Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mobile Memories of School Days

Mobile, Alabama -- This is the street where I grew up.

 My parents had moved to Mobile about 1943 so my mother could go to work at a hospital there. The town was so crowded with war workers we initially lived in a small house on the edge of town, but by the time I was ready to start school we moved to 1214 Government Blvd., a two story duplex cut out of an old bungalow styled house. It was rambling and comfortable, but nearly so grand as the house next door, on the corner of Georgia Avenue, a grand old Victorian owned by the Tissington family and lovingly restored over the years.
You can see a house peeking through the trees on the right, which is an abominable Tudor mini--mansion some rich person thought would look good, so he tore down our old home and the small Victorian on the other side where a widow taught music to support herself.  Her grown son was gay, but it was a well-kept secret at the time. I once had my photo in Saturday Evening Post, posing in front of the Tissington home with my father's camera in hand, pretending to take a picture of their family reunion.
The azaleas were all over the place, along with the giant oak trees dripping with grey moss. We learned early not to handle the moss much, as it would be full of little red biting bugs.
About the time the war ended, I started attending Miss Kitty's Kindergarten -- a small private school for kids like me that were too young for first grade but ready to start anyway.
Here's what it looks like today:

The marker tells you things I never knew. The house over the years was turned into a B&B, and now appears to be a private home. All I remember is that Miss Kitty was a nice old lady who taught me to read and write, and let me play Little Boy Blue in a pageant.
I started first grade in Mrs. Wilkerson's class at Leinkauf, which the marker says is the oldest public school still in operation in the state. All I know is that it was very old when I went there, and the principal was an ancient crone we were terrified of. I remembered she was so mean she would whip a first grader, and my neighbor from those days Weesie Regan tells me the story was true. In the  photo you can see the "girls' play yard." Boys were limited to the other side, and we were not allowed to mingle. By the time I was a seventh grader I was allowed to go pretty much anywhere in town. During Mardi Gras my elementary school friends and I would by confetti in bulk, put it into bags, and sell it for a nickel at the parades. The parade route was so close we could walk, and parades would start about two weeks before Lent with the big deal on Monday and (Fat) Tuesday. Mobile always claimed to have the first Mardi Gras in the U.S., and in those days there was a lot less drinking and more celebrating. Kids wandered wherever. 
 I attended Leinkauf for seven years, as "middle school" in Mobile was only one year - eighth grade. For that I attended Barton Academy, the public school downtown where all Mobile kids in either grade went. It was the first time we moved out of our neighborhood, and it was a learning experience since some of the kids were a bit older, having been held back for violent habits and/or inability to learn much, and it was there I first saw switchblade knives and brass knuckles. Mobile was a seaport town, and a mill town, so we had all types.

Barton is located close to downtown, and is currently undergoing renovation by a historical preservation group.  (It is one of three schools I attended that had been hospitals during the Civil War.)
From there I moved on to the big city high school as a freshman.

Other than the addition of parking lots on the back, it doesn't look that different from when my sister and I attended there in the 1950s. I believe a hurricane did a lot of damage, but it was rebuilt. When I was there for about three years it had almost 3,000 students, an amazing number if my memory is correct. I limited my interest to the band, traveling with the band, and teenage girls. I can still recall the feeling of marching in Mardi Gras parades when it would be sleeting and the ice would stick to the drum sticks. We thought that was a lot of fun.
I went on the Marion Military Academy to finish high school, but did not swing by Marion on this recent trip so no photos. It's still there, turning out military graduates. When I attended, the then-all-male students were either trying to get into a military academy, or the local sheriff encouraged them to get out of town.
Pick one based on your knowledge of me, and write your own blog.

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