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"Anatomy of a School Day"

By Jeff Owenby

School was an odd, yet intriguing sojourn through life that we were all forced to make. The basic premise was that you attend faithfully Monday through Friday, and that you learn something of value. The only really good thing about school was sitting next to your best friend who likewise suffered through each subject. If being stupid was the order of the day, then it was best to have someone to be stupid with.

I remember those cold days in school, looking out through the tall bay windows and seeing a cloudy sky. Between intermittent bursts of rain and sulking gray masses, my imagination worked overtime between social studies and verb conjugation. In the warmth of the classroom, the view outside appeared even darker contrasted by the neon yellow of the overhead lights.

I think back fondly on those days, and how carefree they were. Back then, wedged into a student desk, I felt trapped and bored. However, if I'd been privy to the wonders of foresight, and could see the dismal future of working for a living, I'd have been sure to flunk every grade just to repeat it over and over again.

Lesson 1: The Preparation

In my house, school always began with a basic cereal breakfast and "Leave it to Beaver" on television early in the a.m. On sunnier days, I walked to school with my friends wishing I was out playing army, or just riding bikes with the guys. On the colder and rainier days, we bundled up with hoods and rubber boots, and walked to school hurriedly just to get out of the cold.

corner storeStopping by the corner store to load up on candy was another thing to look forward to. None of us were rich enough to do this on a daily basis, but on the days when we had a few extra pennies and could pool our financial resources, it was the best thing ever. Red licorice was good but could be confiscated; therefore you had to be able to eat it all before entering the school building.

Luden's Wild Cherry or Smith Bros. licorice cough drops were a hands-down favorite among everybody in the entire world. First off, they were medicinal; therefore they were good for you. Second, they were small, noiseless, and easy to munch in the classroom. Dodging the teacher's suspicious glances was easy enough; all you had to do was yawn, cover your mouth, then drop a handful of cough drops in. There was no bulge in the cheeks like there were with the big grape gumballs.

Lesson 2: The Arrival

school hallwaySometimes, if by any chance we'd arrived early, we had to wait for the outside bell to ring before the main doors opened. Our mouths blew clouds of fog and our noses ran as we waited in our groups. Often us guys started some sort of game if the doors were a bit late in opening. Once inside the classroom, coats and jackets were hung up in the long closet in the back of the school room. For those of us who brought our lunches, they were stored on the shelf above. I recall that in one corner of the closet, hanging on the wall, were the orange criss-cross straps of the safety patrol. Their "stop" flag stood next to it.

Lesson 3: The First Half

In our class, the first subject was math which I listlessly attended to. It was my worst subject, and I felt hopeless in the fact that there was absolutely no interest on my part in learning it. Math was basically a useless subject; who needed it? Surely not I, for I had no problems with math in the real world. Cartoons came on at 7:30 and "Combat!" was on at 8:00 and went off at 9. That was an hour and a half of TV time. (So much for fractions). Candy bars were ten cents, and if I had a dollar, I could buy ten of them. (So much for division). If I had a quarter in my pocket and bought a box of Pom-Poms for a nickel, I had twenty cents left. (So much for subtraction). My chances of selling these mathematical feats of brilliance to my teacher: zero%. (So much for percents).

Lesson 4: Recess!

playgroundRecess was probably a lot like a coffee break for adults. It was a time to get outside, clear your mind, and try to work up a sweat running free and wild. Kickball was our favorite game, and we played for as long as was humanly possible. When it poured outside, kickball was just not an option, but we all waited faithfully for the ground to get back to normal again. I recall playing tetherball, and prison ball was an indoor favorite when the weather was too cold outside.

Lesson 4: Lunch!

school lunchLunchtime was great; it was the only full thirty-minute break we had in the day. My mom always made sure I had the three cents for milk money before I left the house. I suppose that after having so many thermos bottles that bit the dust throughout my educational years, the three-cents-a-day thing was a much more economical way to go. Sometimes she made my lunch, and others I was given the thirty-five cents a day for a school lunch. School lunches were divine! I always preferred our school's "Meat Loaf Mondays", but just about everything they made was good. Perhaps it was the mystique of having it professionally prepared instead of mom dishing it up at six o'clock every evening. In the mornings, the radio station announced the school lunch for the day.

Lesson 5: The Last Half

Who amongst us wasn't already mentally exhausted from the first half of the day? With the exceptions of the super-brains in the class, the last half of the day offered nothing new or of interest. This was usually the time of day when we were subjected to the dreaded "films". These were tiresome, torturous reels that usually documented such mind-numbing topics as the wool industry, or how steel pipelines were the gateway to the future. Finally, what seemed like the end of an epic span of time that held us trapped behind elementary walls, came to an end. Time to get that homework assignment, then walk home to freedom.

Having deliberated on the banality of the typical school day and all the tedium of its tenets, I would give just about anything now to go back and sit in one of those classrooms for a day. Life then was more grand than I could have possibly imagined at the time, and the memories of it all are absolutely precious.

Illustrations by Autumn Wind Studios