Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kindergarten Registration: Fearful Memory

It's been 44 years since a kindergartner lived on my dad's farm. Now his great-grandson does, my great-nephew, Kaden.

Kaden lives a couple stone throws away from the house I grew up in, and this is his first year of school. He attends James Valley Christian School in Huron. Family friends serve as his bus driver.

Kaden with me in 2014
Seeing a picture of Kaden all dressed up with his backpack, coat, and rain boots reminded me of when Mom took me into Hitchcock Public Schools to register for kindergarten. 

Mom didn't take any pictures of that or my first day on the bus. Probably a good thing. I was scared to death.

My teeth chattered like they would in cold weather. I shivered in fear too.

On the drive there, Mom reassured me that I would be fine, but I knew I wouldn't know anyone. Kids my age from church, like Carissa and Karleen (whom I wrote about here) attended Doland. And a boy a year older, Greg Gross, wouldn't even be nearby. Grades one through eight were in a different part of the building.

The room was located outside the superintendent's office in the high school right near the large set of stairs. We didn't have a bathroom in our kindergarten room, but the girls used one located under the other narrower staircase across from the superintendent's office.

kindergarten room located here in my childhood school (picture by Frank Podraza)

Years later I learned from Dad that this kindergarten room was a dorm room when he attended HHS—back in the 1940s when country kids stayed in town during the week and weren't bussed. For more about my dad's high school years, read this.

What about me and the school bus? Wasn't I worried about that too?

Mom had already arranged with our neighbors, Lydia and Gearhard Hofer, that I would sit with their daughter Ranae, a freshman, for the first few days. Imagine that. A high school girl putting up with her little neighbor girl for the start of her high school experience.

But I was still scared. And this was just for registration, a time to meet the teacher, see the classroom, and get acquainted with my school.

How was I ever going to make it coming on a big yellow bus all by myself? And worse yet, going home on the mini-bus all by myself because we had half-day kindergarten. I wouldn't be eating lunch at school like my classmates because I lived the furthest away, 12 miles, and the bus needed to get back to take them home after lunch.

But not having to encounter the lunch room was probably a blessing at this point.

When we pulled up on the east side of the building, a man was walking on the sidewalk. He wore a suit and tie and carried a book under his arm. It looked like a maroon colored Bibleit probably wasn't a Bible, but who knows.

Mom said, "Look, there's Mr. Schneider, the superintendent, and it looks like he's carrying a Bible." I guess that made me feel better.


Funny what my mind remembers.

He stopped and Mom introduced me, and after that, I calmed down. No more shaking. No more teeth chattering. No more whining about being scared.

Dale Schneider (picture courtesy yearbook)
Mr. Schneider made me less scared.

Anyone who ever attended Hitchcock had a healthy respect of Dale Schneider and his steel blue eyes. The man ran a tight ship.

Imagine me, a five-year-old, not scared after talking to him. I don't know what he said, but I sure wish I could remember.

Mom said, "You're going to be fine. He runs the school. And see how nice and friendly he was to you? There is nothing to fear here."

I don't remember anything else about that day except him walking away towards his house across the street.

I did have other moments of fear that year. The mini-bus ride home with Red Hawkison sometimes scared me. He'd tease me that he was going to throw me in Foster Creek south of our house.

Since really didn't know him, it scared meespecially the times he took out a cigarette and starting smoking. Remember, this was the 70s.

I'd go home and complain, and Mom would say, "He's just teasing. He's not going to throw you in the creek."

She would not dream of chewing him out for scaring me. She reminded me of my Uncle Jean who smoked, and that I didn't need to be scared of a man with a cigarette.

Every once in awhile at the end of the week, Red would give me a long piece of bubble gum. That put me at ease. I knew he liked me, and that was his way of making me know that. Maybe Mom really did talk to him, but I doubt it. Parents just didn't do that sort of thing back then.

Like Mr. Schneider, Red ran a tight ship. Kids on his regular big bus route said they had assigned seats. Wendel Danielson was my morning big bus driver, and he let us sit where we wanted.

For country kids like my great-nephew Kaden and me, attending school for the first time is a big deal. Especially if we're only used to being around our church friends. Read more about that here

I'm thankful for the couple of adults and older kids who made me feel safe attending my pubic school miles away from home.

A few days into the school year, a girl two years older on my morning bus became my best friend. She recalls how I plopped down by her one morning and said, "Hi, I'm Mel."

That girl was Gail Piper and I'll be writing about her in a future post.

Do you remember your first day of school or your first encounter there? What about your bus ride or form of transportation?


  1. I don't remember my first day, but I remember my kindergarten teacher. I loved her. I lost a tooth in her class. And I found out later that when my mom and dad struggled to get me on time, she'd sit after hours with me until they came.

    1. What a sweet teacher! I remember mine too. Mrs. Heinemann. We sat in teams around a circle table. We used giant crayons, unlike the ones I had at home.

    2. I wonder if everyone's kindergarten teacher had a name that started with H?

  2. Boy, do I remember. I was scared to death. No one took me there ahead of time to "introduce" me to the teacher or school. I didn't want to go. Daddy told me it would be OK and I'd know the teacher. There will be other kids there, he told me. I asked him if the kids were all going to work in a garden. "Yes" he told me. So, I was ready. Even then I loved gardening. Well we were hauled to town and though the "big" kids got to go to the school, we had to go to the Legion Hall. It seems the bus driver took us in. We were a handful of kids from the farm, scared to death in a big, dank, spooky Legion Hall. We were told to go down the basement. I remember wondering how the garden could be down there but I could hear kids. There seemed to be a million steps. Finally we came out into a bright room filled with kids and the teacher was Gladys. I knew her from VBS since I was three. She kept us busy, made us all feel special. There was even a sandbox on legs but I never did find the garden. I couldn't believe it, my dad had lied to me.

    1. How shocking for your young heart to discover your dad tricked you into going with the garden promise. Do you think you would have gone had you known?

      I liked how you wrote this. The details leading up to you finding the bright room and bustling kids kept me reading, for I wondered if you were going to find a room of evil clowns or something creepy. Glad it all turned out.

      But our young minds search for the familiar and you had Gladys. Thank you for sharing.