My Journey to Rison and Lee
by Tommy Towery
As a follow up to Rainer’s story last week about his introduction to Rison Elementary School, I thought I would give my own reflections on the same topic.
I started my formal school education when my family lived at 304 Redstone Park, and I entered the first grade at Farley Elementary School.
Farley Elementary started in 1885 as a one room school house built by Dr. John Benton Farley. It included grades one through ten and began with twenty-five students. In 1926 it was replaced with a five room school for grades one through nine, and was built on the site where the present school now stands. In 1939 Farley School was damaged by fire. First and second grades remained at Farley, but the rest of the students were bused to West Huntsville. The school reopened in 1940 with a new auditorium. By the 1950’s the enrollment was almost 600.
I remember little about the school itself, but one event made a permanent impression on my first grade brain. Shortly after the school year started, we had a break in our educational pursuits when the whole school got out for “cotton pickin’.” I could not find any information about Farley letting out for cotton pickin’ but found this about Monrovia, which must have been on a similar scheduled since it was also in Madison County. Since I started the first grade in 1952, it seems to fit my situation.
According to a 1952 community survey, the Monrovia School opened its term in mid-July to September 15. Then it closed for six weeks so that the students could pick cotton. This was called the “Cotton Vacation.” School reopened around the first of November. Madison County was only one of three counties, in Alabama, to observe the Cotton Vacation.
And to answer the obvious question, yes I did try my hand at cotton pickin’ as a first grader. I don’t know who arranged it, but my brother Don and I went out one day (only one) and I made somewhere between seven and 13 cents picking cotton. I don’t think I invested the money, and probably used it to buy myself some candy or a Coke.
Around the end of 1952 my family moved to 823 Halsey Avenue, which put me in the Rison School District and I began 1953 as a first grader at Rison. As I did at Farley, I walked to school each morning and home each afternoon. Also, as with Farley, I do not remember much about the school itself, except for one place. I remember the little room where you could buy pencils and Blue Horse paper and other school supplies.
A short period into the new year, my family moved again. This was the third move made during my first year in school. It must have been late into the school year, because even though we moved to Huntsville Park in West Huntsville and where I should have gone to a different school, I finished out the first grade at Rison. This was accomplished thanks to the Huntsville public transportation system – the city bus. Each morning, as a first grader, I got on the bus at the Huntsville Park Café (now the site of the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center) and rode it to Rison, on the opposite side of town. Each day, when school was out, I caught the bus and rode it back to West Huntsville. Often I fell asleep on the ride home, but the bus driver knew where I was supposed to get off and he would stop the bus and wake me up and insure I did not miss my stop.
Opposite from Rainer's switching from East Clinton to Rison, I switched from Rison to East Clinton. Another family move, my fourth in about a year, took me to 505 East Clinton Street and into the East Clinton school district. I started the second grade there, and continued there throughout the rest of my elementary education process. I completed the seventh and eighth grades at Huntsville Jr. High before the family moved to Hart Drive in West Huntsville. We only lived there for a part of the summer of 1960, and before my ninth grade school year started, we moved to 1212 McCullough Ave. and I became a Lee General for the last year of junior high. One final move took my family to 904-C Webster Drive, still in the Lee District, and I completed my high school education as a member of the first graduating class (the Class of 1964) at Lee High School. In the 12 years of my basic education, my family moved seven times. No wonder I identify with the term traveller.
Memphis, TN - I had a great time putting together this week's issue. It is so much easier when I have contributions from my fellow classmates. This week we celebrate Thanksgiving and I hope all of you who happen to go "over the river and through the woods" have a safe journey. But I suppose if Grandmother's house is the destination, we will be the ones visited instead of the ones traveling. Does anyone still have a grandmother alive?
Songs are still stacking up in the jukebox, and if you have not made your three selections yet, there is still time.
Not Written by but Submitted by Kathy Harris Jones, LHS '66
WORDS AND PHRASES REMIND US OF THE WAY WE WORD
by Richard Lederer
About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included "Don't touch that dial," "Carbon copy," "You sound like a broken record" and "Hung out to dry." A bevy of readers have asked me to shine light on more faded words and expressions, and I am happy to oblige:
Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We'd put on our best bib and tucker and straighten up and fly right. Hubba-hubba! We'd cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitching woo in hot rods and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers lane.
Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley! We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn't accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!
Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when's the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn't anymore.
Like Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Kurt Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, we have become unstuck in time. We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, I'll be a monkey's uncle! or This is a fine kettle of fish! we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.
Poof, poof, poof go the words of our youth, the words we've left behind. We blink, and they're gone, evanesced from the landscape and wordscape of our perception, like Mickey Mouse wristwatches, hula hoops, skate keys, candy cigarettes, little wax bottles of colored sugar water and an organ grinders monkey.
Where have all those phrases gone? Long time passing. Where have all those phrases gone? Long time ago: Pshaw. The milkman did it. Think about the starving Armenians. Bigger than a bread box. Banned in Boston. The very idea! It's your nickel.
Don't forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Turn-of-the-century. Honest Injun. Iron curtain. Domino theory. Fail safe. Civil defense. Fiddlesticks! You look like the wreck of the Hesperus. Cooties. Going like sixty. I'll see you in the funny papers. Don't take any wooden nickels. Heavens to Murgatroyd! And awa-a-ay we go! Oh, my stars and garters.
It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter had liver pills. This can be disturbing stuff, this winking out of the words of our youth, these words that lodge in our heart's deep core. But just as one never steps into the same river twice, one cannot step into the same language twice. Even as one enters, words are swept downstream into the past, forever making a different river.
We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did not exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It's one of the greatest advantages of aging. We can have archaic and eat it, too.
See ya later, alligator!
This week's selections by Linda Collingsworth Provost, LHS '66, who writes:
Tommy, I accept your video jukebox challenge, with glee! Music is, and always has been, extremely important to me. My every day starts and ends with music...all kinds. Well, not exactly all kinds. I have tried and tried but I cannot stand most classical music. It stresses me out something terrible! I like oldies, some country (Garth Brook's "The Dance" brings a tear to my eye every time), disco, doo wop and some current music. I enjoyed dancing to Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" as the last dance at our reunion and I really love me some Pitbull and Adele and Maroon 5 and Sam Smith. See, I can't stop!
When you are sitting at a traffic light and some jerk pulls up next to you playing music full blast with the bass turned all the way up so loud that the car is vibrating, it is most likely me. When I buy a new car, the first and most important item on my checklist is the sound system...Bose speakers? A must. How many? No less than 12.
I love having a convertible with a Dynoaudio sound system. There is nothing like driving with the top down and the music blaring. My collection of oldies and doo wop numbers in the thousands. All digital, mind you. I'm all about technology and iTunes and carrying my playlist with me everywhere I go. I have my music on my PC, two iPhones and an android. I discovered that rather than buy an iPod, I can just use an old iPhone as music space.
So, on to the the jukebox challenge. I remember the kind that used to be at the booth in some restaurants and I remember the big kind that took up a lot of floor space. Those were the ones that I fed my quarters
Song #1 - Kathy Young "A Thousand Stars"
This song evokes memories of my first love, parties in someone's garage, spin the bottle, stolen kisses, first dances and sweet, sweet romance. A time of innocence.
Song #2 - The Cyrkle, "Red Rubber Ball"
Memories of a trip to Panama City with girlfriends. We didn't know it at the time but it was our first ever YaYa trip...the first of many trips and bonding experiences together. The friendships have lasted and so have the memories. This song played constantly on the radio that week and on the car radio on the drive to and from P.C.
Song #3 - Percy Sledge- "When a Man Loves a Woman"
OK, I confess, this is a college memory and not a high school memory. But what a great memory it is! I actually danced with my college boyfriend to this song while Percy Sledge himself sang to us. Well, not just us, but still we enjoyed imagining that it was so. I consider this is one of the sexiest and most romantic songs ever.
Gee, I really don't like being limited to three and, if I could, I would toss in one more, just because it is a fun memory - The Bee Gees "Words". It is another college memory; night time; everyone is asleep in the dorm; rocks tossed at my dorm window. When I opened the window and looked out, there was Gary Folsom (nephew of "Big Jim"), sitting on the hood of his car, playing his guitar and serenading me with this song. Pretty romantic, I thought. We dated for about a minute and this memory was the best part of the entire experience.
(Sorry Linda, only three plays for a quarter!)
From Our Mailbox
Subject: Radar Men From the Moon
Thanks for taking us back to the thrills of the Saturday morning cliffhangars. As you wrote, those addictive episodes served as the gripping prelude to a full day of varied cinematic excitement. Seen again after so many years—during which we’ve all viewed hundreds of movies and enjoyed the advances in the medium (and grown up)—the short, earnest dramas have now acquired a charm and goofiness that is different (but still pleasurable) from what beguiled us as kids. By the way, in this adventure of Commando Cody, I noticed that Clayton Moore is one of the heavies. He, of course, went on to star as the Lone Ranger. I wouldn’t be surprised if sharp-eyed John Drummond, our expert on Westerns, points that out, too.
Subject: Patsy Cline and the Radar Men from the Moon
The Patsy Cline song selected by Dwight Jones was a great choice. One of her most popular hits, "Crazy," was written by a then-unknown singer/songwriter from Texas who had moved to Nashville. His name was Willie Nelson.
Something I noticed in Episode 1 of "Radar Men From the Moon," was that the good-guy crew buckled seat belts before takeoff in their spaceship; but they were sitting in what appeared to be desk chairs on rollers! Only a kid raised in The Rocket City would take note of such space travel errata. Also, in the opening credits of "Radar Men From The Moon" at the bottom of first-screen credits is the actor Clayton Moore. He plays one of the bad guys, the one on the left in the darker fedora in his opening scene of Episode 1, wielding a revolver. The name may not be familiar to most of us, but his voice should be. A few years later he would star in the title role of "The Lone Ranger" on TV. Since on the TV series we never actually got to see the hero's face, as in: "Who was that masked man?", his voice is instantly recognizable.
TV Trivia Question: Clayton Moore played The Lone Ranger; what was the name of the actor who played Tonto? (ANSWER BELOW)
Subject: Last Week's Issue
Pat King Fanning
Thank you, Rainer for your article - I love hearing folks "walk down memory lane"! Tommy, I loved the jukebox songs. I began playing them and Roy said, "Where is that coming from?" We were singing along - just as we did in "yester-years". Today's music just doesn't hit the spot as well....
Tommy -- I appreciate all you do. Blessings to you and yours this coming holiday season. We must begin to truly cherish our FFF's --- FAMILY, FRIENDS, FREEDOM. Each are so precious to our lives.
TV Trivia Answer: In "The Lone Ranger" TV series, Tonto was played by the actor Jay Silverheels. His horse, Scout, played himself.