New Kid on the Block, Part II

(Part I is here.)

After our move, my main memory of the days before school started can be summed up in one word: Woolco. All the cleaning supplies a newly-relocated family could possibly need were to be found at the massive new store at 41st and Yale.

If memory serves, the first day of school in Tulsa was the Tuesday after Labor Day. No A/C, but really big fans. I was in Grade 5, Section 8, pictured below in the school picture toward the end of the post.

My old school in Valley Center had not been especially challenging. I was not prepared for Patrick Henry. By comparison with VC, the teachers were strict and demanding. Math, Science and English were hard. After two weeks, I was having anxiety because I was flunking penmanship. Penmanship!

Several landmark events happened in quick succession in the first few weeks of school, not necessarily in this order:

  • I broke my arm when I fell off a skateboard. Hills were new for the boy from Kansas.
  • I flunked another test: the school’s vision screening. After I got glasses, I no longer had to sit on the first row to see the chalkboard.
  • I noticed a girl for the first time. In this context, “noticed” means perceiving one as something other than a target to be chased with a frog.
  • I met Peter Robertson, not my Doppelgänger, exactly, but he’ll do until one comes along. Pete was seated right behind me on the first day of class. He was a new kid, too.

Pete and I immediately became fast friends, bonded by common interests in the Dragnet TV show and killing red ants in creative ways during recess. Lifetime friendships are born of such things, I’m told. But we also shared a spooky mental connection, like the way we would frequently say exactly the same sarcastic comment at exactly the same time. Still a mystery.

Being a new kid in 5th grade was no picnic. Being from a small town, I was not as sophisticated as my new classmates. When I told them I was from a town in Kansas called Valley Center, one smart aleck dubbed it “Pumpkin Center”. (It would be terrible to reveal the perpetrator’s identity, but his initials are Kenny Koch.)

I also made the mistake of telling my classmates about going to the Arkansas River with my dad. Of course, I pronounced the name of the river distinctly and correctly: ar-KAN-sas.

After the uproarious laughter died down (about thirty minutes, it seemed like), I was coaxed from under my desk. These Oklahoma kids thought the new kid from Kansas had just fallen off the Turnip Truck. Or maybe the Pumpkin Truck.

Another odd memory involving Patrick Henry: Some vandal with a can of spray paint defaced a brick retaining wall by the school’s main driveway. In black spray paint, all caps, it proclaimed “BOSOM”. My Dad is still more likely to call the school “Patrick Bosom” than by its true name. He thought it was a hoot. Even the vandals of 50 years ago exercised a measure of decorum and restraint.

Patrick Henry 5-8

Note class size 35. Artistic embellishments by the author.

Row 1: (Principal), Mrs. Hasey (1st hour & speech teacher), (?), Candace Johnson, [Susan Green]*, Hazel Halloran, Lynn West, Harry Allison, Julie Cohn.

Row 2: Jill Nelson, Mike Johnston, Tina Rauch, L. Beeson (sorry, Linda and Lisa were always too identical for me!), Peter Robertson, Lisa Carroll.

Row 3: Marla Brogdon, (?), Roger Lumley, Carrie Palmer, Doug Hartson, Sara Ross, April Patterson.

Row 4: Me, Vicky Pollok, Bill Effron, (Peggy Roberts?), Holly Hughes, Hap Herndon.

Row 5: Mark Keeter, Kenneta Claxton, (Clay/Clint?) Cook, Lisa Barry, Kenny Koch, Lisa Glenn, Daneille Irvin, (Lucia?), Karen Bitzer.

Not bad, huh? I apologize for any mistakes and my nearly 60-year-old memory. About half are Facebook friends today. [* Thanks to Pam Treece Moran for the help.]

Mrs. Hasey gave us instruction on public speaking and dramatic presentations. I remember she cautioned us not to fidget while speaking, all the while fidgeting and fussing with her own hair. We had to learn the American’s Creed:


I bet nobody learns that anymore. (They’ve dropped penmanship, too!)

One other tidbit is stuck in the darkest recesses of my memory: a group dramatic reading for Columbus Day, back when that day could still be celebrated.

Turn back, Columbus, turn back!
Turn back, turn back, turn back!
He’s crazy!
He’s mad!
He’s insane!
Turn back!

Such are the dark recesses of my memory.

I guess if there’s a point to these ramblings, it’s that we never know how the future might unfold. Moving to Tulsa was incredibly important to me as an almost-10-year-old, in ways that were impossible to imagine: not just education, but peers, goals, and aspirations. To this day, when someone asks where I’m from, I claim Tulsa.

So. Fifty years.

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