I started my elementary education in parochial school. After attending Sacred Heart kindergarten, I was advanced to the first grade at Sacred Heart School. First grade was rather uneventful until the latter part of the second semester.
Apparently, the nuns had enough of my hyperactivity. One afternoon after recess, I was back in the classroom and running up and down one of the aisles instead of sitting down. The sister said, “Mr. Betzler, please take your seat!” I told her I could not do that because “my motor was still running.” She then picked up a yardstick from the chalkboard and whacked me on the top of the head. I accepted the punishment gracefully, but my mother did not. Upon hearing about the incident, she had a rather heated discussion with the principal. The end result was I attended public school after that.
I began second grade at Jefferson Elementary, which turned out to be quite convenient because we moved from the “Synagogue” on Park Street to West McKinley shortly after I began school. I remember Dad taking me to school and picking me up until I was in the 4th grade, even though we lived a little more than two blocks away. From then on, I rode my bike to and from school.
The playground was neither “ADA-compliant” nor particularly safe. We had a Jungle Jim, swings, and teeter-totters with the grass field with stickers as the base. One of the playground pranks was when someone was up in the air on the teeter-totter, several people would dog-pile on the other end to keep that person suspended in mid-air, then jump off, causing the person in the air to slam to the ground, OUCH! I can recall more than once skinning my knees from falling off the Jungle Gym. And, of course, the swings that would really go high up in the air. Thankfully, we all survived.
While it is true we did not have “active shooter drills,” we had something equally terrifying—“duck and cover” drills. I grew up during the Cold War, and the threat of nuclear annihilation was constant. The idea was in case of a nuclear blast, the children were to “duck down” and cover their heads. Looking back it was actually quite useless, since a nuclear blast in Tulsa, would have likely obliterated most structures in Sapulpa, if not incinerated us.
Another aspect of the Cold War was the threat of a Communist take-over. Once, we had a guest speaker during an assembly who spoke to us about the dangers of Communism and how the USSR, would likely “take us over” without firing a shot. He emphasized that we remain vigilant and not allow ourselves to be “morally corrupted” as the enemy would “destroy us from within.”
Bullying is not a recent phenomenon. When I was in the fifth grade, There was a ‘bully” who used to take my sack lunch away from me then laugh and throw it away. One day, in a scene out of “A Christmas Story”, my tormentor grabbed my lunch and I immediately took decisive action. I will not elaborate on what that action was, suffice it to say, he never bothered me again.
My story of elementary school days would not be complete without the “mud incident.”
The cafeteria/gym/auditorium had just been built and there was a lot of mud in the area around the north wall. One of my friends made a mud ball and threw it against the building. The splatter looked really neat so I decided to do the same. No sooner had I thrown it, delighting in the spectacular pattern on the wall, when a voice behind me said, “boys, come to the office!” Our principal, H.M. Bennett, was standing there watching me throw the mudball. As restitution, we had to wash and scrub the wall until it was sparkling clean. That ended my desire to be the champion mud ball pitcher.
Music in elementary school, for me anyway, consisted of playing the Kazoo. music was not my forte. The arts consisted of primarily playing with watercolors and coloring, as with music, art was not my strong point. Science was my favorite subject and still is. Penmanship, (writing in cursive) was definitely not my strength nor is it today. One customer quipped that with my handwriting, I should be a doctor.
I feel that we received a well-rounded education at Jefferson Elementary. We were taught Citizenship, all the academic subjects, such as Arithmetic, Science, Geography, Reading, Spelling, English, History Writing and Science. We were also graded on our social attitudes, work habits, and hygiene. Perhaps I am just getting old and overly nostalgic, But I believe our curriculum in “the good old days” remains unparalleled.