Monday, August 20, 2018

Montoursville 2018: My schools (Part 1)

[Lyter Elementary School on Spruce Street, July 2018]

With regard to my Montoursville memories, I only have two schools to talk about — the elementary school and the middle school. Given the years that I lived there, I never attended Montoursville Area High School, which is embedded so beautifully near the center of the town's residential grid. In fact I was only ever in that building a couple times, once for a middle school choral concert. So I'll leave the history and tales of Montoursville High to others.

I lived in Montoursville for the following school grades:

  • Nursery school (at a church)
  • Kindergarten (C.E. McCall Middle School)
  • First grade (Lyter Elementary School)
  • Second half of fourth grade (Lyter Elementary School)
  • Fifth grade (C.E. McCall Middle School)
  • Sixth grade (C.E. McCall Middle School)

I attended two years of nursery school (1974-75 and 1975-76) at what is now Faith United Methodist Church on Fairview Drive. (I would also attend Sunday School and Boy Scout meetings at that church, in later years.) The story goes that I wasn't quite ready, in terms of social adaptation, for kindergarten following my first year of nursery school, so I went through a second year. Regardless, I don't have any memories of either year. But there are snapshots! Here is a group picture from June 3, 1975 — the end of my first year of nursery school. That's me in the blue shirt, sitting on the ground in the far left of the front row. I definitely don't look like nursery school graduate material at that point. I look like I need a nap.

Following the two-year nursery school grind, I attended kindergarten in a first-floor classroom toward the back of C.E. McCall Middle School. Mrs. Bonazzi was my teacher, and I previously wrote about the ephemeral proof that I graduated on June 10, 1977. I remember generally enjoying the kindergarten environment. We learned the alphabet, and it was a high-energy classroom full of colorful educational materials on the walls. I wish I had other recollections beyond that, but it's just been too long.

By that point we were living on Spruce Street and, for first grade, my new school was Lyter Elementary School, aka the "George C. Lyter Building." In that September 1975 issue of The Otstonwakin, the following was written:
"George C. Lyter Building — It is a modern building located on Walnut and Spruce Streets and is used for grades from kindergarten through grade four. It is estimated the building can be used to provide for the needs of the school district for thirty years."
Lyter Elementary opened in September 1959, so in 1975 they were estimating that the building would remain in use until at least 1989. It has far surpassed that estimate as it enters its 59th school year of existence this fall. The school is named after George C. Lyter, who was supervising principal of Montoursville schools from approximately 1918 to 1950.

It was about three blocks along Spruce Street for me to walk to first grade at Lyter Elementary during the 1977-78 school year, and I recall doing so often. My teacher was Ms. Miller, and my room was straight ahead, then on the right, after you went through the main entrance on Spruce Street. My first-grade memories include:

  • Praise for being way ahead of the curve on my reading level.
  • Counting by fives with aplomb.
  • Our desks were usually organized in a circle (or perhaps a rectangle), with everyone facing inward and being able to interact with each other.
  • Frequently breaking into smaller groups for learning and practice.
  • Our class made a recipe book that all of the parents contributed to. Mom's contribution was "Mommy's Favorite Hamburger Hash," and I wish like hell I could find that mimeographed book, but it's surely gone.
  • I had to stay after school one day for talking out of turn, and I cried.
  • The playground was patrolled by a paddle-toting administrator. I never actually saw anyone paddled, but, oh, there were stories.

When our family return to Montoursville two-and-a-half years later, after a stint living in southern New Jersey, I would return to Lyter Elementary in the middle of the school year as a fourth-grader...


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