Friday, January 14, 2005

Kindergarten Nostalgia

When I was 5 years old, my parents gave me the difficult choice of kindergarten or dancing lessons for the coming year. Given my natural inability to dance, I rightly chose kindergarten. I think that was asking a lot of a 5 year old!

I recently came across a picture of our kindergarten graduation as I was looking through old stuff in the basement. It brought back a flood of 50-year-old memories of a good year in my life.

We went to Madeline Gore’s kindergarten, which was adjacent to her husband’s music store in downtown Panama City, Florida. Mrs. Gore (as we called her) had a husky voice, because she smoked like a fiend every time we had a break. She loved story telling and knew how to make wonderful playthings out of old throwaways. One of our favorite attractions at break was a box of “red rags”, which were strips of an old red bedspread which we used in very imaginative ways. We did a lot of singing and dancing also because Mrs. Gore was very musical (married to a jazz saxophone player, who was also an alcoholic).

The picture shows a row of 14 girls of quite varied sizes. Some feet didn’t reach the floor. Many of our legs are crossed at the ankles with full view of our crotches, mine included. I am sitting dead center with Freddie Lee on one side and Elinor on the other. Interesting that we would remain friends forever. There are 11 boys in the back row, of even more varied sizes. Mrs. Gore is standing behind the boys that were most likely to act up. She is wearing one of those typical 50s dresses that has sort of a halter neck and looking very elegant.

I was always envious of Freddie Lee, who lived just a few blocks away and could walk to kindergarten. She was so independent, even at 5, being one of ultimately 10 children. My mother actually learned how to drive so she could take me to kindergarten. It was still a little tenuous because she never learned how to stop without lurching slightly. I was in a carpool with Angie and Mae Gray and they were ALWAYS late. This drove me crazy, but my mother would never rock the boat and suggest that maybe they could be on time. I had a great lunchbox, in which I took my snack of very salty Fritos and a thermos of juice every day.

I remember getting upset about three things in kindergarten. I never quite understood the lesson on crossing the street, getting the concept of green and red lights mixed up. Freddie Lee obviously knew this one since she walked to kindergarten. I had trouble remembering my lines as Rapunzel. And the dance where we had two circles that paired off 2 at a time, then 4, then 8 threw me into a panic. Even in kindergarten I could be a little neurotic!

But all in all I absolutely loved every minute of kindergarten. We were never bored, or scared, or competitive. It was a good way to start academia, that only went downhill from that point on.

It’s interesting to try to recall names for all the little faces. I am sure Freddie Lee remembers them all. When I see her soon, we will reminisce and add some more stories to this post. Maybe we will try to figure out what became of each of the children in Mrs. Gore’s class of 1955.

Stay tuned!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kindergarten in 1955 with Mrs. Gore was more of a playschool experience than the regimented, academic curriculum faced by public school kindergarteners of today. It was open only to famlilies who were informed enough to know of the opportunity, families with tuition money who could sign up for the class before it became full. Mrs. Gore's was filled with children of middle class families who were settled in the community. All the children in that class came from two parent homes with a mother at home. Most of the class graduated from the same high school. What a time of innocence that was! Even then, we didn't all come willingly. Mae was in your carpool because Angie would only come if her younger sister came with her.

8:47 AM  

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