Once upon a time, a school building was erected in the town of Onward. It was, at the time, a magnificent building with huge pillars at the front doors, and inside the children sat at their desks studying and dreaming of recess. Yes, they were like any other school children and recess was their favorite time of the day. In the summer, it meant “red rover” and the ocean wave, the teeter-totters and the maypole. In the winter, it was the gymnasium and basketball. In high school, it was a little more serious than that. Not much, just a little.
It’s gone now, the Onward school, and all that is left is the memories of the years we spent there learning the three R’s and perhaps a bit more. I can remember some of the teachers. Marie Hopper in the first grade. Esther Jane Means in the second and third grade, Roy Weaver in the fourth and fifth, and Miss Julian in the sixth. Upstairs there were a number of different teachers, P.A. Foust, Principal, Forrest Martin, two sisters named Calloway, and Helen Evans, a very special teacher. There were others off and on, but these are the ones that I can recall at this time. They were good teachers and we were fortunate to have them out there in that country schoolhouse that became a place of memories later on.
I remember an alumni meeting when we used to have them in the gym. I took Janie upstairs to show her where Floyd Cotterman, the janitor, patched a hole in the floor behind the stage scenery with a coffee can lid. Miss Evans was sponsor of the junior play and she needed a dependable gunshot in one of the scenes. She left that up to Jack Leffert and I and cap guns weren’t dependable. Shotguns on the other hand ... . Well, we found a shotgun shell filled with sand still made a healthy bang and the night of the play Jack’s 12-gauge Winchester pump made a healthy report, blew a hole in the floor, sending a shower of dust and splinters out onto the stage, woke up all of the sleeping babies the mothers had managed to put to sleep causing them to scream bloody murder, and shut down the junior play for a good 5 minutes. Not a bad night’s work for a couple of nimrods like Jack and I. We were understandably proud.
Then there was the night the senior boys decided to test the fire hoses after basketball practice. They worked, but they were canvas and all of the water remaining in the hoses leaked out onto the hallway floor that night and the next morning we were flooded. It didn’t take long for P.A. to get to the bottom of the matter, and that day “Porky” Carson and I were in the pressroom working on the school paper when P.A. walked in. He inquired if “Porky” was “in” on the bit with the fire hoses and he admitted that he was. P.A. inquired further if he wanted his butt kicked at that time or if he might like to put it off until later. Given the choice, “Porky” opined that he might as well kick it right away, so P. A. grabbed him by the shirt collar and drop-kicked him across the press room. It all happened so fast I barely had time to laugh (after P.A. left, of course) No one dared even smirk when someone got theirs from Mr. Foust.
I have often thought in later days how a man like him could straighten out one of today’s schools if only the parents and the school board and the lawyers would allow him to operate on the troublemakers, and don’t worry about his being big enough. He was built along the lines of the giant, Thor in the old “Popeye” cartoons. Probably not quite as big, but he looked like he was if you were on the wrong side of the fence, and he was coming through the gate.
It all happened a long time ago, but some of it seems like yesterday and all of the memories make a person glad he was there to share in the laughter, the learning and the terror.
We are going to have our alumni supper at Onward Christian Church on Saturday, May 4, from 5 p.m. to who knows when. Dinner will by served at 6 p.m. (I’ll never know why they call supper dinner.) There will be a discussion as to whether we want to erect a monument where the building stood at a cost of approximately $3,000.
We would like to have your input, and some of your money, if we decide to do it. Please come.
Joe Bowyer is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.