Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
The First Grade in 1920
September 7, 2007
September, 1920, Lowell School, corner of Hamden and Sherman, Englewood, Colorado-first day of school.
I was ready. It was my first day of school. I don't remember very much of it. But some of my young Baby Boomer friends have been asking what grade school was like back then. I asked some people here in the Commons what it was like for them. I was not surprised to find how many of them started in small country school houses, many in one room schools.
So here I was ready to start the first grade in 1920. I assume my mother took me that day.
I am pretty sure that there had not been weeks of shopping for school clothes and supplies. I was probably dressed in a wool skirt, a cotton blouse and knee socks. The socks were an early form of protest on my part. I hated stockings and the stuff that held them up. I am not sure what little girls wore for underwear in those days. Some bright soul here suggested bloomers and she was probably right. I walked to school since we lived only five blocks away from home. I guess I would have walked anyway, since who ever heard of a school bus.
For supplies, I may have carried a pencil and a tablet. The tablet would have been about the size of a legal pad with coarse gray paper, with lines, and a bright red cover. I think it was called a Big Chief Tablet. I may have had a pen with detachable point. There were little ink wells in the desks. Fountain pens arrived later. I did not have even a cell phone! (What was a cell phone?)
The school house was a square red brick affair lacking somewhat in beauty. It had a fire escape, but not one you are used to today. It was a big metal tube, maybe three feet in diameter which ran at an angle from the second floor to the ground. We never had to use it because of a fire, but when the teachers were not looking we would climb up on the inside and slide back down.
The first three grades were on the first floor and the second three on the second floor. That left two rooms for offices. I vaguely remember spending a little time now and then in one of them.
We marched in two by two to loud strains of a Sousa march being played on the phonograph.
The teacher was a beautiful young woman named Miss Troutman. Married women were not allowed to teach.
Thanks to my mother's sentimentality, I have my first grade report card. In all humility I must report that it consisted of mostly A's, with a few B's, one in Music and one on Writing. I hope the latter involved penmanship and not creativity! Do you seniors remember Palmer Penmanship? I would prefer to forget it?
I can't remember most of the recess activities, except for one game. There was an old shed on one side of the playground and the game involved a team on each side, throwing a ball back and forth. What the object was, I have no idea. Thanks to my lunch companions, I found that the name of it was Alley, Alley, Oop and/or Alley Over.
So that was my first grade, very much like millions of others of my generations.
We did not have I-pods or cell phones or computers, but we managed. And we did have fun.