Before my first year of school, we moved from Idaho Falls to Menan, about 18 miles north of Idaho Falls. Since I arrived just after school had finished, I missed the opportunity to go to summer kindergarten. My mother told me it was all right because I was from the big city and I had an older brother and sister who taught me everything they knew when they came home from school. So we spent the summer roaming the woods in back of Hunting’s, riding bikes to and from Spring Creek, finding pop bottles, and trading them at the Menan Store for winner suckers, penny candy, and Big Hunks.
Summer fled by, like all summers do, and school lurked closer and closer until the day arrived. We purchased our new school duds at JC Penny, either the one where my great-aunt Enid worked or the old JC Penny in downtown Idaho Falls.
I remember getting my shots, and tearing off the scab on the corner of the kitchen cabinet when I didn’t turn quickly enough to get away from my brother. It hurt so badly I thought I was going to die. Nonetheless, the ripped scab did not deter my mother from taking me to school that first day. With me in school, it meant three of her six children gone between 8:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., surely a great relief to her.
Because of where we lived and because of our school district’s propensity to bus everyone everywhere for every grade, it touched me to start my educational career at Lewisville Elementary, an elementary school about three or four miles from Menan. I did not mind the opportunity to ride the bus. I had never ridden the bus, and the ride sounded like an adventure. The adventure lasted about four days.
The first day of school at Lewisville Elementary was full of discoveries, my first being my sister Telecia being assigned to another elementary, just a couple of blocks from my house. The thoughts of staying there alone without someone I knew caused me enough anxiety. I did what most first graders did—I started crying and moaning about Telecia having to go to another school. I just couldn’t take being left alone. Mrs. Williamson, the principal, stepped up and let my mother know that she could change Telecia to Lewisville Elementary. That assuaged my crying for a bit.
Of course, Telecia was not particularly happy that she had to stay at Lewisville with her little brother. Somehow my crying created a sense of sisterly love to exude from her, and she reluctantly stayed. I think I forgot about her after a couple of days after I became entrenched in the educational process. Unfortunately for Telecia, she had to stay for the entire school year.
Mrs. Williams, my first grade teacher led me to my desk, the old wood bench kind, ornate steel legs and a flip top desk. We had about five or six in a row. One of our first assignments was to color a picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any Crayons. The schools didn’t offer lists then so we usually waited until after the first day to see what we all needed and then headed to the store to buy the goods.
Since I wanted to participate in the lesson, I turned around to the kid behind me and asked to borrow a Crayon. He let me have a green or brown one, one of the six he had. He introduced himself as Jon Poulter, also from Menan. Because of that crayon we became good friends throughout our entire school career.
In first grade, I learned to read about Dick and Jane, play army with my friends, slapping our thighs as we rode our pseudo ponies hard around the playground; venture in “the Grove,” a huge stand of trees between the church and the school; play T-ball with our class; watch one of the girls tromp through the barrow pit in snow up to her waist because she didn’t want to ride the bus; participate in a Christmas play; stay in my seat on the bus; and call mom on the school phone because I had stay after for not obeying (I received a “ticket” for straying beyond the boundaries of first graders and lining my “men” on the bus barn wall. Hey, I could still see the rock school house, and there were no buses in the bus barn. So, Mr. Third Grader Ticket Giver, what was the problem?).
Now when you go to the store, you have your choice of 64 or 94 Crayons, and I suspect you would really have to dig to find a plain green or brown in them. I think Jon is in Las Vegas without his pack of Crayons. Jon, if you read this: Thanks for loaning me one of your Crayons. It helped me acclimate to first grade.
Finally, I have only two caveats for first graders: don’t ever play by the bus barn and take plenty of Crayons the first day. Just think of all the friends you’ll make.