I did not know how to read, write, or even how to count. I was 5 years old and scared to death. I sat down as straight as I could and interlocked my fingers on top of the desk. I looked to my right. Skipper Goulet was down below me and Joe O’Neill, Harry Miller and Cathy Colligan were at the end of the row. They all were staring straight ahead at a black board with letters from top to bottom. I later found out the writing on the board was all capital letters. A very pleasant Nun introduced herself as Sister Jean Marie, and she called upon me to point out the letter “A”. I stood up and saw the first letter in the upper left corner and the last letter in the lower right corner. Not knowing anything, including my ABC’s, I picked the first letter at the top left. I was so proud of myself for picking the correct letter. I had become a student!
I looked around and saw a beautiful girl with long blond hair. Her name was Margery Chase, and to her side,a boy named John De Julio. I decided I needed to meet them. There were some big boys in the class, as well, who soon became my playmates. My only saving grace was that I could out run them all.
After a successful second grade career at Terminal Independent School System, Star-man (Me), transferred back to St. Ann’s with a feeling of being indestructible.
Sister Soteras told me “John you are in charge of setting the clock on my desk everyday.” I said “OK, Sister”, and she handed me the wind-up clock. Thank God that Joe O’Neal and Harry Miller were sitting there. I turned and said “What do I do?” I could not tell time since I never had to with Mom, Bruce, Tom and Roof around all the time. So, Joe and Harry showed me what the little and big hands on a clock or watch meant, and how to wind it up. So, on my first day, I, “Star-man”, became the official time keeper for the 3rd grade class at St. Ann’s.
Later that day, I realized that I could not read, write or count as fast as my new classmates. I was quickly instructed not to go to recess or lunch. I was tutored by the nuns until I passed the next rounds of test. Even still, I realized that I was still D—-A– of the class.
The 4th grade proved to be a challenge since Sister Michael John was a better athlete than any boy or girl in our class. In addition, she was super strict. Sister MJ, as I called her, was young, pretty and put us boys through kneeling drills quite often (and me it seemed all the time).
What made the 4th grade different from the 3rd grade was the girls were getting much more attractive and we exchanged discs. This was a custom that suggested a childhood relationship often that seemed like love. It did not last long so… I guess not. I would mention the girls by name but some are no longer with us or I cannot find them via my long list of friends. However, is was a feeling that started to chip away at my priestly aspirations. Now getting my mother to pay for a disc that said “John” was like asking for a new car. But she bought one for me and my brother Bruce. I did exchange discs, and felt like a glowing handsome star with a girlfriend, who now was known as Miss Star Girl.
I started 5th grade with an excitement I had never experienced. The summer before school started, lots of friends came to Terminal. I also went to the O’Neil’s & Rodney Schultz’s home to visit and swim. For some reason coming to Terminal was a real treat for them. My mother’s cooking was a big incentive since she was 100% Italian (Sicilian). When friends would come over, Bruce and I would take them out for exploration of the Scarborough Ranch just west of the airport. We chased rabbits, caught rattle snakes, swam at twin ponds and tried to get home before dark to eat pasta. Then start all over the next day. Depending on the time of year, we would go to the VFW pool and swim. The pool was on the far side of the airport by the north runway. Not often, but on at least two occasions, there were planes that crashed. Someone from the pool would run out and save the pilot from burning to death. It was never me or one of my friends, but we watched in awe. The rescuers would return to the pool with severe burns to their hands and arms. Someone always took them to the hospital in Midland.
Then there were really exciting things like going under the airport runway drainage tunnel which was 3 1/2′ by 3 1/2 ” and was a mile long. Everyone who came to spend the weekend insisted on going through the tunnel. The tunnel was full of runoff water from the old army barracks where we lived. Now, we knew it was dirty, but thankfully we never saw a human turd go by. It certainly smelled like one was headed there shortly. Getting to the other side was a 1 hr stooped walk, and you wore your sneakers all the way. Once on the other side, we went to the VFW pool. Of course, my dog Roof lead the way and let us know quickly that our shoes stunk like s–t. I knew this when he smelled the shoes and took off running to the shade by the snack bar. We did let them dry and washed them when we got back to the barracks. On the way home we took the long way around and not though the drainage pipe. Most parents in Midland threw the sneakers away but not mine. We just kept wearing them until September when we would get a new set of sneakers and one pair of new jeans and two shirts.
School started and I was the youngest in my class. Sister Jean Marie was our 5th grade teacher. Most below from the first grade continued in school but I am not sure how they matriculated. I will make a comment about each one as best I can remember.
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.