Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Fri, Nov. 22

Barnes: Let's not forget the childhood stories

I spent a few minutes last week driving slowly behind a school bus filled with our Prescott youngsters.

Then two days later, I overheard two young boys talking about having to walk three blocks to catch the school bus.

The experience provoked memories of when I was a kid.

Growing up in Kansas City, Mo. back in the 1930s and 40s was a tad different than what our young Prescott friends are experiencing.

First of all, there were no school buses to get us to and from school. We walked or rode our bicycles or, in really lousy weather, spent part of our weekly allowance (10 cents) riding the trolley.

But that was no big deal, because most of us had heard the harrowing stories of what our parents and grandparents went through getting to and from school. For instance my grandmother had to walk something like 75 miles to school and back. She had to fight bears, packs of wild dogs, eight-foot snowdrifts in May, and run the last 15 miles so she wouldn’t be late to Miss Frankenstein’s class. She feared her more than the bears and dogs.

My mother had it pretty good by comparison. She had to walk only 25 miles each way. She got by on one pair of shoes each year—cardboard inserts were a must!—and she received hand-me-down jackets and mittens from her older brothers. She and her classmates carried water into school from an outside well. Her clothes got scorched when dried on top of the wood-burning stove.

As for me, life was a snap. I walked only two miles to school and two miles back home. Both trips were up steep hills.

Today’s kids might be interested to know that I used a pencil until it was too small to hold. My desk had an ink-well on it; I dipped my pen in it after writing every other word. Jeans didn’t have zippers or designer labels and our T-shirts didn’t have clever sayings or pictures on them and we wore laced leather shoes or boots except in gym.

Teachers ruled the classrooms. We were permitted to talk only when we raised our hand and received a nod from the teacher. Talking without permission earned us a half-hour detention after school.

If you’re a kid reading this, I have several suggestions. First, go slow on being negative about your schooling. Your schools are much more welcoming, enjoyable, congenial, cheerful and friendly than most of the ones we attended years ago. I also suggest you ask your grandparents or great grandparents what their lives were like back when they were in school. But I wouldn’t ask unless—or until—you see a twinkle in their eyes.

The best stories they will share with you only come forth when that twinkle is present!

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