Sunday, January 18, 2009

Caught in the Web of Words - Part Three of ??

A Writing Spider

My previous installment of this story was way back at Post #37 on June 30, 2008. It was September of 1950, and I had just been enrolled as an 11th grade student in the Clinton State Vocational Training School. (I say again: not a Reform School!) If you missed that episode, and have any interest, you may read about it here.

That day stands out clearly in my mind, even after all these years. Always extremely shy (hard to believe now, but at the time it was very much so), I had always found it a bit difficult to make new friends of my own age. I grew up with older parents (at this time, Mama was 49 and my father was 64) and their circle of friends were older adults who already had adult children. My social interaction with people my own age was somewhat lacking, being limited almost totally to the time spent with them in a classroom, and I had just left behind in New Mexico all the friends I had made.

School had already been in session for about a week when we arrived in Clinton. After the required presentation of my Albuquerque school transcripts, vaccination records and the like, and completion of various forms which would allow me to become a student here, I was escorted down the narrow, creaky, smelling of O'Cedar Floor Polish, wooden-floored hall to my first class -- English III -- which was already in progress. I distinctly remember my escort opening the classroom door and presenting me, like some strange package that had showed up on the stoop; something unordered and, perhaps, unwanted. All eyes were on me, and I was all eyes!

There I stood, dressed in a dark brown, straight, mid-calf length wool skirt, a brown narrow belt and pale brown, shiny rayon blouse neatly tucked into the skirt, all worn above saddle oxfords and bobby socks; normal school attire for Albuquerque Central High. My short, dead-mouse-brown, perfectly straight hair (go ahead, picture that in your mind) was parted on the side and held in place with a brown Lucite barrette. A study in brown, for sure!

Seated at the desks in the class room were about a dozen girls and six or seven boys. The boys were wearing blue jeans and short sleeved shirts, mostly plaid. OK. Except for the work boots or cowboy boots on their feet, that's about what the boys at Central High would be wearing.

But, the girls! Oh, my... the girls! I saw a lot of colorful sleeveless blouses above full, circle skirts, most under laid with starched petticoats which showed a bit as the skirts draped over the desk seats and into the aisles between the desks. Below the skirts were, on most feet, what I would describe as shoes that looked like ballet slippers -- white or pastel, flat, slip-on shoes. Above the necklines, like halos around their faces was HAIR! Mostly blond, long, curly, and fluffy, the sort of hair I could imagine would be gaily tossed about as they talked, and flirted.

Did I feel like an ugly duckling? Oh, yes, indeed! It was going to be a LONG day!

However, the clothing shock was not quite over. An adult person in rather strange garb was coming toward me from behind the large desk at the front of the classroom. I certainly had never seen the like in any class I'd attended in my 10 years as a student. The teacher, for it was she who approached, was probably just under 5 feet tall. While she was not obese, svelte is not a word one would apply to her un-corseted body. Her facial features were what my mother would have called "strong," her nose long, straight and narrow tipped. Her hair was, if anything, straighter than my own, but dark, cut very short and 'shingled' up the back. She wore neither make-up nor earrings. Her facial skin was lovely, unwrinkled and slightly tanned, although she had dark circles under her eyes. As I recall, she wore pince-nez glasses, which I had read about, but never before seen on a 'real' person.

She was wearing a cotton, zip-front house dress, the skirt of which fell well below mid-calf, the sort of dress usually worn in those days to do chores around the house. Her shoes (which she wore to school the entire time I knew her) were a brand called Enna Jettick, black, moderate heeled, lace-up , open-toed shoes (picture below.) However, instead of stockings, she wore thin white socks with neatly turned down cuffs. She definitely didn't dress like any teacher I had ever had before.

[ I think these are the sort of shoes Loretta Young wore in the movie The Bishop's Wife. They were, at the time, touted to be just the thing for women who had to be on their feet for long periods; stylish but comfortable.]

The hand she held out to welcome me was slender, with long, nicotine-stained fingers and well-shaped, unpolished nails; she wore a plain, narrow gold band on her left ring finger.

My escort introduced us; "Mrs. V., this is Patricia G."

She greeted me with a beautiful smile, her voice low-pitched and warm. And her accent! Well, it wasn't "Southern!" Not a drawl within 100 miles! I could actually understand what she was saying. All was not lost! I felt better already.

Thus it was; my first encounter with Mrs. V., who would, over the next two years, become not only a beloved teacher, but a mentor who would begin to bring me out of my shyness, and would forever tangle me in a web of words.

More to come.


Jeannelle said...

What a wonderful tangle of words and details here in your post, Pat. Goodness, I felt right along with you being introduced to your new classroom. Great clothing details. That moment must really stand out in your memory....they say we best remember events that are laced with emotion. Your new teachers sounds intriguing.

I am honored to be the first commenter, here....unless someone slips in while I'm writing this. Hope its warmed up down your way.

I'll be putting up a new post soon and there will be something in it for you.

Hilary said...

You have an incredible memory for detail. It was if I was watching that scene unfold before me right here and now. Beautifully done, Pat. And great photo.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Pat, are you writing a book, or your memoirs???? You are an exceptional writer--and use words so well. I enjoyed your post so much!!

We do have something in common. I was born when my mother was 42 and Daddy was 53. They were wonderful parents, but like my grandparents. I had two older brothers, one 20 yrs older than me and the other 12 yrs. older. Crazy, huh??

I'm looking forward to the next part!!

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Jeannelle,Hilary, Betsy... thank you for your kind words. The Good Lord has seen fit to bless me with an good memory, and I'm just writing some of these things down while I still have the ability to do so. I'm glad you enjoy reading some of these remembrances of mine.

MindyLew said...

Enjoyed reading about your experience - Intrigued for more.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. My eyes welled up with tears for your aloneness, then I smiled with relief when you met 'the teacher'. Cannot wait for more of your stories.

Rottlady of the Ozarks said...

You do have a great memory for details. Your way with words pulled me in and I felt like I was the new student.

Lovely memories indeed!

jinksy said...

I remember black ballet type shoes being all the rage when I was in my teens. Unfortunately, my turned up toes soon wore holes in the soft fabric. I then embroidered rose-buds over the holes, and scattered some about to make them look accidentally on purpose. You wouldn't believe how many admiring comments I got, or 'Where did you but those?' questions. Little did they know...
Nice to hear your school story.

RuneE said...

That sounds like a teacher of a very special kind - the kind that are best.

PS Thank you for the comment!

Old Lady Lincoln said...

The area I lived in had never heard of a Vocational Training School. We went to a regular school, that really didn't train us a lot for anything. LOL

But over the years, they became poplar in this area and three of our five children went to one in the area, started co-oping in their senior year and still work at the job they were trained for.

Another child came to the vocational school as an adult, and trained to do Medical Transcription, that's been about 12 years ago. She works from her home and also home schools her Autistic son.

My husband taught Commercial Art in two different Vocational schools after leaving NCR Military Equipment Department doing drawings and such.

I worked as an Adult Education Secretary for about 17 years (working 2-10pm M-Th and 8-4 on Fridays) I loved my job, meeting people and talking with them.

Our one daughter has worked in the treasurer's office since she was a Senior at the school, she's been made Assistant Treasurer and in about another year she'll be able to retire with 30 years service, and she'll still be young enough to do something she would really like to do, if she decides to take up the profession. She's always thought animation/drawing would be fun.

So it wasn't until Abe left NCR in 1967 that we all became involved with Vocational Schools. And yes a lot of people thought only problem children went to them, not true. Our youngest child was not only in the National Honor Society, she was in the Vocational Honor Society. She's been working in Human Resource Dept for some time and has decided she wants to become an RN. So she moved back home with us for a while, along with her 8 year old daughter and a big black cat.LOL I take Audrey to and from school, and two nights a week her Mom has to go to Sinclair College for classes right from her full time job. Most of the classes she's been taking she was able to do so over the computer and just go in when it was exam time. But this class they have to attend in person.

Well I have gone on long enough, hope I haven't bored you. But if my area would have had a Vocational school back when I went to school, I definitely would have attended.

david mcmahon said...

Can't wait for the next instalment, Pat.

rhymeswithplague said...

Pat, I'm so glad Mrs. V. tangled you in a web of words. We, the recipients of your literary efforts, salute you!

I hope you don't wait seven more months to continue your story!

Rose said...

Wonderful story--you are good at telling them! Can't wait to hear the rest.

Dr.John said...

Everybody needs a good mentor or two at points in their lives. Glad you found yours.

Sandi McBride said...

DOn't leave us hanging so long next time Pat, okay? You roped me in again...again I'm saying and then, and then?
congrats on Post of the Day mention!

Sharlotte said...

Hello to you Pat from an Arkansan now living in Kansas.

I love how your words paint a pictoral image in the readers mind.

I have several blogs and find them fun to write.

Can't wait to read your next installment.

Sharlotte Hughes

Snap said...


A wonderful story and brings back memories for me -- details that I really don't want to remember! Moving into a new city and new school and feeling so out of place...a true alien!

Stay warm.

Marvin said...

Will be waiting for the next installment.

JC said...

I love your stories. Thanks for sharing.

JC said...

Pat, I couldn't resist tagging you so come on over for a visit. I still have your cards on my ref.

Jeannelle said...

I haven't blogged much or read much this past week......and am surprised now to find that you haven't posted for awhile, Pat. Hoping and praying all is well with you!

cottonpicker said...

I absolutely love the way you write - my grandmother was a teacher and dressed very similiar to what you described. Can't wait to hear more!!

Sue said...

You did write this very well. I felt as if I were you as I became involved with what you had written. I'm glad the teacher was a good one.