Monday, January 19, 2015

Little School - We were poor, obviously neglected and deprived, and it was absolutely glorious.

 Little School Life
(aka Tater Hill)

Little School, now a modern facility known as JB Little in
Arlington, is an old country school.  It was built probably not long after the turn of the last century.

When I attended it was a single story white frame building containing 6 classrooms, grades 1 thru 6, and a principal's office.  The bathrooms had been added and were outside in their own building a few steps away. As I recall the lunchroom was also a separate building, as was a small auditorium.

The school served a very large area of rural
Tarrrant County.  Some kids probably lived 12 or 15 miles from others. All kids were bussed, on several different routes, to school. Few or none walked and no mothers drove their kids to school.  For this reason there was nothing much in the way of before or after school activities.  The classes were small, probably 15 or 20 kids per grade.  Because of this small class size there were no real "cliques", just a mild gradation from more popular to less popular.   We were all generally even lower on the economic scale than the Handley kids.  Most of us lived on acreages or at least large lots.  Many families did some small scale farming and several still kept livestock.

Our school experience was almost 19th century.  Not very different  from that of our fathers or even grandfathers.  When school started the boys went barefoot until the weather changed.  Besides maybe a swing set and merry-go-round, our recess activities were ad hoc, unsupervised and generally very rough. We had no gym, we wrestled constantly and freestyle, played Red Rover, Crack the Whip and a vicious form of Dodge Ball.  A favorite contest of the boys was to climb to the top of the 30 foot flagpole. Minor injuries were common.  Everyone in charge of the school today would be arrested for what they permitted us to do daily.

Many of the families had lived in the area for generations and were inter-connected by blood and marriage.  There were often several sets of related kids at the school forming "clans" across class levels, for mutual support and even protection.  I had several uncles that attended before me, and had my younger sister and three cousins there at the same time.  A most important social grouping was formed by which school bus route you rode. The wait at the bus stop,  the long rides to and from school were  an important social time, and if you were lucky a few of those kids of your age would live within a mile or two and you could socialize after school and on weekends. 

There were essentially no organized activities for us either during the year or in the summer, unless a parent was willing to go to heroic efforts. The exception was a small  Boy Scout Troop. We were, I'm sure almost exclusively one car families, so no soccer moms were available.  No little league baseball, no peewee football, no shooting hoops after school, no available swimming pools.  We learned to swim sneaking away to a muddy pond in the woods, and oh, watch out for water moccasins.

Two events of the year were of supreme importance to us.  A school sponsored trip to the Fat Stock Show, and just before summer, a trip to
Forest Park.  That trip to Forest Park was like a trip to Disneyland is now.  Then we were turned loose on the world for summer.  I was lucky in that there were a half dozen or so boys of close enough age,  that lived close enough to get together by bicycle.  We left home in the morning an returned just before dark.  We formed a small semi-feral pack that roamed the abundant woods for miles around, fishing the ponds, hunting with our (gasp!) BB guns and exploring the banks of Village Creek, this was before Lake Arlington. We were  searching for Indian artifacts that were found there. There were no parks with baseball diamonds or jungle gyms.  We did however have an area where wild grapevines had covered several acres of the tops of tall oak trees.  We would climb to the top of the trees 30 or 40 feet up and spend hours chasing each other through the dense canopy of vines from tree to tree.  We were poor, obviously neglected and deprived, and it was absolutely glorious.

What we were, was not very well socialized by the norms of the times.  When we were thrown into Handley and then Eastern Hills, it was almost like going to school in a foreign country, and we lived so far out we couldn't even try to participate in that social whirl until we got cars of our own.  By then it was just too late. We were more or less permanently marginalized.  We stuck together, hunkered down and survived. Very few of us actually thrived.  I was actually advantaged that I had moved around so often and attended all kinds of schools and was better prepared to cope.  I think many of my old Little, or as we called it Little's, schoolmates were just bewildered by it all. It was not a particularly positive or enjoyable experience. Maybe for that reason I was the only member of my "pack" to go on  to college as far as I know.  Most joined the military or went to work right out of EH.  Going to Little's School in the early 1950's was in itself a wonderful experience, and I sometimes pity my own boys who enjoyed a more "Meadowbrook" existence.  But the cost of that "idyllic" boyhood proved to be socially prohibitive at EHHS. 



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