Oh the significance of the numbers 69 in my life! Some lasted several years, others were one-time events. First one. I’m from the class of 1969. You know that always used to have a recent sound to it. Lately it sounds kind of ancient. I don’t feel ancient. It seems I might have slept through about 25 years. Or they zipped by in such a hurry, I didn’t realize that they were already gone. Here’s some memories of being part of the class of ’69.
|Holy spit-curls Batman! My kindergarten picture…|
I remember walking to kindergarten with Arlyn Hammen. Sometimes Gary Miller walked with us. The school wasn’t quite 2 blocks from my house. My kindergarten classroom was in the old section of the school building. Sitting on little chairs by small tables that sat about 8 kids. The windows in the room were very long. Miss Oliver pulled the shades down when it was nap time. The room got very dark. Arlyn was homesick one day and started to cry. I felt so bad for him. I loved being there.
|Half of our kindergarten class with Miss Oliver…|
By second grade we were in the brand new elementary part. Most often the door to our room was left open. I was in awe when “the big high school kids” walked past, especially on game day. The cheerleaders wore their cheerleading outfits for the whole day. Becoming a cheerleader was already on my “to do” list. This was also the year that my brother Larry was killed when he was hit by a car riding his bike. Mrs. Ver Hoef was my teacher that year. She was the kindest woman. She caught me after I had quietly delivered her May Basket, and was sneaking back to the car. She gave me a big hug and a kiss. One of the highlights of that dreadful school year. Pretty sure my first crush on Dave Plueger was about that same time.
|Mrs. Ver Hoef. My second grade and kindest teacher…|
I went home most days for lunch. My Mom worked in town and she came home, so we usually had lunch together. Most often one of us would check the lunch menu at school though. There were some favorite meals at school that the lunch ladies made that I never wanted to miss. And Mom didn’t mind if I wanted to stay and have hot lunch. Topping that list was cinnamon rolls. Didn’t care what the main course was. I was only interested in the huge frosted cinnamon rolls. Turkey dinners were special treat too. I remember watching high school boys go back time after time for extra peanut butter sandwiches. I think they were allowed to eat as many as they wanted. Most of these guys lived on farms and did a lot of physical labor. I think they were unable to ever be really full.
But heaven help me if I changed my mind about hot lunch. Maybe I forgot to check the menu. Or Mom had already left for work and I decided that I was going to stay for hot lunch. When the bell rang for our lunch break, my heart would start hammering in my chest until I thought it would burst. I didn’t have my LUNCH MONEY. The school had recently hired a hitman posing as a woman. This was a sure way to intimidate 8 year olds who couldn’t pay for their lunch that day. This woman used an alias to dupe folks into believing she was really Mrs. E.R. Haas. No first name, just Mrs. E. R. Infiltrating Rock Valley Community Schools as the superintendent’s wife, no less. Clever. I could hear my heart pounding as the line crept forward. She sat by a small table just inside the lunch room door. My mouth was so dry I didn’t think I’d be able to speak. Or ever have spit in my mouth again. When this keppi-strunt little Dutch girl finally found her voice, it was squeaky high and jittery. Honest, looking directly into her eyes was like getting zapped by a modern day taser. Her head would spin around a couple times at warp speed. Then a huge-scary-clown-smile because she smelled my fear. Enjoying my panic when my lower lip would quiver. Watching, waiting (and hoping) for me to turn and run. Tongue like a Komodo dragon’s (maybe with the same spit poison too). I had witnessed that 2 foot, razor sharp fork-like-fang hauling kids back to the line to face the music. She would slowly turn her eyes downward, salivating just a bit as she eagerly looked for your name on THE LIST. Oh dear God, there it was. Denise Gerritson. Beady eyes in slow motion easing upwards, locking me under her hypnotic spell. The kids closest to me slowly backing away. A small puff of black smoke flew out of her left ear, at the very same moment a tiny orange flame exited her left nostril. Never the right, always the left. Unseen by staff and other adults. How she managed that was unclear, but never questioned. Her voice was deceivingly soft. She wanted you to lean forward, getting caught unaware. I knew kids who fell for this trickery and still bear the scars. Menacingly she cackle, “This is your second charge. You owe 70 cents! No more charges until your Mom sends you back here with money!” Honestly I went through this for a CINNAMON ROLL. Still have nightmares about her when I was in line without lunch money.
I absolutely loved school until the 5th grade. I still rue the day Eileen Henderson ever came into my life. She was unfair and a horrible excuse for a teacher. Favored boys and picked on smart girls. (Which is why she left me alone-most of the time). One day she walked up behind Anne, who was sitting at her desk with the top lifted up. Mrs. Henderson gave Anne’s long ponytail such a hard yank that Anne’s headband flew off her head and landed in the back of the room. Henderson was just plain mean. Unfortunately 6th grade wasn’t much better for me. I had Mrs. Kosters. She at least treated all of us the same. And she wasn’t a bad teacher, just not very likable to me.
During P.E. class in junior high I fell off the parallel bars, dislocating my left elbow. So unfair that Doc Hegg had chosen that week for probably his first vacation in 5 years to be out of town. Mom had to take to to a doctor in Hull to have it rolled back in place. Forty years later, a old bone fragment was found when I broke that same elbow. I swear Doc Hegg would not have missed that. He was my hero.
I went out for cheerleading in junior and senior high. Really scary. All of your peers sitting crammed on one side of the gym while you do a little routine. Vividly remember wearing tennis shoes, shorts, knee socks and a blouse. One of my first try-outs. Blouse was not tucked into my shorts. Mortified when I did a cartwheel and my blouse flew up, almost revealing-horrors. MY. BRA.
|Pam, Shirlee, Neese & Char, about 1967…|
Basketball games on Tuesday and Friday nights. The old small gym packed like sardines with parents and students. The concession stand. I would buy Royal Crown Cola and a bag of Planters Peanuts. Toss the peanuts in the pop. Weird. If the games were out of town, I’d pay a quarter to ride the pep bus to and from the game. Some of the memories from those rides are my fondest about school. Singing, shouting, cheering, flirting. Loud, so loud. Mostly on the way there though. Many times on the way back we were too hoarse to be obnoxious. We tried though. Good times. Now when I see a full school bus, all the kids have their heads down. In their own little world with ear buds, phones or Tablets. Man, they are missing out of so much. Sad.
Home Economics class was a real stretch for me. I had never cooked, couldn’t sew on a button. I believe her name was Miss Weiner. Poor thing. Something had happened to her, and she had a wooden leg. This was in the early to mid ’60’s. Before all the advancements made with prosthetics. Plus she had me as a student. She was very patient, especially during the sewing segment. Probably lasted 6 weeks but felt like 2 years to me. I think I sewed the sleeve on wrong at least twice before she finally gave up on me. Ripped it out, sat down at my machine and stitched it on right. Thanks Miss Weiner. It was better for both of us that way. I didn’t do too bad in the cooking and baking part. The kitchen set up was massive considering how small our school was. I don’t remember exactly how many kitchens there were, but I think about 6. We made baked Alaska once. And it turned out great.
I had a very close wonderful friend named Char through most of school. She lived about 3 blocks away. Her family was normal but unusual. The unusual part was her parents had kids who were already grown up and gone. Then they had a second batch of kids. All girls the second time around, and pretty close in age to me. Char was the 2nd kid of this group. Sunday’s were so slow in Rock Valley. The whole town revolved around the many churches that day. The drug store was open for a couple hours, but no gas stations, or restaurants. Wouldn’t have mattered to most of us anyway if they had been open. It was wrong to spend money on Sunday. Period. “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, and on the 7th day thou shalt rest.” After the morning round of church and Sunday school, a big dinner, the rest of the day went unbelievably slow. When we got back from visiting my grandpa, I’d head over to Char’s house. Her house was bustling. I loved it there. So different than my quiet, somber house. A couple of Char’s older brothers had moved to Colorado, but her married sister Audrey lived in Sioux Center. Audrey and her family came over every week for a big Sunday supper. This put their total at the table at about 10. I was invited to stay most Sunday’s. Man did I enjoy being with that family. They were so good to me. Mrs. Schelhaas went all out for this meal. Usually a delicious roast and either twice baked (the best) or mashed. They mashed their potatoes with a mixer. That was new to this kid. Those spuds were so smooth. Sometimes we had hamburgers. Which were very small. As in 50 cent piece sized. Everyone was talking quietly. Absolutely the best way to spend Sunday’s. Soon everyone was helping clean up because it was back to church for evening services. Char’s parents were custodians for our church. Audrey’s family went back home. The rest of us went back to First Reformed for RCYF and the preacher’s sermon. My time spent with Char and the Schelhaas family are still the dearest memories and highlights of my childhood. My heartfelt gratitude, love and thanks for all the times they included me. Even in their bullhead fishing trips to Minnesota. Don’t get me wrong, this was 2-way street. My Mom and Dad adored Char and included her in most of our family’s outings. Char joined us nearly every Saturday night when we went out for supper. And shopping trips to Sioux Falls or Sioux City. Many times Mom bought Char an outfit, or got us matching tops. Char, still the best bud.
|My best friend, Char. Mid 1960’s school pic…|
I really wasn’t a bad student. But totally unmotivated. For me school was a social event everyday. I sure should have put in more effort, but that just wasn’t me. I don’t think I ever really tried. I did enjoy English. Yup that was about it for me. Pathetic. Glad my kids were all great students, each one getting their college degree, and more. My 4 fabulous grands are smart as whips too. None of them got it from me. As for the rest of my ’69’s? Well in 5 years I’ll be 69. John and I were married in 1969. A one-time event. Trust me. Plus this is my 69th blog post. Trying to get at least 100. I plan to have my own hard cover book published of all my blog posts. With comments of course, they’re usually the best part. Just for me. You ever walk in a care facility and notice a little old lady carrying around a doll? That she thinks is one of her kids? That will be me, but lugging the book of my goofy stories. Sometimes painful, some funny, but all in all a wonderful, blessed life. A very old Neese, standing by the front door, begging complete strangers to read me the old stories of my life…