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FRESH FROM THE INKWELL

Crabby's Classroom, Fag Cards, and the Lollipop Man

Surfing the Net one night, I came upon an article about a Victorian building in my hometown in England, scheduled for demolition. The high windows and natural stone in the photo triggered a memory of boys from Crabby Jones's class crouching in short grey trousers on the asphalt below and flicking "fag" cards. Without any other connotation in 1950s England, this was their term for collector cards issued by certain cigarette brands. The boys never shared their game, or marbles, or football with us girls. Around the corner in a separate playground, we had other amusements: cartwheels, trading beads, knitting with bobbins, French skipping with elastic bands around our ankles, and variations of tag.

This was Sandown C.E. Junior School, renamed the Broadway Centre, where I attended from ages 7 to 11, the equivalent of US grades 2-5. A nearby building housed the Infants, ages 5 and 6. Beyond the green gate, our "lollipop man" - so called for the shape of his official sign - escorted us across one of the town's main arteries, The Broadway, before and after school and at lunchtime. (Like most pupils, my sister and I walked about a quarter of a mile each way; very few arrived by car.) I'd remembered his name as Mr. Hunnicutt. Then I found an entry about him, complete with yellow-uniformed portrait, in an old exercise book. (See column on left.) It was Mr. Hunnywood.

I could fill a book with my Island childhood. I vowed to do just that as I jumped the waves in Sandown Bay at the age of 10. Birthday parties, carnivals, fetes, even shoplifting, already appear in my published works (ARROWHEAD'S LOST HOARD, HOMEWARD TRACKS, TAPESTRY OF TIME, AREOPAGUS MAGAZINE, FRISCO POETS ANTHOLOGY). Like Laura Ingalls Wilder, I write to keep alive the people and places I love. Writing pins down fleeting impressions of tactile experiences for family, myself, and perhaps a wider audience.

Fortunately, the decision about demolition of our old school has been deferred. But even if it goes ahead, no one can steal our memories - as I told my first "bosom buddy" Susan in a recent e-mail. Certain details are imprinted in our minds like indelible ink, though they may be different for each of us.

I like to think we could re-enter that building and hear the echoes of morning hymns, of multiplication tables and folk songs, of a teacher reading to us from Kipling and Twain. The two schools, along with Christ Church up the hill, where we performed our nativity plays and carol services, should all be preserved together. To me they are holy ground. Read More 

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JANUS AT THE CROSSROADS

As a 2nd/3rd grade teacher, on the first day back at school each January, I would borrow bells of all sizes from the music teacher and let my class ring in the New Year. Later when I taught art, I had 5th graders paste the double face of Janus (Roman god of gates and doorways) in the top center of the paper, looking forward and back. They would draw a memory (good or bad) from the old year on the left, and one thing that might happen in the New Year on the right.

Since retiring, I’ve had the luxury of time in which to reflect on my life and write more chapters of a memoir, BUGSY, SLUG, THE BEATLES AND ME. Last year my old my high school class in England held a reunion that I couldn’t attend. Instead, I sent this prose poem listing memories from 1st Form thru 6th Form (the equivalent of grades 6-12 in the US) at Sandown Grammar School:



NOSTALGIC ACROSTIC ©Hazel Spire
S triped summer dresses and swimming at the Blue Lagoon.
A rt teacher Mr. Binch’s encouragement: “That’s interesting!”
N eville Anderson’s solo “O Valiant Hearts” in the Little Hall.
D ancing the foxtrot, Virginia Reel and Strip the Willow in the gym.
O ut on the field in all weathers – jolly hockey sticks!
W illie Wiseman our heart throb, along with Adam Faith and Elvis.
N etball practice for Sandham house, Grassy towering over the net.

G erman with Hinny and Helmut; my penfriend Gerlinde.
R omantic poets with ‘Lit’ English. Did she have a first name?
A nthems I still remember from the choir in Assembly.
M r. Fennelly (Flan) scrabbling in the dirt at an archaeological dig.
M usic with Pastry, including a song he wrote for Speech Day.
A lgebraic and chemical formulae, unused, long forgotten.
R ailway crossing on a blue Raleigh bike, my 13th birthday present.

S ewing a yellow gingham apron with Buster Rogers.
C od Cooper’s bulging briefcase; Bert Ayling’s red cushion.
H at that I dared not remove because I lived opposite Miss Tovey.
O ld Owens (Taffy) tapping his ring on the radiator; and the
O M skipping in plimsolls at the Inkies’ Christmas Party.
L atin declension, conjugation and Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

Our Prairie Writers homework this month is A NEW BEGINNING, for which I wrote a similar piece, but looking to the future:

OPTIMISTIC ACROSTIC ©Hazel Spire
A nticipate everyday miracles.

N o recriminations over last year’s failures.
E very nook and cranny of the office filed and dusted.
W riter’s Market on hand with homes for manuscripts.

B ooks to finish, books to publish, books to read.
E xpand my speaking/teaching platform.
G oals to be set, goals to be met, but with grace periods.
I magine myself a morning person, fit and trim.
N ever neglect the arts—painting, piano, poetry.
N ational Gallery visits, via calendar and in person.
I sle of Wight in May for a high school reunion?
N ephew’s gift, a journal to record my journey.
G ear up for 2013. This could be the best year yet! Read More 
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