School Daze

The pastor one day during a Bible class session said that he always had men schoolteachers, never women. My teachers from first grade through junior high school were women except for two men teachers in the seventh and eighth grades. Only unmarried women were supposed to be teachers, I thought, and my teachers were always "Miss" except for Mrs. Constan and Mrs. Mikelbust, both widows. Mrs. Constan had a schoolteacher daughter but I never had her in my classes. At least two of my teachers were old, over forty maybe, but I wouldn't consider them old now, looking through eyes of a seventy year old. While sitting in the Bible class, my thoughts wandered from the Book of Exodus (which we were studying) to the teachers I had and that evening I decided to put my thoughts into my word processor. Our first grade teacher, Miss DeVoe, was a spinster according to the older kids. I didn't know what the word meant then but looking through my first grade photograph, I guess she was. I didn't know about her private life, but as a teacher, she was nice and tolerated troubles I had in her grade. Which reminds me of a speaker at an underwater acoustics seminar I attended once. He said he was always nervous when speaking before a group such as ours and it bothered him to where he would wet his pants. He had gone to a doctor who prescribed tranquilizers to help him with his problem, and as he finished his talk he said that the tranquilizers he had taken before our session really worked--it didn't bother him at all when he wet his pants. They didn't have tranquilizers when I was in the first grade.

My mother and a friend came to visit our class one day. They sat in the back of the room while Miss DeVoe led us in a reading lesson. Since my mother was a guest, I was chosen to read from the primer (not Dick and Jane). I thought I did a good job, pronouncing each word and not needing help through difficult passages. The teacher said only one thing was wrong with my reading. She and one of my classmates pointed out that I had followed each word with my finger, which evidently was against the rule. I don't remember any comments from my mother, although at that first grade reading I had probably read as many English words as she had ever read. She did read, but always from a Finnish newspaper. In later years she read newspapers using phonetics to sound out words which then had meaning. Finnish words are read phonetically with the accent always on the first syllable which made some of the English words she read out loud sound kind of funny.

Before the first school year was over in Mullan, we moved to Aberdeen, Washington, where I finished the school year. I have no memories of my new teacher but do remember a pretty little girl who broke her leg and got a lot of attention. She didn't even have to play "Ring-Around-the-Rosey." One day on my way home from school, I found a nickel on the street and was stoned by two of my classmates (they threw rocks at me) because I wouldn't go to the grocery store to buy candy for them. In Aberdeen, we lived in a houseboat and my father, being a longshoreman, became acquainted with a Finnish captain of a freighter. The captain invited us to ride in the wheel house of his ship as it was moved from one pier to another. He was nice and gave me a chocolate bar which I ate, but not with pleasure--I still don't like bitter chocolate. Otherwise I think I enjoyed the trip because I played ship on our front porch in Mullan in later years.

My dad was a miner at heart, and became discouraged with ship work or the lack of it and so purchased a Star touring car which we packed with our belongings to return to the mines, or rather Mullan. On the way, we lost a wheel from the car, and I can still remember it rolling up the road (not highway) ahead of us. It took two or three days of driving to reach our home town--we crossed the mighty Columbia River on a ferry. Now it takes about seven hours to make the trip with no ferries if you go through Tacoma.

Before school started in the fall, we went to Wallace to buy school clothes and do other shopping. As was quite common in those days, we got a fiat tire and since we were near a garage, my dad had a mechanic fix the fiat. The split rim tire wasn't real easy to take off, so I stood by to tell him how it should be done--well, I thought I knew how it should be done. In one grunt, the mechanic's lug wrench slipped and hit me on the middle of the forehead. My dad took me to the doctor's office for a few stitches and a nice bandage. A bloodied handkerchief was my father's way of informing mother of my accident. I was told not to help mechanics repair fiat tires anymore.

Our second grade teacher's name was Miss Wren. She wasn't called a spinster by the older kids. She was a nice, although she got mad at me once for having very dirty hands. I didn't explain how they got dirty but it happened when we acted out a part of the story of Hiawatha. The story enacted was when Hiawatha (played by Robert Lamphere) was hunting with his bow and arrow, and finally shot an arrow to slay a fantastic deer, me. The arrow fell far short of the target, but I fell to the fioor, mortally wounded with a bandage on my forehead marking the wound--I was slain. Hiawatha then dragged me over the oil wiped fioor to the tent of Nakomis. To keep from getting my clothes dirty and hearing about it at home, I sort of walked on my hands--hence the dirty, very dirty hands. Hiawatha didn't thrill me too much, even though he was a warrior bold who shot deer for the good of the tribe. Hiawatha, Robert Lamphere, lives in Seattle, with his wife, Phyllis, who was a Seattle councilwoman for many years. (Or was it Art Lamphere that was married to Phyllis?)

When I graduated from high school our paper prophesied that I would become an ambassador to Finland. A few years ago we were in Finland and since Betty couldn't talk Finn, I was an interpreter while we visited with my cousin, Lilja, and her family. I was an interpreter in the second grade, too. Our neighbor's daughters came to Mullan from Finland and started school that fall. Martha was placed in the first grade, and Celia in the second. They both spoke Finnish and Swedish languages, but no English. Miss Wren had me relay her desires to Celia. Miss Wren learned some old world teaching methods, and Celia learned English and passed to the sixth grade at the end of the year. There was also a Swedish girl in our class, Edith Wallberg, and I was miffed when she was used to give Celia instructions.

My next year was in a split third and fourth grade class. Our teacher Miss Weed had us make up a book about Peter Rabbit and my drawings of Peter were excellent. For some reason I can't draw a rabbit anymore that looks like a rabbit. Maybe I couldn't then either, they just looked good to me. The teacher showed us how to bind our books and it was something that paid off in later life. Dave, our youngest son, made up a songbook (hymnal) for use in a nursing home he visits on most Friday nights (or Thursday nights) dand had difficulties with the plastic bindings that tore pages. One day when he was home, I showed him how we did the job in the olden days before the advent of plastic. He was happy with the result and it pleased me when he used the same techniques on his latest edition of the song book.

We learned about dancing in third grade. Big rings had been drawn on the hallway fioor and there we did our intricate and fantastic dance routines to the accompaniment of a phonograph, not a record player. I had two favorite partners to dance with, Mary McCrae and Peggy Collacot, but neither of them liked holding my hands, which were covered with warts. My mother finally got rid of the warts. She washed my hands each evening in diluted Lysol, and then rubbed the warts with a lemon. It wasn't a modern day medical procedure but the warts disappeared and the girls didn't mind dancing with me anymore.

Miss Weed had reading sessions about once a week, and at those times the third graders would sit with the fourth graders. I always sat with Percy Omera who seemed to like me, and who I thought could have gone to the steam bath occasionally. He irked me in later years because he could play a trumpet better than I could and took over first chair from me in my senior year of high school. Actually, I never was a good trumpeter; I had difficulties triple tonguing, hitting the real high notes and timing.

During my fourth grade year, my mother had spinal meningitis and spent time in an isolation ward in what we called the poor house. It was the Shoshone County Infirmary where elderly sick persons could get nursing care and where they had an isolation ward for those with highly contagious diseases. She recovered from her sickness but acquired an intense craving for oranges. I remember my dad bringing home a big crate (double-sectioned box) of oranges, and they didn't spoil. One thing about my mother's sickness--when I complained about a headache one day in class, the teacher sent me straight home, without going to the dispensary first. It was harder to get back to her class afterwards.

My fourth grade teacher was Miss Griffith. I liked her and got along with her quite well until one day during a joke telling session I told one of the jokes that I had heard the older kids tell in the school yard. The kids in the school yard laughed loudly at the joke but the kids in the fourth grade didn't when I repeated it to them. We didn't have joke telling sessions after that. I remember the joke, but I haven't repeated it especially in school or around my children although the objectionable word, or words are very commonly used in theaters and on TV today.

Geography was my favorite subject and I got a perfect score in the final test which included one hundred fill-in questions. Miss Griffith also had us draw a map of the Village of Mullan and picked me to draw my version on the blackboard with colored chalk. I asked her what color I should draw Lead Creek, because blue wasn't the right color for the water fouled up by the mill washings upstream. She told me to use blue anyway because she didn't have gray chalk. Ted was our family map drawer and I'm sure he would have done a much better job of mapping Mullan than I did.

Miss Griffith and Miss Phillips roomed and boarded at the Millers, across the street from school, where my mother was a cook. Miss Phillips was my fifth grade teacher and two events come to mind in her grade. One was the building of a new high school in the lower half of our playfield--our school building had burst its seams. Our recess sessions were times for us to observe the progress being made, but we were told not to go down to the work area to play. Voito Lukkonen and I did anyway one day when there was no activity at our end of the building and had fun jumping over sawhorses. A girl told on us and we had an afterschool session with the teacher.

This was the year I became infatuated with a girl named Evelyn Cartwright. It's amazing that I can remember names of some school kids and can't recall names of people I have worked with for many years--or even remember names seven seconds after being introduced to someone. Anyway, during one rainy recess session, a group of us were huddled in a vestibule and some older boys took a piece of paper away from Al Haugen, who now lives in Bremerton. On the paper was written "The girl in our class that I like best is Evelyn Cartwright." Al wrote also in my high school yearbook in our senior year, "I've been powerful mad at you sometimes, Ed----" That's how I felt about him when the note was read. However, nothing ever came of the situation, Evelyn moved away, and we moved to Butte, Montana, where dad worked in the mines for a few months. I was passed conditionally from the fifth to the sixth, since I didn't want to finish the last few weeks of the school year in a strange place. My school chums wrote to me as a class project, and I got to read about the Gypsies that went through Mullan in twenty different letters. I sure would have liked to have seen the Gypsies, because I've never seen any.

The sixth grade was on the upper fioor of the school and it took a little longer to go to the bathroom, so on one occasion I was able to elect Herbert Hoover to be the president of our country. While I was absent, Miss King held a mock election for president between Hoover and the other guy, and when the ballots were counted, there was a tie. When I returned to the classroom and voted for Hoover, he of course became the president of the country.

Miss King was a nice and took us on a picnic up Willow Creek. It was a two or three mile hike, but we enjoyed it and played games and had races in a clearing near "S" bridge where a prospector in earlier years had built a log cabin and dug a hole into the side of the hill. It was just a picnic, and I have snaps of the event, taken with a box camera that the Eastman Kodak gave to all twelve year olds that year.

One day when I was a freshman at the University of Idaho, I was looking over the news in the Wallace Press Times. One of my twelve or so roommates looked over my shoulder and asked who the good looking woman pictured on the front page was. I jokingly remarked that the picture didn't do her justice and he asked, "Oh, do you know her?" I read the caption, and I did know her and have a picture of her in my files, taken at a sixth grade picnic when I was twelve years old. Miss King had been a victim of a gunman in Alaska.

It seems like the seventh and eighth grades (junior high school) weren't filled with much excitement. Mrs. Constan taught us how to diagram sentences which I found a little difficult at times. One evening after school I asked her help on a particularly hard sentence and she spelled out rules on predicates, participles, phrases, etc., and I finally got my sentence diagrammed. The next day I proudly volunteered to show my work on the blackboard. My pride was shattered when she pointed out error after error in my work! She did give me a dollar that year for shovelling a path through the fifteen inches of snow that had fallen so she could get to school. I considered her a nice teacher. She was our next door neighbor.

About all I can remember about our math teacher, Ted Patrick was that he physically reprimanded an eighth grader, Orlew or Ivan Norman, in the study hall. The other brother got in on the act, too, because he didn't think his brother should be man-handled. Patrick played a trumpet, and our music teacher, Charley Salt, had him play with the school band. The Norman brothers also played in the high school band and were quite good. Ivan also had a very good voice and once sang a solo in a grade school recital. He was asked to sing several encores of "Oh Stately Lilies of the Field," which didn't make Grant Florin happy because he thought he should have had the solo. He didn't even come to the recital.

We had periodic song fests in junior high and sang all kinds of songs from a small music book. My favorites were "A Capital Ship" and "A Spanish Cavalier." We always sang "America" and "Star Spangled Banner" and I could hit the high notes which became a disaster when my voice changed. In the seventh grade study hall, I sat behind Sennett Taylor who could make me laugh with his antics. I can remember asking him to be funny to relieve the pressures of study. The room monitor never got after us, so he or she was nice person. One seat ahead of Sennett was Leo Henikman whose penmanship was great. I think he got a Palmer Method pin in the sixth.

In the eighth grade Don Roberts and I drew pictures of space ships and wrote little stories about space travels. I don't know what happened to our "Buck Rogers" efforts--they were probably filed in the circular file each day. I think of our drawings quite often when Dave, our youngest son, visits us and goes downstairs to look at his 10,000 plus cartoon book collection, mostly on Superman. Oh yes, one of the stronger boys in our class in the eighth did something which I thought was unusual and which I had never seen before. He was standing in front of the class in Mrs. Mikelbust's room reciting a poem or something, when he suddenly fell forward--in a dead faint. Weaker people and girls were known to faint, but not guys like Clem, who was more of the Superman type.

The eighth grade was when Charley Salt asked several of us to learn to play some band instruments. I was given a mellowphone (E fiat alto), which I traded in for a trumpet in high school. Don Roberts got a baritone, Sennett Taylor a clarinet, Clem Wheatley a trombone, his brother Brick a tuba, Ruth Prescott a trombone, and others instruments that I can't seem to recall just now.

When our class graduated from high school, half the band graduated, including Bill McMurray, Wallace Britton, Al Haugen, Rankin Delaney, and Louis Michaels besides the ones I mentioned before. My grade and junior high school days were, for the most part, happy ones. The names of the teachers I can remember quite well, but I can't remember what they looked like except probably for Charley Salt and Zelda King--I have pictures of them. Now that I've relived part of my school days, I can get back to the the last few chapters of the Book of Exodus and stop wondering how come the Pastor had only men teachers when I had nearly all women teachers. I was asked to read a few verses from Exodus the other day and I followed each line with my finger so I wouldn't lose my place. I wonder if that was against the rule?