By: Dianne Neuman Whittington
I went to St. Ann’s kindergarten because my December birthday stopped me from going to first grade at Sam Houston. Vicky Dill had the same problem so we both were enrolled at St. Ann’s . After a few months, Vicky and I were allowed to walk to St. Ann’s by ourselves. One morning we were almost to school and decided that we did not want to go and thought it would be more fun to play in the neighborhood, as long as we did not let our mothers know. At 6 we had no concept of “skipping school” and were sure it was our original idea. We probably played around for a little while and then thought that it would be more fun to play with the rest of the neighborhood. We went from house to house and asked their mothers if they could come play. Never thinking that there were phones in each house and at the school, our day of adventure ended a little differently than we had planned. I waited until I was a senior to try it again and it really was not as much fun as when I was 6 and thought we had invented “skipping”. However I did not get caught and that was lots more fun. I am sure this was one of the rules that was not to be broken. I attended Sam Houston Elementary from 1st to 6th grade. I cannot remember many of my teacher’s names. I do know that I was taught to sight read as I have never been a good speller. Everything I could spell was from memory and I do not ever remember being taught phonics. However I did learn to read. I loved reading as I am a book reader today. I still like the book in my hands. No Kindle for me. I loved playing kickball at recess and swinging on the swings– standing on the swing seat. I was taking piano lessons from Mr. DeWolfe and was supposed to walk to his house once a week to take lessons. Only problem was I had to go during recess. I would walk the 4 or 5 blocks to his house and then back to Sam Houston. My parents finally let me quit after 3 years of sometimes “forgetting” to go to my lesson. They were also told my hands were too small to reach an octave with one hand which is still true today. Being one of the oldest in my classes, I was among the tallest girls. My father was 6’ and my mother was 5’7” so tall was good. In the 6th grade everyone shot up and I stayed at exactly 5 feet. I began to realize there was both good and bad aspects of being short. I did not mind too much because I was always shorter than the boys. In a crowd I always had to follow the person in front of me and hope that they were going where I was going. I learned early to “go along with the crowd” however I never fell off that cliff that my parents kept telling me would happen. Shell Dougherty moved in across the street from me and we became Mutt and Jeff. We have a friendship to this day. We are still Mutt and Jeff. I remember when Polio became a scary disease. I did not understand it and did not know anyone that had it but my parents understood and it really scared them. If I remember correctly we all went to the school cafeteria to get the vaccination and we stood in long lines to go through the process. I believe this was in 1955. I was diagnosed with Asthma at some point and had to take allergy shots in order to live in Midland. I walked to Dr. Wyvell’s twice a week for at least 12 years. I was allergic to almost everything in the air and had to sleep on a propped up mattress. Sand storms were not my friend—but I doubt that they were welcome by anyone. The picture below was in the 3rd grade and I do remember Mrs. Crosby. I did not do anything special to get in the picture with Mike Beadle, Bill Cone and Pamela Ann Lindsey. If I had known then that boys would become an important part of my life, I would have thought I was in heaven. Anyone know where Mike is now? I remember that he moved from Midland when we were in the 5/6th grade. Last time I remember him was at a Manners Program at The Elks Club. We learned how to handle a table setting, be polite, and dance. I was sometimes Mike’s partner in the dance part. I had a crush on him and then he moved. I think we were in the 5th grade.
Braids were my standard look even into Jr. High– along with my pierced ears and loop earrings. Living in New Mexico, it was a tradition to have pierced ears and mine were pierced when I was 3. Friends in Midland would always tell me it was cool to be from another country. They wanted to know where New Mexico was located inside Old Mexico. I wore my loops until 7th grade when someone threw an apple core at lunch and it hit my ear and created a tear. When the tear healed I took them out and did not wear them again until I got to college. The holes had never grown together—probably because I was so young and wore them for so long. I still wear them and got my daughter’s ears pierced when she was 10. My two granddaughters also have pierced ears and the New Mexico tradition lives on in Texas. Although if pierced ears had not been popular it would have ended with me. The most important part of grade school for me was learning how to play jacks. Girls would play before school, after lunch, and after school. In 5th and 6th grade they sometimes held tournaments after school on the cafeteria floor. There were numerous different games to play and they were all complicated. Sometimes we would get together on the weekends and play or make up new games to play. The best part was making your own ball from an old golf ball. Somehow we could cut through the outer part (I think that my dad this part for me), Then we would unwind all the inside part until we got to the tiny ball in the middle. It bounced the best and would really go high so you had more time to pick up the jacks and then catch the ball. It was great eye hand coordination. I can get down on the floor and can maybe play jacks today but I would never be able to get up again. I may try it on my next birthday. My favorite teacher was my 6th grade teacher. He was the first male teacher I had and he was a great. He taught us all to crochet and was always challenging us to figure out the true meaning of the stories he told us. I hope someone remembers his name as I think he is the one that instilled my love of teaching even though I did not know that for years to come. He made all learning fun and included everyone in his lessons. He was teaching personified for me. Everyone had a disk on a chain with their name engraved on it. In 6th grade we were trading them all the time. A boy gave you his disk and you gave him yours. Sometimes it only lasted for a day. I remember going to a movie downtown with one boy’s disk and by the time the movie was over he asked for it back and gave it to another girl. At the time I was probably crushed but the next day I had a different name around my neck. I’m pretty sure that was preparing us for the fast pace of Jr. and Senior High– falling in love, heartbreak, and falling again. “So many fish in the sea.” I think that is the name of an online dating site. If not, it should be.