T is for the Trip Through Time, and Teachers

I grew up in Binghamton, NY, and when it was time for me to go to kindergarten, I was supposed to go to Oak Street Elementary School, based on where I lived. But both of my parents worked outside the home, and there would be no one home at lunchtime.

It was determined that we would instead go to Daniel S. Dickinson School, so that we could go to my maternal grandmother’s house at lunchtime. She was only a half dozen blocks from my home. Incidentally, I don’t think Oak Street was any closer to MY house than Dickinson. The school was named for a 19th Century US Senator, as well as the first president of the city of Binghamton in 1834.

One of the peculiar things about schools in Binghamton at the time was that they would start in September AND February. Those of us born in December to March, maybe a month earlier or later, began school in February. The February class was always far smaller than the September class. One’s first semester was the B semester, the second the A semester. So when I went to school in February, I’d be in kindergarten B, e.g.

Dickinson was a K-9 (kindergarten through 9th grade) school, located on Starr Avenue at the west end of Dickinson Street, appropriately. The K-6 kids entered on the south side of the building, and the 7-9 children on the north side. It had clocks with Roman numerals, including the 4 shown as IIII, rather than IV.

Kindergarten: my teacher was Miss Cady. She was my mother’s teacher as well, which should indicate her vintage. I remember talking naps on a yellow rug; on one occasion, I actually fell asleep, and woke up to an empty room!

First through fourth grade: I don’t remember this stretch as well, because every single teacher we had in the B semester was gone by the A semester in September. I don’t know if they moved away or what, though at least one had gone on maternity leave, since she came back and taught my sister Leslie.

Fifth grade: Miss Marie Oberlik. She was of a certain age. She lived only three short blocks from the school and I walked by it almost every day. She taught us to count to 10 in Russian, which I can still do. I got 100 in the spelling final.

Sixth grade: Mr. Paul Peca. I’ve written about him. By that year, we had only 16 students in that class.

Additionally, we had:

Music: Mrs. Joseph from grades 3-9. We had these ancient blue books, which I was quite fond of. I loved them so much, in fact, that I found a book with a similar roster of songs a couple years ago called America Sings, and bought copies for Leslie and me. Her husband was our 9th grade biology teacher.

Gym: Mr. Lewis from grades 3-8. Every semester we had to do marching around the gym until it met his high expectations. (Column left march!) Then we could do something fun like softball or volleyball. Later on, perhaps as a result of a presidential fitness initiative, we were supposed to do certain activities, such as climbing ropes, which I was particularly bad at.

In 7th grade, kids from Oak Street, and from the Catholic school next door, entered our school. Mr. John Frenchko was the English teacher in 7B, 7A, and 9B; he was also the school’s assistant principal. Miss Gertrude Kane, who has the same first name as my mother, taught English 8B, 8A, and 9A. She had blue hair. She liked doing accents, and I foolishly let her know that I didn’t think she was particularly good at it. In the three marking periods, my grade went from A to B (after I made my comment) to C. I got a 90 on the final, yet got a C as a final grade.

By the end of 9th grade, we somehow had, again, only 16 students in the class. Nine of us went from K-9 together: Carol, Lois, Karen, Diane, Irene, Bill, Bernie, David, and me; if I had gone to Oak Street, obviously that would be untrue. Indeed, all of us except David, who stayed an extra semester so he could play basketball, graduated from high school together. They’ll all be turning 60 soon, and I’m likely to mention two or three of them in the coming months.

The school song:

Hail, Daniel Dickinson
Pride of our fair Binghamton
May we ‘ere our praises sing
With loyal hearts and true
May all our words and deeds
‘ere uphold thy glory
Guide us our whole lives through
Hail, Daniel Dickinson.

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

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26 thoughts on “T is for the Trip Through Time, and Teachers

  1. How interesting are American schools. They are slightly different from the Dutch schools. I can’t figure out what subjects are taught at your elementary schools. We have reading and writing in Dutch, arithmatics, geography, history, biology, physical training, swimming, singing, drawing and for the oldest children English. After six years of elementary school pupils leave for a secondary school.

  2. Thanks for your comment on Oz. Yes. North Queensland has the same climate as Papua New Guinea and it is very hot there. Over 40 Centigrade. I cannot stand that even if was bred in Indonesia till the age of. 12.

  3. Time travel is awesome. I think it was probably confusing for many to have February AND September starts, but not necessarily bad. The problem is that cut-off can be so arbitrary. Some kids are read at their cut-off times, others are ready earlier and others much later, but who wants to go for more testing…

    I do not have strong memories of my early school years. I do remember my kindergarten teacher – a strict Russian woman who liked me so was not as harsh with me as she was with others (I was also a good girl…). I have images of my first grade teacher (Mrs. Lerner) but then skip to middle school…

    Sweet post. Have a a great week.

  4. It seems your schooling was rather confusing as to where you belonged.
    I think it’s a wonder some of us even made it through school with the strange teachers and their methods.
    I remember my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Everett. His wife died at the beginning of the school year and his hair turned completely white.
    Towards the end of the school year (I really didn’t learn anything) Mr. Everett would take his shoes off in class and put his feet up on the radiator and rattle his false teeth, sometimes taking them out to show us…My parents complained about his antics but it was a time and a school district where parents didn’t have much say. My parents were so disgusted with the system that they got the wheels in motion and we moved to a far better City and School District.
    Hmm, I actually hadn’t thought of this memory for a very long time and didn’t realize until writing this,that this was part of the reasons for moving.
    Memories are weird sometimes.

  5. i love reading about your trip through time. teachers in elementary school made the most impression on me, and i can still remember my classmates’ full names and middle names!*lol* i didn’t finish my kindergarten though–and i’m laughing so hard right now remembering the reason why i quit kindergarten! i entered first grade at 5, my teacher was my grandmother. i was called a “visitor”–because i was too young to be in 1st grade but i wanted to go to school and my mother probably wanted me out of the house. i attended the class reunion last year for the first time and had a blast, although most of our teachers have long been gone.:(

  6. Wow Roger! What a Trip though your early schooling! I think I can remember all my teachers’ names but I assume they’d all be dead by now!

    Leslie
    abcw team

  7. I remember nap time in kindergarten too. And I also woke up one time to an empty room! My teacher was named Mrs. Tripp, and she was very vintage.:-)

  8. How interesting to have a school named after and a song of a Senator. Some teachers just stick in your mind, good and bad. Nice class size ours was one of 54 (those teachers must have had nerves of steel), although they it did separate into two when we were about 8.

  9. Facinating post Roger, as many others this triggered a ton of memories of my school days. I can remember each of my teaches name, and something about them from 1st-8th. My mom didn’t send me to kindergarten. I think I must write a post about those memories on my other blog…”Got a Minute or Two”

    Thanks for the time and effort you put into each of your ABC Wednesday posts.

  10. Wow, I can’t believe you can remember all those teachers with that much detail. I have memories of that time of my life, but not in a lot of detail. That double-start thing seems kind of weird, but I guess it helps keep the ages together. I have a mid-August birthday, so just barely made the cutoff, and consequently was always just about the youngest kid in my class. My son, on the other hand, has a mid-September birthday, so missed the cutoff and was always just about the oldest kid in his class.

  11. Kindergarten: my teacher was Miss Cady. She was my mother’s teacher

    I smile, at least many of my teachers were my Dad’s students.

    Thanks for compliments, I really appreciated Mum and dad.

  12. Roger you have great recall on all of these teachers–great stuff. I suggest you print your posts yearly in a book-they offer all kinds now on the internet for bloggers. I’ve printed the last two years in seperate books and I’ll be printing this years too. It’s amazing to look back and see what all you have created. You’ve got me thinking about my teachers. Mr. Pettibone was fresh out of college and would get so frustrated with us junior high kids he would throw his textbook against the wall. He is still teaching, now at the local Jr. College-hope he’s matured some.
    ann

  13. wow, you’ve got some memory! I remember the teachers who were of particular importance to me – either for their kindness, pushing me when I was lazy, or just genuinely being interested in Me as a person, over and above being another face in the crowd. then there were the ones (high school) who had the guts to tell us kids the Truth about life and living it, lessons far and away more important that what was in the textbooks. : )

  14. I do remember many of my teachers from kindergarten on. I’d sure like to think some of my students would have some happy memories of me. Sorry I’m late with this comment. Just arrived home a couple of hours ago. Been away for two weeks.

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