This being the first month of the new school year got me thinking about when I first went to school, in kindergarten. Binghamton in those days had a very unusual system whereby school started not only in September but in February as well. I’ve never met anyone outside of the Binghamton area who is familiar with this system.
In September, kids born in April through November started in the “B” section. Then in February, they would pass into the “A” section.
Those born in December through March would have our “B” section in February, and outr “A” section in September. So, when I started that February of 1958, (my birthday’s in March,) I was in Kindergarten B, then in September in Kindergarten A, then 1B, 1A, 2B, 2A, and so on.
My kindergarten teacher was Miss Cady for the whole year. But the summer after 1B, that teacher left, so I had a different teacher in 1A. Likewise in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. I know my 4B teacher had gotten pregnant, because she “showed”, but one really didn’t talk about such things in those days. It wasn’t until fifth grade that I had a teacher for a whole year again. Conversely, my sister Leslie, who started in one September had the same teachers all year for every grade, except 6th and that only because her teacher died during the year.
Of course, we’re all impacted bt the seemingly random people we come in contact with. My sisters and I were supposed to attend Oak Street Elementary School. However, my mother “worked outside the home”, as we now put it, at McLean’s department store downtown. Where would we go at lunchtime? There was no school lunch, no cafeteria, nor anyone to watch us there. My grandmother Gert Williams and great-aunt Deana Yates lived about six blocks away from us, so it was determined that we would go to Daniel S. Dickinson School instead, and go to Gram’s for lunch (and also after school when we were younger).
Dickinson wasn’t any further from our house than Oak Street School (this was a walking district at the time-no school buses), so this turned out to be a workable solution.
Since I started in February, our classes, chosen from a smaller pool, had fewer students. And while some people came and went, or FAILED, there was a core group that I knew straight on through. In sixth grade, there were nine of us (out of 16) who started kindergarten together: Bill, Carol, David (born in December), Lois, Irene, and Bernie (born in February), Karen and me (March), and Diane, born in April, but whose parents finagled her way to our class. Eight of us (except David, who stayed an extra semester to play basketball) all graduated from high school together. Considering that I haven’t seen dsome of those people since high school, and others since 1981, I’m amazed how engrained that information is. I’m in some contact with a couple of them, but none more so than my friend Karen, who I spoke with last month. We have a 47-year old friendship.
There are lots of stories that I think I’ll tell over the next several months, being the only black kid in my class for 8 of 10 years there, the neighborhood, other stuff.
I’ll close with the school song (from failing memory):
Hail, Daniel Dickinson
Pride of our fair Binghamton
May we ‘ere our praises sing
With loyal hearts and true
May all our words and deeds
‘ere uphold thy glory
Guide us our whole lives through
Hail, Daniel Dickinson.