New West Side School (on West Market Street opposite Kiwanis Park) as it appeared in 1932. It was later renamed Henry Johnson School. (Old) West Side School was located at the corner of West Main Street and West Watauga.
I attended Henry Johnson School on West Market Street during my second through sixth grades. I entered Miss Margaret King’s third-grade room in the fall of 1951 and, according to my report card, studied reading, writing, spelling, English, geography, arithmetic, health and music.
A bout of pneumonia that year prompted Dr. Ray Mettetal to excuse me from school for 15 days. Much to my chagrin, my thoughtful teacher sent homework to my residence so I would not get behind in my studies.
One day, a representative from the Gideons arrived at school and presented each student in our class with a New Testament. I received another one in Mrs. Dayton Pierce’s fifth-grade class.
My most memorable event that year involved a classmate, Joyce Bible. We sat in close proximity of each other near the front of the class. She lived in the 900 block of Johnson Avenue, just one block west of our house. During a study period, Joyce asked Miss King how to spell a word. She was instructed to look it up in her dictionary. Joyce’s quick reply was, “How can I find it in my dictionary if I cannot spell it?” The class found this amusing, but Mrs. King saw little humor in it.
To reinforce her perceived negative behavior, she was ordered to stay in the room and fill the front blackboard (consisting of about four panels) from top to bottom and left to right with a sentence like: “I can learn to spell words by using my dictionary.” She was left alone to her dutiful task while the rest of us enjoyed the great outdoors. The large playground was situated between the West Main Street school; Johnson Avenue; King Creek, adjacent to Ralph Miller and Kyle Keezel’s Garage; and Kiwanis Park.
When we returned from our break, we found a motionless and expressionless Joyce sitting at her desk. She had written, “I can learn to spell words using my dictionary” once on the top far left side of the board and then proceeded to fill the rest of the boards with ditto marks. Our class members snickered, our teacher scowled. Joyce’s punishment was deferred to the following day’s recess with stern instructions to get it right this time. Recently, I called Joyce and we enjoyed a good laugh about the incident.
When the weather was not conducive for outdoor recess, Miss King provided indoor games. One of them was called, “Simon Says.” I am sure many of us recall that pastime. We would all initially stand beside our desks, with one student standing at the front of the room, assuming the role of Simon. Sometimes the teacher was Simon.
The objective was to perform only those tasks that Simon audibly instructed us to do. If someone inadvertently did something that Simon did not authorize, he or she was eliminated and had to sit down. The winner was the person still standing at the end of the game. Here are some examples:
1. “Simon says, raise your left hand.” If you raised your left hand, you remained standing. If you did not or perhaps raised your right hand, you had to sit down. 2. “Clap your hands.” If you clapped, you ended up in your seat. If you did nothing, you remained standing. 3. “Simon says, scratch your nose.” Scratching your nose would keep you on your feet. If not, you sat down. 4. “Put both hands on your head.” Only those who did nothing were allowed to remain standing. You could only do what Simon said to do.
The trick that made the game enjoyable was to do it quickly, causing students to react before the command would register with them. This was a relaxing activity for Miss King, because all she had to do (unless she was Simon) was sit and watch while keeping an eye out for anyone who tried to cheat by not sitting down when they messed up.
Surprisingly, we never played “Simon Says” at home, but instead engaged in another game called, “May I?” (a.k.a. “Mother, May I?”). It had similar elements as “Simon Says,” except that players advanced forward taking unusual steps. Where did those wonderful carefree days of yesteryear go? They are gone but not forgotten.
Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyester year.com . Cox’s website is at www. bcyesteryear.com .