Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring storms

We've had quite a number of severe storms lately -- out here in the Midwest -- and I remember the storms (if you could call the that now that I know what a storm is really like) we had when I was growing up and during the many times I returned home.

There was a smell in the air, even before there were any visible storm clouds. I suppose it's because we were due east of the Delaware River (yes that's what the smell was) and the wind had changed direction and picked up speed. Anyway, we always knew that a storm was coming well before we actually heard any thunder.

Now we have weather radar to keep us updated. These past few days one of our TVs has been tuned into that channel almost constantly. We praise God that the storms, while tornadic, haven't spawned any funnels in our area.

I recall one day, I had just gotten home from school. The sky was darkening. Our bad storms (remember that's relative) always came from just to the east of the Downing school. And we'd watched the clouds build up and darken. I usually just stayed on the front porch and watched them roll in.

I got home from school and my dad grabbed me and told me to go to the basement. Go to the basement? Why? Because there is going to be a tornado, I was told. Yeh, right. Well, the sky did get that greenish tint that accompanies and warns of the possibility of a tornado, but I wondered why my dad would say such a thing. NJ doesn't get tornadoes, does it? Well, not back then. We never heard of such a thing.

Well, if there was a tornado that day, it missed us, but I had nightmares for years of me being in the basement with the family, and looking up into a funnel and it turning and missing our house just as it got close enough to see what was whirling inside.

Last night as the storms came through we were given a play-by-play of where the whirling clouds were. Communities were told to go their "safe place". Our "safe place"? Our "safe place" is with our Lord. However, our tornado non-shelter is under the stairwell behind the elevator.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Monthly cleaning

I first attended Downing School, then Bingham, then back to Downing. One of our monthly "chores" was to clean out our desks. I loved doing that. We were encouraged to clean our desks whenever we had spare time, i.e., we finished our arithmetic before everyone else. But, we were required to do it at the end of the month. The teachers had to justify their attendance books at that time, and this was when we had the monthly cleaning of our desks and various other classroom chores, such as clearing off the bulletin boards of any papers that were posted, making sure that the cloak room was clear of all matter such as rotting lunches, or clapping the erasers -- which really was a daily chore which I loved to do. I think most of us did enjoy clapping the erasers.

For those of you who don't know what clapping the erasers is, it is simply taking two chalkboard erasers and taking one eraser in each hand -- chalk side away from the hand -- and then banging them together until you can't see any more dust flying from them. You had to either hang out the window or go outside to do this chore. If the weather was nice, we opted to go outside. Since each classroom was provided with four erasers, two of us had this job!

Our desks were the kind that had the seat that was hinged, as was the lid. There was a hole cut in the desk on the right side corner farthest from the child, which at one time held an ink pot. No more ink pots once the lead pencil was invented.

We had a desk like this on our back porch for most of my growing up time, and I used it, of course, to play teacher. Dad put a chalkboard up in front of one of the windows, which was a little high for a shorty, so I had to stand on a footstool to use it.

After our desks were cleaned out to our teacher's satisfaction, we received a new pencil. We got a new pencil (No. 2, eraser tipped, yellow painted) every month. And oh how we coveted the box in which the pencils came. The top slid off the box not unlike the larger crayon boxes do today.

I don't remember what qualified us for a box, but whatever it was, believe me I tried very hard to be one of the recipients. Since the class was 30 or 31 children, that meant that three boxes would be deprived of its pencil content (12 per box), so three of us each month received one of the coveted boxes.

I suppose it would have been fairer to just give the boxes out to the children in alphabetical order (10 months, 30 children) but that's not how I recall the boxes being given out.

I still have a love for all things stationery (as did my father to a hoarding extent). And I just love to walk through Staples and sniff the paper or the pencils (the wooden ones). The smell of these items evokes such fond memories.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back home

It's been almost a year, now, since I was back in Runnemede. Where has the time gone?

The Drexler family returned to Runnemede to attend the 100th Anniversary celebration for Mt. Calvary Union Church, where my father pastored for 55 years. What a weekend it was! I never had so much fun in my life, not even at family weddings.

In the past year I lost a dear friend, Dawn Anderson, who seemed to be doing pretty well fighting cancer when is saw her last May. She was one of my bridesmaids, and we kept in touch over the years. In fact, several years ago, I had a bridesmaids' lunch reunion and she was there. Also, Mr. Manduka (Uncle Bill) was very ill, nigh unto death, but God wasn't ready to receive him yet. He's 90 and still going and going and going. Praise God!

I am heading back in September and will see what or who is happening at the church. I need to get a few more pictures that I didn't get last May, namely the cornerstone of the church which has the date of the building of the church. And maybe some fall floral pictures from what's left of mom's garden.