When the the storm blew past and the tornado warnings expired this evening, I took Mom to see Lincoln School where she attended grade school until she was seven. Built in 1911, the school’s claim to historical fame is being our town’s “black” school during segregation. However, it was fully integrated by the time Mom went to kindergarten in 1953. It was closed during the 70’s and went through many makeovers in the following years as retail shops and even a fraternity house but in years that I can recall has mostly stood empty and decaying at the edges. Last year, local university art students painted a mural on two sides of the building as it awaits renovations by a new owner.
The treasure of the evening was hearing my mother tell stories of her school days. In the first grade, her teacher slapped her across the face for chewing gum. I believe this was the only time she got into trouble at school. The same teacher made butter with the class that year. She gave Mom money and sent her with another student to the corner store to buy graham crackers to eat with the butter.
She told all about the quiet cafeteria and that the lunch monitors would be mean to you if you talked too loud. When she moved and went to a different school, she couldn’t believe the wave of noise that hit her as she entered the new cafeteria on the first day. “Why would anyone make that much noise while they were eating?” she wondered.
As Mom told me where each and every neighbor lived and what their particular quirks were, my mind’s eye could see the little girl my mother must have been, in her sweet 1950’s school dress my grandmother sewed for her and MaryJane shoes, skipping off to kindergarten with all the neighborhood kids. She showed me the spot on the corner where she routinely peed her pants walking home from kindergarten. “I was only five and I just couldn’t hold it!”
She told me about the time her father took her picture and then snuck her out of the house to take her to the barber. She came home with a “boy’s” haircut. Her mother was so upset and angry, she threw up. Grandpa was tired of hearing her cry and cry while Grandma combed out the tangles on hairwashing nights. These dramatic detangling episodes were also the reason I had short hair for most of my girlhood.
Dinner and a cupcake rounded out the night. I’m so glad I started this photography project so I can remember these treasures.