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School days 75 years ago

By Clif Knight

Many changes have occurred in education since the 1940s when it was common for a student to withdraw from school after the eighth grade rather than seeking enough credits to graduate with a bachelor’s or higher level degree. The lack of resources to continue one’s education was a major reason for giving up early withdrawal from school. Later, scholarships and easy loans removed that obstacle and played into the hands of graduate level colleges and universities.

The incentive for students to remain in school after junior high was not very high immediately before, during and immediately after World War II. Males at age 18 were required to register for wartime military service. Some of them volunteered for the military at that age or younger and others were drafted. Others left school early in anticipation of being drafted. Morale of students left in school was lowered because of concern for older siblings or parents serving in combat overseas.

I was a first grader at Bob S. Jones Elementary and Junior High School in Etowah County when Japan attacked U.S. military forces in the Hawaiian Islands in December 1941. I recall how shocked and disorganized it was to be a first year student.

We had three 18-year-old boys attending the school then, and all of them were troublemakers. We had to be on the lookout for them when we were playing a game of marbles.

They would slip up behind us, grab as many marbles as they could and throw them as far as they could. Then we’d have to chase after the marbles trying to find them. Our worst fear of them was letting them catch us at or near the outdoor toilet, grab us and drag us in the toilet and threatening to force us into one of the toilet holes.

They harassed the school staff on their last day at school by grabbing one of the female teachers eyeglasses, throwing them on the ground and crushing them with their feet. It was hard to miss the melee that followed. I wanted to find out what happened to them after taking in all the confusion that their actions caused but it never happened. I remember that the playground benefited from their absence. We were able to keep the marbles we’d won and our trips to the outdoor toilet were made without the fear being poked down one of the holes.

Many changes have occurred in education since the 1940s when it was common for a student to withdraw from school after the eighth grade rather than seeking enough credits to graduate with a bachelor’s or higher level degree. The lack of resources to continue one’s education was a major reason for giving up early withdrawal from school. Later, scholarships and easy loans removed that obstacle and played into the hands of graduate level colleges and universities.

The incentive for students to remain in school after junior high was not very high immediately before, during and immediately after World War II. Males at age 18 were required to register for wartime military service. Some of them volunteered for the military at that age or younger and others were drafted. Others left school early in anticipation of being drafted. Morale of students left in school was lowered because of concern for older siblings or parents serving in combat overseas.

I was a first grader at Bob S. Jones Elementary and Junior High School in Etowah County when Japan attacked U.S. military forces in the Hawaiian Islands in December 1941. I recall how shocked and disorganized it was to be a first year student.

We had three 18-year-old boys attending the school then, and all of them were troublemakers. We had to be on the lookout for them when we were playing a game of marbles.

They would slip up behind us, grab as many marbles as they could and throw them as far as they could. Then we’d have to chase after the marbles trying to find them. Our worst fear of them was letting them catch us at or near the outdoor toilet, grab us and drag us in the toilet and threatening to force us into one of the toilet holes.

They harassed the school staff on their last day at school by grabbing one of the female teachers eyeglasses, throwing them on the ground and crushing them with their feet. It was hard to miss the melee that followed. I wanted to find out what happened to them after taking in all the confusion that their actions caused but it never happened. I remember that the playground benefited from their absence. We were able to keep the marbles we’d won and our trips to the outdoor toilet were made without the fear being poked down one of the holes.

 

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