Stroll through school hallways a trip down ‘distant’ memory lane

Stroll through school hallways a trip down ‘distant’ memory lane

Posted: Saturday, August 2, 2008 12:00 am
By: By David Critchlow Jr. Messenger editor

Stroll through school hallways a trip down ‘distant’ memory lane | David Critchlow Jr., Just A Thought
I returned to school Thursday. I was in the sixth-grade hallway and got nervous all over again. I was having flashbacks from almost 35 years earlier and I still didn’t have my multiplication tables homework completed for my math teacher, Mrs. Nailling. (That’s the late Pam Nailling to those of you who knew her outside of school.) Just as I did decades ago, I made my way to the back of the classroom — only this time I was there for my older daughter’s orientation to middle school. I didn’t tell her about my homework mishap because, as she knows (or has been told), I was very studious in my youth, did all my homework and was an honor roll student throughout my school days. As for you, Mrs. Nailling, I know you’re in Heaven so you know now that my dog didn’t actually eat that homework. Also, you will be proud to know, I learned my multiplication tables. Other than the initial nervousness, my first observations Thursday were: Wow, have things changed! And, man, am I getting old! As I sat in that classroom, I remembered sitting there 34 years earlier in the same classroom. It was my home room and Mrs. Vaughan (Carol) was my teacher. While only about 5 feet tall, she wielded a mighty paddle (not on me, of course). She was an excellent — but tough — science teacher, whom I recall having a great sense of humor. Her son, David, was my classmate and I always assumed from his fun-loving, mischievous personality he probably got a dose of that mighty, two-fisted swing of the paddle at home, on occasion. Fortunately, some things have not changed at the school. Dan Boykin still roams the halls — not as the basketball coach and P.E. teacher, as in my day, but as the principal. He has a strong presence that allows him to keep control of a large group of young students but he also maintains an open door policy for students and parents alike. (Open door policy or not, I hope that neither I, nor my daughter, end up in his office.) Another familiar face from the 1970s was Martha Wehman, only now she’s Martha Townes the guidance counselor and not Martha the seventh-grader. During Thursday’s visit, she was kind enough to let me borrow a yearbook from my sixth-grade year at the school, with strict instructions from “Mr. Boykin” to return it, or else… . I enjoyed thumbing through the yearbook, but not as much as my quizzical daughters, one of whom is still a year away from sixth grade. While not encouraging them to have boyfriends in sixth grade, I told them about my first true love. She and her family had moved into town from Alabama the summer preceding our sixth-grade year and she immediately caught my eye. I told them I finally got the courage to ask her — via a written note as texting wasn’t an option — to “go with me,” a term I had to explain to my daughters that meant “be my girlfriend,” which actually meant nothing at that age. She accepted, I gave her my ID bracelet and we became a couple — for three days. After that time, which was spent ignoring each other, she sent my ID bracelet back to me and told me “we were too good of friends” to “go together.” I was devastated. My first crush had crushed me. As my daughters continued to peruse the yearbook, the chic clothes (and hairdos) worn by the students caught their attention. Most of their giggling seemed to be directed at my picture. I tried to explain that my mop-style hairdo was the handiwork of local barber Paul Jarnigan, whose wife, Mrs. Jarnigan (Martha), was one of my teachers, and whose son, Donnie, was a classmate. As for my shirt, I tried to explain to them that if the picture in the yearbook had been in color, they would have seen that the red, white and blue-checked shirt with the wide collar was quite stylish. “OK, never mind,” I told them as they tried to hold back their laughter. “Be grateful you have a school dress code that doesn’t allow you to wear clothing that may be fashionable now but turns out to look awful when you reflect on it later.” I didn’t see the need in telling them I later wore a powder-blue tuxedo to a high school prom — and a dark green one to another. Yikes. Some of those proms resembled Easter egg hunts with the pastel-colored tuxes sprinkled about. Anyway, back to middle school. More pictures, more questions. “Isn’t this your friend Jay?” they asked, pointing to a picture. “Yep, that’s Jay Reithel,” I responded with a bit of sadness, as we lost him several years ago. “He was my best friend and a great drummer. His dad, Mr. Reithel (Marion), was the band director for something like a hundred years.” “Oh, yeah, we go see them at Halloween every year. Can we ‘trick’ them instead of ‘treat’ them this year?” “Sure, I think that’s a great idea. They’ll never suspect us.” As we were nearing home, they managed one more question. “Hey, Daddy, why aren’t you in this Beta Club picture?” “I think I was absent that day,” I said. “Enough questions. Why don’t you give me that yearbook back before you spill something on it and you get in trouble with Mr. Boykin.” “OK Daddy,” they said as I could see them in the rear-view mirror, poking at each other and laughing. Now I’ve got to get this yearbook back to the principal’s office before I get in trouble — or the girls ask any more questions. David Critchlow Jr. may be reached by e-mail at dgc@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 8.1.08

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