First grade

My first grade teacher was the only teacher who displayed a real dislike of me. She didn't seem to know what to do with me, and she usually wore a frown that was wider than her face. It didn't help that I openly mocked her in class once.

At the time, I was sitting in the first desk in this row. It was the middle of the school year and we were accustomed to a routine on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of drawing 16 pictures to illustrate 16 vocabulary words (the "sixteen square paper"). It was tedious and a few of us weren't challenged by the assignment. I was ready on a Wednesday morning when Mrs. Condon said, "Class, get ready to make a sixteen square paper," and I said, "Oh, that'll be fun for a change!" Tod in the back row busted out with a laugh, and that's how I made a new friend. Mrs. Condon, to her credit, didn't hit me.

Later in the year, when I was forced to sit in this desk here because it was next to the teacher's, I got in trouble for doodling on my worksheets while waiting for others to finish the assignment (I wasn't the only kid waiting). I got in trouble for the totally original invention of the kind of spelling where you substitute numbers for words just to be clever. ("I had 2 go 2 the store 4 milk.")

The first day of class was the depressing start of a disappointing year: Mrs. Condon said, about midway through our first morning, that we were all going to the Laboratory! I pictured glassware bent into shapes seen only in Dr. Seuss books, filled with colorful liquids. I didn't know if I was ready for it, but I was willing if everyone else was going. We lined up and walked together down the hall behind our teacher, obeying the Primary Law of Walking in the Hall (Be Silent), when Mrs. Condon stopped next to one door labeled Boys and another door labeled Girls. These looked familiar. We learned that the teacher's name for the bathroom was Lavatory. No one else in my life has ever used that word.

This was the year I became conscious of the ongoing Vietnam War, and the boys understood that when we grew up, we would have to put on a green uniform and run around shooting guns in a foreign country. Again, I didn't know if I would ever be ready for it, but if all the other boys were going, I guessed I would go too.

Jennifer and Polly both had good senses of humor, but Jennifer was goofy while Polly had a more sardonic take on daily life. She had an older sister who must've been influential. Polly said, "Boys get all the cool toys, like Johnny Lightning cars, and guns, and neat stuff. Girls just get dolls and frilly dresses. (high-pitched voice) 'Ooh, look at me! So pretty!' All boring stuff." Jennifer, on the other hand, could do funny voices and characters, and laughed at her own silliness, which made everyone else laugh too.

One cool thing we kids got to do was give ourselves electric shocks with the Electricity Kit in the Learning Center at the end of the hall. One of the boys knew how to connect the wires with alligator clips to a large battery and a switch, and when you pressed the switch a jolt ran all the way from your finger to your shoulder. We'd pass that contraption around the table taking turns until it was time to follow the teacher back to the classroom. Simple pleasures are the best.

The other highlight was watching the grownups try to figure out the presidential election, but I covered that elsewhere. (Link)