mom, in first row, near the center, white tights, black shoes

I began writing about how I had started kindergarten in early February 1958 at Daniel S. Dickinson school in the First Ward of Binghamton, NY, named after a 19th-century politician, located at the intersection of Dickinson Street and the curved Starr Avenue.

But then I came across, on one of those Binghamton-specific Facebook sites, this peculiar newspaper article, slamming the neighborhood that I grew up in, while holding up my school as an oasis from whatever scourge existed on the streets. And it wasn’t my experience, for the most part. What I ended up writing, will be in four parts, each titled from a line from my first alma mater.

If my mom didn’t work, at McLean’s department store downtown, first as an elevator operator and then as a bookkeeper, the trajectory of my life would have been quite different. Since we lived at 5 Gaines Street, between Front St and Oak St, I probably would have gone to Oak Street school for K-6.

Instead, the school district used my maternal grandma’s address at 13 Maple Street, between Prospect St and Cypress St, only a few short blocks away, as our address. That’s where my sisters and I went to lunch each day.

If I had gone to Oak Street, I might have met Karen and Carol and Bill, who I’ve in touch with in 2018, or Bernie or Lois, who I’ve seen in recent years, at some later date. Probably we would have been together in junior high, also at DSD, or certainly at Binghamton Central High School. As it is, February 2018 marks 60 years of friendship, which is very rare indeed.

Starting school in February, as well as September was, as I now understand, a peculiar system that almost no other district used. The kids who were turning five in the winter would begin school then. This is why I STILL remember some of their birth months.

I started kindergarten in Miss Cady’s class with Carol, Bill and David T. (December birthdays), Lois, Irene, and Bernie (February), Karen (like me, in March), and Diane (April) and some other kids, including Mary (April) and David D.

Roger singing, Trinity AME Zion Church, age 6


We had clocks that had Roman numerals; I recall the four was shown as IIII rather than IV. My rug for taking a nap on was yellow, which I passed on to my sister Leslie, a year and a half later. One time, I clearly remember waking up at 11:45 when everyone else had gone home for lunch one time.

I have no recollection of what I actually DID in kindergarten. When I went to Karen’s mother’s wake in 2012, Karen’s sister told me how I complained on a local kids’ TV show that Karen snapped my suspenders. I had no recollection.

We had eight teachers between first and fourth grade, in large part because some of teachers went on maternity leave. One in first grade, was Mrs. Goodrich, and one In fourth, was Miss Erickson, maybe? Mrs Waters, in third grade, I remember, came back and taught Leslie.

In second grade, we danced the Minuet in G. I think Karen danced with Bill, and Lois danced with Bernie. I know I danced with Carol.

Also in second grade, some sixth graders forced me to fight a kid named Danny, who was my sister Leslie’s classmates, so about a year and a half younger than I was. We were supposed to make it look good, lest they beat us both up. I inadvertently hit him in the nose and drew blood. I felt awful, but the older kids were thrilled.

I joined the Cub Scouts in third grade. Ray, who ended up in my class in second grade was, in the pack, as was David D. Ray’s mom was our den mother. When Ray married Pam in 1976, I got to escort Ray’s mom to her seat.

Was I an overly sensitive kid? One time, some kids on the playground were playing “keep away” with my hat. I got mad and went home. Legend has it, though I don’t specifically remember, that I hopped a ride on a Crowley’s milk truck. Did that really happen?

More soon.

8 Responses to “Hail, Daniel Dickinson, pride of our fair Binghamton”

  • Mary Backus says:

    Loved it…brought back so many memories. Thank you buddy…your classmate and one of your biggest fans…

  • Carol Huber says:

    So enjoying this! I did not know about the lunch address attendance rule. I do know my mom knew I was ready for kinder and St. Cyril’s was going to make me wait for September admission, hence the serendipity of attending DSD with you. Wait, maybe that was Annette! Same point though… Love, C

  • Dorothy Shay says:

    I lived at 10 Gaines Street, went to Daniel Dickinson then to Binghamton Central

  • Roger says:

    Dorothy – when did you live on Gaines St?

  • rob hojsik says:

    I do remember those famous snowball fights with the Daniel Dickinson students. I went to St. Cyril’s.

  • Ah, the old “why IIII instead of IV” on clocks question. The answer is both logical and illogical. First a question of symmetry with the VIII it faces replacing it with the specious IIII that the Romans never used!

  • Mary says:

    I went 5o St Cyril,s and remember walking through Daniel Dickson to go to Ellis market for candy, since we were not aloud to be on Clinton St. My one sister and I used to get beat up every time we walked through that playground, along with the kids having their German Shepard attacking us. Didn’t stop us, it was wor5h the terror for that little bag of candy.Lol
    I also remember going to the library and ended up stabbing my sister in the leg with a leader pencil back then. (I guess both of us wanted it, but 5he tip was facing her, so when I let go, it stabbed her in the thigh. Never remember running away so fast from her. Yeah, a lot of memories. Not all good, but not all bad either.

  • Ray says:

    The Ellis’s were like Mr & Mrs Santa Claus.

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