Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesdays with Dorothy: School Days

(This is part of a series. For Table of Contents go here)
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I wanted to find out about Dorothy’s early experiences in school.  Most of my questions were open-ended questions just to find out from her what her early schooling had been like. Sometimes I would ask a few more questions to clarify, but I never asked any probing questions. I am no psychologist and I was not interested in delving into how she felt about her childhood and its circumstances. I primarily wanted to hear her story as she wanted to tell it.  If she did not want to dwell on a particular topic, I saw no reason to push it.

Some of her memories evoked light-hearted moments, while most indicated that she had difficulty learning and also faced some teasing and bullying from the other students.  After I had typed up our recorded conversations, I arranged her comments to put them in chronological order. I also edited out my questions so that what was written would be Dorothy’s story in her own words.  Here are the words that I placed under the category, “School Days:”

“I went to school in Sylacauga but we weren’t graded and everything. I read some, but never could do anything with arithmetic. Then one day they were all laughing at me. The teacher told them, ‘She can out spell any one of you!’”

“I first went to school at Drummond-Frasier. I wasn’t in school long, maybe about 2 and a half months. Then they got to pickin’ at me and everything and I was scared to go to the bathroom. This little ol’ girl would always fasten me up in the bathroom. Back then it wasn’t like it is now. I didn’t like her.  One day I got sick and I was afraid to go to the bathroom because of the way they would latch me up in there. I was afraid to go and I wet all over myself. The teacher sent me out in the hall. My mother came and took me out and I never did go back. I told my mother I didn’t like that girl and she took me out of there.”

“Professor Crothler was the principle, the teacher there was hateful and sent me to his office, but he didn’t whip me because he knew me and my mother had told him all about me. One time he gave me a little rabbit in a cage, and I kept that rabbit ‘till he died.”
“One time I was showing a picture that I colored to the teacher and that girl pinched me and, I don’t know, somehow or other I shoved her and they took me to the principal’s office. He didn’t do nothin’ because he thought I had a right to shove her if she pinched me.”

“The next year I went to Mignon. I think I went to Mignon a little over a year. I never made any grades – I couldn’t read or write or nothin’. One time I got on the wrong school bus. I don’t know where I went, but I got on the wrong bus. I thought I never would get back. Then the driver put me off and somebody else took me to where I was supposed to go.”

 “Then there was this one time I tried to go home with another girl. The driver wouldn’t let me get on the bus because he knew I didn’t ride that bus.”

“After I went to live with my legal guardian, she put me in Odena School. It was a little two-room school house. I used to walk to school. Then one day going home, an old crazy man got after me. I got scared and I run. He was in a car, and I ran through a corn field. When I got home I told my legal guardian. She told me he was crazy and he had killed a little girl a couple of years before. After that they wouldn’t let me walk to school no more. My legal guardian would drive me. She worked in the cotton mill. Later they told me that they put that old crazy man in an insane asylum.”

“I couldn’t learn nothin' [at school]. The teacher wouldn’t take no time with me. They finally took me out of school.  About 6 months after that they admitted me to Partlow School.”

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