Friday, May 09, 2008

"School Years: Part I" by Faith L. Robbins

Written by guest blogger, Faith L. (Valk) Robbins (my mother) for the 48th Carnival of Genealogy, "Mom, How'd You Get So Smart?":



Source: Kindergarten Portrait of Faith Valk. Photograph. 1949. Original in the possession of Faith Valk Robbins, Colville, Washington. 2008.


My school years began in 1949 at Porter School in the suburb of Wyoming Park near Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was five years old and already knew how to write my name. My kindergarten teacher was a Mrs. Beamer who was both jolly and strict. We had a band in our class and it was my task to play the drum when I really longed to hold the triangle. I had a playmate named Jackie Hall who lived on the next street and who was also in my kindergarten class. I began to tell my mother who was very much interested in finding out how school was going for me about his and my activities. She learned, for instance, that both Jackie and I were disciplined by Mrs. Beamer's purple hairbrush but that he received far more spankings than I did. When my mother picked me up at the last day of school, she mentioned the situation to Mrs. Beamer and told her that I needed the discipline at times. Instantly, I went and hid in the cloakroom while my teacher burst out laughing. She explained in between chuckles to my startled parent that she had no purple hairbrush. It was a mortified soon-to-be first grader who walked the mile home that afternoon with my mother.

First grade brought the delights of reading to which I took as a duck does to water. I also loved music. In second grade, the traveling music teacher decided to compose a class song in which six of the outstanding students were named. Although I stood on my tiptoes, I was forever famous for being the shortest in the class!

Source: Hall Street Elementary School, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photograph. C. 1956. Original photograph in the possession of Faith Valk Robbins, Colville, Washington. 2008.

In April 1952 our family bought and moved to a larger house in south Grand Rapids. I attended Hall School where my step-grandfather [George DeVries] planted the trees as a young immigrant boy at the front of the building. It was there I met my best friend, Beth Runnels and where for three years we were inseparable.

At the age of nine, I attended Camp O'Malley, a place sponsored by the Grand Rapids police force. One day at the pool, a life guard told all of us campers gathered there a story of a boy who did not have a buddy when he went swimming in a local gravel pit and who drowned. The boy's name was Jackie Hall. I cried with grief and still today remember with fondness the bright-eyed boy I played with.

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