Charles Wright Elementary School, 1960: Spelling Bees, Rozanne and Mrs. Lamb

Somewhere back in history someone felt it was a good idea to combine our two small towns together for the purpose of educating our offspring. Apparently we didn’t have enough things to talk about, so Region 18 was created to let us fight over the school budget . Not only do we get to go around about what we’re going to spend, but we get to get all heated up about who’s paying their fair share. It all makes for interesting conversation during the winter months when there’s not a lot of anything else going on. But once spring arrives and we need to move on to other things, decisions are made and everyone forgets about the school budget until the next year when we start the process all over again.

This year the school board upped the ante a little bit by inserting into the discussion the concept of “redistricting.” I tried to follow everything for awhile, but it became much too complicated for me. As far as I can understand, the school board had some new projections on student population that were supposedly more accurate than older projections that hadn’t turned out as planned. The result is that a lot of kids will have to be reshuffled into different schools for some reason that still escapes me.  As far as I can tell, no projection has ever turned out as planned. Maybe a first step in the right direction is simply to stop looking at projections.

I knew all this commotion was about saving money, so I suggested to a school board member that if they were really looking for cost savings, they should come at this from a different direction. My thought was that the towns do away with second grade. There’s nothing you learn in second grade that can’t be tacked on the end of first grade or the beginning of third. That’s just the way it is.

Nothing much happened to me in second grade. I bet you don’t remember much happening in second grade either. It’s just a filler year between barely being potty trained and getting your cursive writing down pat. In today’s society, you really don’t even need to know cursive writing except for signing your name on a driver’s license. Learning to write cursive is six months of wasted schooling.

When I was growing up outside of Hartford, I went to the Charles Wright Elementary School. Charles Wright was a famous botanist. Since neither you nor I particularly care who Charles Wright was, let’s just move on. My second grade teacher was named Mrs. Lamb. I don’t think she had a first name.

Mrs. Lamb was an institution at the school. This is a kind way of saying that she had been there forever. Do you know how some old married couples start to look like each other? Well I thought Mrs. Lamb was starting to look like her desk.

When all the kids arrived in the morning, the first order of business was the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Both of them were very important to my formative years, but I always thought that “duck and cover” and everyone’s favorite-the fire drill, should have been added as a daily regimen. In order, these taught us that, A.)There is a God in Heaven, B.) We are patriotic Americans that have God on our side, C.) There are atheist Communists that are bent on dropping atom bombs on us simply because we are patriotic Americans with God on our side, and D.) If the janitor throws oil soaked rags into the school incinerator, we will be able to find our way out of the building before becoming horribly disfigured by the ensuing fire.

I’ve told you before that I grew up in a Beaver Cleaver world. I still see nothing wrong with that.

I know that the Lord’s Prayer can’t be recited in public schools anymore and I can understand why. With the United States being the melting pot it is, once you open the door to the Lord’s Prayer, you invite every religion to have equal time.  Before you know it, you will have kids erecting stupas on the playground, pulling out prayer mats during math tests, and sacrificing chickens in the gym.  We just can’t accommodate all this religious freedom.

We did a lot of spelling in second grade. I was the best boy speller in our class. A girl named Rozanne was the best female speller. When the class had spelling bees, Rozanne and I would be the last two standing. All the boys were rooting for me and all the girls were rooting for Rozanne. Sometimes I won and sometimes she won. We competed like this all through grade school. Once in fifth grade I beat Rozanne  in a contest naming the Capitals of South American countries. My prize was a map of South American that I taped to my bedroom wall.

Where I came up the big loser was in music. Rozanne really knew how to play the piano. Sometimes Mrs. Lamb would invite the third grade class over just to hear her play.

The third grade teacher was named Mrs. Dunn. She was about the same age as Mrs. Lamb which is to say pretty close to retirement. Both teachers liked their hair up in a bun and wore long sleeve blouses with little powdered hankies tucked into the sleeve. When Rozanne was banging out Beethoven on the upright, Mrs. Lamb and Mrs. Dunn would pull out the hankies and give them a little sniff. Most kids thought the hankies were dusted with some kind of scented powder.  Looking back, I think they full of cocaine. I think Mrs. Lamb and Mrs. Dunn just liked to cop a good buzz once in awhile.

When we graduated from elementary school, Rozanne went off to a Catholic school and I moved up to the public Junior High.  I never had a real conversation with Rozanne all during grade school, but I knew she was Catholic from early on. That’s because she always ended the Lord’s Prayer early. I never could figure out why Catholic kids couldn’t memorize the rest of the prayer.  It wasn’t for lack of intelligence. Rozanne was one of the smartest kids in the whole school. Maybe it was because the Catholics had to cram more things into an hour of church than the Protestants did. The one time I went to Catholic Church they kept on ringing bells and swinging incense around. The guy up front had this big hat on and talked in Latin. I’m sure that no one in church had a clue about what he was saying. For all I know he was reciting a recipe for pasta fazool.

I don’t mean to go on and on about the Lord’s Prayer, but we did have one girl in the class that ended the prayer after everyone else.  Instead of just saying,”…and the power and glory forever, Amen,” she added “forever and ever, Amen.”  I thought that was pretty redundant. Forever, itself, seems to cover all eternity. Later on in life I learned she was Episcopalian. Now it all makes sense to me. Episcopalians want to be different. They don’t want to be Catholics, they don’t want to be Protestants. They just want to be different.  That’s why they want a Lord’s Prayer that’s different from everyone else too.

So that’s my story about second grade. A lot of things have changed since then. I heard that when Rozanne grew up she became a doctor. Unless Mrs. Lamb has lived to be over a hundred years old, she’s probably been transferred to the great elementary school in the sky and my days of winning spelling bees are long since passed. On the other hand, Charles Wright School is still standing and educating our youngsters.  That’s the way things are. Some things change and some things remain the same.

In retrospect, maybe I did learn a little in second grade. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to simply wipe it off the charts.  Maybe we should just do away with cursive writing and leave it at that.

Chip Dahlke spends a lot of time thinking about how we can better our education system and is a member of the church.

2 responses to “Charles Wright Elementary School, 1960: Spelling Bees, Rozanne and Mrs. Lamb

  1. Cindy Harding Fogle

    I’d like for the schools to teach the kids how to print, at least, I don’t care about cursive, except that it has the word “curse” in it, and I do tend to do a lot of cursing at the school system.
    They have completely forgotten the basics.
    I was in first grade when I came down with chicken pox. School nurse determined this, then the principal said “OK Cindy, go home.”
    And they sent me on my merry way, walk home, same mode of transportation that got me to school in the first place.

    They call kids “latchkey” kids these days, if the parent isn’t home, but because our door was never locked, would the word “KEY” even have any meaning back then?

    To take from today’s vernacular, Beaver Cleaver rules!!!!!
    That is truly how we were brought up in the 50s/60s, and INMHO it was a very good life.
    Well, except for the neighbor kid named Duncan Magoon, who beaned me with a basketball, and it was on my own basketball court in my backyard for cryin’ out loud.
    We grew up tough, or we didn’t grow up at all.

  2. Cindy Harding Fogle

    Second Grade.
    Mrs. Gordon.
    By second grade I was a champion basketball player despite my size, 5′ tall and 90 pounds
    Being a great shot, I was able to sneak between the tall guys’ legs and toss that ball right into the basket.
    When I was first dating my husband, he took me to Albany, to the Methodist Farm Camp where he spent his childhood summers.
    He gave me the basketball, and from half-court, I sunk it directly into the basket.
    He looked at me in awe and said something like, “I guess you’ve done this before, huh.”
    “Who ME,” I said in my best attempt at innocence.
    I think that was the moment he decided to make me his wife.

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