Being the new kid in school is no fun. Oh I’m sure that maybe if you’re the new hot chick, maybe then it’s not a bad experience, but when my parents moved out of the Fillmore Elementary school district and into the Lincoln District in Hamilton, Ohio, the years of growing up on Prytania were about to begin.
I left Fillmore feeling popular and loved. I was the kid who got hit by a school bus and lived to tell about it (link), I had lots of friends, got great grades and teachers liked me well enough to let me clown around every now and again. Fifth grade at Lincoln, now that was a different story. Even today, I can only remember less than a handful of the names of the kids in my fifth grade class. I can’t recall the teacher’s name either. She was young and pretty and the only teacher whose name I cannot recall. I have no memories from my 5th grade class either; it’s almost a complete blur. Given all the stories I’ve recounted so far here, this may be hard to believe, but it’s true. I spent that year trying to adjust, trying to blend in and trying to figure out the new rules.
The only logical conclusion I can come to relative to fifth grade is that I must have been misplaced. I say this because I had a number of friends in 6th and none of them were in my 5th grade class. I had never thought about this before writing this story, but now it seems like a reasonable conclusion given they tried to keep kids together by relative grades and performance. (Maybe that explains why I rode on a stubby bus that year).
So…I have no 5th grade elementary school growing up stories. There really should be a pill that allows us to recover all our memories. Wouldn’t that be a cool double edged sword?
Sixth grade was a total joy. I’ve already written a few cute stories from Mr. Adams’ class and I offer them here. Take a few minutes to read them, they’re cute. (Links shocking discovery and love in the sixth grade). This here story is yet another.
Mr. Adams, the only male teacher during my years at Lincoln Elementary, was one of those teachers who was doing exactly what he should have been doing; teaching children. He and his wife were childless and so in a way I guess we all were his kids. I’ve already written about my special relationship with Art Adams, how he even allowed me to come to his home as a 19-20 year old to act as a proctor for my home study exams, (oh and how he let me move my desk next to my “little girlfriend”).
One day he asked me and a another kid named Terry Kimble to stay after class for five minutes. I thought I was in trouble for something but what he wanted to talk to us about was an opportunity to become school patrol guards. We were going to be cops!
Being a cop was fun. Our patrol area was the playground, twenty minutes before our class was led downstairs to the lunchroom. I’m not quite sure what we were supposed to be “patrolling”. We were told to ask any kid we saw for passes unless they were kids that were going home for lunch. This wasn’t junior high, kids in our elementary school just didn’t go roaming around so anyone out of class stuck out like a dirty hog wandering around a ladies bridal shop.
So why then was it fun, you ask? Well, for a few reasons. For one, we got to get up and leave while class was going on. We sat a few rows away from each other and at the predetermined time, we’d look at each other and give ourselves the nod which would trigger our getting up and leaving while the balance of the class was reciting poetry or listening to (ugh) social studies.
Another reason why being a patrol guard was fun was that we got to act cool by putting on a patch on our arms. It was a round white patch with blue writing and it had an elastic strap that allowed you to slip your arm in and then clung to your arm. I don’t remember what it said on it but likely it was something like – Patrol Guard, Do as We Say. Barney Fife would be so proud of us!
And lastly, there were the early afternoon wrestling matches with Tim Crane and Steve Brown. Tim and Steve both walked home for lunch. They each lived only a couple of blocks from school, making it pretty easy to walk home and back within the lunch period. Their favorite lunchtime activity was exercising their biceps around our heads, (Terry and me). You might know it as a ‘headlock’ but I like to think of it as personal training.
It was pretty much the same thing every day. We patrolled the area between the outdoor tin building and the main building. Right around 11:40, out they came. We knew the routine. They never really hurt us so we didn’t run, (besides, what good cop runs from the bad guys?). If it was a day that only one of them showed, we at least had a better chance of surviving the wrestling match. Terry was stronger than I so he’d usually take the loner on, head-on with my jumping on the back of the offender. It was probably like a mosquito riding the back of a water buffalo. They were pretty strong sixth graders. After all, this was their fourth year in sixth grade. I think one of them had a tattoo and two kids. (Ok, so maybe I made that last part up….there were no tattoos).
Side note on the picture of the school here. I went online to see if by chance I could find a pic of Lincoln Elementary in Hamilton, Ohio and stumbled upon a great link called oldohioschools.com where I was able to click on a sub-link that had lots of pictures taken before the schools were demolished. This picture is the area where Terry Kimble and I did our ‘patrolling’. Here’s another tidbit – just to the right of that brown trash bin, near those double doors is where I would sometimes camp myself in a snowstorm. I wrote about it in this story (link).
Tim and Steve were the two biggest kids in our class. Either one of them could handily kick our butts, both at the same time, so if there were two of them, we were done for. They’d usually split up and trade off on which of us they would mangle, typically whatever the opposite of the previous day was. If we didn’t want them to catch us, we knew we could outrun them, but just like you never ran from dad’s belt, it would be worse if we ran. So we would stand our ground, occasionally taking the first swipe at our attackers, (hey, at least we’d get in one swipe). It was always fun and no one ever really got hurt.
You see, all of us boys who survived childhood knew we really didn’t have to fear the really big tough kids. They had nothing to fear and nothing to prove to us smaller kids. They were like the US and China – everyone else knew they had nuclear weapons so we never messed with them. No, who we were scared of and stayed away from were the crazy ones. We kept a close eye on them and heaven help us if they had weapons and were mad at us. Every school had at least one of these kids. Ours had the initials of RF, (see? So crazy I won’t even print his name 50 years later). RF reportedly had been in and out of detention centers, had already taken a swing at a policeman and supposedly carried a switchblade. We had a guy like that at the foundry too – as far as guys’ reputations, they’re usually true. I’m proud to say that RF wouldn’t even know my name.
Patrol guarding – we didn’t really patrol and we certainly weren’t guarding anything or anyone. All we did was wrestle the two biggest kids in our class. In 45 years of hindsight now, I’m not so sure the area we were patrolling needed patrolling. And now that I think about it, it would have been just the type of thing that Mr. Adams would do; to provide an experience for us as a way of helping us to feel responsible. He was just that type of guy, that type of teacher. We were his kids and he always seemed to look out for us…….unless of course he was paying Tim and Steve to kick our butts everyday…..hmm…..