School days, school days, time to break some rules day

By Don Rush

Yup, when this time of year rolls around, when the roads are more full of motorized vehicles adding 10 minutes onto the work commute, when the days are shorter than they were a few weeks ago, aside from wanting to ignore the six a.m. alarm, I get kinda nostalgic.
Everybody whose going to school is back at this week. Oh, yes. I know, some students started last week, but this week — the week starting the Tuesday after Labor Day is when the chalk hits the slate (if they haven’t switched out all the blackboards for white boards and computer screens.) Anyway, this time of year I practice a little mental gymnastics.
To keep my brain from loosing its edge, I stretch my memory to see how far back I can remember about elementary school, classmates, teachers, recess — as much as I can. Have to admit, I am kinda bummed out that I do not remember as much as I should. I mean, I can only remember a wee bit about kindergarten. I remember the reading area, the little wooden play structure we kids climbed on and a skinny little girl with freckles and brownish red hair and black stockings (leggings?). Her name was Teri and she lived across the street from Ashcroft Elementary School. I do remember having to count as high as I could and that Mom told me, they wanted to flunk me outta’ kindergarten.
That’s it for kindergarten. First grade and second grades are not bright spots in my memory either. I am not sure which, but either first grade or second grade was a split class between a first and second grade class. I remember cracking a joke in one of those classes and getting a swipe across the buttocks from Mrs. Woods. Best things I remember of first and second grades is when the teachers would read stories to us. And, the story I remember being read to was The Adventures of Pinocchio — not the Disney version, the 1883 version where Pinocchio kills Jiminy Cricket with a hammer and the cricket is a ghost throughout the rest of the book.
I do remember recesses a little and I think my best buddy then was named Ronald. And, there you have those two years in the life and times of one Donald Rush. Getting spanked and being read to. Nice.
Third grade was a pivotal year. During Christmas Break (what we called winter break back in the day) we Rushs moved from Redford Township, just west of Detroit to the ghettos of Clarkston (also known as Independence Township); from Teri and Ronald and Aschcroft Elementary in the city, to Bailey Lake Elementary, where when I looked out the window I saw a red barn and and white and black cows. And, the farm fresh, cow manure smell on the playground that first spring. Wow.

Yup. Third grade was a watershed year. Here’s the first time I was in our local community newspaper. Mary Healey is to the left, but I cannot remember the two kids to the right .

Third grade, I remember spending a lot of time looking out the window. I remember forgetting to do math homework, having to go out in the hall with about 10 other kids for a whap with a wooden paddleball and when the teacher asked who wanted to go first, I volunteered. I stepped up, turned around, she swung. The paddleball paddle broke on my butt, and the rest of the kids were saved from the beating. I also remember being sent to the principal’s office for talking to much in Mr. Wright’s music class.
Speaking of cows, in the third grade one day I remember coming back from one of our three daily recesses and find a huge, red, wet cow heart plopped down on my desk. It was in the spring. And, I believe classmate Dave Hertler’s family had cows and for a “neat” science project, they donated a dozen or so cow hearts for us kids to . . . do something with. I am not sure. My hands started to sweat, I got light-headed and had to go see the nurse. I wasn’t ready for cow hearts, but had an affinity to catch pollywogs in the creek next to the playground. Caught ‘em in the little milk cartons and stored ‘em in my desk.
Fourth grade, yeah. I remember the mock election the school had and I remember we students voted the same as the rest of the country. We voted Nixon over McGovern. Oh, in the fourth grade, I remember Mrs. Schmidt (?) putting tape on my mouth to keep me from talking. Good times.
I remember growing a bean plant in Mr. Landon’s fifth grade class and running for class president. The gal running against me was named Penny. My slogan, “Run with Rush. Penny’s not worth a cent.” Penny won.
In the sixth grade, a bunch of kids from my neighborhood by Walters Lake got “bused” to North Sashabaw Elementary. And, the most memorable thing about that year was Mrs. Johnson having a baby and being out for about two months. Oh, and recess. We played hard during recess. Kickball, football, tag. There was a lot of running. Do kids still run at school?
Reflecting on this I think I should try other brain exercises. This one just reminded me I wasn’t that good of a student. Dang.
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