Senior year at School Street School began in 1966—sixth grade for me. We were the big shots of the school, as Grandpa might say. There were two playgrounds there. The lower one was for the younger kids so it had the swings, while the upper did not because we were much too sophisticated. That year we did not get to enjoy the privilege of our segregation from the little ones because our playground was going to be the site of the new school and was closed during the construction. So we suffered the indignity of not having our own space but never got to enjoy the school with the cafeteria, new desks, and asbestos-free living. It did not open that year. My brothers and sisters all went to the new school.
Our teacher was Mr. Albano, who loved to travel to exotic places—a fact which led to his gruesome murder in Thailand many years later. I remember his pictures of the pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece, and the tomb of King Tut. His stories of his travels to the Mid-East were glamorous and exciting and made history come alive for me.
As the oldest in the school, six graders were assigned certain jobs. My friend Karen and I had the task of helping the kindergartners get dressed in their coats, hats and sometimes their boots at the end of the day. Aunt Ellen was in kindergarten then, so I wonder if she recalls me coming to her classroom.
I also had the somewhat geeky job of running the school projector when other classes wanted to see a movie. This was a very ancient way to watch movies, pre-video tapes of course. Our job was to wheel the projector to the class requesting our services and set up the movie reel on the projector, which involved threading a thin film around the various nooks and crannies of the machines. It was an important job—at least I thought so—and got me out of class for a bit.
Sixth grade was also the year my fear of bridges developed. A woman in town—Miss Blanchard —committed suicide by jumping off the Reservoir Bridge. At one time, she had been our school librarian, and Karen and I helped her shelve books. That was when I became quite adept at the Dewey Decimal System.
I was quite traumatized by Miss Blanchard’s death, so from then on, I insisted that Grandma and Grandpa drive an alternate route when going to the Reservoir Tavern or other place to which that was the usual route. I must say that they were quite accommodating, but parents are just very awesome people when it comes to their children. That is indisputable!
That fear remained with me for forty-seven years until a man tried to drive off the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston. He lived, and for me, it was a sort of public service. I figured if he was unable to intentionally drive off the bridge, then the likelihood of me accidentally driving off any bridge was slight. So now my only major fear from my School Street School years is that of snakes, which is really quite common.
In September, I moved on to John Hill School, when my walk to school doubled from a half mile to one full mile. (Somehow it seemed so much longer in my mind.) I left my two sisters behind—Aunt El promoted to first grade and Aunt Ar to third. We would never be in the same school again.