, wherein we also learned about the delicious taste of white paste.  We also learned history when she read us about Chicken Little and Bre'r Rabbit.

And I received my first music education from her.  

She accompanied herself on a big old green out-of-tune  upright piano as we sang The Farmer In the Dell, The Animal Fair, The Itsy, Bittsy Spider and a rather questionable popular song of the day known as This Old Man.

"This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb."  

Any adult caught playing knick-knack on a child's thumb today would get at least 25 years in prison and would deserve it.

As I have said school only lasted until 12:30 in the afternoon. The afternoon class arrived at one, so Miss Moats had a half-hour break.  

Some of the mothers of the afternoon students arrived to find Miss Moats holding hands with Miss Corman; my third grade teacher.  I'll let you draw your own conclusions.  I recall a time a few years ago, when this sort of behavior was grounds for dismissal, but in 1957 it didn't seem to bother any of the moms and we kids were oblivious of it.

A few antics stand out in my mind from my time in Moatsie's kindergarten. 

Miss Moats taught me the proper way to pee.

Yep!  The first time I went to stand in front of the urinal I was flanked left and right by other boys. 

I dropped my trousers and underwear to the ground so my bare ass stood out. Of course the boys laughed at me.  

Miss Moats, who was in the boys room watching us, taught me what that slit in your underwear was for and why mens pants zipped in the front.  I shall ever be grateful.

I became aware that girls are much different than boys, especially when one girl named Jane latched onto me and began kissing my arm.  

It was very pleasant as I recall.  She was a cute little blond.  We never progressed beyond arm kissing.

I saw my very first guinea pig in Miss Moats class.  It was fascinating to touch that little rodent.

Once I was punished for being too loud during quiet time and was sent off to lay my head on the table with two other youngsters.  I sat on one side of the table and the boy and the girl sat on the other side.  

We were whispering about the extent of our punishment when
the boy looked over at the girl and said, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."  I bet they would have got in a lot more trouble if Miss Moats would have seen that.  

I made friends in her class and still keep in touch with some of them.

Woodfill School was home to large and dangerous play equipment which consisted of a ten foot tall metal slide, monkey bars made out of steel bars and a see-saw.  

One of my friends had hurt her thighs when her see-saw mate jumped off while she was at the top thus allowing her to pummel to the ground.  The bottom of the metal seat cut her and she was sent to the hospital for stitches.  The see-saw remained. Litigation had not evolved into what it is today.

The monkey bars were great and we little monkeys scampered all over them, usually hanging upside down. Although occasionally someone banged their head on a bar.

What really bothered me was the slide.  This was not because it was tall and not because one had to climb up a steep ladder to reach the top.   

What annoyed me was the top of the slide where you positioned yourself  had become worn away through years of use and now the aluminum had a brown butt-shaped mark.  I was convinced this was caused by the girls.  

The girls all wore dresses and their sweaty bottoms had somehow left marks. We boys wore trousers or jeans which prevented any bare bottom parts coming in contact with the slide. 

I especially blame Sharon (?) who was the guiltiest of all of the girls.  

Sharon often came to school wearing a dress but forgetting to put on her underwear.  In my five year old mind I surmised the guilt was upon Sharon.  It probably was.
Which blocks match?

Recently I was browsing the internet to see what sort of employment opportunities were available.  As I looked at the requirements, I stumbled upon an aptitude test this local corporation uses.  Part of this test consisted of four shapes and the object was to determine which shape did not match the other three.  I aced it.  

Miss Moats gave that same test in 1957.

Miss Moats was a very unique person.  God bless her. I guess the most valuable lesson she left me with was that being different is OK. 

As she became older, the school hired a helper for her.  

Sadly Miss Corman had passed away.  

Moatsie and her helper became life long friends and were seen out often at restaurants eating and probably holding hands under the table.

1 comment:

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