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Dear old Golden Rule days

It’s that time of year again. You can see it in the stores, in advertisers’ circulars and on many TV commercials. It’s back to school time for the kiddos.

Show of hands… who remembers their very first day of grade school? Middle or Junior High School? High School? Despite it being many, many years ago, I do remember it vividly. My Mom walked me to class at the former James B. Crowley School on Lake Street (now the Nashua Adult Learning Center, a different type of school, but nonetheless still an institution of learning). Like many children who are experiencing their first separation from home and parents, my Mom expected me to put up a fuss and perhaps cry to go home, as this was long before kindergartens, which now prepare youngsters for their first day of grade school. But I think I surprised her by taking my seat in class and waving goodbye. I remember my first-grade teacher’s name, Mrs. Webber, a middle- aged woman who was quite friendly and pleasant. Grade school wasn’t a bad gig overall and after grade six, it was on to Junior High.

Junior High was a very different animal. Homework was the now the norm. It was for many of us, our first experience with “home rooms” where we would set up shop to begin the day searching for our classrooms and it was the first experience with multiple rooms and teachers throughout the day. A bell would mark the beginning of daily dashes to other classes. It was a place where discipline took on a different form, as it was, for many of us in that era, our first experience with male teachers, who seemed less patient and wise guys (and girls) were dealt with accordingly. We had a principle who took no guff whatsoever. I can remember boys being told to tuck in their shirts while walking from class to class (no, today’s dress code would not fly back then) and they would only be told once. During the first days of miniskirts, teachers and principals would patrol the halls with yardsticks to ensure those skirts adhered to the dress code. If they were too short, it meant a trip home for that student. And it was our first experience with detentions, given to those who were out of line or pushed the envelope a bit too far. I remember being advised that if I had any inkling of going to college, Freshmen grades now counted for college applications.

If Junior High was a different animal, Senior High School was a different species altogether. The format was the same, moving from class to class, more male teachers than female, but the vibe was quite different. It was time to really buckle down. From here on in, all grades were college records. Teachers were even less tolerant of wise guys (did I already mention detentions) and the workload seemed to get even heavier. If you couldn’t handle it, God help you in college. Some students (me included) had cars. Parking was at a premium and good luck finding a spot if you were the least bit late. I lived on Lake Street my Senior year, so I could almost listen for the first bell and simply run across the street to the school which is now Elm Street Junior High.

It was a much different world back then. Did we have our worries and distractions? We sure did. The Cold War was at a fever pitch, a nuclear war was just a button away, a war in Southeast Asia was a constant concern, as were drugs and alcohol. Bullying? There was some of that too, but no such thing as cyberbullying, which is a whole new ballgame and sadly, a major contributor to teen suicide today.

We never worried about a weapon in class or some psycho shooting everything in sight. Our biggest concern was typically coming face to face with a pop quiz or an exam for which we studied the wrong material or failed to study at all. Or worse, the dreaded phrase, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” My guess is, most parents today would gladly opt for that.

Don Canney is a freelance writer and professional voice artist. He was born and raised in downtown Nashua with great interest in Nashua history circa 1950-1970. He now resides in Litchfield.