By Bill Ward
---- — I have been a Foster Grandparent for Head Start for the last four years. Head Start is a Federal program for preschool children at risk. We have a class of about 14 youngsters 3, 4, 5 years old for four hours a day. I put my time in at the Milroy School although there is an afternoon class at Booker T in Rushville. Being at a school building and around children from preschool up to 6th grade sure is different from the time I was that age. First off, there was no preschool when I was young. I did attend kindergarten at Belle Gregg School on 8th street then on to Graham Annex on 7th and Perkins for grades 1 to 6.
The thing that really stands out to me is that the children of today are a heck of a lot larger and taller than in my day. I am not used to 6th graders being taller than I am and Milroy has a lot of those. In my day, recess was something we had to manage ourselves. At Graham Annex, we had a playground between the elementary and high school buildings. It was originally only gravel and when we went outside to play we had possibly baseballs or small balls to toss about other than that we made up. What games we played we usually made up ourselves. We all generally dressed pretty much alike. Even up to high school boys dressed in jeans and white tee shirts with no idiotic comment on them. Shoes were usually leather sneakers were not too well used other than for gym class. We did not have field trips, long vacations or many snow days. And I assure you we had snow and should at times probably not had school but we did.
Rushville had three elementary schools, Graham Annex at 7th and Perkins, Belle Gregg at 8th where the administration offices are today and Havens on 3rd street down by the train station, an apartment building today. Booker T was abandoned and not used in my life time. The high school and junior high was in the same building in front of the Annex on 7th and Perkins. There was no student parking lot, few had cars even if they were old enough to drive. No buses in town, we walked or rode our bikes to and from school. The county had their own schools usually townships and under the trustee. The county did have a county wide superintendant to be certain they fulfilled the state requirements for education of the children of the time.
Memorial Gym was there in my youth and we had gym class there when I got into junior high school. We would leave 7th and Perkins walking, riding bikes or some few in cars and head to 11th and Park Blvd to Memorial Gym. We dressed, got out, did our thing, then showered and headed back to 7th and Perkins. We did find a store between the two destinations that sold us snacks on the way back to school. This went along fine until one day when we stopped in to fuel up and there was C.J. Sellers, the principal of the high school. Mr. Sellers told us in rather strict terms that stopping for snacks was now considered to be at an end or there would be consequences, and we all knew what those consequences were. For a short time we did stop snacking, but eventually when we found out things had cooled down back to our regular routine.
The high school had an outstanding wood and metal shop program. The local economy was based on furniture manufacture hence wood working for the youth. Farmers needed to be able to repair expensive and large machinery hence metal working shop. These shops were located under the bleachers in Memorial Gym and were usually for junior or senior students so most of them drove to and from shop and school. If you were lucky enough to have a car, you filled it up with your friends for the trip to Memorial and back.
Sports generally consisted of football, basketball, baseball and track and for boys only. The girls were cheer leaders, not participants during my youth. Discipline in school was strict much much more so than what is normal today. Mr. Sellers had a large wooden paddle with holes in the end to make it go faster before it smacked your rear end if you messed up. I cannot remember more than one time in my stay in the high school building when that paddle was used. And I assure you the stories that came out of that event pretty well put the fear of God and Mr. Sellers in us all. We knew we could be paddled and did not care for that to occur, so we did the right thing. I personally feel our youth of today need a little paddling now and again to get their attention if nothing else.
We knew we would be graded by our teachers and principals as well as by our parents. I knew if I got paddled at school much worse would happen when I got home. And believe me everyone knew everyone else so my parents would know almost as fast as I did if I got in trouble. And I knew as did all my friends that our parents were going to be much more perturbed than Mr. Sellers and the punishment would be with that attitude. I knew of no one who cared to raise the wrath of their parents in any way when I was younger.
Children today have much more done for them than in my day. Again something I feel is over done. Let the children learn from their mistakes and realize others have feelings too. If we had a bully when I was in school, it was usually settled after school away from the school and administration and law enforcement. I found a well placed punch to the nose generally pretty well took care of any bullying that might be going on. Students also stood by their friends, pick on one, pick on them all. And I assure you that was not a good idea to even consider doing. School goes longer, has more off times and less discipline than in my day. Students have much more to learn and many things I would never have even considered. And I suspect that had my parents written something like this they would have the same attitude as I do, they had it harder than youth of today.