My friend Vickie Hammond, who is an elementary school teacher, bless her heart, posted on Facebook last week about the bad weather. She was bemoaning the fact that her kids would miss recess for the second day in a row. She wasn't sure she could tolerate that.Vickie's post sent my mind hurtling back through time. That happens a lot these days. For a brief while 50 years had been lopped off my life and I was a jug-eared 9-year-old, wearing overalls and a pair of Thompson-Boland-Lee's finest brogan shoes, sitting on a see-saw on the Porterdale School playground. Linda King was probably on the other end.
I knew we kids looked forward to recess back in those days but never stopped to think that the teachers might look forward to it as much, if not more, than the little lintheads in their charge.
It was a magical time. We got to blow off steam and burn up some energy, and a kid can learn a lot of important lessons through unsupervised play. One of the most important was that self-esteem cannot be awarded, like a plastic participation trophy.
We actually had to come up with ways to entertain ourselves on the playground. The younger kids would play games like Red Rover and Drop the Handkerchief and tag-out-of-jail. Once we got older the boys would break off and play pitch-up-and-tackle, which was a game about the survival of the fittest. A ball would be thrown into the air -- any kind of ball would do -- and the person who caught it would run around like a chicken with his head cut off while the rest of the boys in the class tried to tackle him. The game could really get rough and those who weren't up to it could go see-saw with the girls.
See above reference to Linda King.
I had a lot of fun on the playgrounds of Porterdale School during recess. I also experienced the most embarrassing moment of my life -- at least to date.
Remember the recurring dream about showing up at school without your clothes? I lived it.
I was in the third grade and back in those days wore the same pair of overalls to school every day -- as opposed to the present day when I wear the same pair of khakis to school every day.
I had outgrown my only pair of overalls and Mama told me to stop by White's on the way to school and let Bobby Smith put me in a new pair. White's was where people in Porterdale bought clothes and they opened at 7 a.m. so folks getting off the third shift in the mill could shop on their way home from work -- or so little burr-headed boys could get a new pair of pants on his way to school.
Alas, on this particular day, White's didn't have a pair of overalls in my scrawny size. That was not going to prevent Bobby Smith from selling a pair to my mother. He put me in some overalls that were about three sizes too big. He cinched up the straps and rolled up the legs and told me that I would "grow into them." The stride of those pants was down around my knees. I was ahead of my time. I was busting slack before it was cool.
Believe it or not, nobody in my class made fun of me when I walked in the door in my new ill-fitting garments. Our mamas were all children of the Great Depression and knew what it was like not to have nice clothes. They would send us to cut a switch if they found out any of us had made fun of what someone wore to school. Everything was fine until recess.
Now understand this, we had great playground equipment in Porterdale. The machinists in the mill made it and we had a giant sliding board. The fun of the sliding board was to wait until the teacher wasn't looking and then climb out and slide down the support pole -- like a fireman -- instead of the slide.
It was my turn on the slide and I caught Miss Elizabeth Willis not looking and I slid down the pole. My pants, however, with all that extra fabric, caught on a bolt and stayed at the top. Ripped right off me. There I was in front of God and everybody in just my T-shirt, my brogans and my step-ins.
I did what any other 9-year-old boy would have done. I ran home.
When I got there I found my daddy -- who worked on the second shift -- sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. When he asked why I was home from school and practically naked I said, "Daddy, we've got to move!"
Thankfully we didn't.
Recess. What precious memories. I bet Vickie Hammond didn't see anything like that last week!
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at email@example.com. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.