Holman Elementary 1954 – 1962: 7th and 8th Grades

I’m not sure the world is a better place for having shared these moss-covered and faded reflections, but there you go. You’re done. No more. Until the next wave of remembery.

Seventh Grade: Ms Griffith

-    My memory is that we made this woman ill. I remember subs during this year, and we did not treat them well in ways i have mercifully mostly forgotten–except for putting a large assortment of very wet spitballs from the mouths of both boys and girls into the upturned hat of one male sub. Who never came back. Scurvy elephants were working to become scurvy delinquents. Few of us succeeded. Except maybe Teddy Drake.

-    Not long into the year came the Halloween Carnival which included a hay ride. Repugnant as it was to met at the time, boys were expected to pair up with girls in the back of a hay-filled flatbed truck and ride around the un-wildness of Woodlawn Highlands. To my horror, some of my buddies fell into this trap, and nobody was holding a gun to their heads. I felt totally betrayed and bewildered.

-    I remember very little of what happened during school hours this year. Mostly I would place it along the time axis of a long life by the friends I hung out with–Bobby Pogue (since age 3) and Tim Akers; Bryce Callaway and the Bill Murray gang were not so much close friends as amiable combatants when we had snow and snowballs,  and as collaborators in the pyrotechnics of zinc and sulfur explosions in the power line clearing behind Crestwood Circle. Joe Allen Cook, Ronnie Pilgreen, David Gillespie, Carol Elam, Rick Sprague. More would become visible out of the haze with more time squinting into the past. David Hogan. Whatever happened to him? And Kathy McElhannon?

-    I played YMCA basketball and scored a total of two points (for my own team!) that year. My father was the coach. And then he played on many other teams–away games–after that.

-    How can you spend so many hundred hours and remember so little about it? Maybe our world in that age was enlarging so that school was less and less and friends and music and the greater world became more and more of our lives.

-    I think it is telling that I can sing the lyrics to many of the 100 top hits of that year (1960-1), so culture of the age was replacing culture of the home and the school. It was the age of the Twist, Elvis, Sam Cook, the Everly Brothers and the year Kennedy won the presidency. A catholic. Many southerner Baptists threatened to move to New Zealand. It was the end of the world.

Eighth Grade: Mrs. Gillespie

-    Fat Pat. She was pregnant early on and took maternity leave early in 1962. I remember her as patient, pleasant and secretly amused by much of what she must officially condemn of our collective and individual misbehaviors. We were not mean-spirited, even when we rigged up her chair so that when she sat down and made contact to complete the circuit powered by a flashlight battery, it would trigger a flash bulb hidden in the books on her desk in front of her. I think she laughed.

-    Halloween Hayride 8th grade: I had drunk the KoolAid. Parties include such new sports as Spin the Bottle. And upon those new skill sets, Rhea Smith and the reluctant new imbiber of early-teens KoolAid became special friends.

-    It was the year we had some poor woman for “industrial education.” She was working beyond her pay grade. She called us up to her desk probably for blanket condemnation of our sorriness, which we earned. The lot of us without a word commenced to pushing her desk and the chair she occupied towards the chalkboard like the trash compacter scene from Star Wars. For this attrocious hilarity we were to come back after class that day. We swooped down on the classroom from the outside and jumped in through the open 20 foot tall windows at ground level. She didn’t say by which portal we were to return for detention. We were a creative lot.

-    By eighth grade a young student should begin to show a propensity for one realm of human endeavor over others or at least to have dominant curiosities. I suppose my leanings towards science came best into view when I was at Camp Winnataska and/or fishing. My mother carried me often to East Lake with a little cardboard tub of red worms. There was a mystery in fishing the boundaries between the world of air and the hidden world of water, from which you might pull an old shoe, a largemouth bass or a genie in a bottle. Fishing was mystery and imagination, a lure of opportunity cast time and again into the unknown.

-    For some health class related reason, we took our height towards the end of that year. I was five foot eight. Six months later at the beginning of my freshman year, I and been stretched but without additional bulk, to six foot. A man’s form with a Lost Boy’s brain.

-    And life goes on.

Grade One

Grades Two and Three

Grade Four and Five

Grade Six

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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. I, too, have almost no classroom memories from 7th and 8th grades, especially if they were just books and paper type classes. I remember crafts and home ec and not much else. I vividly remember our Tennessee History 4 day bus trip around the state. We screamed “Sixteen Tons” (Temnnessee Ernie Ford) out the bus windows as we rode through every small town. Motel rooms with 4 kids to a room. I bet those chaperones deserved combat pay.