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home : columnists : columnists August 21, 2017

Back to school ... In the 60s

By Paula Dunn
From Time to Thyme

I can't believe school is in session already. Man, have things changed since I was growing up here in the 1960s.

I remember my mother said on several occasions that Dale Swanson (the Noblesville School Superintendent in those days) once told her Noblesville students would never start school before Labor Day as long as he was in charge.

And we never did.

Of course, if my memory is correct, none of the schools in town had air conditioning back then, so we'd have been pretty miserable if we had.

Besides cooler weather, there was another advantage to starting after Labor Day - we never had to miss the State Fair, even though it wasn't held until the end of August instead of the beginning, as it is now.

Back in the '60s the only kids who rode a school bus were the ones who lived in the country - either on farms or in one of the more distant residential areas, like Craig Highlands.

Walking to school was normal for the rest of us, and not a big deal since school was usually just a few blocks from home.

I occasionally rode my bike, but mostly I walked. I even walked - by myself - to kindergarten every day. It's hard to imagine anybody letting their 5 year-old do that now.

Because so many of us did go to school on foot, fifth and sixth graders rotated on safety patrol duty to help fellow students get to and from the school grounds safely.

At Conner School, where I spent most of my grade school career, kids serving on the safety patrol wore a white belt/shoulder harness affair with a shiny badge. They also carried a long pole with a flag which was used to stop traffic so students could cross Conner and 17th Streets.

Then, as now, the start of the school year meant new school supplies, but ours probably weren't anything like today. The only things I remember my mother buying me each year were a new box of crayons (always the BIG one with 64 colors!) and a new pencil box.

My pencil box held my #2 pencils, an eraser, a protractor and a ruler. I didn't get a pen until later. I don't recall anybody using the cheap, disposable BIC pens back then. Our pens, if we had them, were refillable ballpoints. At one point fountain pens were popular, but they could get messy really quickly and I don't recall that fad lasting long.

I don't think I ever saw any children with backpacks or book bags before I was in high school. When we brought books home in the '60s, we just carried them.

It goes without saying there were no computers. We had blackboards and chalk instead. Eventually, some unlucky student would get tapped to take the erasers out on the school porch and bang them together to clear off all the chalk dust they'd accumulated.

Little girls NEVER wore pants to school in those days; it was always dresses or skirts. (Even in the winter!) I was in high school before pants were permitted.

I noticed the playground at North Elementary the other day. It looks like Disneyland compared to our facilities. We didn't have anything nearly that fancy, just old plain swings, slides, monkey bars, teeter-totters and tetherball poles.

I'm sure school officials have their reasons for starting classes so early, but I'm glad I attended grade school when I did. I can't imagine having to sit in a classroom right now, knowing I was missing out on over a month of summer fun.

Paula Dunn's From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com

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