A Big Day in Grammar School

Week One Prompt:
Share some primary school memories.”

George Washington School

The Old Neighborhood

I began my scholastic career at George Washington School in White Plains, NY. As you can see, it was easy walking distance from our house (now hidden by the tree canopy) on Todd’s Pond.

When I was ready to head to fourth grade, Mom and Dad decided it was time for their three kids to change schools.

We would all attend St. John’s School, even though it meant (I assume) tuition and (certainly) driving us to and from school each day.

Sometime during my transition between third and fourth grade, I ended up wearing prescription glasses, a “joy” I maintain to this day.

New Kid in Fourth Grade

But, since glasses hadn’t yet been judged as cool by hipsters (not even invented yet), I came up with a genius plan to fit in at the new school without the stigma of looking like even more of a dork than my general appearance already pegged me.

As soon as we were dropped off at school and out of sight of parental units, I ditched my glasses and carried on with my day. I honestly have no recollection of where I stored my glasses until it was time to re-apply them to my face for the ride home so I wouldn’t be caught looking cool.

Fourth grade me couldn’t read the blackboard without corrective lenses, however.

Mrs. Goodenow, who was able to whip an eraser full of chalk dust from the front of the classroom to halfway back the rows of desks where my not paying attention nor on the lookout for flying erasers head was located, noticed my squinty demeanor. She must have notified my parents I was unable to see and the jig was up.

My days as a cool kid were over, everybody found out I wore glasses.

But, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

November 22, 1963

St. John’s School

There was a great deal of tension in the world in the early sixties wrought by the conflict between the United States and Russia. Younger kids never really have much of a grasp of global conflict, even if their expected to participate in “duck and cover” drills to protect themselves from a nuclear attack.

I actually can’t picture myself participating in one of those drills, but I’m sure we did and I do remember a neighbor of my grandparents having a really cool fallout shelter in the basement of their house.

We did receive some indoctrination about Communists not being allowed to believe in God, or statements along those lines. There was never much factual backup behind those statements, it was just accepted as true.

With that background, one of my clear memories of my time at St. John’s was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Since the President was Catholic, he probably garnered more support with the religious staff of the school and St. John the Evangelist church than a man of another religion might have been. In the 60’s, being a Catholic was somehow a possibly negative characteristic, although I certainly never experienced anything like that.

On the day the President was shot, all the kids in school were lined up and walked over the the church next door. I don’t remember if we headed out of class upon hearing the news of the shooting or once his death was affirmed. It doesn’t matter, we were headed to church to pray for him.

I clearly remember standing in a line with the other kids in my class on the sidewalk in the image above, it didn’t look much different at the time. We were all quiet and not really sure how to feel.

We waited to troop into the church with the rest of the kids.

The weird buzz in line, on the street, I remember as if it was yesterday was very much like:

“If the Russians are going to attack us, now would be the time they would do so.”


I don’t remember being too disturbed at the prospect of missiles raining down on us, probably because it was simply too far removed from what a fourth grade kid can imagine REALLY happening. Besides, logically, the death of a President wouldn’t likely trigger a nuclear attack from a foreign country, would it?

It’s weird to have a clear image of standing on that sidewalk and none of actually gathering in church with all the other kids to pray, isn’t it?