by Roger M. Goetz
LOUISE CRAWFORD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
415 STANTON AVENUE
PART ONE - ACADEMIC YEAR 1948-1949
I remember my first time at Crawford School. I met with Miss Abbie B. Sawyer (1894-1972), the principal, in her office.
During our visit, I told her, "I was born in Chicago."
"I’m from Chicago, too," she said with a warm smile. "If you ever need my help, don’t hesitate ask."
I nodded, and felt we had a private bond the other children lacked.
Our conversation made me feel welcome at Crawford, even though I didn’t know any of my classmates yet. Knowing she cared for me gave me a sense of safety, a sense of belonging, in my new environment.
In the days and weeks and months ahead, I got the impression that some of my classmates were a bit afraid of Miss Sawyer, but I wasn’t because of our first visit.
* * * *
I was starting third grade that fall. Our teacher was Miss Mildred Myers, who lived at 621 Stanton Avenue, a couple of blocks south of the school. In general, I found learning from her stimulating and interesting, sometimes challenging. When she taught us to learn cursive writing, however, I had a bit of a problem. Let me explain.
The previous school year I was in a second-and-third-grade combination classroom at Main Street School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Our teacher Miss Clara L. Swett would teach a lesson to the second-graders, get us started on our assignment, and then teach the third-graders a lesson. Normally, I usually got my work done quickly and watched her teach the other group. As a result, when I finished second grade, I had already mastered cursive writing. This presented a bit of a problem for me in third grade at Louise Crawford.
All the cursive letters that Miss Myers taught were identical with those I’d learned in Glen Ellyn with one exception: the capital "W." She taught the cursive capital "W" as it appeared on the chart hanging in the front of the room. The center of that letter was taller than the short left and right sides of the letter. I had already learned to make the center of shorter than the tall left and right sides.
Every time I made the letter "W" the way I’d learned in Illinois, she would mark it wrong. At the same time, on the basis of my aesthetic sense, I thought the way she was teaching it did violence to the letter itself and didn’t want to do it her way.
So, I kept on doing it my way.
She kept on marking it wrong.
Finally, I had a private conversation with her about how I’d already learned cursive writing last year and didn’t want to do the capital "W" her way.
"Oh," she said,. "I didn’t know that." Then she added, "You’re right. It can be made your way, but I have to teach it the way it’s on my chart."
The next thing she said was music to my ears.
"You go ahead and do it the way you learned it."
She was one of my favorite teachers, for she really cared about her students.
* * * *
One of the things we were learning about that Fall is touched upon in my mother’s diary, Book 7, entry dated October 8, 1948 – Friday:
Roger has been learning about insects in school – the silk worm for one & one day he asked me if felt is made from felt worms.
At the same time I started another academic experience: taking piano lessons on campus at Iowa State. At Christmas time, however, when the teacher assigned me some new books, I complained they were too hard for me. She maintained they weren’t, so I quit taking lessons for the time being.
* * * *
The last week end of October 1948 fell on Saturday the 30th and Sunday the 31st.
Ames had the common Iowa custom of trick-or-treating on Beggars Night (October 30). But Ames was a college town and had residents from out of state. Their custom for trick-or-treating fell on Halloween (October 31).
The first night, the 30th, Benny and Mary Ruth Jameson and I went out together and had a fun and successful time.
When we got home, Benny said we should go out again the next night.
I thought perhaps that wasn’t right, but Benny told me, some kids would be going out tomorrow night, so we could go too. I buried my misgivings and happily did as he suggested. After that, I delighted to go out both nights and felt no guilt about this double dipping.
In time, the populace got tired of two nights devoted to such shenanigans and complained. The result? The City Fathers brought this confusion of dates to an end. Each year they would set the single day for trick-or-treating.
When Mom told me about this, I was not pleased. But, at least, we got to go two nights in a row for several years!
* * * *
Back to Crawford school, we had something called room mothers, but I have no memory of what that was all about. Mom mentioned it in passing in her diary, Book 7, entry dated Nov. 3, 1948 – Wednesday:
Went to 3rd grade room mother’s "coffee" this a.m. at Devaul’s (?) house.
* * * *
Much as I loved going to school, there was one morning when I didn’t want to get up yet. Mom recorded it in her diary, Book 7, entry dated Nov. 17, 1948 - Wednesday:
One morning when I went into Roger’s room to awaken him, he said "Go out of my room; I want to finish my dream."
I still remember that episode. After Mom left, I tried to fall asleep and finish my beautiful dream. I failed and was most unhappy at the time.
Whenever I’m awaked from a pleasant dream, history repeats itself. Of course, if I’m awakened from an unpleasant dream and fall asleep again, I invariably sink right back into it. Grrr!
* * * *
With Christmas approaching, we kids at Louise Crawford were practicing Christmas carols for a concert, as can be seen from Mom’s diary, Book 7, entry dated Dec. 28, 1948 - Tuesday:
The 22nd I went to hear the 1-2-3-4 grades of Welch & Crawford sing carols – ½ hr. They were well trained & Roger enjoyed it.
A year or two later, however, the Crawford kids had to gather on the steps and present a concert of Christmas carols to Miss Sawyer, our principal. I remember that I found one of the carols hard to sing and I didn’t much care for it. It was "In the Bleak Midwinter." I asked the music teacher why we had to learn it and she replied, "Because it’s Miss Sawyer’s favorite Christmas carol." So I shut up and suffered through it.
* * * *
As February 1949 drew to a close, I had a school project to work on at home. Mom’s diary, Book 7, entry dated March 8, 1949 - Tuesday, explains:
Last week Roger had "homework" to do. Had to make a house out of a cardboard box. I gave him a few suggestions & showed him how to make cardboard furniture like I used to make when I was little. He asked me – "Did you have cardboard available in those days?" The house he made is a project called "Homes of To-day." He said, "I’m chairman of the committee of Homes of To-day. Do you know what the chairman does? He’s the boss."
That sounds like me. It reminds me of a story my parents used to tell of when I was about five years old in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A group of us neighborhood kids decided to play house. I asked to be the mother and that was fine with the others, who were thus my children. I told my parents about this afterwards, and they asked me why I wanted to be the mother. My reply: "Because the mother’s the boss!"
* * * *
At the end of the school year, many of my classmates gave the teacher an apple or other gift as a thank you for being our teacher. I wasn’t familiar with that custom and asked my friends about it on the way home. After they explained it to me, I was determined that next year I would bring something, too.
In the meantime we had a glorious summer vacation ahead of us. My parents joined the Ames Country Club for $64.00 that year, primarily to give my brother and me a place to go swimming regularly. Carr’s pool was way across town, much too far to walk. In contrast, the Country Club pool was within easy walking distance over gravel roads.
The Jamesons were also members of the Country Club, so Benny, Mary Ruth, and I often went swimming together. Even the walks to and fro were fun.