patrick-henry-6-3-1967-68

Top Row: Mr. Shepherd, Principal; Mrs. Lawson (Kennedy); Loni Rombach, Denise Birchfield, Tim Hannis, Mary Vruwink, Larry Seale, Claudia Lukken.

Row 2: Kenneta Claxton, ? Moore, Jill Nelson, Yolanda Nava.

Row 3: ? Talbert, Mark Gassaway, Cindy Polson, Bruce Zwahlen, Daneille Irvin, Harold Sanditen, ? Adamson, Mike Wilcox.

Row 4: Carol Clark, Vicky Pollok, Brett McCormick, Cynthia Hilst, Lisa Johnson.

Row 5: Nancy Noel, Me, Mark Bennett, ? Tillison, Paula Mashburn, Chip Allison.

(My memory is not that good; I wrote the names on the original…)

These are my mostly random memories of 6th grade at Patrick Henry.

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Blue Boy

The summer of 1967 was the Summer of Love in San Francisco. I remember being fascinated by the images of freaks and hippies in Life magazine, and by Blue-Boy the Acid-head getting his come-uppance from Sgt. Friday on Dragnet. Tulsa was still a white-bread city, just about as insulated and segregated as it could be; Admiral Place was the de facto demarcation line between White and Black. Schools were still segregated, and blacks were sparsely represented in popular culture, mostly in subservient roles. Julia was still in the future.

The first personal interaction I can remember with a black person was with Mrs. Lawson, who was Section 6-3’s homeroom teacher. (Later in the year, she would marry and become Mrs. Kennedy.) Mrs. Lawson was young, attractive and vivacious in an era when the typical teacher might be uncharitably described as a “schoolmarm”. Mrs. Lawson had a quick wit and she refused to treat her 6th-graders like babies.

At Patrick Henry the 6th grade teachers organized an end-of-the-year trip to Six Flags in Dallas for the graduating students. The bus left at 6 am and returned close to midnight. The trip was a privilege the teachers held over their classes’ heads all year long, as the teachers could blackball potential troublemakers for misbehavior. Mrs. Lawson told us, “I’d be afraid to send some of you kids off to Dallas — you might come home little mommies and daddies!”

Which reminds me of another rite of passage for 6th graders — “hygiene films” about our budding adolescence, one for boys, one for girls. We were given information slips to take home to our parents, so they could opt to hold students out, sex ed being very controversial. My slip got, uh, lost. If the boys’ film conveyed any information about the birds and the bees it was lost on me; all I remember was something about growing hair in my armpits and needing to use deodorant. My understanding of Mrs. Lawson’s “mommies and daddies” remark remained abstract.

1968 was a year of social upheaval: the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the King assassination and the ensuing riots. If we talked about these issues in class, I don’t remember. We were, after all, 6th graders, and Mrs. Lawson had us focused on grammar and math.

One date I remember is March 12, 1968. I rode my bike to school that morning, wearing a light jacket. During the day a Blue Norther blew in; the temperature plummeted and wet, heavy globs of late-season snow started to fall. They let us out of school early, and I hitched a ride home in the neighbors’ car. Total accumulation was about 12 inches. It was several days before electrical service was restored.

(In my family, we remember that storm because that’s the day my brother Denny first met his future wife Dee. She was a senior at Edison and her car was stuck in the snow. Ever chivalrous, Denny offered her a ride home. They will celebrate their 48th anniversary in January.)

I didn’t sleep a wink the night before the Six Flags trip. We had a blast. None of my classmates became little mommies and daddies as a result (as far as I know; maybe in the other sections). Mrs. Lawson-Kennedy had done her part to introduce us to the world beyond Patrick Henry Elementary School. The next year, most of us would be “7-B’s” at Edison Junior High.

 

 

 

 

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