Friday, September 01, 2017

Tales from Waterloo Hill: School Days

I originally thought I might condense this portion of Jim's recollections and perhaps leave out some names.  But after publishing the first segment, I saw these entries were being passed around locally by folks who would remember some of the people he talks about.  So I've left it in it's entirety for the benefit of long-time Wellington folks.  If it seems tedious to my far-away readers, just bear with me.  I like the idea of helping keep local history alive, and these stories are priceless.  

To read the previous chapter:  click HERE

Third in a series
1940-1948, first through eighth grade

1940-1942  Teacher- Ms Webb (a super lady)

The young Ms Webb taught me to be an excellent reader.  I thought she was fabulous.  We were taught health in her class every morning:  Each student went to her desk to have his teeth, ears, hands, and nails inspected for cleanliness.  What a valuable lesson for all of us.  

World War II broke out during our time with Ms Webb.  Saving bonds or Victory bonds were sold each morning for all who remembered, and could find, a dime for a stamp in the booklets she kept for each of us.  I saved enough over a two year period to fill three $18.75 stamp books, which I kept until entering college in 1952; they were worth $25 each.  Ms Webb, while being a very nice person, also demanded our respect for herself and for our fellow students.  The price for not obeying her was this:  a box of a hundred thumb tacks was thrown against the chalk board.  The culprit had to pick them up within one minute or a swat was administered, and the sequence continued until all were picked up.  This rule applied to girls as well as boys.  I made sure I wasn't caught doing wrong!

My best friend was Don Moore, the best artist in the class as well as the best math student!  He quit school in the ninth grade and later drove a truck for his livelihood.  I've often thought of Don's wasted talent.

Grades three and four:  1942-1944

Miss Margaret Nadler was my teacher, another great one.  I was blessed!  She always said I was the best reader she ever had, even many years later when I would see her.  It was in third and fourth grade I began to notice my math aptitude was barely "normal".  Making change at the improvised country store was a chore for me.  I always blamed it on the lack of cash flow in our home, but who knows.  I read every book available in the library.  Bless those encouraging, super teachers I had in the early grades.  

During this time World War II was in full swing, and the schools were invited to do our part.  Our job was to collect scrap iron, and did we ever pile it up!  We went to farms on wagons and trucks, loading up every piece of scrap metal for use in the war effort to whip those Japs and Germans.  We were really proud of this effort.  As a youngster, I began to think that war would last forever.

Grades 5 and 6:  1944-1946

The war was still going on, so we still had scrap metal drives.

Ms Rose Mary Kumpf was our teacher, and again, we felt we had the best.  When you feel that way, you learn more readily.  One of the boys' fears was of Mr. McKessick, the principal of the school.  We felt that his whole life revolved around mashing someone's rear with the paddle he seemed to always have with him.  When he came to the door of our classrooms after recess, we could be assured it wasn't to kill time.  All heads would go down to our books while he wandered around and picked out the poor guy who had been a "sh-t head" on the playground at recess.  

One of our teachers, Mr. Kincaid (later to be superintendent of our school) came down and bid us all goodbye because he had been drafted into the Navy.  A lot of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds were drafted right out of high school and given their diplomas early, in 1944 and 1945.  Sad, but true.  They had to go fight.

One of the funniest things I remember was the time our fifth-and-sixth grade class was walking past the seventh-and-eighth grade room on the way to rhythm band; as usual, we were gawking at the big kids in that room.  Mrs. Jingles, the teacher in that room, told Tuffy Deubbent to shut up; Tuffy continued to talk.  Well, Mrs. Jingle was going to smack Tuffy in the mouth, but he ducked his head and she smacked poor G.W. Wessendor, who had the misfortune of being behind Tuffy, right in the mouth!  I still chuckle over that today.  Our rhythm band was made up of drums, cymbals, a metal triangle, and sticks.  Not much, huh?

Grades 7 and 8, 1946-1948

Mrs. Swaney was our English and Math teacher.  The thing I remember about her is that she smoked at noon in her classroom and then sprayed perfume that didn't hide the smell.  Another thing I remember is the fact that her son Jim drowned while serving in the Army off the coast of Lebanon.  What a tragedy for us all.  We felt sorry for Mrs. Swaney in her grief and loss.  I remember she told me if my writing didn't get larger she was going to swat my rear, so my writing immediately got larger.  She also told me I was the most impatient young man she ever knew.

Mr. Hicks was my seventh/eighth grade science teacher, as well as my science teacher and basketball coach.  Every morning when I entered his room he would be whistling the Notre Dame fight song.  I truly respected Mr. Hicks.  Later on he would be my superintendent of school at the Henrietta High School, my first year to teach (1956-57).

High school years

I attended Wellington High School, and graduated in 1952 at age seventeen.  Only one student was driving his own car then.  Quite a difference from the full parking lot you will see these days.  I ranked third in a class of 16 students.  In my senior year I was class president.  

I participated in the sports that were offered:  Softball and basketball, which had an indoor and outdoor season.  I was good enough to letter all four years in fast pitch softball, playing outfield and third base.  We had an undefeated season during my junior year, 1951, when we won the Lafayette County Softball Tourney.  

My basketball career began with me as a starter on the ninth-grade team.  I liked my coach, Bill Frerking, but boy, could he chew on us!  I was disappointed when I didn't get a varsity uniform; that went to a senior who couldn't dribble and chew gum at the same time.  I made varsity as a sophomore, but playing time was limited because of a good senior glass that was ahead of me.  As a junior and senior I found a great need in my life satisfied by belonging to a team.  Our best year was my junior year, with a record of 25-8.  Frank Leet was my coach, and I thought he was the greatest guy in the world.  I can probably blame him for my wanting to be a coach and teacher.  I'm thankful I had many good teachers who built my self-esteem in such a way as to prepare me to face the world of that time.

I participated in class plays, was in charge of library during study hall (with none other than Dickie Renno).  I read every book in the small library that even approached my interest. 

My friends in our small high school of 75 to 80 students consisted of probably every kid that attended the school, since we were so small in number.  Peer pressure was evident, but I was pretty much my own person.  So while some good friends smoked and drank, I can truthfully say that except for one incident at Dickie's, I never imbibed.

Mr. Joe Kincaid, taught industrial arts and algebra... well, let's say he tried.  As a ninth grade industrial art student in his class, while all the other guys were making electric lamps, bobsleds, and other nice projects, my only project was a piece of wood about six inches long, and two pieces of glass:  a picture holder!  I helped my friends with their projects and walked around sanding my "picture holder", which was very slick due to much sanding over a quarter of school time.  Mr. Kincaid had seen me working on projects, but they were always someone else's.  He finally told me since I wasn't doing anything in class to sit in his Superintendent office and answer the phone.  He didn't have a secretary.

Mr. Kincaid was one of my best mentors and friends as a student, and later, as a teacher:  He took me after graduation to enroll at MSU in 1952. 

I found a job the summer of 1950 at the Safeway store in Lexington.  Being 15 years old, I had to lie about my age; 16 was the required age to work there.  I made 75 cents per hour (minimum wage) working Saturdays 8 AM to 10 PM.  I usually got paid for a 10-hour day with an hour for lunch (Maid Rites/malts).  From 9 PM to 10 PM was cleanup time, for which we were not paid.  So we hustled our tails off to get out of that store!  After work I'd either catch the Greyhound bus home to Wellington or go down to the Main Street movie house and beg the young ticket taker to turn her head so I could get in free; she usually would do that for me and my friends who worked at Safeway.  After the movie I would walk up main street and stand in the shadows across the street from Block 42, a famous block of nothing but taverns.  I'd lurk and watch the fights brea out at closing time.  What a sight for a 15-year-old to behold, three or four fights in the streets.  Lexington had a far-flung reputation for such.  Finally I would walk to the Madonna of the Trail statue and hitch a ride to Wellington.  I generally caught a ride quickly, usually with people who had been in the bars.  Whew!

I'd have them let me out at the all-night station/restaurant on top of Waterloo Hill so I didn't have to get out in a dark place to walk.  From there I would walk about two miles in the dark woods to my house.  I don't know why I wasn't afraid to walk through the almost total darkness in the woods.  Youth and stupidity, I guess. 

For the next chapter, click HERE.


  1. The best stories are those about ordinary folks.

  2. loved hearing about his elementary school teachers. interesting experiences for sure.


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