Cedar City High School Class of 1960 Blog

Cedar City (1948 – 1960)

Memories of the West Educational Mecca

By Roger Halterman

There were many unique and memorable things about the public schools in Cedar City. The pathway from K to 12 was like a Monopoly Board more or less if the playground, parking lot and football/track field were thrown in. When you were tiny, there was Miss Wanda’s preschool a half a block south of the real game board. Maybe that was where you got the board piece that would allow you to move thru the game. Remember her small blue school house across the street   from the BAC college presidents home (for years, I thought the Easter Bunny lived in that big brown house in the woods because it looked like it was made out of chocolate and there were Easter hunts out on the lawn). Successful completion of Miss Wanda’s course work, like everything I needed to make it in life [TRUTH], lead to the monolithic building (the START Square) that housed the library, auditorium and K+1 grades.

Next move was south to the main elementary building, another large two-story thing with a lot of windows and a very large front door. Next around the board and farther south was the Jr. High and then west to the Cedar High School. Collect $200, as you rounded this finish line, NOT. You got a ticket to walk thru the “C” on graduation day, maybe night.

There was a side arm to the east for those enrolled in the LDS Seminary system.  The social, political and religious stuff will surface in another chat room by subscription only. You always knew where you had been and where you were going in this game if you got your ticket punched each roll of the school year. That was pretty comforting and, as a backup in case you forgot, you had those black and white 4×6 class pictures taken on the school steps with the teacher as a reference. If you were absent the day of the photo, you could be in trouble.

There was a large irrigation type ditch that ran north, down 3rd West Street, all the way to the Lund Highway. You could race Popsicle sticks as boats all the way to Nellie Rae Whatcott’s house.

Cedar City in general had a moderate tilt to the north and the water would run downhill very fast. It was problematic who was racing what, the boats or the racers trying to keep up. The rock and cement ditch was covered with moss and slim and was very slippery to the novice racer. Hard A to explain wet shoes and pants to a teacher or mother. The other draw to the Whatcott home, other than the girls, was getting invited to watch the Mickey Mouse Club on canned TV (some material for another story later). For now just a question, why did Robert Browning have his own private chair in front of the TV?

Nurse Ford would come to each classroom, dressed in a starched white uniform always with the nurse’s cap and Red Cross shoes, to lay a small brown pill of iodine on your desk. No little white paper cup but right out of the bottle. Mine always got in that groove at the top of the desk (for the pencil) and it was a battle s to get it out. The taste was not bad, chocolate by most opinions. Why did we take the iodine?

Nurse Ford also organized and directed that immunization clinic, read horror show either in the gym or in the auditorium each fall. Notes were sent home with the condemned for the parents to choose what shots you would get (yes, multiple shots and yearly boosters). The list was way too long. Some of the vaccines were real painful in their own right aside from the needle stick. I think the worst were the typhoid fever and the Rocky Mountain spotted fever (this one would make you really sick for days but I guess it worked, never did hear of a case in 18 years). In those days of low-tech medicine, old steel (reusable needles) fresh out of the alcohol bath were twisted on old ground glass syringes right in front of your eyes. Those needles must have been two inches or longer. I don’t think those needles were sharpened more than once a year. God only knows how many arms or butts those needles had violated and that was the batch given to Iron County by the US Army after Veterans Day in 1945. In addition to the visual there was the smell. By the time you made it to the actual station for the shot, you had been in line with the brave, the admitted cowards, the hysterical and those that you just knew would pass out.

When the auditorium was used, the walk up the ramps was endless and then the lines formed down to the stage and the waves of alcohol in the air was powerful but a good belt down the hatch would have been better. Old tumbling mats were on the stage to rest those fallen souls who fainted to the needle. The following day, you had to protect that sore arm from that jerk that would sneak up and give you a hickey right on the sweet meat. The pain was large and the recourse miserable. Remember the joy when the Polio immunization was some red solution on a sugar cube. [A post script to the typhoid immunizations; years later the methods effectiveness was tested in a prison population and the data demonstrated it just didn’t work i.e. the immunity was easily over powered with low levels of food borne bacteria. Today, antibiotics are used to treat the disease. Sorry for all the anxiety and pain, but think of it as clinical research.] Now days some children don’t get immunized on religious objection grounds, go figure.

School lunch was fun for us townies, as opposed to students ridding the bus (may have been fun for them also but there were no options and that always seemed to take away the fun part). Sometimes you would walk home for soup and a sandwich and sometimes you could join friends in the basement lunch line.

As a pilgrim, first timer to the school lunches you felt out of step. After you got the hang of it there was no problem. You could even eat on credit if you pleaded your case the right way. I always thought my mother was in conflict over this issue. At any rate, it was an episodic thing at first, but then I think the price was right. If you paid for all five days on Monday, you got one day free. I usually paid the premium fee a day at a time. I think it was $0.25 a meal bought one at a time. Maybe I couldn’t be trusted with a whole dollar.

How long did those steel trays last? They must have been army surplus, saw time in WWII and then years in the lunchroom. The places for the food were of various sizes and shapes. A sweating lady with a hair net (usually someone’s mother) would fill each spot with the daily offerings and in the end; you got a small glass bottle of whole milk, thick cream under the cap (who knew what cholesterol was in those days).

By mid morning, the smells would rise up through the building and you knew what the menu was for that day. Looking back, I think those meals were the best bargains of my life, not best tasting just good prices. The sheet cake and corn bread were actually pretty good come to think of it. The meat loaf was marginal but there was plenty of ketchup. Once in awhile, you got an ice-cream sandwich or really, great peanut butter cookies. No pizza or hamburgers to order then.

Christmas brought a very large pine tree to the center of the lower hallway at the front doors in the elementary building. We all got to contribute to the decorations. I liked making those long chains with colored paper and great smelling glue. Large multicolored lights were used, none of these monochromatic tiny, made in China lights. Each morning the entire student body would gather around the tree and sing Christmas Carols.  I don’t remember who played the piano. There was no attention to multicultural concerns since I do think the town was 100% Christian and virtually all Mormon (I think that is technically the same thing).

Never saw Santa Clause in the flesh, maybe once or twice at a church party. In general, Santa was a true mystery, not like today. I looked in the Sears catalog for possible gifts Santa might bring or maybe Hunter Hardware (remember how that store smelled and how the floors creaked and cracked as you walked). Mothers would often send a batch of Christmas goodies, cookies usually to share.

Valentines was fun too, although very stressful. You had to make a box with a slot in the top for cards given to you (hopefully). Usually an old shoebox made a good choice and it always held all the cards I got in any given year. Maybe all the cards I got in my whole life. The cards were either home-made or store bought. The stress came from the fear of not getting the card from the right person or persons if you were a real egomaniac. If you were just inherently popular, you had no problem. This was before we knew what a gay person was so boys gave to other boys and girls and girls. However, there were in retrospect (read years later before we figured it out) some bona fide strange ranger P. E. teachers prowling the girls locker room during the monopoly game. Am I wrong here or what. Hal Norton however, was most assuredly straight with a large capital P (more on this avenue later, maybe at Park Place).

The teacher always got the expensive Hallmark card just to take care of business and cover your bases. I had Bruce Decker in 5th grade.  I don’ think a Hallmark bought any credit there (maybe later when one wanted to play basketball. I had the tag team of mean principal and kind librarian in 6th grade at the East Elementary. Sucking up in this case did work but you had to keep the genders right when schmoozing.

There was grass in front of the school and rocks in the rear at the West. The front was for football, no soccer in those days. There was a white porcelain water fountain in the front walkway with continually running water. Trick was to put your finger over the pipe and spray someone. I think the dentist made some money from that fountain. There were several large pieces of play equipment in the gravel, a monkey bar, something that twirled around (either threw you off or made you vomit), a very large slide with a metal surface that was either hot as hell or ice cold and the jungle gym. Any one of these large pipe contraptions was good for a broken bone. No plush pine bark chips as a cushion in those days.

We were real tough kids and nobody knew about suing for such libelous unsafe practices.

The baby on-board signs and “children first” stuff came much, much later. There seemed to be no throwing of the rocks, maybe I was just naive. There was a trench around the thing that twirled and it would fill with water and freeze in the winter making the game a challenge not to fall in or just get your feet wet. Either way, poor show if you went in the classroom wet. In those days of no modern fabrics, usually wool in the winter, one usually smelled like a wet dog the rest of the day.

Someone got to ring the bell at the end of recess, usually the teacher’s pet.  I never saw the pride in that but I did have a hard time lifting that large brass clanger and running around the playground for 5 min. That’s why I was never the teacher’s pet to my way of thinking.

Sometimes there were primitive radiation monitors in the windows looking to the West. These windows would at times shake from a sonic boom as fighter jets from Nellis AFB flew high in the western sky and broke the sound barrier.  Sometimes these jets did not fly high enough and the windows cracked.

Remember the Civil Defense watch tower on south Main Street? Good citizens would man that tower with field glasses and watch the skies for plans. Cedar City was no doubt a high priority target in a very venerable location. Out those same school windows you could see the flash of an atomic bomb early in the morning followed by the rumble. Sometimes there would follow, a large pink cloud drifting to the east, long tail of radioactive dust following. We, the children of the cold war, had a front row seat on America’s deterrent weapons.

The Federal Government told Town folk that the clouds were “no problem” but keep the children under roof when the dust showered down. If you are alive today and are cancer free, you are one of the lucky. Personally, I think the hardy gene pool, health life style s and diversity of the Utah population protected many. If this exposure occurred in other locals, there would have been a much higher cancer rate, like Japan.

Graduation to Jr. High was easy, walked out the south door several feet to the north door to the next three grades. The special thing there among other things was the school store and you got to move from class to class during the day. One could buy really outrageous popcorn and other things. Mr. Stucki, the short guy with the big paddle, taught practical business math in that store.

Physical education was at a new level. You had to wear gym clothes and shower afterwards. Oh, and you got a locker to keep stuff in (your books at night if you were not disposed to study at home). Gym cloths left to long in the locker or left over the weekend made really good smells. I actually developed a taste for really good French cheese by smelling those gym cloths, either mine or someone else’s. Good for allergic problems after a time.

When 5th grade came along, there was a new elementary school in town. The new school was on the East Side of Main Street. A line had to be drawn dividing grades kindergarten through sixth grades into east and west. It was really sad for some because friendships were split up. It didn’t change what LDS ward you went to but the next two years in different schools created segregation if you will and the traditional, very important townies were pretty much on the West Side. The East Side took in Dog Town and the whole Bullock clan on or near the Red hill. That would be difficult for any group to overcome even if the East Side were spotted a Gardner family and a couple of Jones or Lunts.  It never happened, so those of us demoted to the East Elementary languished until 7th grade when we again gained entrance to the 3rd West enclave of superior education. It was like going to JAIL and having to draw to get a pass, a GET OUT OF JAIL CARD. We were back on board then with the next move to west of the Jr. High building and eventually to the Cedar High School.

I always thanked God that my college applications did not go back as far as elementary school because I knew if it came down to me and a hard core 100% west side graduate, I would lose every time, not on the merits but… Just kidding. I do think we all got the same Weekly Reader which was the meat of the whole process. The real test would have been to have teams from each school compete on the athletic field. That was the bottom-line litmus test of excellence.

I wonder how the students were divided up among the teachers. Anyone know how that happened? If your older sister or brother had Mrs. Smith, what were the chances? Maybe they just put the names is a hat or something like, one from column A, one from column B etc. I also wondered fifth grade teachers from different grades talked and gave the next grade up teacher a heads up about, well you know who.

After the “Public Swimming Pool” closed for the season (Red Osborn territory) the gym classes would get a ride in a bus to the city park and swim for the PE period. It must have been really hard to draw the first hour slot in the morning and break the ice. I think I really lucked out and always got the afternoon period, a touch of class to swim mid-school day and the concrete was warm. Was that a coed swim? I don’ remember. I do remember the chlorine was strong enough in the pool water to bleach your hair, your suit and take the summer tan away. The smell was outrageous.  It hung around on your body the rest of the day. I do believe the swim was free.

The same swimming pool in the good old summer time will be the topic of another chapter likewise, the city park on the fourth and twenty-fourth of July. I can taste those pronto pups even now (now known as corn dogs) I maybe it is just residual heartburn or reflux (pass the Prilosec). One last thing about Wallace “Red” Osborn, do you remember that God-awful whistle he would blow.  It made your blood run cold. I always wanted his job in the fall and the spring, when he would lay there on the grass hour after hour watching us play flag foot ball or whatever. Nice guy with really chapped lips. He must have gotten a lot of skin cancers later, anybody know?

Mr. Beatty and his wife cleaned the buildings after school. They were very kind people and good friends. One of my elementary teachers was pregnant and left school mid cycle, school year that is. That was interesting to an 8 year old boy. I was in conflict about a younger sibling, being the baby of my family I wondered how that would be and how that would happen. Watching the grief some of my friends had with younger brothers and especially sister’s l think the jury came back and said, “Keep the status quo”. You got it pretty good as things are.

The dances in the Jr. High gym were practice laps for more serious courts hip racing later. If you helped decorate the widows, you got some serious practice with the use of toilet paper, single ply or double ply soft quilted? It always smelled like a gym. Some really large auto fresheners hanging from the lights might have helped, probably a reach. The balcony around the gym was a nice touch.

At the East, Halloween night, there was a spook alley in the basement. It was really dark, you couldn’t see a thing, hazards on the floor like bed springs, old tires and silk stocking brushing in your face etc. You actually paid money to run this gauntlet? After that, back out on the streets with pillowcase in hand for the candy. Mean little kids waxed windows, nice little kids used soap. If you were old enough, you got to go to the midnight horror show at the Cedar Theater.

Is this a good time to bring up kicking the wall at that small market on Center Street, just east of the seminary building? Was that Dee’s Market? Well anyway, some kids would kick the east wall hard enough to knock the stuff off the shelves. It’s true. Me, I never did but I know some who did.

Rex Spackman I think was his name. Rex was as seminary teacher. His children were too numerous to count and I think they ran out of names. He had a lesson in morality demonstrated this way: he would take a candy bar out of his desk, usually a Baby Ruth, still in the wrapper. The bar was given to the student in the first desk and instructed to pass it along from student to student until the entire class had thoroughly pawed the bar. Arriving back to Rex, he would take a fresh new candy bar out of the drawer and hold each, side by side, up for the class to see. The question was then asked, only of the boys, thinking of the two candy bars as young ladies, which would you choose? I am sure that after four years of seminary, there were many important and worthy lessons to carry through life, but this is the one that comes to my mind first, second, third.

Outside the state of Utah, seminary is not nearly so convenient and there is no credit.  Just a footnote FYI.

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