On the west end of the room, we practiced spelling words and worked arithmetic problems in our Big Chief tablets, a school staple. The paper was kind of beige with big horizontal lines, the center one dotted. We learned cursive writing, called “penmanship,” which started with elbow movement and progressed to slanted lines and spirals of ovals from left to right across the paper. For those exercises we used fountain pen and liquid ink, just like pioneer children. We carried pencils, erasers, and other goodies in cigar boxes. The Mosel kids felt privileged if we owned special store-bought pencil boxes as well.
However, recesses couldn’t be beat. Aged games filled our laughing minutes—tag, Fox and Geese, Red Rover, Pump, Pump Pull-away. “King’s X” came from playing King of the Mountain on the farm. We also said it while playing tag if we needed a break to tie our shoes or run to the bathroom. I’m sure we used King’s X as an excuse not to get caught as well. We played the inevitable baseball, which never was my favorite game. I hit foul balls. I often walked to first base. I loved to run the bases and try to sneak home, though.
One lively recess my brother and another boy played tag. They raced clockwise and counter-clockwise around the school building, and met at the southwest corner by the pump in a head-butt. They both went down, but not out. Three black eyes on two boys. They settled for the mild playground equipment for a while after that.
I loved the merry-go-round that spun like a top, and the euphoria of tummy twirls. The older kids who pushed ran so fast they’d fall and skin their knees. We also swayed up and down on wooden teeter-totters, and gigantic swings with an attached humped slide.
The best way to end a school day happened when we arrived home to the yeasty smell of fresh-baked bread. Mom timed it just right so the raisins in the cinnamon rolls were still warm and the powdered sugar icing dripped down the sides. We tolerated evening chores easier on those days.
Did you have a favorite after-school snack?