Friday, February 04, 2011

Sixth Grade with Miss Bohn

My sixth grade year found me back in Ginny Bohn's classroom.  Let me describe it to you.  This was an large old school that was new in 1922.  The classrooms for the first through the third grade were all in a new wing. They were bright and shiny with linoleum floors and bright ceiling lights.

We had windows where we could see the outside world and cement block walls that were painted yellow.  The teacher had a large desk in the front of the class and the students had small desks that increased in size as we got older. Behind the teacher on the wall was a long green chalk board.

Miss Bohns class was
on this side of the building
Miss Bohn's class was in the old building. The old wooden floors that were showing their age. A wooden door with a window lead to the entrance of the room and to a short hallway that was about 7 feet in length.  On the right side was the cloak room with coat hooks along the walls.


The classroom was a very large area that was surrounded with windows on two sides.  Through the outer portion of the windows there were protective black metal screens.

I imagine they were placed their to keep balls and stones from breaking the windows, as well as keep intruders out of the school.  But back then I thought perhaps they were there to keep us kids from escaping.

The windows are
updated but that is
Woodfill School
At the front of the class was a very long black chalk board.  The fifth grade students sat in one end of the room facing the chalk board.  The sixth grade sat in the other end and were divided into two groups of about eight kids.  Eight or nine kids sat on one side of the room and eight or nine more sat on the other side facing each other. Our desks were perpendicular to the fifth grade.

 Miss Bohn's desk was on the far side of the room opposite the classroom door and hall.  Behind her was an American flag.  Each room had an American flag and a Kentucky state flag.  Each morning we began the day by reciting the pledge of allegiance and reading a scripture.  Generally it was one of the more popular psalms.

This may seem strange in this day where faith and worship have been strained out of school like juice through a colander

Note how I call my teacher Miss. There were only two titles for women in the 1950's and sixties; Miss was for non-married women and Mrs. was for married women.  "Ms" didn't come along until years later.  Faith and prayer were welcome in public schools back in these days. In fact on Thursday afternoons we were allowed to walk to the church that was behind the school to have an hour of Bible study.

But there were some downsides to growing up in Leave It To Beaver-Land.


For one thing there was a terrible disease that some knew as infantile paralysis or Polio.  Several kids that I went to school with had it.  They were fine one day and woke up the next to find they couldn't walk or use their arm.

The worst was the kids that became paralyzed in their diaphragm and could not breath.  Many children spent years in what was known as an iron lung.
A vaccine was finally developed to fight polio by a local doctor named Albert Sabin.  Then later Dr. Salk from Cincinnati Children's Hospital developed an oral vaccine.  I recall my family going to the neighboring St. Thomas School several times to swallow a sugar cube that was laced with the vaccine.  It was great since some of the kids that hobbled around on crutches were now able to walk again.

Another downside was the scarcity of air-conditioning. We did not have it at school during September or May when the temperature was sweltering.  But we didn't really notice it. Most of us didn't have it at home.

There were some restaurants and movie theaters were air-conditioned. Which was prominently displayed on their marque.

We survived the heat at our house with a big fan that Dad had installed in the attic and he also kept buying what he called hassock fans.

This was a round unit that sat on the floor and looked like something to set your feet on while sitting in a chair.

They worked great until someone in my family gave into temptation and stuck their fingers into the metal fan blades, or decided the flimsy plastic top would be a good place to sit.

Upon coming back to school in September of this year I noticed there was something very different about the girls.

Their bodies no longer looked like sausages with skinny legs, arms and a head with long hair.  We boys found their shapes were now...uh...very intriguing.

We guys didn't know exactly what to think about this transformation.

The girls quit playing kick ball and tag with us and started whispering to each other, which made the boys all that more inquisitive.

One time I came back from recess to find a note on my desk that said Cindy loved me.  I must have turned twelve shades of red and hid the note in my pocket before anyone else saw it.


By the way, Cindy was this really tall, dark haired, pretty girl that I had known since kindergarten. She had an incredibly soft high pitched voice. I always thought she sounded like a cartoon character.  Later in life I became great friends with her parents as we went to the same church.

One of the sadder days occurred when my friend Wayne came to class and was bawling his eyes out.  Miss Bohn attempted to calm him down, but there was nothing she could do.  Finally he blurted out that his grandfather had committed suicide with a gun to his head.  I think she took him to the principals office and someone drove Wayne to his home. I cannot imagine the trauma this poor kid experienced.

In the fifth and sixth grade some of us had started taking instrumental music class. We all went to Willis Music and rented instruments with an option to buy them.  I chose the clarinet.


Mr. Kaiser was the teacher. He was a middle aged bald fellow that taught us just enough about the instrument to be dangerous and loud.  If we wanted any more instruction we would have to seek it out ourselves.

We had graduated in vocal music as well to learning to sing in two part harmony.  Unfortunately pretty Mrs. Reif had left teaching several years earlier.  Miss Woolfolk was the music teacher. She was an attractive woman, but she was no Mrs. Reif. I did enjoy her company in later years when we both sang in St. Andrew's choir. She was a funny and charming lady

Occasionally Miss Woolfolk brought in her auto harp to accompany us.  We were no longer singing about The People on the Bus or Old Black Joe. (Yes we really did learn that Stephen Foster song in school.  In fact we sang the original words to My Old Kentucky Home.)  We had now graduated to such harmonizing songs as The Mule in the Mines, Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill, Lottie Walked and The Tortilla Song.  I always enjoyed vocal music.

Miss Bohn wanted us in the worst way to have great handwriting.  So she instructed us all to go out and buy cartridge fountain pens.  This of course was a huge mistake, as we all became stained with ink. You could identify the boys in her class by the large ink stains on their shirt front pockets.

In fact there was more ink on our fingers than on the paper.  My handwriting is still the worst way. So I print everything. I don't know what Miss Bohn would think of today's schools that do not even teach cursive writing.

She was determined that we also learn songs about science. So we sang about the colors in the rainbow, the sun and the order of the planets (this was before Pluto got booted out of the galaxy.) I can stil remember singing " ♫ Orange, Indigo, Violet, Yellow, Red and Blue and Green. ♪ ♫ "

One day she told us the school was adding a reading lab.  I was so excited.  We were going to go to a secret room in the school and all don white coats and safety glasses to mix up strange smelling chemicals and then read all about them.

Imagine my disappointment when the reading lab turned out to be a cardboard box that was divided into sections for the slower to the advanced students.

I didn't need a reading lab...

Because I was already reading Mad Magazine and all the great comic books of the day. By now I had made my way as an advanced reader.

Somehow my school district made a pact with the city's Churches that allowed students to spend an hour a week in an elective class as long as they had parental consent.  This elective class was a Bible class taught at the Church behind the school.


Once again the poor sisters, Martha and Esther were not permitted to go due to their parents edict.

I can't say I learned much about the Bible in this class.  I learned more about what songs the girls liked, what boys the girls liked and which girl had graduated from a triple A no cup to an A cup.
In these days we were old enough to be Boy Scouts.  A group of us had started out as Cub Scouts and wore our uniforms to school every Friday.  We now were Boy Scouts and wore khaki uniforms with large neckerchiefs. We wore these to school every Friday.  What is more, we could carry our Boy Scout knives to class without fear of being suspended.  We were stylin' in those days.

During this year, I learned the danger of having a hyphenated surname. A new girl came to the sixth grade. He name was Ann Dameron-Lackey.  However when she was introduced to the class, the note Miss Bohn received from the principal spelled out her name as Lackey Ann Dameron.  For the rest of the year she was Lackey Ann.  I think she straightened this out the following year in middle school.

We also had a new gym teacher this year.  The girls all thought he was hot, since he bore a slight resemblance to Ringo Starr.  He taught us a lot of new calisthenics and how to tumble.  I was pretty good at this for a while until I got the wind knocked out of me a couple times.

He wanted to teach us to wrestle.  This was to be after school.  So we had to all go to this small room in the gym and get out of our clothes to change to gym clothing.  I was mortified.  Changes were going on with my body and I was sprouting hair in extremely unusual places.

I figured I was the only one afflicted with this phenomenon.

I hurried after school to the gym room and jumped out of my clothes and into my gym clothes as quick as I could.  My fears were alleviated when I saw that all my friends were also beset by this strange plague of body hair.

A reward of being a sixth grader and a Boy Scout was to raise and lower the American Flag on the pole in front of the school.  I always made to the afternoon  lowering ceremony, but was usually too late for the morning raising of the flag.

I spent some great years at Woodfill School.  The teachers were all precious to me.  Those old boys and girls I went to school with were the best.  I'd hug 'em all if they were here.


Old days, good times I remember.  Fun days, days I'll always treasure.

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