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PCBOE president remembers first day of first grade

When the bells toll the beginning of a new school year, that signals a walk down memory lane for those who have fond, and even not so fond, memories of their first days at school.

Pike County BOE President Linda Steed was among those who participated in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pike County School’s Advanced Academics and Accelerated Learning Center Wednesday.

Perhaps it was the hot sun or the sand in her shoes or, maybe, it was the excitement of being in the company of so many educators. Either way, Steed laughingly, shared her memories of going to first grade.

“Back then,” she said, not giving exactly when, “school didn’t start until after Labor Day, and it was cooler than it is now at that time of year. We didn’t have kindergarten so first grade was it and I was excited to be going to school.”

Steed said she had a brand new dress for her first day at school.

“Mama bought the dress for me at the Diana Shop in Troy.  It was a print dress with a waistband and a bow – more like a Sunday-go-to-meeting dress.

“Mama worked so I went to my first day of school with my older sisters. We had to walk about a quarter mile down the hill to meet the bus at the fork in the road. I made that walk about three years, rain or shine, before the bus started coming up the hill to our house.”

What Steed remembers most about her first day at school is that Rachel Ann McLendon cried all day long because she didn’t want to go to school.

“She really acted up,” Steed said, laughing.

Steed went to first grade at Banks School. “Miss’ Bessie Bowden was her teacher.

“Mama bought my school books from Mr. Vincent Allen at the State Farm Office in Brundidge,” she said. “We got my pencils and paper at the 10-Cent Store. I also got a box of ‘color crayons.’ There were only eight colors in the box – red, yellow, green, blue, black, brown, white and orange, not 36 or 48 colors like are in boxes now.”

There was a lunchroom at Banks School and there were bathrooms – outside.

“At recess, we could walk over to Miss Hollis’s store but times were hard so we didn’t have money to spend, only a few pennies for one piece of hard candy.”

Steed said first grade was all about the three R’s – readin,’ ritin’ and rithmetic.

“I liked school,” she said. “We behaved because, if we didn’t, we got a paddling or had to stand in the cloakroom.”

The children had chores to do, dusting the erasers, washing the blackboard, emptying the trash.

“We had to go out in the cold to fill the coal buckets so we could stay warm in the winter,” Steed said “I loved school, especially play period. School back then was very different. It’s amazing how times have changed –how schools have changed.”

Steed said, as a member of the Pike County Board of Education for “years and years,” she is privileged to have had a front-row seat to the many changes in education.