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Boyd Dodson Elementary School
May is my favorite month. The weather is warm and I can finally close that coat closet door and not open it again until October. The bushes around our house are in bloom with explosions of red and pink. The trees have lost their blossoms and now show their brand new leaves of tender light green. I have mentioned before that I like to keep active but I also like to spend time relaxing. Recently I have gotten back into reading and I have been spending some quiet afternoons sitting on my deck reading. Yesterday I was reading and the gentle scent of lilac drifted to me on a breeze. The scent took me back to the spring days of my youth.
There were lilac bushes around our neighborhood on Moyallen Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. As I kid that scent let me know that summer was on the way. May was a special time when I was a kid. The anticipation of summer vacation was growing and all of the kids started talking about making that trek to Purvin Dairy on Hazel Street after we got out on the last day of school.
In the schoolyard at Dodson Elementary we played a version a baseball called Atlantic City. It was played with a large soft ball that was pitched on one bounce to the batter. The batter hit the ball with his or her fist. The swing set bars in the schoolyard were objects to be climbed. Those were the sturdiest swings sets I have ever seen. They were made out of heavy metal pipe firmly cemented into the schoolyard pavement. The swings weren’t added until summertime but the bars were good enough to play on. I had mentioned in an earlier post that my brother and our older friends taught me how to do hand springs before I joined the Meyers gym team. Well one day, when I was in sixth grade, I did three handsprings then grabbed the bars of the smaller swing set and did and skin-the-cat. I was surprised I got the skin-the-cat in. I remember a girl in my class called me a showoff. Yeah, I guess I was a bit. Her name was Dorothy and I believe she was the daughter of the librarian up at the library.
It was in May of 1962 that my sixth grade class went to Meyers for Orientation Day. When I first went in I thought the place was gigantic. I didn’t know how I was going to possibly navigate those long halls. I felt silly walking around the classrooms with the big kids sitting there. I had heard stories that the big guys would stick out a leg and try to trip you, but that didn’t happen when I went through. A few years later I remember sitting there watching the little kids walk through my class.
I wrote a novel called “Champions of Redland.” In the beginning of the story a small group of middle school kids are walking home from school on a bright spring day and I describe how happy they were to be walking along in the sunshine after a long cold winter. I wrote that even the houses seemed brighter and more colorful. Those lines came straight from my memory of walking home from Meyers on a bright May afternoon. Everything did seem more colorful, even the line of kids walking up Hanover Street added brightness to the day.
When the weather got warmer we once again began to wander further from home. It was time for fishing trips up to the Ashley Reservoir. We walked up Blackman Street and along route 309, which was the big highway at the time, and down the dirt road to the reservoir. I wasn’t all that big on fishing but I like being in the forest. We would look for snakes on the way and we would find a few garter snakes now and then. The greatest snake event happened right at the reservoir. One of the kids caught a fish and began to pull it out of the water. Attached to the other end of the fish was a water moccasin and it had no intention of letting its lunch be taken from it. We knew that water moccasins were poisonous so the fish was dropped back in the water and the line was cut. The snake easily won that argument.
At the end of May was Memorial Day. Every year we would go down to the river common to watch them blow up the little boat on the river. I guess it was a small simulation of the blowing up of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor. I really don’t remember a lot of the other festivities; maybe I wasn’t paying much attention to them. I do have one memory that may not be real. I remember a small plane actually flew under the Market Street Bridge. Maybe someone can tell me if that is all in my mind.
When I was a kind, May always held the promise of a fun filled summer to come and, in Wilkes-Barre, that promise was always kept.