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The Very First Day Of School (1945)

969 words - 4 pages

My mother took me to school on my first day. Mother had been telling me for weeks prior to the big day how wonderful school was going to be, so I was dutifully excited. She failed to mention that she was going to leave me with seventeen little strangers and one large lady. The large lady seemed to think that she was in control. I later learned that she was the teacher. She was trying to explain to Mother that I was not eligible to attend first grade because I would not be six until November of the following year. My mother was having none of that. She wanted me out of the house and into school and she did not care what the rules were.

We had just moved from New Orleans to the woods of St. Helena Parish, where school had started two weeks before we arrived. Although it was 1945 in the rest of the world, it was still 1920 in St. Helena. Our home in New Orleans had had indoor plumbing, a gas stove, and electric heaters. In the country, however, we had an outhouse. Every drop of water we used was pumped and carried inside. We chopped wood for our stove and heaters. The back breaking, never ending labor did not bother me as much as having to live in such a degrading manner. I hated the woods. I missed the comforts of the city and I hated the primitive conditions of our new country life. I missed my good-natured little playmates who had treated me so kindly for the first five years of my life. I missed the gentle accents spoken in soft voices by my friends and neighbors, and the endless hours of playtime that we enjoyed.

But now I was going to have to go to school! For a while, I thought the rule that a child had to be six before entering the first grade would rescue me. School rules back then, like all rules in St. Helena, were flexible. For example, driving regulations were not strictly enforced. Few residents even possessed driver's licenses, and the ones who did only carried them when they planned to cross the parish line, In fact, my uncle's sons started driving when they were only twelve and thirteen. Their father needed them to drive his crops to market, and the sheriff needed my uncle's vote. It was a good quid pro quo situation. The sheriff looked the other way when residents committed minor infractions, and they looked the other way when the sheriff did the same. In other instances, residents who were sentenced to do jail time for major crimes sometimes did their hard time on the sheriff’s farm. He had the most productive farm and the emptiest jail in the...

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