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More Memories of Jacksonville Grade School (Part II)

June 3, 2015


More Memories of Jacksonville Grade School (Part II)




by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Jacksonville Grade School was close to my heart and home. Although my sister and I walked to and/or from school many times, I have a distinct recollection of my mother’s driving Mary and me to school in the two-tone, pink-and-white Plymouth. (A few years later, my dad became devoted to the Ford Motor Company and had a variety of Ford autos for the remainder of his life.) From our J-shaped, rock-covered driveway, my mother, who must have been on her way to work at the Blanford Post Office, turned left onto the cut-off road–called “Grand Avenue” on a very old map of Blanford. (I still have a photocopy of this map which my Uncle Pete had). On the north side of the road was a field and then the Clover house, where my sister’s childhood friend Margie (Marjorie Clover Durant) lived with her older sister and parents. After passing another small field and approaching the first intersection, the house on the northeast corner belonged to the Zenisek/Alekna family; in this home, my sister’s classmate Richard lived with his two brothers and mother. Catty-corner from the Zenisek home was Gisolo’s Store–competition for the other two grocery stores in town. As a child, I enjoyed being a bit disloyal to my grandmother and uncle’s grocery store so that I could buy some penny-candy at Gisolo’s Store, which sold some varieties of candy not available on the candy counter of my uncle’s store. Both east and north of Gisolo’s were fields. Turning right at this rural intersection, the Plymouth took us past the Vaizgela home (residence of the grandparents of the previously mentioned brothers) and the Zinotti home on the east side of the road while at the next corner, on the left, was the Jackson home. At this intersection, my mother turned left and usually stopped just past the southeast corner of the school block to drop off my sister and me in the grassy area–not on the wide sidewalk that jutted out from the main doors of Jacksonville Grade School.


To the right of the main sidewalk were tall swings (six swings, I think) and then four teeter-totters. To the left of the main sidewalk, in the southwest corner of the school block was an amazing “merry-go-round”–not one with painted horses. I am certain that today this delightful contraption would be considered unsafe for any playground, but I remember many happy and dizzying times on this octagonal, wooden and metal playground attraction. West of the two-story, brick school was a rock-covered driveway for the one school bus to leave off and pick up the students who lived at Bogleville. An outdoor basketball court was another feature on this side of the school. On the north side was the baseball diamond for the older students. At the northwest corner of the block and somewhat near home plate of the baseball diamond were the boys and male teachers’ outhouses. Near the northeast corner of the block and behind the outfield were the outhouses for the girls and the female teachers. A long sidewalk led to the girls’ outhouse, and I remember this three-seater as always being clean and very rarely stinky. The female teachers’ outhouse was very near the girls’ outhouse. Yes, our beloved school had no indoor restrooms! I have no recollection of ever minding the outhouses. What I did mind was that we girls could only wear dresses or skirts with blouses–no slacks were allowed. Especially on the playground in the winter, slacks would have been much more practical and significantly warmer and, therefore, preferred by me. (Actually, slacks were not an option for girls and female teachers throughout my grade school and high school days and even during my early years of teaching.)


On the east side of the school was another baseball diamond, somewhat smaller for the younger students. Although basketball was played by the Jacksonville Golden Bears with green and gold bedecked cheerleaders and mascot, baseball (or softball) was immensely popular for both the boys and girls. Sometimes, girls and boys were on the same “team” at recess or special time outside. During those years of 1950s to 1961, no organized sports team was for girls: we were the spectators, and a handful of the girls were cheerleaders. Of course, the Golden Bears basketball team had to travel to Crompton Hill Grade School or another location to play a basketball game at an indoor facility.


From the playground and sports areas, we now will turn our memories back to inside Jacksonville Grade School. Since I wrote primarily of the lower level of the two-story brick building last week, I will begin to write more about the upstairs in this memoir. At the onset of the fall semester of 1960, I missed going to the west door, walking past the long rope which the janitor (Mr. Joe Skorich) pulled to ring the school bell and down the stairs to the third- and fourth grade classroom. In addition to missing Mrs. Lenderman and her perfectly beautiful cursive handwriting, I missed the cardboard posters of the perfect Palmer Method that were displayed above the blackboard. Nevertheless, I felt as if I were moving up in the world as the fifth- and sixth-grade classroom was up the wooden stairs, on the southwest corner of the building. Mrs. Bennett was our teacher. I remember students as being remarkably well-behaved and very respectful; however, during this fifth-grade school year, my fellow classmates and I learned to pass notes, instead of whispering. The cursive writing which we had perfected throughout the two previous school years was put to use in this new form of communication–writing and secretly passing notes. We students were proud of our cursive writing; of the boys, Michael Guglielmetti had the best cursive writing.


Having learned cursive writing with Mrs. Marguerite Lenderman, in third grade, was another important stepping stone on that path of “growing up.” To me, cursive writing was and is an art form–if done well. Mrs. Lenderman’s cursive writing truly rivaled the Palmer Method’s perfect examples; Mr. William Payton, who was then principal of Jacksonville Grade School and who would later be my teacher in both seventh and eighth grades, was especially proud of his impeccably crafted cursive writing. (I regret to add that during the final couple of years of my teaching career, some students could not fluently read cursive writing. I truly regret that some school curricula no longer include objectives for cursive writing.)


Another type of writing sometimes mesmerized me–initials or words carved on the tops of the wooden row desks. I wondered about the stories of the students who so long before my school days had dared to carve their identities into these desks. I do not believe that any student of my generation was so bold. Each of the four large classrooms had the wooden row desks; these desks had the most style and character of any school desk ever. Although a hole was in the upper right of the top of each desk, no inkwell was ever placed in that hole during my school years. The wooden seats were hinged for being placed in an upright or seating position. In most instances, at times, two students could temporarily occupy one wooden desk. In the front of each classroom was a larger wooden desk for the teacher, along with a United States flag. Beginning each school day with The Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer was typical in this public school.


Sadly, fifth grade was the last grade that I was able to complete at Jacksonville Grade School because the school was closed in May of 1961. Amazingly, we were transferred for only one year to Universal Grade School (in Universal, Indiana) to where a bus ride was required) before we all went to the newly built, one-story, consolidated Van Duyn Elementary School in 1962. Then, tragically, our precious Jacksonville Grade School was demolished—including the upright piano which had graced the auditorium. Along with many wonderful memories of this dear school, I have one brick from Jacksonville Grade School. I treasure this brick, as I treasure my Jacksonville Grade School teachers, education, and memories.


In a future Wordwalk blog post, I will share my memories of the remaining parts of the upper level of Jacksonville Grade School–the seventh- and eighth-grade classroom and the large auditorium.


You are cordially invited to add to this blog post a comment about a memory which you have of Jacksonville Grade School or another rural grade school of this era.


With thanks for sharing your memories,

Alice and Zoe


June 3, 2015, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Hi Alice,

    This is interesting. We had a set of those old desks at home that we played in. Also, we don’t have many students that can read or write cursive.

  2. Larry Gambaiani permalink

    Alice–you are unbelievable–what a tremendous memory–I have really enjoyed your articles–brings back lots of memories. I don’t know if you were aware but the school bus also went on IN 163 past our grocery store (Perona”s) and up to the IL state line and picked up kids. However, those of us who lived on the “South side” were not allowed to ride the bus. I can still see the bus coming past our store and us kids walking to school. It was a big deal when my Dad allowed me to ride my bike when I was in the 6th grade I believe. Donnie and Bunky Marietta, Sandra Pupilli, Louise Chiado, Stefene Santrach, Maxene Miller, the Malogs, the O’Neals, Bob Jovanivich were just some of the other “Southsiders” that had to find a way to school.

    The other thing I remember about recess was during the Winter I can vividly remember playing “fox and the geace” on the baseball diamond in the snow. Lots of running!!! The other was our BB team having to practice in the cold weather on the outside goal. We wore blue jeans and white t-shirts with a number sewed on the back for games until I believe our 8th grade year when we got the green and gold uniforms. One year we had to borrow the red and white BB uniforms of Crompton Hill to play in the County tourney at the new Sacred Heart gym–that was a big deal!!!! I believe I still have the trophy that Don and I got during our Senior year at CHS when we coached the Jacksonville team!!!! Thanks again for sharing such wonderful memories My Very Best To You LG

  3. Carole permalink

    Your recall is remarkable, Alice! I have several good and bad memories about the playground and the outdoor games that we played. My injuries from the teeter and ball field accidents were very memorable, as well as the long rows of secured wooden desks and the creaking of the up stair floors. I feel that our early years at Jacksonville were a great foundation to prepare us for furthering our education and becoming good citizens. Old-fashioned values and basic teaching techniques of the time worked for us.

  4. “We are the Golden Bears and no one any prouder! If you can’t hear us, we’ll yell a little louder.” Although I was not a cheerleader at JGS, the words of this cheer came to mind after reading your latest post, Alice. I think the pride we experienced as Golden Bears applied not only to the athletic teams, but also to the teachers, staff, students, and families of the Jacksonville School community. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to “yell a little louder” about our beloved school once again.
    Love, Mary

  5. wooww. great. i like this

  6. Vivian Pupilli Howard permalink

    Alice, your writings are amazing. I had forgotten things but now that you have described everything the old memories are all coming back. Thank you so much for your writings. Vivian

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