Looking forward to the three-month recess

It doesn't seem possible that just 60 years ago I survived the fifth grade at J.J. McGilvra School. It was near the end of World War II, and we spent many a school hour practicing air-raid procedures. Diving under desks with hands over our heads was the main drill.

The specific ongoing threat: 10-foot, gas-filled, canvas balloons carrying explosives set adrift to Seattle and the surrounding areas.

Thankfully, we never saw a one of them as it was believed they fell in the ocean with the unpredictable temperature and climate changes of the Northwest.

A drill we all participated in took place at night. Air-raid alarms resonated, and all businesses and home dwellers turned out the lights so as to be missed by bombers.

The drills, the lack of commodities, relatives and friends missing in action were an observable fact, but the amazing human spirit rose to the challenge of living life as usual. Sometimes a schoolmate wouldn't show up for days, and we never asked why. We all cared for each other. It created a camaraderie only seen at war time.

So, the last day of school was a mixed bag of emotions. We were excited to have the summer off, but we would surely miss the sense of belonging school life provided.

There were less harsh realities during the year. It was the year we were finally old enough to play Soak'em (Dodge Ball) in the portable (a temporary gym) while Mr. Tucker refereed.

Another fond memory was a birthday party where we could eat cake, drink pop and, later, when the adults left to do adult things, we'd play Spin the Bottle. This pastime was way more fun than any of the aforementioned activities.

Besides pop, we ate all kinds of candy. To make a favorite treat, we mixed one package of Kool-Aid to four parts sugar, poured a mound into the palm of our hands and licked it, leaving colorful tongues and teeth. It was a real tasty treat; the dentist loved it, too.

The last day of school finally arrived. We cleaned out our lockers, removed our drawings and pictures of sports and movie stars and returned to our desks. It was to be the final cleanup of unfinished schoolwork, candy wrappers and that one Fleers Double Bubblegum wrapper we stood in long lines to buy because it helped the war effort.

One last thing to toss was the pile of sunflower-seed shells left after a year's worth of munching while learning. There were veritable trails of seed mounds all over the school. One serious problem when moving from class to class was to stick your hand into a desk without looking and find a wet glob of seeds.

Cleaning accomplished, it was time to sign the backs of each other's class pictures with personal notes.

Then after removing all the artwork from the walls and cleaning the blackboards, we celebrated the day with cake and pop.

The big clock ticked the few remaining minutes away, and our homeroom teacher, Mrs. Noon joined in conversation, telling us what she would be doing for the summer. We shared our plans with her in turn.

We began to feel like young adults for the first time in our lives. She had an uncanny knack of inspiring us to see the big picture and to strive for greatness. She talked about the forthcoming years and the uncertainty of future wars. She really made us think.

The cake and pop disappeared, and the day came to a happy end just short of noon. Probably like the last day of school this year 60 years later, the same big clock ticked its way to the end, the big bell clanging that it was time to let us loose.

We ran, yelling and screaming toward the unknown future - three months of sunburns; rainy, do-nothing days; swimming; and playing summer games - all the while looking forward to the next year at good ol' J.J. McGilvra Elementary School.

Send e-mail to Richard Carl Lehman at krlehman@comcast.net.

[[In-content Ad]]