When play period became recess

Perhaps I should preface this little epistle with the observation that not very many kids in my class at Garfield Elementary ever became varsity anythings or even became intramural anybodys when we progressed into East Junior and Harding high schools. There were a few outstanding exceptions, but for the most part, my Garfield class didn’t seem to fare too well in the field of athletics. A little research appears to bear this out.

It was September 1944 at Garfield here in Warren. My classmates and I were just beginning fourth grade. Things had become a bit different. The two most noticeable changes were that we moved to different classrooms for each subject and the other was that play period now became recess.

Let me describe the playground / athletic equipment we had for recess: A sandbox, a sliding board, a teeter totter with two planks on it, a flaccid dodge ball, and two goalposts. There was no discernible baseball diamond although we later had a bat and a softball with a split seam. There was no such thing as a basketball or its accompanying hoop. In fact, some of us had not even seen a basketball hoop up close.

Our gym / homeroom / art teacher was Sarah Mae Thompson. She shamed Dale Abbey and me away from the sandbox where we were building runways for our Tootsie Toy airplanes so that we would go play soccer with the other boys. We only had a vague idea what soccer was, but the more informed kids told the two of us to stand at the goal and keep any soccer ball from being kicked past us through the goalposts.

The soccer ball was actually that partially inflated dodge ball. I don’t remember that ball ever coming near us. To ward off the boredom, Dale and I would spread our arms out to our sides to play airplane. Sometimes, I would play the enemy Messerschmitt, and he would play a P-40 or a British Spitfire. We took turns getting shot down as the Messerschmitt.

The gravel covered soccer field was a distance from the school building, but we could see the girls playing their games closer to the building. They were playing red rover, hopscotch and jump rope which looked way more interesting than standing there all through recess waiting for that limp soccer (dodge) ball that never came our way.

Softball came the following spring after I spent recess in the winter getting snowballs stuffed down my back by the big bullies. I found the ideal softball position to play. I stood directly behind the pitcher and would pick up any ball that the pitcher missed that had been thrown back to him by the catcher.

Miss Thompson noticed, and put me out in right field. Why was she giggling?

This was easy. If a ball was hit my way, I would run towards it and wait until it hit the ground. Sometimes I could even catch it on the first bounce. Everybody would then yell at me to throw the ball back. Nobody ever told me that I had to do that.

As it turned out, I never excelled or even came close to succeeding at any of these athletic endeavors. Maybe some of it was due to the fact that my dad was just a child when he had lost his dad, and never had an athletic role model, so then neither did I. Dad was a great role model for other skills, though.

In spite of all this, another non-athlete, John Strommer, and I became the artist laureates of the fourth through sixth grades. We didn’t go out during recess, but stayed in, painting murals and posters for holidays, bond drives and school levies. It was much more satisfying and rewarding to do that. Maybe neither of us was much in the way of athletic prowess, but I think we earned a lot more respect than those kids did out on the playground during play period, er, recess.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com

When play period became recess

Perhaps I should preface this little epistle with the observation that not very many kids in my class at Garfield Elementary ever became varsity anythings or even became intramural anybodys when we progressed into East Junior and Harding high schools. There were a few outstanding exceptions, but for the most part, my Garfield class didn’t seem to fare too well in the field of athletics. A little research appears to bear this out.

It was September 1944 at Garfield here in Warren. My classmates and I were just beginning fourth grade. Things had become a bit different. The two most noticeable changes were that we moved to different classrooms for each subject and the other was that play period now became recess.

Let me describe the playground / athletic equipment we had for recess: A sandbox, a sliding board, a teeter totter with two planks on it, a flaccid dodge ball, and two goalposts. There was no discernible baseball diamond although we later had a bat and a softball with a split seam. There was no such thing as a basketball or its accompanying hoop. In fact, some of us had not even seen a basketball hoop up close.

Our gym / homeroom / art teacher was Sarah Mae Thompson. She shamed Dale Abbey and me away from the sandbox where we were building runways for our Tootsie Toy airplanes so that we would go play soccer with the other boys. We only had a vague idea what soccer was, but the more informed kids told the two of us to stand at the goal and keep any soccer ball from being kicked past us through the goalposts.

The soccer ball was actually that partially inflated dodge ball. I don’t remember that ball ever coming near us. To ward off the boredom, Dale and I would spread our arms out to our sides to play airplane. Sometimes, I would play the enemy Messerschmitt, and he would play a P-40 or a British Spitfire. We took turns getting shot down as the Messerschmitt.

The gravel covered soccer field was a distance from the school building, but we could see the girls playing their games closer to the building. They were playing red rover, hopscotch and jump rope which looked way more interesting than standing there all through recess waiting for that limp soccer (dodge) ball that never came our way.

Softball came the following spring after I spent recess in the winter getting snowballs stuffed down my back by the big bullies. I found the ideal softball position to play. I stood directly behind the pitcher and would pick up any ball that the pitcher missed that had been thrown back to him by the catcher.

Miss Thompson noticed, and put me out in right field. Why was she giggling?

This was easy. If a ball was hit my way, I would run towards it and wait until it hit the ground. Sometimes I could even catch it on the first bounce. Everybody would then yell at me to throw the ball back. Nobody ever told me that I had to do that.

As it turned out, I never excelled or even came close to succeeding at any of these athletic endeavors. Maybe some of it was due to the fact that my dad was just a child when he had lost his dad, and never had an athletic role model, so then neither did I. Dad was a great role model for other skills, though.

In spite of all this, another non-athlete, John Strommer, and I became the artist laureates of the fourth through sixth grades. We didn’t go out during recess, but stayed in, painting murals and posters for holidays, bond drives and school levies. It was much more satisfying and rewarding to do that. Maybe neither of us was much in the way of athletic prowess, but I think we earned a lot more respect than those kids did out on the playground during play period, er, recess.

Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at columns@tribtoday.com