Written By Galen White
Although it can be dangerous, I got to thinkin’ the other day ’bout Athens High School and ……, ‘scuse me? You think my thinkin’ is dangerous? Well, maybe so. But I was gettin’ at Athens High School could be dangerous. Don’t you remember the commercial on TV about ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste”? Or was it, a waist is a terrible thing to mind? Musta been the last one ’cause I really ain’t minded my waist for a while.
Seriously, I was reminded of some of the things we once did during my educatin” at good ol’ AHS. Remember me sayin’ somethin’ the other day about dodge ball, and how it has been outlawed from school grounds ’cause some parent would seize the opportunity to sue the school ’cause their little Johnny or little Lucy was hit with a ball? And the so-called experts claim it would lead to hostilities! In my humble opinion, this kind of parentin’ along with decisions of the “experts” has been two major contributors of why our schools are failing; or at least why they are not as good as the once were.
Anyway, my thoughts had drifted back to the mid to late 1950’s and my grammar schoolin’. When I first heard about “grammar” school, I thought they said grandma school, and since my grandparents had been gone long before I was born, it didn’t concern me none. I shoulda known better for it marked the beginnin’ of twelve, long, hard, and difficult years for me.
Once school had started – the very first week of first grade, in fact – I heard the name of Dustin E. Racer mentioned. I looked around and recognized James, Len, Don, Norman, and the other guys in class, but I didn’t know a Dustin E. Racer. Yes, there were girls in class as well, but I’d never heard tell of a girl named Dustin. Well, I figured he’d show up sooner or later, but I also wondered why I had to be there and he didn’t.
Do you remember what your old cell looked like? Uh….I mean, your classroom? Sure as heck seemed like a cell to me, though. Anyway, I remember it quite well. We had separate desks and chairs, and the warden—, er, teacher, Miss Harrell, pushed our desks together where there would be four of us facin’ each other. That didn’t last long, though…., guess she figured my talkin’ to tree others was too disruptive, so we put only two desks together. That didn’t last long either, since it was too much talkin’. So, we ended up sittin’ alone. I had to practically yell for the others to hear me then, but that’s another story.
I remember the old chalk boards, too. Black as the ace of spades and when drawin’ on the black board with a stick of chalk, you could make the chalk squawk and squeal like a banshee. The girls all screamed and said it gave ’em goose bumps. I liked it ’cause it made a racket and interrupted whatever it was we were supposed to be learnin’. Seein’ the girls wiggle and complain was kinda fun, too. Remember, this was first grade and that’s what boys were supposed to do.
I did notice that every other day or so, though, that someone was appointed to take all the erasers from the chalk board out to the white house and pound the chalk dust out of ’em. The white house was a store room on the south side of our campus, and doubled as a smoke house for the high school students who smoked and a weight room for the high school students who didn’t.
Now, there are times when you gotta draw me a picture afore I recognize things, but it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t Dustin E. Racer, it was ‘dustin’ erasers”.
Well, this looked like a job that ol’ Galen would good at. At first the Miss Harrell wouldn’t let me dust the erasers no matter how many times I begged; guess she figured I’d go AWOL if given half the chance. Then I figured it was my punishment for talkin’ so much in her class. Didn’t take her very long to realize she was punishin’ herself. After that, she’d let me dust erasers just to get me outta her hair?
I was good at it, too. Man, I could slap erasers on the side of the white house and chalk dust would explode from ’em. At times it looked like a dust storm was ragin’. That dust is what got me to thinkin’; wonder what kind of affect inhalin’ all that chalk dust would have? ‘Course, I wasn’t worried at the time, but today I gotta admit I’m somewhat curious. I honestly don’t believe it harmed my lungs any, but it might just be the culprit that warped my mind to the level it is today.
Then again, it might just be that I worked at it long enough that I finally reached the point I am at today. Either way, I am what I am, and the memories of Dustin E. Racer remain vivid. I gotta say that our warden…., teacher, Miss Harrell, wasn’t really as bad as I make her out to be. In fact, all my teachers were good, after all they put up with me.
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.