by Roger M. Goetz
WELCH JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL
ACADEMIC YEAR 1952-1953
According to my mother’s diary, our first day of school was September 2, 1952, the day after Labor Day. I started seventh grade at Welch, and my brother Chuck began his junior year at Ames High downtown. Chuck registered for school on Monday, August 25, with a fee of $3.00, while I registered for school on Wednesday, August 27, with a fee of $3.00 as well.
In a way, however, school had already started for Chuck, as we learn from Mom’s diary entry dated Sept. 2, 1952 - Tuesday:
Yesterday was a cold, cold Labor Day. The boys couldn’t go swimming for the last time.
That was the last day of summer that the swimming pool was open at the Ames Country Club. Mom had bought me a new swim suit on the previous June 14 for $3.59. Returning to what Mom wrote:
Jamie [Jameson] has been eating here at least once a day since Aug. 23. His folks are due back to-day [from their cottage on Ten Mile Lake in Minnesota]. He had to come home for football practice. Chuck stayed there (at Jameson’s) overnite twice last wk. Helped Jamie mow his lawns and they worked hard every day. Had football practice every p.m.
Last Sat. p.m. (Aug. 30) Chuck went with Jamie and 5 other boys in Mrs. Jameson’s car to the [State] Fair at Des Moines. Jamie is 16 ½ and I held my breath but they got home fine at 11:00 p.m. Chuck bo’t an army fatigue cap and trousers - "That’s what all the boys are wearing for work." He feels so grown up lately he’s about to explode.
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The boys started school today . . . . They were anxious to start and Roger is quite thrilled with everything including the loose leaf note book. He’s been quite bored the past few weeks.
I do remember how thrilled I was about having a three-ring notebook, which cost $5.10. It was the first time ever!
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Starting junior high brought us a host of new experiences.
Half the kids in our class had attended Welch Elementary School instead of Crawford, so we had a lot of new classmates to get to know and be friends with. There were too many of us to fit in one classroom, so we were divided into Grade 7A and Grade 7B. I was in 7A.
We had Physical Education instead of recess, one class for the boys, another for the girls. And we had to wear special clothing! My gym clothes cost $9.89. Dressing and showering in the locker room didn’t particularly bother me because I was used to doing that at the swimming pool.
We had school insurance as well. It cost a huge $1.00!
Welch was twice as far away from my home as Crawford School, but most of us still went home for lunch.
Only students who lived more than a mile away from school were permitted to ride a bike to and fro; the rest had to walk. As I far as I can remember, my parents and I were uncertain whether we lived in the area where bicycles were permitted for school. We apparently lived on the line. So I finally decided since the school was west of my street and I lived on the east side of my street, that I would ride my bike to school and see what happened. No one ever said anything.
Another adjustment we had to make was receiving letter grades for our school work. In elementary school, a different system was used. Here it how it was explained on the report card:
|1 Satisfactory progress
2 Shows improvement
3 Unsatisfactory progress
|Marks are given on a basis of
accomplishment in relation to
the child’s ability.
What I didn’t understand, then, was that the numbers were more a subjective evaluation by the teacher of how the student was progressing in relationship to the student’s own ability than a measurement of material mastered.
Since, I had nearly always received ones, I assumed that I was a top student, but the letter grades I got the first two weeks of school showed differently. I saw immediately that I needed to learn a new way of studying.
It took time but I was pleased with my progress. In Grade 7, my grades averaged two A’s, 5 B’s, and 1 C. In Grade 8, my grades averaged 1 A and 6 B’s and no C’s! Very fortunately, I got an "S" for satisfactory in Physical Education! Incidentally, during the next academic year at Welch, January 2, 1954, my parents spent $1.53 on a "Gimmick to keep glasses on in P. E."
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By the time I started junior high, I was getting tired of wearing mostly hand-me-downs from my brother’s wardrobe. A check of my mother’s financial journal shows she rarely bought me clothes. The one exception, of course, was that Chuck and I would get nearly a large supply of socks and underwear for Christmas along with other gifts . It was a family joke. Sometimes she wrapped them cleverly enough that we couldn’t guess what they were until we had opened the present.
Well, something new happened on October 6, 1952: Mom bought me some hobby jeans for $5.05. These were not made of denim but another kind of cloth, perhaps gabardine, available in different colors, with large patch pockets, and an elastic waist: no belt needed and, lacking belt loops, no belt possible.
I was most displeased when she purchased me additional hobby jeans the following spring on March 13 and April 24. After the March purchase, I told her I didn’t want to wear them and why. She shook her head and told me that was all there was available in the store. From my mother’s point of view, blue jeans were not an option for school wear; and I think a lot of Fourth-Ward mothers felt the same way.
Why did I hate wearing them? Because they had an elastic waist. When passing between classes, some of the boys delighted in trying to "depants" anyone wearing them. They’d come up behind you and try to yank them down around your ankles. I quickly learned to have at all times, both inside and outside school, one hand free and close to my waist ready to grab my pants and keep them from getting yanked lower than an inch or two.
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An excerpt from Mom’s diary entry dated Nov. 12, 1952 - Wednesday:
Yesterday p.m. I went to open House at Welch, and Roger was one of the ushers, and felt so important. .... This a.m. I had to go to the bank to get the Weidmann family tree for Roger’s English class.
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An excerpt from Mom’s diary entry dated March 15  - Sunday:
Last Wed. was report card day and Chuck got the best grades he’s had since he started in Jr. High. .... Roger is going to turn into a pretzel one of these days. He loves pretzel sticks and eats 2 or 3 boxes a week. I asked him one day how much he weighed and he said 115 lbs. I said that he weighs almost as much as I do and he replied: "I will, by next summer, that is, if I keep up the Pretzel routine." Last Sunday we went through the cafeteria line at the union [Memorial Union on Campus at Iowa State]. I noticed that he didn’t take very much and told him he would be hungry in an hour and he said, "Well there are always pretzels."
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An excerpt from Mom’s diary entry dated April 18, 1953 - Saturday:
Roger went to a box social tonite at Welch. He was quite thrilled. Supper from 5:30 to 6:30 and then "dancing." It’s 9:15 p.m. and he isn’t home yet.
To get us seventh-graders ready to dance, we had dancing lessons in the gym. We learned the two step. I have never seen anything less graceful than the stiffness with which we danced! I don’t know how the teachers could keep a straight face!