By Joe Rector
Over the weekend, my nephew and his wife came to the house to spend some time and catch up. Steve is 65, and yes, it’s more than a bit unusual to have a nephew just a few years younger than I am. I looked through the old pictures that my parents had to find any that included his mother. During the search I found a large envelope and opened it to discover school pictures of my brothers and me. Most years’ pictures sparked memories of that time.
My first-grade picture shows me without front teeth. In those years, folks used to call me “buck-toothed. Kids laughed at me, and several names were coined. One was “Bucky Beaver.” Friends and others said I looked like a beaver with my teeth sticking out and claimed I’d be the perfect mascot when I went to Karns High School, known as the “Beavers.” Some called me bottle opener as they pretended to put the lid of a coke bottle toward my face.
Memories of tragedies rushed back as I viewed my sixth-grade picture. That year, a large portion of Ball Camp Elementary School burned. Two sixth grade classes and a fifth grade spent the year in a building across the road from the school. Walls were slapped up to separate the building into three rooms. Noise from one room would travel through those paper-thin walls; the heat sometimes failed to knock off the chill; and two “one-seater” restrooms, one for boys and one for girls, sometimes caused problems. As it turned out, that year was one of the best all of us had.
That same year, President Kennedy was assassinated. Mr. Fowler, our teacher, assigned us the project of writing a paper about the event and of making a scrapbook of newspaper stories and pictures. To this day, that dreadful day is crystal clear in my memory.
The eighth-grade photo captured a plump boy with a mouth filled with wires and rubber bands and hair that was too long to be a flat top and too short to be parted, what I’d call “wooly headed.” By the way, my parents went into debt to make sure I had braces to fix my teeth. That made smiling photos even more special.
That was the year that our class was “the big dog” at Ball Camp. We were back in a school that had been rebuilt. We boys played basketball games in a gym with a miniature parquet flooring. That year the Bulldogs had a competitive team and won most of our games.
Just a year later, freshman photos showed young, scared teens who were constantly on the lookout for upperclassmen. We all dreaded pushing a penny with our nosed down the hallway or being thrown in Beaver Creek, located just behind the school. Most of us boys knew to keep low profiles, but others weren’t bright enough, and they suffered the consequences. I saw boys pounded by seniors because they acted silly or tried to show how tough they were.
That last high school year photo was so different. We boys wore tux coats and bow ties; girls wore drapes. Most of us had serious looks on our faces. Why shouldn’t we? This was the year that we were finishing public education. Some of us would join the work force; others would be drafted or would join the military; a few of us would attend college. Maybe our serious looks were because the decisions to come were so serious, or maybe it was because most of us we were simply scared to death.
Those old pictures brought back plenty of memories, both good and bad. I have no desire to live through them again. The photos also made me feel old. It’s been a good life, and I hope the chances to have many more pictures made are in the cards. It’s always nice to recall the lives we’ve lived through the years, but best of all is having loved ones with us now that help make newer memories.