Orton

Via the column last weekend,  we went back to school with Jerry Langford when he was in the third grade. His school was in when was then the Cedar Bayou School District, separate from the Goose Creek school system. The two districts didn’t merge until 1954.

Today, let’s crank up the time machine when Jerry was a first-grader. Cedar Bayou didn’t provide a kindergarten class (neither did Goose Creek) so the first grade really was the introduction to school.

Jerry remembered his first-grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Partin. The elementary school principal was Mildred “Teacher” Smith, who was known throughout the school district and community by her nickname.

Jerry explained that Teacher Smith was the principal “only because all the men were off to war. When the war was over, she was replaced and she went back to teaching.”

Jerry rode the school bus, but the schedule was not coordinated with the other grades. “In the afternoon the first grade got out at 1:30 p.m. but the bus did not run until 3:30 p.m. when the older kids got out. Rather than wait for the bus, I would walk the 2½ miles home. Leon Ladwig, who lived 2 miles from school, would walk also.

“We took our time walking down Kilgore Road. There were many things that could distract a 6-year-old boy.  There was a path through thick bushes that led to an old house. I never saw the house because legend was it was haunted. So Leon and I were afraid to venture down the path.

“It was also legend that Sam Houston had once stayed in the house. It’s torn down now and subdivisions are in its place.

“Leon and I would also stop and eat any fruit that we could get off trees. The most vivid memory is that of a mulberry tree. Our fingers and mouth would be purple after a session with the berries. Leon and I would always have a fist fight near this tree. We weren’t mad but just wanted to fight. Not sure who won or when we knew to quit.

“Kilgore Road was asphalt. They would repair potholes with a black tar stuff. In the summer, it would get soft, like chewing gum. In fact, that’s what we did – pulled up a chunk and chewed it. It was a petroleum product so no telling what we chewed. Why it did not result in some bad illness, I don’t know.”

The Bittick family lived next door to the Langfords. “They had three girls, Merle, Marie and Laverne.  Laverne was the youngest -- about four years older than I am.

“We had a 4-party line telephone, so you could listen to other conversations if you chose. Mama would get on me for listening in. The Bittick girls had no phone so they would come over and use ours. I enjoyed the girls coming over.

“Cameron Gates was the big man on campus in the first grade. He lived in School Courts close to the school. Corky Grube, David Brown, Bobby Barrow and Giles Giddings also lived there. I thought it was neat, living that close to school.”

Teacher Smith, Jerry recalled, was dedicated to kids -- strict but interested in kids’ future.

“Although a small school, Cedar Bayou Elementary was the foundation for learning. I believe it was a strong foundation.”

Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor of The Sun. She can be reached at viewpoints@baytownsun.com, Attention: Wanda Orton.

 

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