Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

WHERE MAGIC LIES


I remember my first "primer" in first grade. Primers were what the teachers called the books of first graders. How powerful the were; they opened up a magical world. The world of books. The year, 1954. Education was different then. Kindergarten was reserved for rich kids. Ordinary students had no preschool or head start or kindergarten. Instead, we jumped right into first grade taught by strict taskmasters who didn't hesitate to smack your knuckles with a ruler or sit you in a corner wearing a dunce cap. Paddles were huge and wooden with holes to create the desired stinging effect--as if getting smacked in front of your classmates wasn't humiliating enough. But we learned--and quickly.


Girls wore dresses to school back then. Few, if any, owned any pants or jeans. For some of us, the only time we wore shoes was to church, so having our feet pinched all day in shoes took some getting used to.

But I loved school. I loved learning. And for sure I loved reading my primers, those magical Dick and Jane books. We held a cherished greeting card under each line of words until our eyes got accustomed to reading across the lines of text in a page. Tossing away those cards, when our eyes were trained, was a day of pride in our achievement. We were on our way to being accomplished readers. Yes, kids back then, living simpler lives were easily molded.


I lived in a rural community in south eastern Pennsylvania. We were the only people living along our narrow road who had a car. All our neighbors rode horse and buggies. Many did not have electricity or indoor plumbing due to their religious convictions. I can still remember spending days perched on our front porch watching the telephone company install poles and string lines so our neighborhood could have phone service. Yes, folks, I am THAT old.

Children of that era had daily chores: gathering eggs, feeding chickens, sweeping off the porch and sidewalk, gardening, dishes and whatever else needed done. We were kept busy. Idle hands were servants of the devil, or so our parents thought. Our lives revolved around farming, family and faith. The worlds taught us in school were so foreign, so exciting, so breathtaking. Was it any wonder we gobbled up every bit and parcel of knowledge we could? And how better to do that than by learning to read? The love affair began and beguiled us to read better, faster...MORE!


 By the end of first grade our books had thickened. Our vocabulary increased. We took pride in how well we read. Although our school didn't have a library, we did have regular visits by the county bookmobile. What exciting days those were. Only those students who had good deportment were allowed access to the much-loved library on wheels. However, back then few kids had behavior problems. Those who did got a paddlin' in school and another one when they got home. Parents felt your disobedience in the classroom was a direct reflection on them and they didn't take too kindly to your "acting a fool" in school. Teachers also paddled you if you scored below a 75% on a test. Those "flunkies" were taken out into the hallway and paddled. The rest of us sat silently in our seats, eyes wide, counting the number of "swats" so thankful we'd studied and scored well.


We stepped aboard, full of excitement and seriousness for we'd learned worlds opened up to us when we read. The interior was a hushed, revered place. No foolish behavior was tolerated, believe me.

We chose Golden Books and volumes of ancient fairy tales.

We took pride in learning new words and reading to our parents. 

Eventually, in the second or third grades, we learned to read chapter books. Heidi was my favorite. The Swiss Alps sounded so exotic.


I read voraciously as a child. We lived in the country and didn't get a TV until I was ten. Even then, we only watched it after the supper dishes were done. Books were my world, my stepping stone to the world beyond our farm.

Years passed, the books changed, but my love for books remained constant.

Enter a new era...eReaders. We never thought they'd catch on, did we? We poo-pooed them. We'd miss the smell, that private perfume of our beloved books. How could books read on a handheld device possibly be as enjoyable?
 

But to me, they are. I love our Kindle. You see, I've found the magic lies not in the books, themselves...but in the words...and the skill of the artist who paints his or her stories in vivid word strokes. As JK Rawlings said in her last Harry Potter movie, "The magic lies in the words."

22 comments:

Lynne Marshall said...

Thank you for the trip down memory lane, Vonnie. I remember getting our first color TV, back when we only had 3 or 4 channels to choose from. And I'll never forget Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights.

Things weren't so bad back then, just different.

Mona Risk said...

What a lovely post, Vonnie. I was a city girl, never played on a farm, but learned to take the bus on my own at ten. No one was worried about kidnapping back then. My parents refused to buy a TV until we went to college, believing it would distract us from our studies.

Vonnie Davis said...

Lynne, yes things were different. For whites it was a slower, gentler time. For minorities, it wasn't. So it all pertains to one's perspective. Thanks for stopping by.

Vonnie Davis said...

Mona, were we safer back then or less informed? Perhaps ignorance is bliss at times. I never rode a public transportation bus, like you're speaking of until we visited Berlin.

Autumn Jordon said...

Woman, you brought back memories. I love my laptop and the fact that I can learn so much from surfing the web and meeting and exchanging ideas with woman like yourself, but I do miss the slower, simplier times.

I think I have that Thumblina book. In fact, I have a collection of older books that I enjoy sharing with my grandkids.

Glad I stopped by. WINK

AJ

Charmaine said...

I love to read and today's technology has opened a huge door to learning so much. I was very curious as a child and I too lived in a rural area. I quickly outgrew/outread/finished the encyclopedias we had and I remember just hungering to learn something more, anything. I understood then that the world was bigger than our home.

Cara Marsi said...

Vonnie, you've brought back memories. I didn't go to kindergarten either. Most kids didn't. I started first grade when I was five. I went to public school for the first year, then we moved and I went to Catholic school. My mother and Sister Rose Gerald taught me cursive in two weeks. The other kids had been writing cursive since first grade. I use that as an excuse for my bad handwriting. Like you, I loved to read. I read cereal boxes, billboards, anything. Reading opend a whole new world to me. We didn't get a TV unti the late Fifties. If one of the nuns disciplined us in school, our parents would punish us again because in their minds the nuns were always right. Things sure have changed.Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Vonnie Davis said...

Autumn, how nice to have you stop by. I loved the Thumbelina story and the imagination it evoked. What if we could be that small? What if we could fly to the moon? What if we could send letters and wouldn't have to wait weeks for a reply? Our imaginations are powerful, potent things.

Vonnie Davis said...

HI Charmaine! (**waves wildly**) My kids read the encyclopedias, too! The ability to comprehend the written word is a magical thing.

Vonnie Davis said...

Cara, so glad you enjoyed a bit of nostalgia today. Looking back to the way things once were can be delightful. But then I'm glad for the conveniences of today...Can we spell A/C? How did we survivie without it?

Melinda said...

Hi Vonnie,

Love this post..The photos made me think of when I was in school. I love Thumbelina story too. I also love every book my Ms. Beatrix Potter. She was my favorite

Thanks Vonnie for taking me back to my earlier years

Walk in harmony,
Melinda

Sandra Koehler said...

Thanks, Vonnie, for the trip back! Loved it...what an innocent time...how about those duck and cover drills?

Sandy/Alison Chambers

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

I grew up in Ohio, and my father and his partner owned the appliance service store in our small town. When I was five, in 1948, we had the first TV in the county. The picture was small and fuzzy, and I couldn't sit still to watch it very long. After I started school, I was allowed to watch Howdy Doody after school, but my parents didn't use the TV for a baby-sitter. Our TV time was strictly limited.

Jannine said...

Although I was born in the 50s, my sisters graduated from high school and got married in that decade. They told me their stories but sadly, I've forgotten them. Reading your blog has given me a warm feeling of family and nostalgia.

Vonnie Davis said...

Melinda, thanks for stopping by. I think I hit on a favorite by mentioning "Thumbelina."

Vonnie Davis said...

Sandra, oh thanks for reminding me. Yes, those drills where we had to crawl under our desks--as if those wooden desks would have protected us from a bomb. LOL

Vonnie Davis said...

Yes, Sue, "Howdy Doody." Most kids today wouldn't like the show--nothing gets blown up!! Thanks for stopping by.

Vonnie Davis said...

Jannine, my sister is 16 years older than I and I enjoy hearing her talk about her younger years, too. I often wondering if we're sharing enough of our own history to our grandchildren so they have that knowledge.

Lisa Richards/alterlisa said...

I still use the Dick & Jane books in my home to read with my 6 year old granddaughter.

Kellie Kamryn said...

Great post :)

Vonnie Davis said...

Lisa, can one still buy them? Or are yours old issues?

Vonnie Davis said...

Kellie, how nice to see you!! Thanks for stopping by.