“School days, school days, dear old golden rule days”. Elementary school was so much different back in the late 1939 and 40s when I was a student. Every kid from grades one to eight was stressed to the limits toward the end of June because that is when the final report cards were issued. Back then you had two options, one was to pass into the next grade and the other was to fail and repeat the year, simple as that, there were no in betweens.
During recess girls had to stay on the girls’ side of the school yard and the boys on ours, fraternizing was completely forbidden. Usually a single soccer ball was thrown to the throng of boys who chased around the yard in hope of getting in at least one kick. Sandwiches in a paper bag was the order of the day to those who could not go home for lunch and when the bell rang it was lineup time and no talking. In the earlier grades left handed girls and boys had to sit on their left hand and were forced to write with their right hand, as ridiculous as it sounds, left handed school work was considered unacceptable. No chewing gum, no talking unless spoken to, school books were supplied but do not even dare damage one or else. The or else? Well that could well be the strap on both hands by the principal. Put up your hand to go to the washroom and do not be surprised if the teacher refused to let you go. Yes indeed, back then teachers ruled with utmost authority, how things have changed.
Ah, but then two months of summer vacation. Off went the shirt and shoes. Most of us ran bare feet the entire summer leaving the house in the morning and not returning until supper time. We played baseball, field hockey, tag, flew kites and even emulated the ongoing war with home-made elastic gun fights. I had a bicycle and was able to ride out to the farms and get part time jobs hoeing weeds, raking manure from the barns, picking cherries or black currants, any chore the farmer could offer. We earned twenty-five cents an hour or ten cents a basket, big money in those days. When the day was done we headed for the sandpits that were flooded with rainwater and we stripped down and plunged into the soothing, cleansing waters.
Comparing then to now it is hard to fathom students wearing hats in class, bringing in their cell phones and iPads and even calculators to think for them. During summer vacation the mall seems to be the meeting place or lounging in the house playing electronic games. We didn’t have much way back then but we enjoyed what we did have, today most kids seem to have everything but quite frankly, I don’t envy them one little bit.