When Grandpa John Was a Kid - Jefferson Grade School

Three blocks south of my house in Oklahoma City, at the corner of 23rd and Classen, stood a red brick building with white stone trim around the entrances. This was Jefferson grade school, my learning center from kindergarten through sixth grade. When I went to school there, the classroom was all business with the teacher having complete authority. Since the children knew that the teacher was in charge, she seldom had to be an authoritarian; so she just loved us while teaching.

Miss Mayes, my sixth grade teacher, assigned long division homework for months on end. Besides grounding me in the fundamentals of arithmetic, she was developing my mathematical patience. English was light on composition and heavy on grammar. By the end of grade school, I could diagram the most complex of sentences. Every rule of grammar was firmly implanted in my mind through endless drills.

I did the class work because it was a requirement. The part of school I looked forward to with anticipation each day, though, was the softball game before school and during the lunch hour. The softball was soft because the players had no mitts. The game was called "work-up". The last boy to arrive went into the outfield. When a batter struck out, each player moved up one position around the outfield, the infield, and finally to pitcher and catcher before batting. I got to know my principal, Mr. Von Tungeln, well. Over the lunch hour, he stood behind the pitcher calling balls and strikes, as well as the bases, for each of our games.

I knew I was not in the top nine players because I was seldom on the team that played the neighboring grade schools. Parents were not present to congratulate those who made the team and to offer condolences to those who didnít. As a result, the players who stayed at home still had good self-esteem.

After school, the principal, the only man on the school staff, would load all nine players into his car for the mile or two ride to the next grade school. To my knowledge he was never stopped for carrying too many passengers in his car.

My love for softball continued after school and through the summer with a game of "work-up" in the front yard. Athletics just for fun for my grade school friends and me worked perfectly well over the years with no parental help.

Copyright 1998 by John C. Westervelt

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