Friday, June 10, 2011

*Bluegills from Gallaher Elementary*




Sometimes you have to squint and strain your brain real hard in order to remember.  Else you'll forget.  It's like fishing.  You throw back your arm.  Whip it forward.  Let go of the little button on the reel in mid-arc.  And the see-through line sighs as it sails toward the center of the pond.  The red and white bobber goes plop, and then you wait. 
            That's how I caught these memories.  I lay in bed on a Sunday morning and waited for the red and white bobber in my brain to pop in and out of the water. 
            "Got one!" I said. 
            Actually, I got a couple.  The fish were biting.  They do that in the morning, you know.

I went to Gallaher Elementary School in Huntington, West Virginia.  Or was it Gallagher?  I'll have to ask my mom or my oldest brother, Mike.  He's the only brother who cares about the old stuff.  It's not like I can drive down to Huntington and check the sign on the school.  Mike called one day a few years back and told me they tore Gallaher Elementary down. 
            "I got some bricks," he said.  "Want one?"

My daddy walked me to school every day.  It was just five blocks.  We'd talk about everything--Alistair Cook on Masterpiece Theater, our next camping trip to Carter Caves, or Piggy Boy Twisty Tail.  He was the pig on the farm in Mill Creek where Daddy grew up.
            Dad got grumpy when I told him I was going steady with David Lively. 
            "You're only in the fourth grade, for crying out loud!" 
            David was the only guy who signed up for the Gallaher School Summertime Reading Contest and he beat me.  Me!  Of all people.  I went to the Gallaher Village Library twice a week in the summer.  Read under the covers at night with a flashlight and everything.  I was a shoo-in to win.  But the summer before fourth grade, David Lively crashed his bike.  His foot got stuck on the banana seat and he ended up with a cast from his ankle to his hip.  Wasn't like he could do anything but read that summer.  That made me think he was pretty neat.  That he read a lot.
           
David wasn't my first crush at Gallaher School.  In first grade I was gaga for a boy named Beau.  Know what beau means in French?  Beautiful.  And he was.  Had the biggest blue eyes ever.  We were all the time staring at each other with silly grins pasted on our faces.      Mrs. Collins would bang on the pull down maps with her pointer stick. 
            "Pay attention, you two."
           
Green paint's what I remember from second grade.  Mrs. Calfee handed us each a piece of off-white paper, big as our desk tops. 
            "Green starts with the letter 'g,' so we're going to paint something green." 
            Then she picked up the big container of green bean-colored tempera paint and shook it real hard.  I guess the lid wasn't on good 'cause next thing you know, we were something green.  I bet if Gallaher Elementary was still standing, you could walk into Mrs. Calfee's classroom and the green polka dots would still be on the ceiling.

In fifth and sixth grade, I got picked to be a safety patrol and a fire patrol.  When I was on safety patrol duty, I wore a white cross-my-heart-go-'round-my-waist thingy.  I carried a flag made out of a bamboo pole and a twelve-inch square of orange cloth.  I'd open it after I looked both ways 'cross Gallaher Street or Norway Avenue.  I’d close it once the kids got to the other side.  If it rained, we got to wear cool yellow coats and hats, like the guy on the box of fish sticks. 
            When the fire drill bell rang, I'd put on my orange cross-my-heart-go-'round-my-waist thingy.  I'd run to my post--the second floor stairwell on the Gallaher Street side of the building--and hold the door open.  I was ready to shout, "Stop, drop and roll!" if I saw someone a-flame.
            The cool thing 'bout being either kind of patrol was going to Camden Park at the end of the school year.  I was too chicken to ride the rickety and creaky Big Dipper roller coaster so I'd go on the Whip and the Tilt-a-Whirl over and over.  And eat cotton candy.  “Pink, please.”  Oh, and pronto pups with gobs of bloody ketchup and curlicues  of sunny yellow mustard.

Mr. Lee was our principal.  Remember that saying?  "The principal is your pal."  Mr. Lee looked like a bull dog.  Like the one on the Purina dog food commercial.  "This is Dog Chow's finest hour."  Mr. Lee made it his personal mission to make every child at Gallaher School an adventurous eater. 
            "Eat the nutritious before the delicious."  Like there was something delicious.
            The worst day of the month was Liver Day.  The school would stink to high heaven.  'Round 'bout eleven o'clock I'd start poking at my uvula with the Pepto-Bismol pink eraser of my orangey-yellow, #2 pencil.  Tried to make myself barf so I wouldn't have to taste the liver.  Mr. Lee would stand over your shoulder 'til you took, "just one bite."
            The thing was, the liver looked like a square b.m..  My mom was a registered nurse and that's what she made us call poop.  It smelled like it too.  If I'd been unsuccessful triggering my gag reflex, there was always Timmy Howard.  He was the only kid in school who liked liver.  For a quarter, he'd eat yours.  Man, that kid ate a lot of liver!  I always wondered if he died young.  Doesn't eating a lot of organ meat give you something called gout?

I think my sixth grade teacher ate something that made her sick.  Her skin was super bumply.  All the time.  She tried to cover it up with lots of face makeup and cream rouge the color of Bozo the clown's nose.  You could still see the lumps though.  Kinda looked like toad skin.
            I had to mouth breathe whenever I went up to her desk to ask a question.  Her perfume was rank.  She said it was Wind Song but us kids called it Break Wind Song.  Her lips looked like the Joker's but she didn't smile much.  I reckon I was partly to blame for that.
            See, I was ornery.  No one knew it 'cause I made good grades.  No one thinks the smart kids ever do anything wrong, but I did.  I had the world's A #1, best spit ball system ever.  First, I made my ammo.  I'd tear off little bits of notebook paper and put 'em in my mouth.  When they were good and soggy, I'd roll 'em into little balls, just a tiny bit bigger than a beebee.  Then I'd coat 'em in Elmer's glue.  The last step was covering 'em in pencil shavings. 
            When I had a dozen or so of my super awesome spitwads, I'd work on the delivery system.  I'd pry the stopper off my Bic pen with my teeth.  Couldn't use my fingernails 'cause I bit 'em way far down.  I'd grab a hold of the writing tip and pull it and the ink tube out.  Then real sneaky like, I'd load the clear plastic cylinder with a spitball.  When the teacher went to write on the blackboard, I'd . . . ready, aim, FIRE. 
            The spitwad would fly through the air and get trapped in the adhesive that held her hair together.  See, every day after lunch, she'd spray her hair real good with a blast from her big, pink can of Aqua Net.  The spitwads would dangle in the back of her hair for a little while, then one by one,  they'd fall to the floor like little woody booger balls. 
            The hardest part was trying not to bust a gut.  I had to bite my lip big time.  If I laughed, I'd get caught.  If I got caught, I'd probably have to go to the principal's office.  I'd never been in Mr. Lee's office, but I was pretty sure it'd be scary.  He'd probably get in my face and I'd keel over from the terribleness of his breath.  I was sure he had bits of liver between his teeth, decomposing at various rates.  Worse even than his halitosis was the possibility that my safety and fire patrol privileges might be yanked.  No more Camden Park?  Perish the thought!

Well, the sun's coming up now.  The fish are swimming away from me.  Toward the shadows.  I should probably get moving too.  I sure am glad I went fishing first.  Just think, if I hadn't cast way far out, into my pond of memories, the woody booger balls and the bits of liver might've been the ones that got away.


4 comments:

Beau said...

Terrific Diane.....I wish my memory was that good! I believe I shared that same safety patrol honor :-) Poor Ms Woodson....I thnk so many people played pranks on her. I remember having her for a class and I think it was Jeff Wasson that instigated that everyone drop their books on the floor at a certain time.....sounded like a bomb went off.

writingdianet said...

Hey Beau!
We were brutal to Ms. W, weren't we? I absolutely remember the book dropping stunt we did on a regular basis. Crazy loud. Poor woman!

Joseph Terrell said...

I also went to Gallaher elementary...'62-64, 2nd and third grade. My teachers were Mrs. Welty (2nd) Mrs. Hall (she died half way through our 3rd grade) and Mrs. Flynn (who finished third grade for us. We lived a block or two up Gallaher Street.

Joseph Terrell said...

Thanks for the memories. I attended Gallaher from 1962-1964. Mrs. Welty was 2nd Grade teacher and Mrs. Hall was my 3rd grade teacher. But Mrs. Hall died in January of that year and Mrs. Flynn was hired to replace her.

It was on November of that 3rd grade year that, as I walked up the steps from afternoon recess, I heard someone say, "President Kennedy's been shot." But, 3 months later, the Beatles arrived in USA...all was well. :)

The newer section was finished just after I started second grade in 62. Mrs. Welty got one of the new rooms, so we had a brand new classroom that year.

I lived about a block and a half up Gallaher street (208) on the opposite side from where the school was. I often went home for lunch. The only one of my classmates whose full name I can remember is Bruce Freeman. His parents owned Wiggins Restaurant. There was also a kid named Ronnie, another with the last name of Peck and there was a girl named Pam. She lived a little closer to the school than I did.

Well, thanks again for the reminiscence. Joe Terrell

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