School at Lane School District 35, almost a mile and a half east of home, was an exciting time – although I suffered many “indignities” from teachers who apparently thought I was an unruly child. Actually, it seems that my curiosity and wanting to be in all the action, plus a stubborn streak, usually brought trouble. I considered my first teacher, Mrs. Kauffman, a bit brutal. She made sure that I felt her physical discipline. Then my behavior was reported to Dad, and the necessary additional discipline of having to stand behind the wash house with my face to the wall was administered for a given length of time. Kind of a “crime doesn’t pay” situation.
Back to that first day of school. I can remember proudly coming up our lane and across the yard at the end of the day to tell Mom about it. Learning was exciting, as was the time with the neighborhood kids. At least twice a year there would be an evening program at the school. What an exciting time with our parents there! I enjoyed doing recitations, until one time I forgot my lines and had my first experience of stage fright. A proud moment was the night that Mom out-spelled our teacher, Mrs. Gladys Sowles (who was a very intelligent lady).
Mrs. Sowles was an excellent teacher, also a very strong disciplinarian. Years later she rather apologized to me for her harshness at times, saying that her husband’s unfaithfulness had her upset. Lucille Prentice (Todd) was our next teacher. She was a good teacher and it seemed different because she was part of a family that was special friends of our family.
Jenny Lynn Meader was my last teacher at Lane School. She was a sweet, pretty woman, and she had a musical voice. I was sure that I wanted to marry her some day. My infatuation cooled when one day she had to correct me for roughing up a schoolmate. Years later when Xenia Lee and I were newlyweds, we met her at the Atchison County Fair. She seemed excited to see us, and naturally I was proud of my bride and glad to have Xenia Lee meet a favorite teacher.
Those first eight years in elementary school, were truly “carefree days”. Lane School was on a stretch of highway called “Seventh Day Lane” because the earliest settlers were Seventh Day Baptists–Stillman, Griffin, Maris, VanHorn, Wheeler.
Despite my discipline problems at times in school and the reinforcing punishment at home, I must say those were glorious days, and certain teachers had a way of adding a little pleasure by a spring picnic, special lunches, occasional community school gatherings with programs in which we students did recitations, sang, and even saw our parents involved in spelling bees or arithmetic competitions.
Back to teachers, Earl Van Horn occasionally substituted for a teacher. He was an interesting man who loved playing piano with a dramatic flair. I am ashamed to say I was punished for bullying another boy who was bigger than I. Later he discovered that he was quite capable of handling me. That too, was humiliating for me.
Three of our activities I enjoyed in “free time” were making grass igloos woven on stick frames. That was in the early fall before the tall grass beside the school had been mowed. Another was tramping out a spiral in snow and playing “fox and geese”. The idea was to outrun the “fox” on the spiral paths. A third was “Andy-over” with competing teams throwing a volleyball over the schoolhouse, hoping the opposite team would not catch it and toss it right back. Playing that one recess, I happened to see the “moon” visible in the daylight. A great wonder to me!
My favorite subject was Geography. I “lived” the places we studied. The Santa Fe railroad was somewhat over a half a mile south of school. The passing train stirred dreams of seeing the “Uncle Remus” Southland. Later as a pastor with family, we were privileged to live in the South–Louisiana and Alabama. Wanting to see what “was over the next hill” was always, and still is, my nature.
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