My dearest & oldest friend is visiting from Indiana! We were enjoying supper the other night at ‘Bahama Breeze’ restaurant and I mentioned to her that in a couple of years we will have been the closest of friends for 50 years! That’s half-a-century of ‘secrets’, chattering and silliness, crying on her shoulder, rejoicing in each other’s accomplishments, heartbreak over our precious Daddys’ deaths, long phone conversations, exchanging our gorgeous children’s photos, numerous cards and letters, and visits whenever possible. I sang at her wedding and she was my Matron-of-Honor. I told her that she was actually my VERY FIRST friend that’s a girl….I think she was surprised at that. But I grew up in a teeny tiny town with approximately 40 homes plus a little white country church and a Grain Elevator; there just weren’t girls in my particular age group. So I grew up with my brothers and the boys in the town. I showed her the scars that still remain on my knuckles from punching other kids!
I adored my hometown. We lived on one end, Gramma lived 2 houses away. There was one intersection and that was where the Post Office used to sit; at the time it was literally ‘The World’s Smallest Post Office’ but now rests at the Jasper County Fairgrounds for all to see as a historical treasure. Grandpa lived next to the Post Office. Turn to the right at that intersection and at the other end of town was the Grain Elevator that the family owned and Daddy managed. The town also had a school for grades 1, 2, and 3. The photo above shows the version of it’s remains.
Kindergarten was optional when I was 5 and would’ve meant a long ride on the schoolbus into a bigger town so my Mama taught me what I needed to know before entering 1st grade. Besides, she knew the 1st grade teacher very well because Mama had been Mrs. McColly’s student in 1st and 2nd grades! The 2nd grade teacher that I’d have would be Mrs. Switzer, a sister of Mrs. McColly, and Mama had been her student in 3rd and 4th grades. I was rather excited to go to school, although I felt that it was unfair that I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike….there were only 6 homes between our house and the school, and one of them was my Gramma’s!
My 1st day of school was not at all fun as I had hoped it’d be. Right away my Mama got called to come and get me because I wasn’t properly attired. We didn’t realize that I was supposed to wear a dress so I had to go home and change my clothes! The only dresses that I owned were my frilly Sunday School dresses and they were uncomfortable and not at all appropriate for classroom. We did not realize this and had not bought the right ‘school clothes’. My parents weren’t too happy about this miscommunication but I had to wear Sunday School dresses for a week until Mama could get ‘to town’ and buy a couple of outfits. She also ordered several outfits from the Sears Roebuck and JCPenneys catalogs after I got an idea of what the other little girls were wearing. Thus started my dismay at NOT liking fashion! (this has NEVER changed) So right away I didn’t like the other little girls and they laughed at me since I was wearing fancy clothes meant for church.
Recess was another eye-opener! Separation! I couldn’t wait to finally play with my friends but immediately was told by the teacher that the girls play on one side of the playground while the boys play on the other….the next day the sides would be switched to make it ‘fair’. What was fair about that? I sat on a swing and watched the boys, my constant companions and only friends in the world, playing on the monkey bars without me. My anger seethed inside of me. The next day the teacher urged me to play with girls but I knew none of them, they’d ALL been brought to my little town by a schoolbus from out in the country somewhere and were total strangers to me. I had no interest in them whatsoever so I climbed up into the big tree in front of the schoolyard….and decided to stay put! No coaxing by the Principal was getting me down. Next thing I knew, here came my Daddy. They’d called him at work so he had to come from the Grain Elevator to the school. He stood at the bottom of the tree and looked up at me and I knew that I was in trouble! I could hear children chanting for him to paddle me. But my dear Daddy climbed up into that tree and sat beside me without saying a word. After several long moments he looked at me and I got onto his back, feeling safe at last, and he took me home for the rest of the day. He wasn’t going to holler at me in front of others, that wasn’t his way. Our ‘discussion’ was later.
After a couple of lonely days on the playground, I started to try to get the other little girls to play with me but they wouldn’t include me. So instead I started punching them in the mouth. Some of their teeth dared to make my knuckles bleed! That’s why I have these PUNCH SCARS….they are my reminders of when I was a bratty little 1st-grader who wouldn’t make friends! I did not wanna conform to the system and play with only the girls. I am so glad that my own children, 3 decades later, didn’t have to endure these kind of ridiculous limitations! Oh, and as for my very first girl friend….I didn’t meet her until 4th grade when I started riding the schoolbus to the next town. She was my first real friend and has been my longest and best friendship!