Treadwell High (THS) Class of 1976 Alumni List

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Class Memories From 1976

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I wrote this story as a memory for myself and to share with others. The memories of the old Treadwell school building described will bring back some memories for you I'm sure. I hope you enjoy my story, thanks for reading.

Misunderstood

Treadwell School was a first grade through twelfth grade school in Memphis Tennessee where I attended second grade in 1966. It was a spacious sprawling red brick building with wide concrete steps at the main entrance. The landing was bordered by two large white columns and red brick walls on both sides supporting a balcony that covered the entrance leading to the huge wooden windowed double doors. The steps were surrounded on both sides by short wide brick walls at the same height as the large landing, where at the end of the school day, we fought to sit side by side facing the street, while we waited for our rides. Of course our upperclassmen, usually juniors or seniors made us move so they could sit there and if it was a sixth or seventh grader that made us move, they were eventually made to move by a junior or senior. There was a large black decretive scroll worked rod iron sign that said Treadwell School and Memphis City Schools just beneath it all in white, just left of the long wide concrete walkway that lead up to the front steps.

I remember the strong mixed smell of pencil shavings, chalk dust, Elmerís glue and fresh mimeograph ink attacking me like a sucker punch in the nose from the immediate whoosh of the opening doors. Even though I knew it was coming, it seemed to be successful in its morning attacks and always left me with an intimidating knot in my stomach for reasons I only discovered later in life. This day was no different than any other day, as I hurried down the wide bustling hallway resisting the intimidating smell that caused my morning dread. The hallway was usually full of banners supporting our Treadwell Eagles along with the various artworks of students hanging just outside each classroom door. Today the hallway was filled with pictures of bunnies, eggs and empty tomb garden scenes that indicated that Easter was close at hand. The sounds of laughter and greetings echoed the hallways as we made our way to our classes.

We were second graders, the 7 year old bottom feeders of the food chain in the big aquarium of Treadwell School and we had to make way for the bigger high school fish heading upstream to the calmer open waters of lockers, free periods and more freedom leading to adulthood. My sister was 12 and not too far up stream from me but seventh grade in our aquarium still put us under the same stricter rules than the high school students. We knew that silence was expected of us from the time we crossed the thresholds of the old large doors with their overhead swing out windows. Our classroom was large with high ceilings and the window over the door was used to circulate air through the classroom while the large door was closed during class. We didnít have air conditioning but there were boiler fed hot water steam radiator heaters against the outside walls for the cold winter days. There was a large blackboard that was actually black, at the front of the class and our desks faced it in perfect order lined up as if they had been precisely measured and placed. On this particular day there was a painterís easel with a chalk drawing of a bunny on the right side of the classroom near the door that will later play a pivotal roll in my story. And of course, there was an American flag at the front of the class that we stood to face to say the pledge of allegiance to every morning after our teacher read a Bible verse and said a morning prayer. 1966 was a very different time than today, this was before the Bible and prayer had been taken out of school and before integration. In 1966 Treadwell School was an all white school and the only way you might be considered slightly different was if you had red hair and then you were given the label ďRedĒ, and back then, some people got sore if you called them ďRedĒ on account of Americanís feelings toward Russia and communism in those days. This was indeed a very different time.

My second grade teacher, whose name I canít for the life of me remember now, was a white haired elderly lady, who I remember always wore her hair up in a bun. She was somewhat thin and short, although she was, of course, taller than us. She always dressed very conservatively in her long skirts and high necked blouses and carried herself as the prim and proper lady that she was. She was strict and stern and expected your best work but she did show a hint of a soft side every once in a while but not often enough for any of us. I was, unfortunately, not the best student in class, nor were a couple of my classmates and we were gifted in bringing out a disturbingly visible frustration in our teacher that made our hearts race with fear and placed a knot in our throats impossible to swallow.

I had a very difficult time with school work and I actually thought that I might be dumb or maybe I was retarded and nobody wanted or had the nerve or heart to let me know it. I actually fantasized in my 7 year old brain, that some doctor or school official was coming to take me out of my class to give me the news. I imagined them standing in front of me in the large hallway with my mother standing just behind him to the left crying and my dad stand to his right looking down shaking his head. I imagined the official in a three piece black suite saying, ďWell Eddie, itís with great sorrow that I have to inform you that you will be riding the short bus to the retarded school on the other side of town where youíll learn how to make paper mashie hats.Ē For a 7 year old little boy with attention deficit disorder, growing up before ADD and ADHD was discovered to be legitimate learning disabilities, this scenario made perfect sense to me.

This particular day went on as usual with all the normal morning events, minus the dreaded official in the black suit, and as usual I couldnít wait for lunch time to get here. I donít think it was so much that I was starving, for a 7 year old boy that goes without saying, but it was more like letting a wild horse free from a bridle to run, we could talk and laugh in the cafeteria. The cafeteria was a separate building just off one side of the main school, down one set of steps across a short sidewalk and up the steps into the cafeteria. The smell of Hamburgers, Spaghetti or Sloppy Joes always caused my mouth to water and the smell would hit us before we got to the end of the schoolís hallway. Most of the time I only had enough money for chocolate milk and maybe a desert since my mom always sent me to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sometimes sheíd send a snack with it. Of course in my mind nothing beat a PB&J made by mom, the best sandwich maker ever. After lunch we got to go outside for recess if the weather was nice so after I finished eating, Iíd fold my small brown paper bag up and stick it in my pocket and I was ready to go, like a wild horse chomping at the bit.

When we were allowed to play outside for recess, we did the usual things that second graders did. We ran playing tag, swung on the swing set, hit the slide and tried to stay away from girls so we wouldnít catch coodies, you didnít want to be accused by your friends for getting coodies when youíre 7. We tried to burn off most of the steam weíd been storing up since we first walked into class from earlier that morning. I dreaded the sound of the hand bell our teacher would ring to let us know our time was up, I hated having to put on the disguise of proper behavior and silence and being trapped in my own skin, but I knew it would be time to go home before too long. What I didnít know was that I was about to experience an event in my life that nearly 44 years later still affects me today.

We had all come in from our recess and settled in our seats, setting straight, facing forward and waiting for instructions from our teacher, when she asked a confusing yet inviting question. What I thought I heard was an invitation to help her by doing something with the chalk drawing of the bunny in front of the class that rested on the painterís easel. The confusing part to me was that I didnít quite catch everything that she said but it was said in a sweet inviting tone that I took as a good thing and I was eager to help so I could get out of my seat. I was somewhat surprised that I was the only one who raised my hand to volunteer to help. The teacher called me to come to the front of the class which I happily did thinking I was going to get to do something fun. When I reached the teacher in front of the class, she grabbed my arms with both hand just below my shoulders and proceeded to violently shake me as if she was trying to shake the life out of me. I was immediately terrified and shocked to the point that I was afraid to breath or I just couldnít breath, I donít know which. She began to scold me and berate me as she shook me for putting my dirty, grimy little fingers all over her chalk drawing and ruining her beautiful picture. I donít even remember walking back to my desk; I must have still been in shock. I do remember sitting at my desk as an overpowering flood of emotions dropped my heart to my knees. I was broken inside and couldnít or didnít understand how to repair what had just happened to me. I laid my head on my desk and sobbed, trying not to let anyone know that I was crying. There are no words in written language to describe how I felt as a 7 year old little boy that day after being abusively punished for something I didnít do and not knowing that I had apparently just admitted to doing something that I didnít do. I never said another word about this incident and I never told my parents what happened. I carried this memory in silence up until I became an adult and to this day I still can not talk about it without getting a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes.

I couldnít help but wondered what the child who actually did what I was punished for had to be thinking or how he or she must have felt as they witnessed me being punished for what they did. I really wanted my teacher and my classmates to know I didnít do anything wrong but I didnít know what to do or say to fix what had happened. Somehow in my mind, I thought the situation was so damaged that it would be impossible to be fixed, the best thing I could do was to do and say nothing. As bad as it affected me, I couldnít bear to think what the teacher would do to the actual child I was punished for. If she were to find out that they watched me being punished for something they did and they didnít own up to it, I couldnít imagine what she would do to them. I never placed blame or anger towards the person that actually did what I was punished for and though the teacherís punishment was severely inappropriate, I have forgiven her, not forgotten it, but forgiven her. I have to believe that had she known that I was innocent, she would not have punished me, but it still doesnít change how the 7 year old little boy inside of me was affected by this incident so long ago.
Teachers Posted: 05/11/2011

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