Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sixth Grade

My sixth grade class at the East Ward Elementary School, Downingtown, PA. taken May 4, 1953.

Where am I in this picture?  Look in vain and you will not see me.  How ironic that on this day I was absent from class.  The irony is that I rarely missed class.  In fact I had one of the best attendance records, if not the best.  I was absent this day because the apartment where our family lived was quarantined because one of my brothers had scarletina fever.  This was back in the Fifties when if one of the children had a contagious disease, the doctor slapped a "Quarantined" sign on the front door of the home where the family lived.

Those who know me know how much I love old photos.  From my earliest memory I always wanted my own camera.  I have always had this urge to take pictures.  My first camera was a Kodak Brownie that my Mother gave me for Christmas this same year this picture was taken.  Most of the old black and white pictures that I post on my blog were taken with that old Brownie camera.

Yesterday I was going through all my 75,183 photos that I have on my computer (yes, I have that many and many more to scan into my computer) and I came across this classic picture.  If I was in this picture I would be seated behind the girl in the back to the left with the crossing guard sash.  Her name was Bonnie Walton and we were both hall monitors.  Bonnie was my first date (Soph Hop) and died January of this year.

The person sitting in the seat (he's short) is my longtime friend (even to this day), Bill B.  He was sitting at my desk because if he sat at his regular desk up front he would have been cut out of the picture.

Seating arrangements back in the Neanderthal Fifties was done by height (I was tall) and alphabet (my name began with a "T".)  My little friend Bill B. who is seated in my seat has a last name that begins with a "B" plus he was was short.  Thus he sat in front of the class.  I understand that in these politically enlightened days young students are not categorized according to the accidental placement of their birth names and their height.

Studies have shown that students who are shown preference by seating them up in front of the class and given recognition generally receive better grades.  One constant I remember from my grade school days was always having to explain why I was so tall.  The same held true for my female classmates who were tall for their age.  The two girls on the right in the back were as tall as I was.  The black student was Gracie Styer.  She had a double whammy because she was also black.  The girl in front of her was Margaret West.  Peggy West was a bit taller than me and always got the comment "You're tall for your age."  I think this is worse for girls than it was for boys.  Still, it is one discrimination that always bothered me.  I remember slouching to try to be more like the rest of my short classmates.  That is probably the reason for my poor posture today.

With iPhoto I can identify the faces of people in my pictures.  I was surprised that I could identify every one of my classmates in this sixth grade picture.  First name, last name and personality.

It is amazing how some memories stay with us.  I remember so clearly all my classmates from grade school.  I remember all my teachers.  I wish I had pictures of them but unfortunately I don't.

Three of my classmates in this picture I am still good friends with to this day.  We are in constant contact my e-mail.  Some have died.  Two died just this year.  The young man in the front right died a few months ago.  His name was Timmy Mahan and he was one of my buddies.  Ironically the house he lived in when he died was the same house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Downingtown where my Mother was born.  Small world.

Looking at this photo brings to mind the different paths these kids took in life.  A few of them have disappeared and I don't know what happened to them.  Others I know of to this day.  Most of them have children, grandchildren and some even have great grandchildren.

At this time of my life and I near its end, I find comfort in looking and old pictures like this of my previous life when we were all so young and on the threshold of the many years of life ahead of us.  However, even to this day I regret that I was absent the day this picture was taken.

Below is a picture of me back at that long ago time.  Note the innocence.  The open smile.  The hair.

Me 1952

This past October 17, 2009 our high school had its 50th reunion.  Many of my classmates from this sixth grade were there.  My first date, Bonnie W. was also there.  He joked about our first date (in which my father drove us in his car which mortified me to no end back then.)  The reason we joked about it was because of the "no action" neither one of us took on that date.  You see, it turned out that both Bonnie and I were gay.  But, back in the Fifties, that just wasn't something one talked about of even made public.  

Bonnie and I at our 50th class reunion, October 17, 2009

Bonnie died in January.  Life is too short.  Treasure your memories and your friends and live each day as if it is your last day on this earth.  It may be.


  1. I think you are in the center row second from the front in a white Tshirt.

  2. No way Mike. That's not me, second from the font in a white T-shirt. That was my buddy Billy Null. I don't know whatever happened to him after sixth grade. We lost touch.

    I was absent the day they took this picture, much to my everlasting regret. Two reasons that little boy (Billy Null) couldn't of been me. I would NEVER wear JUST a T-shirt to class and I was way cuter than Billy Null. :) In fact, I was downright adorable!


  3. Your right about the Tshirt thing. My next guess would have been the guy next to the teacher. Besides,,no fair asking trick questions.

  4. The guy next to the teacher? No way! That's Gary K. At my 40th class reunion he came on to me while his wife was standing only a few feet away! Creepy. Of course I turned him down but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He hasn't been to a class reunion since. He has a summer house only a few miles from where I live now. I've never seen him down here in Lewes, DE.

    Nope. I'm not in this picture at all Mike. Like I said, I was way cuter than anyone in my class. ;)


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