I lived over a mile from the elementary school I attended from kindergarten through the eighth grade. During the ‘40s folks called it grammar school. Those years represented a happy and innocent time of my life, as I suspect they did for most pre-boomers.
The walk to and from school was an exciting time. We started out with the older kids, because they were supposed to watch out for us. But once we rounded the corner, each age group went their own way. I had several friends my age and we made the trip together. We never took the exact route twice, at least not in the same day. And that was a bit of a challenge, since we made the roundtrip twice each day; because we had an hour and a half for lunch, so everyone except those with working mothers went home at noon.
A typical day had us taking a shortcut up a few stairs and around the driveway of the house at the end of the block. We might climb a backyard wall at the next street and have to run like the dickens because an unfriendly dog was out in his backyard and didn’t like intruders. Cutting across a vacant lot, we hoped to spy something of value but usually not, because this was one shortcut everyone seemed to take and anything worth having wouldn’t be laying around for a band of boys to pick up.
After climbing up the lawn of the Presbyterian Church, we stepped over the rocks on the top of the stone wall surrounding the property until we were within a block of the school. If we didn’t dally too much along the way, we stopped in the penny candy store and bought something if we had any money. Usually, we didn’t have a cent between us, so we just looked in the glass cases and fantasized about what we liked best. Then it was off to the schoolyard to drop off our bags and play tag, or catch until the bell rang. It’s a wonder we weren’t tired after such a busy journey, but we had no trouble repeating the routine three more times on any given day. The final trip of the day always took longer because there were sword fights, snowball throwing, having battles using pea shooters and all kinds of other activities to engage in on the way home.
Going to school on trash pick up days always gave us the chance to look for things to recycle before anyone referred to it as that. Our parents called us scavengers. We thought of ourselves as treasure hunters. And each season of the year, there was something new for us to enjoy. In winter, the milk that wasn’t homogenized would get so cold the cream would rise and pop through the paper top on the glass bottle. We’d snap off that cylindrical piece and share the best tasting popsicle I ever had, before or since. Come spring, the pussy willows were out early and we’d gather some to take home and there were flowers to pick as it got warmer. The fall offered piles of leaves dotting the tree lined streets, and they were great fun to dive into.
There was so much more for a boy to enjoy on his way to school, which I did until about the fifth or sixth grade. Too bad these adventures can’t happen today, but at least I can remember those days and share the experiences with my grandchildren after they get picked up at school or come home after a planned play day.