Every year when back-to-school time rolls around, I am carried back in time to those days when I was a school kid. One summer in particular comes to mind. I wrote about it for "my column" in the Barrow Journal, and it ran last week. For those of you who don't read that paper, I'll share it here, in hopes that it will trigger your own childhood memories of hot summer days and the anticipation of going back to school.
Back To School
“I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together and try them out, you see.” Does that bring back memories to you like it does to me?
That was a silly song popular the summer before I entered 7th grade. It wasn’t a particularly favorite song of mine, but the lyrics and tune were quite catchy. What I did like about it was that it made riding a bike pretty cool, and the “person” in the song was probably about the same age as we were that hot summer of 1970. We rode our bikes everywhere. And like the song says, we didn’t go too fast, but we went pretty far. All over Statham, to be exact. The dirt sidewalks laden with centuries-old tree roots were a favorite obstacle course. We’d bounce along, expertly avoiding the roots, or if we felt really brave, we would drive over them, bouncing around like popcorn kernels in a pan of hot oil. At that time, the streets in Statham were paved, but not with asphalt. I don’t know what it was called, but it was an irregular, gravel-type material, with uneven rocks. I remember this vividly, because sometimes I’d lose chunks of my big toes to the offending street surface.
My bike was an ugly, old-fashioned, blue bike. I remember it was my dad who ran along behind me, holding onto the back of the bike to keep me from falling, and then finally let go when it seemed like I had the hang of it. He was so proud! A rite of passage never felt so good. I loved riding the bike, but I hated the bike. It was so old-fogey. All my friends were riding the newfangled “banana bikes” with the sleek seats and high-rise handlebars. And I’m still on Old Blue with the wire basket and battery-operated headlight that jutted out about 6" on the front looking for all the world like something off the Batmobile. I longed for a new bike with all my heart. One Sunday my mom and dad called my brother and I outside. What a surprise! Brand new bikes for both of us! I almost had a heart attack right on the spot!! I got my snazzy new banana bike with the white wicker basket on front (and no stupid battery-operated headlight). It was hot pink, had a white seat with flowers on it. AND it had pom-poms on the high-rise handlebars. I don’t expect a teenager with a brand new car could have been more excited than I was with my new bike!!
I would love to know how many miles we logged on the streets of our little town. We all wore out two or three bikes over the years, and would celebrate whenever someone got a new one. We would decorate the wheels with brightly-colored beads that would slide up and down the spokes with every turn of the wheel. Sometimes we’d take playing cards and fasten them on the forks with clothespins. We sounded like a pack of Harleys cruising up and down Broad Street.
Back in those days, the school at Statham went 1st through 8th grade. We always had two classes for each grade. We stayed in the same room all day, and had the same teacher all day. Always female. But as we prepared to enter the 7th grade, we were excited to learn that we would have different teachers throughout the day, and some of them would be MEN!! We were really moving up in the world!! A few weeks before school started, Bobbie Jean and I rode our bikes down to the school house. We went inside to check out the classrooms, and to see if we could scope out the new teachers. Once inside, we met Mr. Austin, and learned that we would be in his homeroom. He teased us unmercifully about riding our bikes, and told us we reminded him of the I-Ride-My-Bike,-I-Roller-Skate,-Don’t-Drive-No-Car song. We dutifully informed him that bikes were the preferred mode of transportation for upcoming 7th graders, and we were proud of it. But after that, the bike song was kind of our theme song.
What a different world we live in today. I cherish my memories of growing up in Statham, and bike riding is one of my favorites. Every trip down Bike Memory Lane always takes me to that 7th grade classroom, meeting my first male teacher, and I hear that silly song again.
Next week the kids return to school. Some will be excited, some will be sullen. Summer doesn’t last nearly long enough these days. Cell phones and social media keep them connected, so it’s like they’re not apart at all. Not so back in the olden days, and I always missed my non-Statham friends over the summer. I always loved the hustle and bustle of back-to-school preparation, and the anticipation of seeing everyone again. Of course, that lasted about a week, then I was looking forward to the next summer break.
Here’s to all school kids, teachers, and the many other staff people who make educating our kids happen. Hats off to all of you. In just a few days, the future of our nation will be sitting in your classrooms. Thank you for all you do to make our world a better place. Have a great year!!!
By now, the kids should be settled in their classrooms, and parents are hopefully adjusting to the new normal. Football season is upon us, and soon it will be time for sweaters and Pumpkin Everything!!!