A Baby Boomer's Scrapbook

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Grades One and Two:


Changes in grade seem to be good dividing lines when you're growing up.  For me they work pretty well because I never stayed in one school for more than two years in a row.


Some time between kindergarten and first grade, in 1951, my Dad bought two acres of land on the east side of north Eastman Road just about a quarter mile south of the intersection of Eastman and Baker.  Dad and Grandpa cleared away some of the trees and parked our trailer house in the middle of the south acre.  After the trailer was moved in, Dad bought a surplus barracks building from an army base and he and Grandpa tore it down, moved it and reassembled it next to the trailer house.  He and Grandpa then built a wide hallway between the barracks building and the trailer where Dad put the well pump and the washing machine.


The barracks building part of this assembly was just a large open room that was, at first, used as a bedroom, family room and playroom.  The trailer was about 8 feet wide and 26 feet long and had Mom and Dad's bedroom, the kitchen, the dining room and a small living room.  There was a shower but no toilet in the bathroom so Dad built an outhouse about 100 feet away, directly behind the trailer.  Although 100 feet might not sound like far, in the winter when there were several inches of snow on the ground it often seemed like a long way.  And, oh h h h h that outhouse seat was c c c c cold in the winter!  For us kids, an enameled pail (that we called the "pot") was kept in the bathroom for use at night and when it was too cold or wet to go to the outhouse.  For as long as I can remember, until we moved into a house with indoor plumbing, it was my job to empty the "pot".  After doing that little task every couple of days for several years while growing up, no job I ever did was so distasteful that it was worth com plaining much about.


In the barracks part of the house, my brother Roger and I slept on bunk beds in the northwest corner of the room.  My sister Barbara, who was about 6 months old when we moved in, slept on a hide-a-bed sofa in the southeast corner of the room.  Since Roger was younger, he got the bottom bunk and I always slept on the top.


There was a kerosene heater on the east wall of the room that kept us all warm in the winter but if you touched it when it was on, you got burned.  We learned very early about the meaning of the word "hot" and had to be very careful not to play too close to the heater.  As more brothers came along at a rate of about one every two years, a crib and extra beds were added to fill up the room.  Eventually, we would set up a card table in the middle of this "family" room for eating because there wasn't enough room for all of us in the trailer.


Almost the whole time we lived in that trailer house/house, Dad was planning and working to build another "real" house on the north acre of the property.  More about that later.




My first and second grade school was called McLaren.  McLaren was a one-room school (there may have also been a small room in the back) located on the southeast corner of Schaffer and Sturgeon Roads.  The school was on a large lot with room for a softball diamond on the south side of the building a, swing set in the back and some steel monkey bars on the north side.  


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The class photo that I have says Beginners through grade 2 and is dated as the 1952-53 school year.  Judy Fick sent a class photo of the grade 2 and 3 classes that is dated 1553 -1954. This means that I must have been in the first grade at the time of the '52 - 53 photo and the second grade in the '53 -54 photo.


I don't remember much about my time at McLaren so it must have been pretty uneventful. My memories of grades one and two run together.  I do remember a few things that happened on the long walk to school.  Most kids had to walk because Mills Township didn't have enough buses for all grades.  We only had one car that my dad drove to work and my mother didn't know how to drive at the time anyway so she couldn't take me.  I'm pretty sure that the high school kids were bused to into Midland because, sometimes, on my walk home, there would be a bus dropping older kids off at the corner of Eastman and Schaffer.


One time after I'd walked home on a very cold winter day, my mother saw that I had frostbite so she and Grandma Overly (not my Grandma but everybody called her that), who was visiting that day, filled one of those galvanized steel square wash tubs with warm water, took my clothes off and put me in the tub.  I remember being very embarrassed because Mrs. Overly was there and helped to undress me.  Aside from my embarrassment, the experience did have one good out com e.  On very cold or wet days, Mom would ask Mrs. Laplow to drive me to school with her kids.


My first memory that year was of the first day of school when we were asked to write our names on a piece of paper.  My mother had spent some time making sure that I knew the alphabet, how to write my name and how to count.  I'm sure now that all the teacher wanted to do is assess our ability to spell and write but when I couldn't remember how to write my last name it was all I could do to hold back the tears.


I think that my potentially illustrious baseball career began and ended in the first or second grade.  I don't remember how I was at batting but I was allowed to pitch one game.  Not quite understanding the rules, I tried very hard and got the ball across the plate so well that everyone was able to get a hit.  I thought I had done an excellent job but I learned after the game what I had done wrong.  I don't think I was ever given a second chance to pitch.


After that I think I spent a lot more time on the monkey bars and swings (no rules or strategy required).


I think I was a pretty good kid at school most of the time. I can only remember once when I did a bad thing.  My mother had gotten me a new box of crayons and somehow I lost them somewhere between school and home.  When I got inside the school and discovered them missing, I asked the teacher if I could go back outside and try to find them. She said "Yes, for a few minutes".  I couldn't find them in the schoolyard so I decided to retrace my steps all the way home.  Isn't it funny that I was able to time my search well enough that I didn't get home until almost the exact time I was expected when school got out?  Of course, the next day I had to answer to the teacher but the punishment must not have fit the crime or I would probably have remembered that too.


Although I wasn't interested much in sports, I was fairly competitive when it came to test scores and grades.  I remember when our test papers were returned that I would ask or peek over shoulders to see what other kids got to make sure I'd done at least as well or better than other kids.


I think my best friends were Jim Wasser, Mickey Howe and Mike Kauppi.  At the time, Jim lived across the road from the school in what would eventually be com e the Lett's house.  Mickey lived on Eastman Road .  Mike lived a ways away at the east end of Baker Road and I don't think he came to McLaren until the second grade.


I think Mike Kauppi's mother was a roving guidance counselor and one day she drove her Crosley station wagon to McLaren School for a visit.  The Crosley was a very small com pact car that, size wise at least, was way ahead of its time.  Somehow, while Mrs. Kauppi was inside, the older kids were able to lift the car up sideways onto the porch landing so that the front doors to the school wouldn't open. I thought it was pretty funny at the time but not so funny when it happened to me years later.


While working at the Bay gas station in Midland (next to McDonald's) in the summer of '65, I went for donuts in the company truck and the mechanics put my Renault Dauphine up sideways on the hydraulic lift.  They hid the key to the lift valve so I couldn't bring it down.  It was up there all day and since they knew I had a date that night they wouldn't let it down until they knew I would be late.  Not so funny at all.


Probably due to a lack of interest at my age, I only have a vivid memory of one of the girls that I went to school with at McLaren.  That memory was probably the result of another curious event which, I'm sure now, happened a little too early in my life.


There was one boy in school that was always a little bit of a bully.  I don't remember his name but I guess there always has to be at least one bully at every school.  Of course, being the smallest boy in school probably made me a good target.


A little ways from the school, on my daily walk home, there was a small bridge that usually had a little water running underneath it.  One day while walking home with Zoe Harris, the "bully" asked us if we wanted to see what he'd found under the bridge.  Up to that point, he hadn't been mean to Zoe, or me so we followed him down to the water under the bridge.  Once there, he dropped his pants and told Zoe what he wanted her to do.  Considering my last such experience, Zoe and I scrambled back up the bank to the road and ran off while he was still struggling to get his pants back up.  He didn't catch up to us that day.


Unfortunately for me, there were other days.  After that, on the way home he would try to pick a fight with me.  Most days I could get ahead or stay behind him enough to avoid any problems.  One day, the inevitable happened and he caught up with me at the corner of Schaffer and Eastman and I couldn't avoid the fight.  I think I was holding my own until he picked up a stick.  Just about that time, a school bus stopped and let off some older kids.  One of them saw what was going on and, although he didn't stop the fight, he did take the stick away from the other boy.  Although I don't remember for sure, I suspect that taking the stick away intimidated the 'bully' and gave me enough courage that I was able to knock him into the ditch.  The water in the bottom of the ditch had the desired effect and he stopped fighting and went home.


I wish I could remember the older boy's name.  The 'bully' never bothered me after that.  Unfortunately, I don't know if he ever bothered Zoe. I hope not. I think the Harris's moved away sometime after that and the Lightfoot's moved into their home.


I met Zoe again by chance years later on the night of the 1964 Meridian High Jr./Sr. prom.  But, that's another story for later.


With the McLaren 1952 - 1953 photo included in the 1964 class yearbook and lots of help from MaryLou Woodruff here is a list of Beginners through 2nd grade class of that year (I was in the 1st grade):


Click on photo to enlarge.


Mrs. Joseph, Jim Wasser, Sandy Haggit, David Rogers, Betty Parsons, Ken Augustine, MaryLou Woodruff, Morgan Smith, Neva Mackey, John Rogers, Audrey Richardson, Rex Wendt, unknown, Betty Jo Ostrander, Gordon Swinson, Diana Howe, Bill Goullete, Charlene Mosher, Bobby Harris, Christine ?, ? Robbins, Harriet Whitehead, Selby Richardson, Zoe Harris, Mickey Howe, Judy Fick, Bobby Seward, Max Bishop , ? Robbins, Dale Laplow, Floyd Anderick, Delbert Durphy, Jim Anderick.


Here are the names that Judy Fick had listed on her 2nd and 3rd grade Mills 1953 - 1954 photo (I was in the 2nd grade):




Mrs. Herner, John Gower, unknown, Leon Schneider, Lorrine Hardy, Mike Kauppi, Zoe Harris, unknown, Jim Wasser, Betty Ostrander, Max Bishop , unknown, Dale Laplow, Lorretta Hardy, Judy Fick, Don Potts, Charlene Mosher, Tom Boman, Joy Brown, George Mogg, Pat Devericks, John Rogers, Harriet Whitehead, Morgan Smith, Gordon Swinson, Betty Parsons, Howard Robertson, Kathy Bozer, Dave Schneider.



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