Fold-Down Ink-Well Desks. And Sweater Fuzz

This could be my AP English class
This could be my AP English class

This wrought iron and maple classroom desk was pretty much standard issue at my highschool, but for some reason, what this picture (sorry don’t remember where I found this) makes me remember in particular is Ms. Looney’s AP English class.

My desk was the first one in front of the teacher’s desk. Ms. Looney (who to our amazement went on to become a Mrs. prooving that there’s someone for everyone) was fond of holding up a newspaper to read while we worked on classroom assignments.

One day for reasons I will never know I took the notion to pull fuzz from a thick green sweater and launch it from my cupped hands with a might puff so that the tuft would rise above the top of the newspaper and land somewhere in the vicinity of the teacher’s nose.

I did this several  times that day. She never noticed. But when she finally lowered her newspaper, her teacher’s bun was ornamented with a kind of Spanish Moss, the source of snickers for some and a combined dread and pride for one of us. How it is that we survive, any of us, with such stupid notions of the hilarious, I’ll never know–except that we don’t always get what’s coming to us. And besides, these things make for such indelible memories, don’t they?

Somewhere–in an antique store in Idaho maybe–there’s a fold down desk that for all I know has my initials, tiny and in pencil (I was not the worst offender in this regard)– the desk where I sat in Ms. Looney’s english class in 1966. I’m glad I ran across this picture–worth at least a thousand words.

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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 sat in desks like that in grade school, but by junior high, we had the separate types.

    In 8th grade, I found a pack of matches on the school grounds and foolishly took them inside. During one class, I lit a match, and just as I did, the girl in the desk in front of me turned around to see it and it caught her hair on fire. I slapped it out quickly – but it’s a wonder it didn’t get me thrown out of school.

  2. that is too funny………….spanish moss hair…….
    kids would not be kids if they did not come up with such wild ideas…………imagination is what fuels progress…..

    I received the book and postcards Saturday. post cards are great, and have started the book, but need some quiet time to really get into it. oh yeah, I shall keep the book box also, the box that Fred First folded with his own hands !!!!

    1966………….I was ten years old………


  3. I sat in that same kind of desk all through elementary school at Barrett and then for 2 years at Woodlawn High — since you’re from Birmingham, you will know about these establishments of Learning!

    I was a good ventriloquist in high school and delighted in making animal sounds come from the vicinity of the class president or the prissy teacher’s pet. Never got caught for some reason! We had one teacher in particular who was very upset by these pigs and chickens. He would patrol the aisles between the desks trying to catch the perpetrator, and I would let fly behind his back, to the mirth of the entire class. Skating on thin ice, I was.

  4. In the spirit of Mark’s comment I would like to add that I was only 2 in 1966 and that my Chesapeake Fergi was to become part of my life 40 years later.

    I too had that type of desk but the seat and the desk were on unit, your desk design is interesting but poses limitations, if a student was being disruptive the teacher would have to move 2 desks to separate him/her from the class leaving the other student standing or sitting on the floor.