Monday, August 27, 2018

Montoursville 2018: My schools (Part 3)

[C.E. McCall Middle School on Willow Street, July 2018]

I attended Montoursville's C.E. McCall Middle School for two years: fifth grade (1981-82) and sixth grade (1982-83). The school is located at 600 Willow Street and was just a stone's throw (or two) from our house at the corner of Willow Street and Fairview Drive. So I was a "walker."

Here's what The Otstonwakin had to say about the school in that 1975 publication:
"The C.E. McCall Middle School was opened for the 1971-72 school year. It has a student population of about 1,000. It is modern in all aspects and well equipped. The Middle School provides education for students in grades five through eight. It has a building life expectancy of fifty years."
That life expectancy would take it to the year 2021. I haven't seen anything, in a cursory search, indicating that there are major plans in store for Montoursville's middle school, so I suspect that officials expect it to go significantly past its expiration date, so to speak.

My homeroom teacher was Barbara Johnson, and her classroom was located along the north side of the building. She taught social studies, but I never had her for a class. My teachers that I can distinctly remember included Mr. White (science), Mrs. Sheets (math), Mr. Koskey (chorus), Mr. Bailey (music), Mr. Derr (science) and Mr. Gruenewald (industrial arts). Looking at a staff directory from around that time, other names that ring a bell (but I can't quite place) include Dieffenbach and Solomon. I feel badly that I recall very little of English/language arts teachers from this period. I blame the early-onset Alzheimer's.

But here is a scattershot journey through things that I do remember from these two years of middle school; the childhood moments that did remain in my head, for whatever reason.

  • So, yes, since we had a "homeroom," this was also the first year that I changed classrooms throughout the day and had my own hallway locker. That was quite the adventure for a 10-year-old. It also meant groups and cliques traveling the halls together, trying to beat the bell while swapping gossip and jokes.
  • In Mr. White's science class, we were taught this great rhyme: "Johnny was a curious boy, but Johnny is no more. For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4."
  • Also in Mr. White's science class, I had to stay after school at least once for excessive talking during class.
  • My best subject was probably math. We learned a good bit about the metric system as part of an initiative toward that far-more-logical method of weights and measures, before President Reagan brought the U.S. transition to a crashing stop in 1982.
  • While I enjoyed chorus (more on that in a bit), my worst subject was probably music. One of my biggest educational regrets is that I didn't take that class more seriously and learn to read sheet music. It would have been such a gift for future me. As Red laments: "I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone, and this old man is all that's left."
  • If you asked Mr. Derr if you could go to the lavatory, he would reply, "I don't know, can you?"
  • Gym class was typically amazing, especially when it rained and we had dodgeball games played in a mat-covered room in the bowels of the building and kickball games played in the auditorium/gymnasium.
  • Part of our curriculum involved square dancing, and we had an evening assembly at one point to show off our skills to the whole community.
  • The school offered an elective that was basically "Electronic Games". Rather than trying to get us to give up all those battery-powered games we were carrying around in our backpacks, administrators essentially shrugged and gave us one period a day to sit around and chase red blips across tiny screens. As others mentioned in a Facebook discussion this topic, oddball electives at McCall also included macramé, hook art and what I'm just going to call Advanced Coloring, perhaps predicting the craze of therapeutic coloring books geared toward adults in the 2000s.
  • In language arts, we were assigned to read A Wrinkle in Time, but I don't remember being able to grasp it very well. Also in this class, the teacher would read to us from Choose Your Own Adventure books and let the class vote on which path to follow. There was also the monthly excitement of the Scholastic books catalog being passed out, followed by the books (and maybe Dynamite magazine) eventually arriving.
  • Chorus with Mr. Koskey was very enjoyable. We gave concerts throughout the year at the school and around Lycoming County (nursing homes, etc.). I even vaguely recall caroling from door to door during the school day. A few of the songs I remember performing were "Brazzle Dazzle Day", "Song Sung Blue", "Heartlight" (the E.T. song), "Daybreak", "Drunken Sailor", and "Let There Be Peace on Earth".
  • In industrial arts, we made a metal lamp in the shape of a stove (which I no longer have) and this blue-and-gold plastic box, which I still have and use to store skeleton keys.

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