I began 4th grade in a new school, Southampton Elementary. My teacher was Mrs. Ringer. I don’t think she liked me. I’m not sure I thought about it at the time but looking back, Southampton Elementary was in a more affluent neighborhood than my previous school. Perhaps I didn’t seem as smart as the other kids or perhaps Mrs. Ringer was tired of teaching and didn’t like any of her students. I have report cards from every grade except 4th – so I can’t look back and see what her comments or my grades reveal. It didn’t matter – I still loved school.
When I started fourth grade, my family’s financial situation had improved because my father inherited some money when his uncle and his great aunt both died in the same year (1963). (I was not aware of this at the time but my family history research and my grandfather’s letters confirm it.) My mother quit her job and my parents joined Meadowbrook Country Club where I took swim lessons from golf pro Lannie Watkins’ mother (so my mother tells me). I do remember the swimming pool at Meadowbrook Country Club – especially the high diving board and how long it took me to get up the courage to jump off of it.
I enjoyed being able to come after school and play with kids in the neighborhood. Jill and Betsy Ford lived two houses away and we walked to and from the bus stop together every day. I never had a lot of friends and I usually preferred to spend time by myself. I don’t remember being lonely until middle school. I read A LOT and I explored the woods behind our house, swinging on vines with a running start and lifting my feet while clinging to the vine as it swayed back and forth over the drop-off, then jumping off (at the top of the hill most of the time) when it began to lose momentum.
I loved to go to the library (Westover Hills Branch) and lots of evenings my father would drop me off after dinner and pick me up when it closed at nine. Sometimes I did my homework there but mostly I remember walking up and down the aisles looking at all the different types of books. The Dewey Decimal system fascinated me (still does). I read most of the Nancy Drew mysteries but my favorite series was the Trixie Belden mysteries by Julie Campbell. This was before the Young Adult genre had a name, but that is clearly what it was – day-to-day accounts of two girls (Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler) and a boy, Jim Frayne, in their early teens solving mysteries, but with just a hint of romance/flirtation thrown in.
From my grandfather’s account of his visits to Richmond in 1966 – once in late April and again for my birthday in October it seems that life was pretty good. We spent a lot of time doing things outdoors – visiting our 5-acre property in Powhatan County that my parents bought with the idea of building a house there some day; canoeing and fishing on the Chickahominy River and having back-yard cookouts with all of my cousins, aunts and uncles. Other than bowling two nights a week, Friday night card games were my parents’ main form of entertainment. Everyone would gather at Nana’s house and it always sounded like so much fun. The kids were only allowed to play with them on special occasions, usually on a big holiday like Memorial Day or July 4th.
The year I turned 11 – 1966, my mother arranged a surprise birthday party with a bunch of my friends. I was excited because I got to bring friends home from bowling with me on Saturday but my mother insisted that I go downstairs and feed the guinea pigs before I could play. I remember being irritated that she made me do that.
Here I am running downstairs in a big hurry to get my chores over with so I could go play with my friends . . .
and here I am when everyone yelled “SURPRISE!” (and I was!)
The adjective for my 11th year is – bookworm (oops – I guess that’s really a descriptive noun but you get the idea!)