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Mack Williams: First day at Granite Quarry School

At the science museum where I work, we talked about the school children’s first day back from Christmas vacation, wondering how long before their group visits would resume. Discussing “first day back” brought thoughts of “first day of,” particularly, my first public school day.

In the summer of ’69, I looked forward to college with some trepidation. I would soon be “mountain bound” to Appalachian State University and surrounded by thousands of new classmates.

I don’t remember any apprehension about starting Granite Quarry School, probably due to that day being 58 years in the past, while “only” 46 for 1969 (12 years sometimes makes a big difference).

Granite had a high school then, and my brother Joe’s room-displayed, “dragon” pennant did look a little scary (more than the present one), but was no cause for alarm.

On my first “Granite” day, I began dealing with “people in the hundreds.” Until then, the only people I had to deal with (or should I say, “had to deal with me”) were three in number (father, mother and brother Joe).

My parents offered “first day chauffeuring” in our old black Studebaker, but I declined, having nothing against them, nor the Studebaker, “cool”with its dark, “gangster-esque” mystique. My father tried out an old black Cadillac once, which actually looked like something from “The Untouchables,” complete with running boards (but minus machine guns and “flappers”).

I don’t  remember my first school bus ride (nothing repressed, just “no memory”). I just recall stepping on the bus, then stepping off into the Granite Quarry School parking lot.

When recently driving that same path, I found that I accurately anticipated what lay beyond each approaching curve, no doubt from years of a sort of “rote” learning through repetition. I recall its mileposts better than the exotic minutiae of some far-flung place in our old geography book, since our bus-route geography was “hands(wheels)-on.”

My neural path to Granite Quarry School is World War I trench depth, but it was dug more happily. They have become shallower with soil seepage, while mine is still of original depth.”

Buses were arriving and discharging their “charges” under teacher supervision, everything under the over-all supervision of Principal C.L. Barnhardt. Within certain map-marked,  positional coordinates of global latitude and longitude (“GPS” was on paper then), he was the man with whom the “buck stopped.”

My first-grade teacher was Mrs. Hazel Klutz. In addition to my parents, I would now have to answer to her (but only from 9-3, Monday-Friday for 9 months).

Granite’s lower grades were in a newer, low-slung, single story structure. The wall-filling windows were more modern-looking than those in the middle-grade and high school sections. I have a mental snapshot of one wall of that classroom filled with blue sky, the reachable, rectangular “sections” of that sky being opened with the turn of a crank.

As mentioned before, I don’t have much memory of that first of 1,310 days. I say 1,310 because it represents my number of days spent at Granite Quarry School, starting out by multiplying 9 (months) times 20 (average monthly weekdays), then times 8 (years).

I minused Christmas vacations and figured 50 sick days (including that week at Rowan Memorial in the fifth grade), but just as I e-mailed this to the Post, I realized that I forgot Easter Mondays, so the whole thing (including the just-alluded-to time displacement) is a little “askew” ( as you might think similarly of me at this point in this paragraph; but people do like puzzles, mathematical and otherwise, as I have seen many  messing with “Sudoku”).

One recollection of that first day remains crystal clear. Around mid-morning, my parents stopped by to check on me. Standing in the classroom doorway, they were the outside onlookers of my first public school day, talking with Mrs. Klutz and exchanging hand waves with me. At that moment, I was busily manipulating paper, pencil and ruler, those “trappings” of the lower and upper grades, high school, college and post-graduate work.

My mental picture of my first public school day must be evolving, because just now I can begin to see my 6-year-old self sitting there, viewed in the third person.

The identity of film noir’s “The Third Man” was difficult to figure at first, but not so that of this old scene’s just-added onlooker.

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