Saturday, January 20, 2007

Virgie Bell's View: The Dinosaur in Me

Anyone who reads my posts will come to realize I am a dinosaur. No good for anything. The part in a lost civilization, well I am the lost part. I have pondered this from time to time and have come up with this conclusion. It is because I was a child during World War II, living in a big city with access to everything.

The school I attended was like any other in that state. I know we had all the paper furnished and had drawing and painting. I played in the school orchestra and was in the lead role in my school play. I took tap dance, Ballet, singing, flute. I saw The Wizard of Oz, The Pirates of Sinbad, and A Thousand and One Nights. I watched weekly serials showing what had happened during the war. I cleaned my plate in remembrance of all the starving little children in other lands. I saluted the flag and I saluted that flag when it flew at half mast when Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed away. I didn't really understand that much about what was going on, yet I had heard my dad say that Mr. Roosevelt was the man who had the iron fist in the velvet glove and that our family adored this president, just as much as the picture of General MacArthur that hung on our wall in the living room. When I was ten years old, my life changed, and drastically so.

It was not long after the war when our soldiers, sailors, and airmen returned home, after they had saved my world and their own. They returned to take over all the jobs left to those in 4F, wives, girlfriends, and brothers, those stateside who had held their jobs for them until they returned home to what we considered jobs that were truly theirs to start with. Mom and Dad decided to go back to Texas to farm some of my granddad’s land. To take their place in what was already their own.

Our little community had a three room school. It had a modern kitchen and my Aunt Tera was the cook for us. We had first, second, and third grade in one room, fourth fifth, and sixth in another, seventh and eighth grade in the last. We had an office for the principal that also doubled as the library. The doors slid open in two of these rooms and formed the auditorium with the neatest little stage you’ve ever seen. We had all the bells and whistles that went with a stage. Believe me this was a different world to me. This little country school belonged to my granddad and his family; it now belongs to my brother. When recess came the principal had a hand bell that he rang loud and long and it sounded swell to me. The playground had a merry-go-round that in retrospect was lethal.

My mom and dad both went to this little school and they rode the same merry-go-round, slid down the same slide, sailed way up in the air on the same swings that I enjoyed. But I guess the thing that impressed me most of all was the sight of a little girl on that merry-go-round in this short little dress with panties to match. I had never seen anything that I thought was so alluring and by the time I arrived back home I was almost breathless over this new and beautiful fashion find. my mom laughed and told me what had me so fascinated was a feed sack dress that her mother had made with little girl panties to match. I really did think it was beautiful and I still do. But then, as I said, I am a dinosaur, way past my time, but oh, they were such good days and we sure did SUPPORT THE TROOPS!


steve ramos said...

Virgie, I went to Catholic school in Dumas, and there were only three classrooms. First and second shared a room, third and fourth shared another, and fifth and sixth were in the third room. There were only six grades. After that, we had to go to the public school.

We were at least a year ahead of the public schools, and I wonder now how the nuns managed it. They were German, and even though they didn't tolerate any nonsense, they were the most loving people. I've joked about them in my columns when I was an editor, but they were great.

Here's to the little schools that churned out great students like us!!

Anonymous said...

So very true. When I arrived those kids inthat little school were so far ahead of me that I was nearly put back a year. I'm sure it was the same principal and my teacher was also the teacher to my mom and dad. Well this dancing, singing little artist did not have to be put back. When I graduated from the eight grade I did it as a class of eight!! Can you imagine a class that small and so much personal attention, I wouldn't take anything for those memories would you?

Steve Ramos said...

They're great memories. Discipline was a big thing at our Catholic school. If you did something wrong, you got a whacking from Sister Angela, the sixth grade teacher who was also the principal. Then after school, the nun would hold your hand out on the sidewalk and wait for your parents to arrive so she could tell them exactly what you did. God help the kid in those days who gave a nun grief. The paddling you got at home was worse than Sister Angela's.

Of course, in a school so small, we had to take our lunch. I'm thinking about those Barbie paper dolls you gave Lisa and are now worth almost a thousand dollars. I wish I had my lunch pail from those days. It was a Disney bus, and the last time I checked, it was worth about $250.

My lunch was always something Mexican since my grandmother didn't know how to make anything else. The other kids usually had bidding wars for my lunch, which I never understood then. Now I realize that my lunches were exotic fare to them ... better than going to a Mexican restaurant. I happily traded my burritos, chili rellenos, etc. for their egg sandwiches.

Sister Francis was the best. She played football with us, jumped rope with the girls and was the best marbles player. No one could beat her. Keep in mind, those were the days when the nuns wore the full habits. Nothing showed except their faces. But there was Sister Francis running with the football, the giant rosary that wrapped around her waist flying behind her.

We had to go to Mass every morning, and the nuns were strict about our decorum. We didn't dare brace ourselves when we genuflected by holding on to the back of the pew. They would check our hands as we held them in a praying position. You had to hold your fingers close to one another so the nuns couldn't see daylight between them. And if you dared to turn your head in any direction during Mass, you were interrogated afterwards as to what was so important to cause you to break Jesus' heart by misbehaving during Mass.

Oh, those were the days!

Steve Ramos said...

Oh, I forgot to mention something. Back then, before Vatican II, the women had to cover their heads during Mass. The girls at school all wore those little affairs on their heads that looked like doilies. You know what I mean?

Well, Charlene, who was the only Protestant in the school, was quickly informed that she would have to bring a head covering to school so she could go to Mass. Charlene, who was as redneck as they come, appeared with a headscarf that had a huge picture of a cowboy on a bucking bronc. The nuns were horrified. Picture all of those proper little Catholic girls with their lacy coverings, and there's Charlene looking like Annie Oakley.

Then there was the time when Charlene was caught snacking at her desk. It was a huge scandal because she had taken some of the communion wafers from the church. When we walked into the church for Mass, there was a little table that had the wafers in a bowl. You used a pair of tongs to pick one of the wafers up and put it in another bowl. Back then, it was forbidden for anyone except the priest to touch them. Of course, they weren't blessed yet and had not become the body and blood of Christ, but touching them was still forbidden.

Somehow, Charlene had escaped the notice of the nuns and put a few of the wafers in her pocket. There we were in the middle of phonics, and Sister Josita sees Charlene eating something. The color left her face when she saw WHAT Charlene was eating. I think they called Rome to find out what to do, I'm not sure. There was talk of expelling Charlene, but she stayed.

I'm glad she did. The class was never dull.

De'on Miller said...

What great stories you both have, and how jealous I am.

Charlene is a great character. But the nuns are hard to beat. And so dedicated.

I've always been envious of the time and the life Mom grew up in.