Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 2nd and 3rd Grade

Second Grade: Ms Barnes  1955-6

-    The first thing I always remember about Ms Barnes was that she came to my house, and I was not in trouble. It was my seventh birthday party. You don’t forget stuff like that.

-    Was this the year we were introduced to “magic markers”? I remember the squeak; and the smell. I think I got high, which was risky. Get the tip too close and you’re marked like Rudolph for a week.

-    This was the year I got a flattop haircut and the year before I grew into my front teeth. I remember the smell of butch wax and egg salad sandwiches and soured milk whose odor never quite left my Lone Ranger lunchbox after the little thermos broke. Their glass liners were not designed with seven-year-olds in mind.

-    I walked to school, cutting across a vacant lot where one day, I found what I am convinced was a large piece of turquoise. I showed it to Ms. Barnes and she sent me with it to show Mr. Hall. He kept it. I’ve wondered about that since.
-    The playground was unimproved until maybe the next year. I liked it better the way it started out for us, with hedgerows of privets along the back and along the side by Leslie Smith’s house. I spent my first wilderness wonderments in those rough natural places.

Third Grade: Ms Terry

-    I have no recollections of Ms. Terry whatsoever.

-    I think I remember this classroom being upstairs in the middle of the building. Our coat closets were out in the hall behind large folding doors. You could look into the room from the vents in the closets and I remember “spying” unseen on my classmates once. I wanted to be a spy from then on. But mostly Superman.

-    I got a pocket knife that year. Briefly. I think it was a dull-pointed scout knife. I was not supposed to take it to school. I took it to school. I thought I would win points with my classmates if I terrorized Dora Kitchens because she was not in the IN group. I did the dead. I served the time.

-    We played football as rag-tag teams for the first time this year. I caught a long pass and ran for a touchdown. For the other team. Years later I learned the rules, but never became a great fan of the game. Give me dodgeball any day–with those big under-inflated ribbed red-rubber balls. Now that’s a sport!

-    We had our own desks–for the first time–where we could organize our own collection of books and things. One PTA meeting I was acknowledged to my mother as the keeper of the most disorganized desk in the class. This inspired me to become the slob that my wife accuses me of being even today.

-    By now we were reading quite well. We had “library period” with some regularity–once a week? I read all of the thin green volumes that were biographies of famous people and spent much time at the Woodlawn library in the science fiction section, fascinated with stories about the future. Now I’ve been there. They all got it wrong. I want my jet pack!

Part One ~ Holman School Days 1954 – 1962

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. In second grade we both had perfect attendance until the spring. I got either measles or mumps and missed two weeks of school. When I returned Mrs. Barnes said you also had perfect attendance until catching one of those diseases.

    I was taking a makeup spelling test and the word was “pin” and she used it in a sentence. I wrote it down. Then she said now spell the other pen, like “p e n” (she unintentionally spelled it), then caught herself. We both laughed, and she said “you knew how to spell it anyway.”

    At the end of second grade Ms. Poore, the district Good Writing Club coordinator, came to our class to teach us the proper ways to write in cursive. Everyone loved Ms. Poore. She was an older lady, nearing retirement, and always smiling, the perfect grandmother type. I guess we wrote the entire alphabet upper and lower case. When I got home, my mother said “Oh, you will write an ‘r’ like that.” I have never seen or known any other school district to write a lower case ‘r’ like we were taught.

  2. I don’t remember my teacher, but I remember putting our cheap Valentine’s cards in a box for the teacher to distribute. I remember walking to school though a big field, then one block to a stop light, then up the other side of the street in the direction I just came from, to a huge 3 story school on the corner across from the field. This was Detroit, so I was bundled up and my moist breath made a patch of ice on the scarf around my face. I walked with my best friend and neighbor. We walked home for lunch except maybe once, I had to eat in the third floor cafeteria, my first experience of eating away from home.