I discovered the wonderful month of June when I was 7 years old. We finished cutting out George and Abe’s heads in Miss Carolyn Blades’ first grade class in the middle of February. That was OK. But March must not have been a good month for presidents. We just did arithmetic and reading, and every Friday we lined up for those gosh-awful spelling contests. May was no better and it began to get insufferably hot in that small class room.
“When does this thing end?”
“June,” Anne Alexander knew everything. “Well, we will actually get out for the summer the last week of May but June will be the first whole month we get off."
“Junnnneeee,” I rolled it over my tongue. It sounded good.
And let me tell you, it got to sounding better and better as March crawled forward. I swear, time just stopped near ’bout all together in early May. One day after lunch Miss Carolyn let me and Ricky Hale take all the erasers out by the incinerator and dust them off and Mary E. Pendleton fell on the monkey bars and knocked out two teeth…and that was about all that is worth recounting from the second half of my first school year.
Miss Carolyn was passing out little gifts (flashlights to the boys, some type of small diary for the girls) to everyone who had perfect attendance and hugging us repeatedly and commending us for “the first of many great school years we would complete.” I was just waiting for that bell to ring. I could smell freedom. I had places to go. And things to do.
The elementary school in McKenzie, Tenn. in 1954 didn’t have bars on the windows and I don’t believe they ever locked the place. But you were incarcerated just the same. I ran non-stop that first week in June. Bobby Brewer and I chased lightning bugs and spit at cracks in the sidewalk. Terry Kennon and Joe Gooch would come up to the house and we’d play hide and go seek until almost 9 o’clock! We fought the dastardly Butch Cavendish gang along the railroad tracks beside the City Café. We cut a large vine off at the ground and swung across the big ditch. We’d go down by Roe Alexander’s swimming pool and listen to Bill Haley and the Comets blasting out this new “rock and roll” music from those big speakers underneath the top diving board. And we played endless hours of baseball in the field behind our house and in Terry Brown’s cow pasture and in the vacant lot between Ricky Hale and Jimmy Mabry’s house, over at Bethel College and in Paul David Campbell’s backyard and at the ball field down by the Pajama Factory……
Nobody taught baseball back then; you played yourself into the game.
It was the greatest June ever recorded!
As soon as the Fourth of July ended the cloud of August loomed large on the horizon. School was calling us back. It would put you in such a state of depression it's a wonder any of us survived. How could you enjoy sliding into second when as you stood to dust yourself off you remembered your time was short? We were experiencing the great highs and lows of life!
The teachers changed, we moved to cursive writing and world geography, but the confinement was just as arduous. If it hadn’t been for clay modeling, recess and lunch, I wouldn’t have made it. And as soon as school reconvened after the Christmas break I started looking for June.
By the fourth grade we’d make March and May tolerable by listing the things we were going to do come June. Anticipation is a great partner. The “school’s out” parties started in junior high. And I went to work for Roe down at the Twin Pools. It was the happening place. All the girls worked on their tans. The guys came to watch the girls work on their tans. Of course, I was too young to lifeguard. I’d pick up paper and sell candy out of the little store. But I got to swim free and they paid me 25 cents an hour. And the Coasters, Platters, Jerry Lee and the Kingston Trio were blasting out hit after hit from those big loud speakers. You talk about the good life!
High school and June went together like Lucy and Ethel. Frank’s Dairy Bar out on Highway 79 came alive in the summer. We’d cool the time away over cherry sodas as our laughter, tears, hopes, dreams, loves, mistakes and innocence floated into the night. You can’t get more alive than that!
I don’t go to school anymore. The months seem to come and go a heap faster than they used to. But come first of June, I stop and smell that wonderful air. I remember how fresh life can be. I’m reminded there is a dawn after the darkness. I still get that special feeling of freedom that only June can bring. Life is good.