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 August, 2006


 Memories of my first day of school

<.b> I Remember Park School
By Al Owens

I once read that the reason so many people have such great difficulty saying goodbye to each other can be traced back to the very first time our parents dropped us off at school. That feeling of being left alone can easily haunt many of us for the rest of our lives. Not me! I couldn’t wait until my mother bid me her tearful (and I might add embarrassing) adieu in that kindergarten room at Park School.

You must understand, I had an older brother, Marlin, who’d been going to school since before I was born. And little brothers always want to do what their big brothers do. I must have started packing my pencil box when I was two.

Did I just say pencil box? Whatever happened to those things anyway? Those little treasure chests full of easily breakable or abandoned pencils, pens, rulers, erasers and even pencil sharpeners. They were all loaded with stuff you’d get for free at school anyway. Somehow my parents never caught onto that.

School, to me, was a place to get all kinds of things for free. (An education was a bonus) I can remember getting handed big pencils, huge tablets, and books that would soon open worlds I’d never imagined existed.

There were all of those wonderful fragrances of new clothes, new books, and freshly mimeographed pages. There were the sights of new haircuts and the sounds of confused kids with perplexed teachers who’d ask us all to keep quiet.

All of those were experiences I’d have for thirteen years. New cloths, new books, and mimeographed paper always meant the school years were about to begin.

But during my earliest years, they were all new. Just like the smell of that alcohol they’d put on your arm just before they’d give you some shot to prevent you from getting some childhood disease. I can still remember going to Ella Peach (The current Administrative Building for the Uniontown Area School District) and getting vaccinated. Of course, the first one didn’t take. I had to get another. I didn’t cry the first time. The second time, I went ballistic!

All of this served as a gateway to more than a dozen years of cleaning erasers, school plays, football games, high school dances, glue that came out of a jar, scissors that could barely cut paper, lunchtime with chicken noodle soup, learning how to read, recess, learning how to count, pep rallies, learning how our country became our country, air raid drills, and friends!

I can remember meeting all of those people I’d know for the rest of my life. I didn’t know that at the time. Dave Coldren started kindergarten at Park School on the same day I did. We went all the way through school together. I saw him last month at my 40th high school reunion. I have a special fondness for Dave Coldren, and Martha Williams, and Susan McGregor. We all started this wonderful journey together. Whenever we meet, we take each other back through those early school days – we make each other laugh about them – but we always rejoice.
It has been the better part of 60 years since I first stepped through those massive doors at Park School. I think about those days a lot. But I also think about the days after my public school years. I clearly remember how envious I felt that early fall after I graduated from Uniontown Joint Senior High School.

On the first day of school, I watched all of those kids go to school – wanting to be with them. But it really never hit me harder than to open up my Morning Herald and discovered that Archie and Jughead were still in school and I had somehow passed them. I’ve been passing them every year since!