I recently jotted down some memories of my school days in Alaska where the entire school K-12 was about 100 students.  Boys routinely brought guns to school for after-school hunting, the basketball team flew to other villages every weekend to compete, being white meant I was a minority, and so much more that used to seem normal to me.  I thought I’d share some of these memories with you today.  I’d love to hear about your unusual school days, too!

My hometown. Yes that's the whole town.

My hometown. Yes that’s the whole town.

Our kindergarten class went to the community library building and all I remember was watching Sesame Street. Our family didn’t have TV and it was a novelty to me. Big Bird was quite mesmerizing! I also remember going to the ‘big school’ down the street and visiting the first grade class. That was exciting! I couldn’t wait to start school.

Though I was thrilled to be in school, first grade is very vague for me. About all I remember is liking my teacher, Mrs. Randazzo.

Mrs. Knapp entered my life for second grade. She was the most magnificent and wonderful person I knew.  I simply adored her. She always had a smile and she always made me feel special and smart. All these years later, she told me I was one of four second graders in that class that could read. It explained why I remember being called on to read the script below the silent films we watched sometimes.  She had a reading corner with lots of books and cards you could mark off when you finished a book. I couldn’t get enough of reading, I think mostly because she gave me lots of praise and encouragement.

Lynne & Me 2nd grade  July 4th parade

Lynne & Me
2nd grade
July 4th parade

Third and fourth grades were with Mrs. O’Donnell. She was a spitfire and didn’t settle for any nonsense. Tammy was a year older than me and I remember the two of them getting tangled up one time.  It wasn’t pretty.  Tammy bit Mrs. O’Donnell and all hell broke loose.  I minded my own business pretty well in that class and stayed out of trouble.

Fifth and sixth grades were with Mr. Greer and I was definitely not on my best behavior there. To put it mildly, he and I disliked each other very much. He was a pompous jerk who was only interested in art, cooking, and bragging.  (not necessarily in that order) He didn’t really want to teach anything else and would always leave the answer book on his desk for us to look up answers. I wanted to know how to do a math problem one time and he kept directing me to the answer book. I didn’t want the answer; I wanted to know how to do it. He was condescending and rude to me in front of the class –not for the first or last time.  I hated fifth and sixth grade.

Mrs. Knapp came back to teach my seventh grade year and I was so happy to see her! Her husband had been offered the principal position and she the teaching job. She had many of the same students as she’d had in second grade. But luckily for everyone involved, we all knew how to read this time. Still, she read books to us and it was fun because she changed voices for the various characters. I hung on every word. She read James and the Giant Peach, Gone With the Wind, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and many others. She made mobiles to match the themes of whatever she was teaching. I loved school again. She decided to let us order the movie Gone With the Wind and show it to the community. We had to sell popcorn and charge admission to cover the cost of renting the film. It was a great experience.

A new family moved to town the summer between eighth and ninth grades. They lived in the trailer next door to us. I made fast friends with Darlene, and it wasn’t long before I began calling her parents ‘Mom and Dad.’ We spent most of our free time together and usually ate dinner with each other.  We were so close everyone called us “D&D.” We took it one step further and called ourselves “D&D Dynamite Duo.”

Me & Darlene 1980's anyone?

D&D Dynamite Duo
1980’s anyone?

Freshman year we did cheerleading with Shelly. Patty was our cheer coach and she had us doing lots of fun moves like round-offs, cartwheels, and splits. For only having three cheerleaders, we did pretty well. Darlene and I were also on the yearbook and school paper staff. We loved having the excuse of taking pictures for the yearbook to have access to the visiting boys’ basketball team. I’m not sure how subtle we actually were, but we thought ourselves clever.

One of our clever ideas involved the visiting boys basketball team from Galena.

We fancied two of the boys and devised a plan to meet up with them after the game one night. Visiting teams always stayed at the school Friday and Saturday nights. Per the plan, we snuck out of my house after my parents had gone to bed. Victor let us in a side door and we hid in the girls’ locker room. He and another boy Darlene liked finally joined us, saying they’d told the coach they had to brush their teeth. They were gone a little too long for teeth-brushing and coach came looking. He found us necking with the boys and we were busted. I don’t remember if the boys had any consequences, but our punishment was not being allowed to travel with the team the rest of the season. We tried to convince the principal that it wasn’t fair to Shelly to be punished for our deeds and to just do something to us. He refused though, and we missed out on the cheer competition we’d been practicing for all year. We felt really bad about the whole thing, even though we did have a good time with the boys! Victor and I wrote to each other for several months afterwards; this was the Alaska version of dating. Then I got a letter saying he and his girlfriend had a one month old baby girl and he wouldn’t be writing any more. How noble of him.

We had about 100 students kindergarten through twelfth grade. High school comprised about 40 kids then. The whole school had the same schedule of 9-4. We walked to school, walked home for lunch hour, and back again. Sometimes kids would ride bicycles, motorcycles, 3-wheelers, or snowmachines to school, too. We’d just leave the keys in the ignition since everyone knew each other’s machines there was no point in stealing. I only remember school being cancelled due to the cold once, and that was when the water pipes broke when it was 60 below zero.  Boys brought .22 guns to school for rabbit and squirrel hunting after school.  There was never an incident with a gun at school, accidental or otherwise.

My senior year we made a ‘time capsule’ and put a local paper, some pictures, and we each wrote what we thought the town would look like when the capsule was to be opened in 20 years. I heard it got opened early because of a construction project remodeling the school. I wonder how close any of us came in our predictions.  My graduating class consisted of 5 girls and 3 boys.  Shelly and I were graduating a year early, which meant we increased the graduating class size by 25%.

Me & Mrs Knapp showing off our tattoos! August 2013

Me & Mrs Knapp showing off our tattoos!
Reunion in August 2013 after 25+ years

How about you?  What was something unusual in your school days?

Advertisements