Thursday, September 8, 2005

Lois Swanee
Museum Curator

The end of summer and school beginnings

We didn’t use to celebrate Labor Day. Labor Day was a northern holiday and began so the laborers could have a day off at the end of summer.

In the north were many workers at the many factories and there weren’t many rules and regulations. Work was required seven days a week so Unions were started where the workers formed forces to make better working conditions. Children were used in some of these places so the Child Labor Law was passed to protect them. 

Schools always started the first Monday in September; we didn’t know there was a Labor Day, much less a holiday on the first day of school. Labor Day wasn’t even on our calendar. To begin school with a holiday wasn’t on our agenda. However, someone who hated heat probably saw this holiday as a way to celebrate the end of long hot summers. 

The beginning of summer was on Memorial Day to celebrate the beginning of summer. School beginnings were always very exciting. Everything was new; teacher’s curriculum, even old friends we had been with all summer were new. There were always a few new friends and even clothes were exciting. Of course, my mother sewed every stitch I ever wore all the way through school. One little rich girl always had a new wardrobe for school and she would come in her new winter finery (sweat and all) and I remember it as being ridiculous as summer was still with us.

Football kicked off the season for the girls as well as the boys. This was an exciting time of life! The first year the school had cheerleaders, I remember Nellie Mae Jones and Naomi Freeman being cheerleaders. They were older (not much) than I was, but we were watching. Later on when I was in the ninth grade, I joined the Holly High band playing the beautiful bell lyre and wore a majorette uniform at the front of the band. The bell lyre had a piano keyboard and like many instruments, you only played the tune so it was simple to play for a piano player and I could really make that thing chime.

Curtis White was the drum major and he led the band twirling his baton. He could really strut, too, and with his baton he gave us directions, which we followed. Walter Cooper Sandusky, C.D. Collins, Miriam Leslie, Jimmy Totten, Frank Hopkins, Charles Dean, Eleanor Lee Ferris, and Frances Moore (Buchanan) were all part of the band. Frank Wilkerson was our capable bandleader.

I always felt a little sorry for him because everybody else his age was in the war and he was left behind warring with us kids. He had us in control though. He made us into a marching band, where we could do intricate maneuvers on the football field. I think we were really good.

Once we were at the cotton Carnival Parade in Memphis, marching down Main Street. Curtis was twirling his baton high in the air and the baton landed in the streetcar lines over head. Sparks flew; there was a big bang, and then darkness. Curtis had shorted out the Memphis electricity with his twirling baton. We made history that night.

School days – dear old golden rule days, a person never gets over his school days and never gets over his rearing either. I thank the Lord for these great days and the wonderful people whose lives touched mine. Those people were almost the same as kinfolks.

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