Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Home Schooled....Part II

Here is the rest of the story!

Home Schooled With an Audience Part II

At Willard School, named for some early settlers and ranchers in the area, the building itself was part frame with an addition made of middle sized creek boulders set in cement. That type of construction was used a lot at the time because half the material was essentially free. Every small gully or arroyo had an assortment of rocks one could pick up and use. There were still outhouses but we did have a washroom and a kitchen. The first year or two it served lunches but later was closed and only used for special events and parties.
By this time I did wear dresses quite a lot. Thank you, Grandma for providing them for me and for giving me that odd gene for sewing by which I later outfitted myself. Still, jeans were not odd and many girls wore them frequently. Even the teacher wore them, at least Mr Morgan did! It seems there were more girls than boys, by odd coincidence, but most of the kids had horses and often rode them to school. The community consisted of a number of small farms or ranchettes and there was a dairy and a few small businesses such as a general store and service station and perhaps a tavern.
The first year, I was in Mrs. Fuller’s class as she taught the first four grades. I was the only girl in fourth grade but there were several a year ahead or behind with whom I became friends. At least by then I could interact with other kids and fit in well enough. For fifth grade I moved back to Mr. Morgan’s room and there spent the next three years advancing grade by grade to be an “upper class” pupil the final year as a seventh grader.
My memories there are almost all happy ones. All the kids played together so the fact I was not any kind of an athlete was no big issue. We all played whatever the game of the day was and did out best, mostly to have fun! Students ranged in age from six through early teens with a few who were taking some extra years to get out of the eighth grade.
I had gotten my first pair of glasses near the end of third grade when the county school nurse noticed I seemed to have trouble seeing the blackboard at Camp Wood. I found out my vision was 20-200 in the right eye and 20-400 in the left, an extreme case of nearsightedness. But it was correctable to 20-20. One time I caught a kicked football smack in the face but the glasses did not break—I guess vindication of the fact my parents insisted on sturdy metal frames and safety glass. I had a gash or two but no other damage.
In the classroom
By this time I had a kid brother but he was not yet in school. In fact he began first grade the year I started eighth grade. Anyway, when I read about pioneer and frontier children who rode their ponies or walked a mile or more to school, might help bring in wood to heat their classroom or carry water and the older ones helped the younger with their lessons, I realize how lucky I was to have a similar experience in the middle of the twentieth century! By then most of my contemporaries were going to town schools and they missed out on so much. 
The front of the school

A few more highlights of those years. At Bridgeport the end of school was a festive time, a community wide celebration. The last Wednesday was the graduation. The eighth graders had a free day, the girls to primp and the boys to goof off. The rest of the student body scoured the area with wheelbarrows, red wagons and pickup trucks to collect flowers, which by late May were in full bloom. We got roses, hydrangeas, iris and many others to decorate the multi-purpose room that had once been the lower grades and lunchroom divided by a folding wall. It was a virtual florist shop madness.

Gaye start of 7th grade
Every student had at least some small role in the evening’s ceremonies—singing some songs, reciting a poem or maybe doing a skit. But of course the grads were the stars and center of the show. Afterwards, there was Kool-Aid and cookies for everyone with most of the community sharing in the fun.
The next day was a community wide picnic. Some parents, mostly dads, were working but at least one adult from most families attended. There was a potluck with all kinds of delicious dishes. The event was held down along the Verde River, just south of the bridge for Highway 89A to Sedona and Flagstaff. We all played games—baseball, horseshoes and just racing around, splashing in the stream and letting off kid-type steam. The amazing part, in retrospect, was the equality and community feeling. While there were well-to-do and impoverished families there did not seem to be any big distinctions, no cliques or snobbishness at all.
Friday the rest of the students got report cards, put books and sports gear away and tidied up the building which was then closed for the summer. That was the end of the school year although at least a couple of years, there was a field trip or short campout the following week. The students had gathered scrap iron, held rummage sales and asked local merchants for donations to finance this trip and they were a lot of fun as well.
I still marvel at the simplicity and openness, the camaraderie and trust of that small community. Later I missed that the most. Nobody was harassed and if someone was in need—like when one father lost a hand in a farm accident, everyone pitched in to help, raise needed money and donate goods to help the family. I may have been na├»ve or not noticed but I do not recall anyone being harassed or made to feel inferior and unwanted.
Finally that school, too, was closed. Allegedly this would allow the rural students to have all the ‘advantages’ a larger school could offer. The Bridgeport kids then went to Cottonwood but since I lived in Clarkdale, I went on to begin my eighth grade year there in a “regular” school.. Advantages or not, I had no trouble making grades that kept me near the top of my class so I had not missed much.
What I did miss was all the good things. I went from a one-room school to a junior high or middle school that was co-located with the high school and had the same subject-exclusive teachers so we went from room to room. It was basically just mini-high school. Talk about culture shock. No jeans now as girls were not allowed to wear any kind of trousers except on a few special occasions like dress western day. I survived but that is another story.

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