DEARIE…DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN?
First in a Series by Dave Bailey
There were four public schools and one parochial within the city limits of Penns Grove. In fact, Harmony Street School still had
outdoor lavatories in the late ‘40s. (Boys on one side, girls on the other.) Let’s see…there was West Harmony, Harmony, Broad
Street and Barber Avenue. It’s still hard to believe there was a time when Blacks and Whites did not attend the same school until High
School. St. James educated all of the parochial school kids.
Remember the school playgrounds were covered in cinders? Really made it tough for falling or sliding into second. (I still have a
piece in my elbow.) Chain link fencing kept all the kids from escaping and also provided a challenge to hit a home run over at Broad
Street. It was also a sign of growth when you could finally climb over a fence either coming to school or going home.
Teachers were tougher in those days. I still quake when thinking of names like Simkins, Hewitt, Hall, Coleman, Weinwright, or
Strimple. They all ran a tight ship. And, I get real melancholy remembering Jones, Stewart, Smith, Hazzuda, Marley, and others who
were more lenient.
Fruit rolls were a big deal. We kids would bring back fruit at lunchtime and on a given command roll the fruit toward the teacher’s
desk. (It was never to be thrown at the teacher.)
Remember the janitors? It seemed they always smoked a pipe and worked long days. Coal was still used and janitors would arrive
early to fire up the heaters, and then a great part of the day was spent keeping the fires going. I always envied them putting up the
flag and taking it in at night. What a great perk! Sweeping the floors and emptying the trash was not as exciting.
Why was clapping the erasers exciting? Using a wet sponge to clean off the blackboard? Emptying the pencil sharpener? Sharpening
pencils? Playing eraser tag on days you couldn’t go out for recess. Or who will ever forget Huckle – Buckle Beanstalk? You’re getting
cold, warm, hot!! Bringing money to buy chocolate milk? We supported the war effort by selling savings stamps and war bonds. The
top salesman one year got to ride in a jeep!
I remember Maple Avenue School being built. My class in Latin with Miss Cooper provided an excellent spot to view construction and
forget about Latin’s “Veni, Vini, Vici.” It was even my pleasant task to help move furniture from Harmony Street and Broad Street
schools to the new educational mecca in the summer of 1951. Maple Avenue’s opening led to the demise of all those old schools.
(Three still stand, two have been torn down.) But every time I drive through Penns Grove, I remember those “school days, school
days, dear old golden rule days.” Can you?
From Hometown News June 1996