Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Good Old Golden Rule Days

There was a time when parents raised children most of the time and not institutions. In that period during World War II, not much after the Great Depression, there wasn't much in the way of daycare or after-school programs. There wasn't what you would call organized activities for kids. Some moms went off to work (you've heard of the song, "Rosie the Riveter"), but many were still at home. Most of the fathers were off in the war somewhere.

The Kid's dad was serving in the South Pacific with the Navy, scanning ahead of the convoys for submarines on a destroyer escort. His mom and he lived in a small town with her parents. His world was restricted to one block.

They lived directly cater-cornered from the elementary school, yet he wasn't sent there to kindergarten. He was sent off to a private kindergarten clear across town, and not at age five, but at age four. Why? I don't know. Perhaps they just wanted him out of their hair a while each day.  Someone came by each day and picked him up and brought him home. I don't know if it was Mrs. Helms, who ran the kindergarten, or some mother of one of the others.

He believes he enjoyed kindergarten. He really doesn't remember much about it. The Old Goat has on his desk a large hunk of coal, lacquered and decorated with colored spots of paint. This was a project The Kid made. For a long time he carried another memento of that project. the class had been taken out to the rail yards behind the town train station where they gathered pieces of coal and at one point were up in a meadow above the tracks. Perhaps The Kid was running or they were playing tag,  but somehow he fell into the barbwire fence between the meadow and the railroad and a barb pierced his left cheek. He wasn't given stitches and it left a one inch scar on his face. He looked like those old Prussian aristocrats who proudly bore saber scars across their cheeks as a symbol of their class. He was the aristocrat soldier of Mrs. Helms' Kinder class.

He likes to tell people he flunked sandbox and had to repeat kindergarten. He did go two years, but for bureaucratic reasons, not academic. His mom tried to enroll him in first grade, but because he was only five they refused to allow him entry, so his mom sent him back to Mrs. Helms for another year.

The photo up top is the class during that second year. This is probably where he met one of my early close friends, Tim. Tim is the boy kneeling in the front row to the extreme right. The Kid is kneeling to the extreme left. Perhaps you can tell that he was the tallest in the class even though on his knees. The photo to the right is Tim (left) and The Kid, budding Major Leaguers. Tim is really choking up on the bat, down in a Ty Cobb crouch. The Kid is more upright breaking a cardinal rule with the bat resting on his shoulder. 

Another feature of that kindergarten photo is its reflection of those times. Notice the classmates are all grouped together except for one girl off on the right by herself. The girl's name was Blossom and there was nothing much different between her and the rest except her skin was a darker tone. I suppose it was actually somewhat progressive that Mrs. Helms had an integrated kindergarten. You won't see any thing but white faces in the photo of the East Ward Kindergarten of the same year. There were black kids who went to East Ward, but at that time they were all taught together in basically a one-room school separated from the rest of the white student body.

The Kid had two guys who were his best friends in those early years. Tim was one and Billy was the other. Here are the three of them in 1946. Tim is at the right, down in that stooped batting stance again. The kid is in the middle. He was a catcher when he first started playing baseball for one very important reason. He owned a catcher's mask.

The boy out of uniform, and just about anything else, is Billy.

(Tim passed away in 2010, and The Old Goat does not know the whereabouts of Billy now.)

The Kid had several birthday parties then. You may notice something about his parties. Yes, even then he had an eye for the ladies.

Here he is  turning five. Tim and Billy are on either side of him and then there is his bevy of beauties.

The girl just behind him was his best friend even before Tim and Billy. Her name was Iva and she was a petite redhead. In those early years, he was a redhead, too.

Here is a party a couple years later and Tim isn't there. Billy is the boy in the striped shirt. The other boy was Denny, who lived in an apartment on the other side of the school in those days. He was later to move into the house Billy then lived in after Billy moved. The Kid is on the right leaning over and looking down over Iva's shoulder. The blond girl
directly in front of him was Mary Jane and the Kid carried a torch for her right into Junior High School. The girl standing next to Denny is Judy and the dark haired girl sitting just in front of her was Toni. The name of the other girl has been forgotten.

After two years in kindergarten, the bureaucrats finally allowed The Kid to go into first grade. No one needed to pick him up anymore, he lived right across from the school. This was East Ward.

It was a stone building. It had these porches on the side with stone walls and stone pillars that made for great pretend forts. In the back was a macadam area where the children would ride bikes and roller skate. Off to one side was a playground with swings, Jungle Gym and seesaws. There was a ball diamond on the other side.

In first The Kid had a teacher named Mrs. Warren. She was a tall, stern woman who kind of scared him. She had a method for getting your attention or keeping order. She would pull hair. If you weren't paying attention, she would come up behind and yank...ow!

Teachers could do such things then. They could spank you if they wished. There was a supposed "enforcer" that the principal had. No one ever saw it. No one  knew anyone who had seen it. But everyone had heard stories about it. It was a paddle, but it had holes drilled in it to increase the pain when struck against tender bottoms. No one wanted to face the "enforcer".

By the time The Kid got to first grade he could already read well. When he was called on to read about Dick and Jane chasing after their dog, Spot, he did it with the emphasis such an adventure deserved, and Mrs. Warren pointed out to the class this was the way a story should be read. First year and already establishing himself as a teacher's pet.

The Kid seemed a happy enough back then with several friends and a good start in school. Then something happened that changed everything.

His father came home from the Navy and moved them to a swamp.


Tamela's Place said...

them are some great memories larry and the fact that you were able to get some great pics of all your friends at such a young age and keep them that is pretty amazing! i never got pictures of friends at such a young age, i don't even think i could remember anyone in my kindergarten class.

Ron Tipton said...


Sorry about my abbreviated previous message. I'm at work and the owner walked in. I had to get out real fast.

I wanted to tell you that my Mom enrolled me in first grade when I was five years old. She didn't know there was a kindergarten. By the time she did, they told her just to keep me in first grade. They probably gave her the okay because I did turn 6 on November of that year that I entered first grade.

Just to think if my Mom had remembered there was a kindergarten I would have had a whole different set of friends and my life would have been totally different. I would never have known you. That would have been a big part of my life that that never would have happened. I am very lucky she didn't remember kindergarten.

Ron Tipton said...


I finished reading the first installment of your early beginnings with great interest. I can't wait for the next installment.

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...


Yeah, that was kind of the cutoff on entry, whether your sicth birthday fell before or after year end. My birthday was June. When my mom tried to enroll me in First, I wouldn't have reach age 6 until the next summer. Of course, if my mom had succeeded, we would have been in different grades throughout and maybe would not have been friends. It is one of many places in life where a simple thing could have changed a lot. If my dad had not changed employeers in 1950, I may have stayed at West Whiteland and went to West Chester for high school. If I had taken the job with Procter & Gamble the summer after high school or joined the Army with you as you asked, then I probably wouldn't have met my wife, my kids would never have been born and who knows where I'd be now.

The little turns of life can make huge differences in the route.


Dave Scriven said...

Hi Larry,

A real cliff hanger here. What happened in the swamp?


Greg said...

I've said it before: your history is always a fascinating read. You should definitely compile all these posts into an autobiography. I'm dead-serious!

LOVE that last line! What a cliff-hanger!

thekingpin68 said...

'Teachers could do such things then. They could spank you if they wished. I remember there was a supposed "enforcer" that the principal had. I never saw it. No one I knew had seen it. But everyone had heard stories about it. It was a paddle, but it had holes drilled in it to increase the pain when struck against our tender bottoms. No one wanted to face the "enforcer".'

A teacher/principal generally, will not love a child like the parents do.

A teacher/principal will generally not know a child like parents do.

Parents have a lifetime role with a child that generally a teacher/principal will not.

I reason that corporal punishment should only be practiced by a child's parents/guardians.

Ron Tipton said...


I agree with Greg. Compile all your posts into an autobiography. You have a very interesting life. Of course I know more about your life than most of the readers of your blog know so I have an inside advantage so to speak.

There is a large market for autobiographies of real people such as you (and myself.) We all lead interesting lives however not many people have the story telling and writing skills that you possess Larry.

Now that we're at the end of our run (life) I think it is fitting if we went out with a grand finale.

Some years ago I was going through an old trust files folder where I work at the bank. In that folder was a three page hand written letter from the local farmer who had the trust account. He was now deceased. In the letter he wrote a brief synopsis of his life for his children and grandchildren. He was basically an uneducated farmer but what he wrote was so poignant and interesting. I longed to read more about this man's life in the early 20th century on a farm in Chester County. I've often thought that when I leave this earth I'll leave more than a handwritten three page letter telling the story of my life. Now that you're writing your story, it has renewed my sense of purpose in writing my story. Look for future blog postings detailing my life. Thank you Larry!

Greg said...

I'm with you, Russ (and I don't think Larry was condoning the practice). I spent my early years in Romania, where corporal punishment in school was very common. I still remember getting slapped HARD, on the first day of 1st grade, for repeatedly asking the teacher if we were free to go home yet. Besides that, I have a story that would make your hair stand on end!

Needless to say, I'd flip my lid if anyone ever struck my son, especially since I know he would never intentionally do anything worthy of it.

Larry, aka The Kid & The Old Goat said...

Russ & Greg,

This is an account of my earliest days in school. I went into Elementary School in 1947. Teacher did employ on a limited basis corporal punishment. As I stated, my first grade teacher would pull pupils' hair. Spanking was not out of the question. When I was in high school a teacher slapped a student.

I was never the recipient of such discipline.

As far as "the enforcer", that paddle with the holes, I doubt it existed. I am sure it was an urban legend, one that the principle didn't care to dispel since many of us had a dread of it. I never knew anyone who had ever experienced its use or seen it, although I knew some who said they knew somebody who knew somebody who was struck with it. (i also keep thinking we called that thing something else and not "the enforcer', but I can't remember the exact name.)