School Daze: They Ain’t What They Used to Be

Flop – flop – floppity – bop bop! That was the sound of grandson Ian’s heavy plastic bag of supplies bouncing off his left leg walking into orientation last week at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School.

IanSchoolSupplies

I didn’t pay too much attention to its contents until I helped him place supplies into wire bins at the back of his classroom: Purell germicide, Clorox wipes, Ziploc freezer bags, even multiple boxes of Puffs tissues.. The only item I recognized as a school supply was a ream of paper to print pages from a classroom computer.

On the first day of class, Ian, now a third grader, carried an aqua-blue lunch zippered pouch and a black backpack no doubt stuffed with notebooks and crayons. As a first grader at Rheems Elementary School, I wore a dress and carried a plaid book-bag with a plastic handle and a metal lunch box, probably plaid too. In the 1940s, plaids or checks were in.

Google Images
Google Images
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School
Second Grade: Rheems Elementary School

I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was five. But learning is speeded up these days. Students are pushed to advance. Ian and others in his age group probably have memorized their letters by age three or four. The curriculum in his particular third grade class includes reading twenty-five chapter books out of class during the school year. Peering into his book bag today, I spotted Madeleine l’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and Kate DeCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. Reminiscing, I remember reading aloud and silently during class, simple books. Our teacher read to the class after lunch as we rested our heads on the desktop. Instructors then encouraged but did not quantify the number of books to read until junior high school.

Teachers nowadays may teach spelling, but do not issue students textbooks such as The Common-Word Spellers like this one below published in 1921 by Ginn and Company.

SpellngBook

Nor do grammar book titles these days warn students about getting tangled in English problems, negative wording that educators today would probably nix.

EnglishProblemsFinal

This antique practical English text by Easterbrook, Clark, and Knickerbocker bears a copyright date of 1935. Quaint but exquisite pen & ink illustrations announce various chapter headings, which also depict social skills needed for the business world, especially preparing for a career in journalism. Thanks to this gift from friend Carolyn, you can catch a glimpse below of what curriculum planners and textbook authors thought students needed to succeed in the 1930s.

The technology depicted here is mostly obsolete, yet it feels like a novelty because we are eighty years removed from this era.

SalesTalkVacuum1935

Hat in hand is a tip-off that the gentleman running the vacuum cleaner expects $$$ from his sales presentation, not a huge hug from an appreciative wife. Is the woman at the desk examining the manual? writing a check? Housewives then did not hesitate to open their doors to the Fuller Brush salesman and their ilk.


RadioProgText

iPods with ear-buds have replaced the big box with knobs enjoying pride of place here on the table. How about you?


CharacterConversationText1935

In an age when Facebook posts, text messaging and Snapchat often constitute communication, leaning in and maintaining eye contact suggests that face-to-face conversation can reveal character. Does this scene recall meaningful conversation with a loved one?


LibraryCardCat1935

For some, hand-held Kindles and Google searches have replaced library bookshelves and the card catalog. Remember those? And careful notes written in ink on index cards?

 


Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigeur (2016-2017 academic year)
Jenna and Patrick Dalton on their first day of school at Mandarin Middle School, book bags de rigueur (2016-2017 academic year)

“School is hard. It’s a job. But instead of getting paid in money you get paid with knowledge.”  ~ Jenna after her first day of school, August 15, 2016

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Your turn: Do any of the pictures above ignite a memory or spark a story? What is your take on current technology? What ways of communicating should be preserved?

 

Birthday Butter Shake: A Sequel

 

SouthernFriends

You may remember when I visited Pennsylvania last month we made butter the old-fashioned way, my mother, sister and I shaking cream in a 2-quart jar. This week my Southern friend Carolyn threw a birthday bash that included friends making butter together. We did just that – working in pairs, taking turns shaking, and doing it all to music of the 1950s and 60s.

Here is Carolyn explaining how it’s done. Now girls, “Shake the cream until it curdles into butter. Add a pinch of salt. And then to spice it up a notch, choose a combination of honey, cinnamon, mixed herbs, or garlic salt to give your butter some personality . . . .”

CSexplainingButterShake

Next the ten of us pair off with pint jars of cream, handing off the jar to our mate when our arms are about to fall off . . .

butter team

And away we go!

To the tunes of Let’s Have a Party and All Shook Up, we Shake, Rattle, and Roll, way past curds and whey. Finally, with our butter balls all molded and labeled we sit down to a fancy feast, enhanced by the fruits of our labors.

molded butter

In the 1960s, you could eat anything you wanted, and of course . . . there was no talk about fat and anything like that, and butter and cream were rife. Those were lovely days for gastronomy, I must say.         Julia Child

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Have you attended a memorable party, birthday or otherwise? Tell us about it. We’re curious.

Maybe we’ll copy-cat it. You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Coming Saturday: The R-Word and You