My time in elementary school was one of the very most happiest days of my life. I attended John F. Kennedy school on Park Avenue in Windsor for grades K-6. We lived on Diana Lane and I was a “walker.”
My earliest memories of Kennedy was walking with my mother up Diana Lane and meeting up with other kids and their moms and we all walked the rest of the way together. The moms would lag behind chatting while we kids walked ahead of them. It was a social time for the moms who were mostly stay-at-home moms. We’d usually run into Bobby Long and his mom first since they lived across the street. Then Ronnie Harner and his mom. They lived at the top of Diana. Robin Road was the road Diana dumped out on and my very best friend, Jayme Hannah, lived right smack in the middle of it right where Diana ended. My mom and her mom, Betsy, were especially good friends.
One of my best childhood friends, Jayme Hannah.
About 1974. She is holding our Velvet dolls. We always
asked for the same dolls at Christmas so we could play
together with them.
As the school year went on the dynamic changed. Sometimes Debbie Abbey and her mom would join us. Sometimes way up on Craigs Road Eric Lazarus and his mom would be walking when we were. By first grade, believe it or not, our parents didn’t walk with us anymore. We walked together. That would never happen today that a bunch of 6 year olds would be allowed to walk to school without an adult, but in 1971 it was a safe and innocent time in our neighborhood.
For kindergarten I had Miss. Dalphanie. She was so little she would almost qualify to be called a little person. She had to be only 4’6″ or so. She was loving and sweet and she had a bouffant hairstyle. She also had fat feet. I remember fat spilled over her black pumps as if they were too small. What a crazy memory.
Who can complain about kindergarten? I’m quite sure I had afternoon kindergarten. It was only a half day. I ate graham crackers and drank milk out of little red and white cartons with my friends at snack time. We had little rug remnants we had to take our nap on. We had cubbies to put our coats and boots in. I remember having happy feelings in that room.
Me in 1970, at my grandparent’s 50th
wedding anniversary. No more cast.
One not so happy memory was when I had a cast on my arm during the first part of that year. My brother Rick had locked me out of the house and was teasing me from inside that I couldn’t come in. I had a little temper back then, I’ll have you know. So I banged on the door. The glass storm door. You can see where this is going. My arm went flying through that window and glass and blood were everywhere. I had to have stitches. I remember being freaked out and running around the back of the house. My older brother, Chuck, who was 18, caught me and tackled me and dragged me across the street to Mrs. Long’s house. She was a nurse. Mom wasn’t home for some reason. I remember the hospital nurses giving me a root beer lollipop while the doctor stitched my arm up. Then they put a soft cast on it. I’m not sure why. Maybe for the same reason they put those cones on animals so they don’t pick at their wound. Who knows.
So what’s that got to do with kindergarten, you are asking yourself. At recess time I wasn’t allowed to go on the swings or the monkey bars. Both were a pretty big deal to this 5 year old. I had to choose a quiet toy and play under the trees. I recall one time I chose one of those Fisher Price buses with all the round people who fit in and it had eyes on the front of the bus with a plastic string you could pull the bus along with and the eyes opened and closed. Not as fun as the monkey bars but good times!
John F. Kennedy, overall, was an extremely happy time in my life. I am still friends with kids from this school today. Facebook had a lot to do with that. But some I just kept in touch with over the years the old fashioned way.
Having a fabulous hair day for fourth grade
photo day, despite having the
scariest teacher on earth that year.
On my barrette was written, “Jeannette.”
My first grade was with Mrs. O’Donnell. She was a sweet, grandmotherly kind of woman and I remember she had a gentle voice. Second grade was Ms. McAuliffe. She got married the summer after I had her and became Mrs. Cosma. She was tall and pretty with long dark hair and I remember her Dad and my Dad had some kind of connection with World War II. I don’t remember what. Third grade was Mrs. Rund. She got married during the school year and we were invited to her wedding…all the kids in her class! Not to the reception of course. That would have been insane. But it was the first wedding I had ever gone to. She was such a sweet teacher. She was tiny like Ms. Dalphanie.
Fourth grade was like a culture shock. Miss McCarthy. Honestly, I think this woman absolutely hated children. She looked like the Wicked Witch from the West in the Wizard of Oz. No joke. And she was MEAN. She scared the hell out of each and every child who had her. I remember also she was sickly. So we had subs every once in a while. Which was good. We needed the break. I remember I learned my times tables with her. We had to go up to her desk individually and recite them to her. She looked bored and annoyed out of her mind. I could never get my 12s times tables right. I thought she was going to murder me because I didn’t know them. I was scared silly. But she was having a good day and was only mildly annoyed and told me to work on them better. To this day I stink at my 12s, and I think of her almost every time.
Mrs. Belzer, my fifth grade teacher. Apparently, I
circled people in the class picture who I liked a lot
that year.She was my favorite teacher and taught
me to always try to have a positive attitude.
Fifth grade was my favorite teacher in the entire world. Mrs Belzer. Oh, how I loved her. She was young, reddish hair, round and chubby. She hugged kids every day (when it was still ok to do that). She loved to laugh. She loved all of us kids, and she made us all feel special. I was getting chubby at this point, so looking at her and seeing such a chubby woman who was so happy in life, with a loving husband, made me feel better that it would be ok if I grew up to be a chunk too. A lot of us JFK kids on Facebook found Mrs. Belzer and reconnected with her in 2014. She had just retired and worked at JFK for her entire career. We were her first class after she graduated from teaching school.
Sixth grade was Mrs. Beauregard. She had some tendencies like Miss McCarthy so we were all kind of on edge with this one. It was difficult to go from one teacher who was so loving, to another teacher who you felt wanted you to be dead and just go away most of the time. Sometimes she could be perfectly nice and funny and friendly. But, boy…one thing would happen and someone might act up and she would just flip out. I kept my distance with this one and just did my work and kept out of trouble.
As you will read in upcoming posts, we moved after 6th
grade and I had a few pretty terrible years for 7th and 8th grade. I barely passed either grade and received C’s and D’s and a few F’s. I was bullied horribly. I don’t remember a single teacher’s name at Ellsworth School for 7th
grade or Timothy Edwards School for 8th
grade in South Windsor.
I don’t remember a single teacher’s name, that is, except one. Mr. Longo. He was the gym teacher at Ellsworth. He was a little guy. He was always kind to me despite the fact that I did absolutely everything to get out of gym class. Forged notes from my mother, forgot my gym clothes, asked to go to the nurse’s office, etc. He would get exasperated with me, but I think on some level he knew I was dealing with a lot of stuff and just didn’t push it.
It was in gym class that I sprained my ankle. Playing basketball. Or trying to play. I tried to shoot a basket and jumped up and when I came back down I landed funny and felt excruciating pain. See what happens when you make a fat girl to do gym class, Mr. Longo? Nothing good comes of it.
Anyhow, he helped me to the nurse’s office and they called my mother and I remember he was really nice and came in to check on me. When my mother came to get me to bring me for x-rays, they had to get me down about 25 steps in front of Ellsworth School to Mom’s car. I’ll never forget Mr. Longo saying, “I can carry her down.” I was like, “What? Are you crazy? I’m twice as big as you! No way.” I was mortified to even think of him carrying me. I clearly outweighed him and was about 4 inches taller than him! He finally gave in and probably realized it was for the better for his own health and so I hobbled down those 25 steps holding onto his shoulder and my mom brought me to the doctor.
Back on Windsor soil, 1982, dressed as Harpo Marx for a
high school costume party. I had good friends all throughout
high school. Left to Right, Dominique Corbett, me,
Colleen O’Meara and Kelly Packard. I’m still in contact
with Dominique and Colleen to this day. I lost contact
with Kelly, unfortunately.
Ninth grade we had moved back to Windsor and I went to Sage Park Junior High (now Middle School) for 9th grade. I had lots of good teachers at Sage Park. A few of them were still there when my daughters attended there many years later. It was a happy time for me and I made Honor Roll.
I was so happy to be back in Windsor! I made friends easily there and I was excited to know that I would be seeing all my JFK friends at Windsor High School the next year for 10th grade.
Then there was Windsor High School for 10-12th
grade. Today it is 9-12th
. When I was in 11th
grade it changed. We couldn’t believe they were letting those baby 9th graders in. I loved everything about Windsor High School and had a lot of friends and happy times.
I wasn’t in the popular group, but I knew them and got along with them. I wasn’t in the jock group (of course!), but I knew them and got along with them. I wasn’t a loser, either (despite what my kids think!). I was in the middle. Kind of preppy, I guess. But not a nerd. A good student. Involved with the Yearbook. Wrote for the school paper. I really got into my English and writing classes tremendously. I managed the boys track team with Jeanne Deshais (whose younger sister, Suzanne, ended up marrying my husband’s brother, John). I still don’t know how I got involved with that one. I think she and I liked the same boy who did track and she convinced me to help out. Managing just meant taking down stats on the clipboard, filling water bottles, starting and stopping the stop watch and just over-all helping as needed. I have no interest in anything like that, so it must have had to do with Steve Parks, who was a year ahead of me and who I totally liked. I did a lot of things outside school like going to movies with my friends, going to hockey games, sleepovers, etc. I didn’t get into any trouble. I didn’t drink or smoke. It just wasn’t for me. I just liked to laugh and hang out and watch movies and write.
Did I mention that I was never bullied again?