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PrimeTime: School years provide many happy memories

Kindergarten was silly. I did not find class stimulating. I was bored most of the time. Our classroom doubled as the school library. I remember I was always fascinated by the books against the north and east walls. My parents were great readers. I don't know if I was curious about why they always read or what. I just knew the books interested me a great deal.

I don't remember opening any of them. I am sure the teacher read to us. But I don't remember that either. The only thing I remember was having to bring a braided rug, spread it onto the floor and lie down on it to take a nap. Sleeping was the last thing I was thinking about. I lay impatiently on the stupid rug until the nap was supposedly over.

I do not remember if we went half or whole days. I just re-member that stupid nap time and not opening any of the books on our own.

First through fourth grades were rather uneventful. I remember the monkey bars. I was tall and slender and felt my weight pull down on my arms when I walked my hands across the bars. Actually it was pulling myself from bar to bar.

I loved the swings. I remember trying to go so high on the swing that I would revolve around the top. Of course, I never attained that goal.

We played mumbledy-peg with our knives. With the blade open and the point on our knees or elbows - different parts of our bodies - we tried to get it stuck in the ground. Yes, knives were not considered dangerous. Quite different from the present.

We also played marbles. A circle was drawn in the sand with the marbles in the middle. Then we took turns with our shooters on our folded thumbs to knock marbles out of the circle. I enjoyed this game a little but was never enthralled with it as I was with the swings.

Fifth grade was special for me in that we began having band lessons. Mr. Rood was the music teacher for all grades in our school - I do not know how he was able to do that. This was the year Mr. Rood came to the grade school, as we called the elementary school, and taught us the recorder. Playing this instrument was simplistic, but I liked making music. I am at heart a musician. When I was in high school, Mom told me she had only two students who were truly musicians: Dave Lang and me. She said she could hear both of us coming near the house because we were always singing as we walked.

In sixth grade, Mr. Rood came and tested those of us who wanted to get into the band. He examined our em-busher - the shape of our lips - to see what instrument would be appropriate for each of us. He assigned me to the clarinet, which made me happy because Dad was such a wonderful clarinetist.

I am sure we had vocal mu-sic in grade school, but I do not remember. My dream was to be able to sing like Bing Crosby.

Somewhere in these years, I wrote a nasty word on a bath-room stall wall. I don't know what it was, but I do remember that it was naughty. I have no idea as to my motive. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. I assume it was written in pencil because that is all we used.

Somehow, Miss Welch, the grade school principal, found out what I had done. She came to my classroom and asked for me. She said nothing as we went down the stairs to the basement where the boys' lavatory was. Her demeanor was nice. When we got there, she ignored a couple of boys who were standing at the urinals and led me to the stall.

"Jeb. Did you write that?" she asked in a calm voice.

"Yes, Miss Welch."

"Erase it."

"Yes, Miss Welch."

That was the beginning and end of the matter. I am still impressed with the way she handled the situation, but this was her manner throughout her work at Tracy Elementary School. She was firm and demanded that all of us students follow the rules. But she was never mean, nor did she ever scold us. She was kind but firm. To this day I am impressed with that lady. She is a marked example of integrity.

Jeb Monge writes of his memories growing up in during the 1940s in Tracy, Minn.