Susan Keene Author

Reading gives you wings to fly everywhere and anywhere

My Not-So-Good First Day of School

Posted on Jun 1, 2022 by   6 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Let me set the scene, from my point of view, of school in the 1950’s.

We all went to a neighborhood school. For the most part, children lived close enough to our schools to walk. Most of the schools were red brick with high ceilings and windows from floor to a few feet from the ceiling.

Desks were lined up in rows. These were old time school desks. They had a hard wooden seat and a tray from one side to the other with just enough room to slip in and an empty metal shelf under the seat to stow your belongings.

Most desks were right-handed, in other words, the big tray opened on the right side so you could slip in. There were two and sometimes three left-handed desks, I found it odd since ten percent of people are left-handed. I scrambled for one of them since I’m left-handed and it was first come first served.

Girls had to wear dresses or skirts. If it was cold out, we could wear pants, but only under our skirts or dresses.

School yards were big, usually with a running track, swings, merry-go-round and jungle gym.

Everyday, for two cents, we were served Graham crackers and a carton of milk. Lunch was served for thirty-five cents.

Now I’ve set the scene, here is my memory…

On the first day of the first grade, Mom walked me to school. I went in to the class room and luckily found a left-handed desk. I put my lunch under my desk, and my jacket in the cloak room.

I sat quietly and nervously waiting for what would happen next. Our teacher, Mrs. March, didn’t have a nurturing look. She seemed extremely tall. Of course, we were extremely short.

She wore her black hair on top of her head and held it in place with bobby pins. Once we were all seated, she began to call out names. She skipped me.

I couldn’t understand why she talked to everyone but me. I was a mama’s baby until the day she died. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep from crying. My nose ran. I wiped off the tears as best I could so no one would notice.

After what seemed like a lifetime, my mom came into the room. She looked straight at me and crooked her finger for me to come up to Mrs. March’s desk.

I stood so most of my body was protected by my mom. Here is how their conversation went.

Mrs. March looked at Mom and in an unfriendly voice said, “don’t you think it would have been nice if you had told the school your daughter was deaf?”

I felt my mom take a deep breath. Honestly, she didn’t respond well to rude people. I was married and had children before I even heard my mom say damn. “My daughter was not deaf when she left the house this morning.”

“Why doesn’t she answer to her name?”

Mom gently pulled me out from behind her and asked me, “why aren’t you co-operating with Mrs. March?”

“Mom, I swear, the teacher never talked to me all morning.”

Mrs. March put one hand on each hip and looked down at me. “Sharon; why didn’t you answer when I called the role?”

Mom smiled; her face turned scarlet. “Oh my goodness, she doesn’t know her name is Sharon.”

The teacher glared at my mom and then looked at me. “What six-year-old child doesn’t know her name?”

“I’ll make this short,” Mom said. “Susan was born in San Francisco. My husband had to leave immediately for a job.  The birth was hard for me and we handed the birth certificate over to my sister. We asked her to fill it out and mail it to us. Name her Susan Sharon, but she didn’t. Either she didn’t hear us or chose to put it down the other way.

“We moved to Alton and Susan’s birth certificate didn’t catch up with us until last year. By that time, we had called her Susan so long, I don’t think she will ever be comfortable with Sharon.”

You’d think that would have been the end of it, right. It wasn’t. Every year I had to ask the teacher to call me Susan. It happens with every new person I meet, doctors, nurses, dentists and on and on.

And Mrs. March didn’t like me from then on. Three of us could be doing the same thing and I’m the one she would call out.

Take away; name your child the name you intend to call them.




6 Responses to "My Not-So-Good First Day of School"

Comment by Shirley McCann
June 4, 2022 4:15 pm

My mother never called anyone by their real names. She called my brother either Matt or Dylan when he was little. She loved Gunsmoke. BTW. His name is Kenny.

Comment by Janet Kay Gallagher
September 4, 2022 10:38 pm

Susan, first days at school can be a trial. Thanks for sharing.
Names are important. I was called Kay until we moved to Bakersfield, CA. I worked in Cosmetics at The Broadway Store. My manager from day one called me Jan-Jan. It stuck and I was Jan from then on.
When I decided to be an author, I found there was a Jan Gallagher who wrote mysteries. So now I go by Janet Kay Gallagher.

Comment by Georgia Kay Harris
September 6, 2022 5:14 pm

I was there the first day of school. Mrs. March was the meanest teacher we ever had all through grade school. She definitely didn’t care if she hurt your feelings – ever. I’m sorry this happened to you but believe it !!!

Comment by Susan Keene
January 9, 2023 7:07 pm

I think she was the last one to slap our hands with a ruler. The only thing I can say about her is I never forgot her.

Comment by John Hardaway
September 6, 2022 10:41 pm

Susan, on that very day I lived in the upstairs apartment of Mrs. March’s home on College Ave, across from the tennis courts that were at Shurtleff College and was going to the very old Horace Mann School. We lived there until we moved to Franklin St. and I joined your class in second grade.

Comment by Susan Keene
January 9, 2023 7:05 pm

Glad you moved. Otherwise, we may never have met.

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