Memories of my childhood and Dean Church and School

Things have changed so much in the last 40 or 50 years. I remember that my first two years of schooling were spent in a small country school that doubled as a church. That little school only had one room and one teacher, but there were 8 grades. After the eighth grade was completed the kids had to go to the city high school to finish their education. The school did have a basement and once when the upper part was being remodeled we finished the school term in the basement.

The name of that school was Dean and I don't know when it was built, but it seems to remain, unchanged as the years roll by. It is built from rock with a flat roof. It is more than one story tall because the basement is only halfway under the ground. In my imagination it looked a lot like a small castle sitting beside the road.

Things were more personal in the little school because we all knew each other and were neighbors. The teacher was super strict! If he caught you whispering or even borrowing a pencil or paper from a fellow student while classes were being held it was an automatic whipping. Funny how none of us were scarred for life by the strictness and discipline we had to endure, both in school and at home. Now it seems that if a kid gets disciplined they never get over it and usually become serial killers or drug dealers in later life. In the meantime their parents go to prison for having the audacity to try to make their kids behave. Kids are like adults now in that they are no longer responsible for their actions. Every bad trait is simply because they were mistreated in some way in the past, perhaps by their sadistic parents punishing them for wrongdoings. When I was a kid if we did the deed we paid the price. We knew what the price was so we avoided doing the deed. It seemed to work pretty well then but I guess its much too simple now in our modern age.

The teacher in the little school I attended was similar to the school/church in that he was a teacher/preacher. He had a 30 minute worship program on the local radio station every Sunday morning. That was my first introduction to playing for many potential listeners. My family and I played music occasionally on that radio program, and also in church every Sunday.

Even though the teacher was so strict in school, when recess came he would often go outside and play games with us kids. He could hit a baseball right out of sight. Funny because he didn't look athletic at all. He had only a tiny fringe of hair around the sides and back, and no teeth at all. I never knew why such a learned man had no teeth. I guess he probably had some falsies but chose not to wear them. If I had ever seen him with teeth I probably wouldn't have known him. Once he was outside playing baseball with the kids and he was pitching. He told my sister to hit the ball hard and she did; she smacked the ball and the ball smacked the teacher right in the mouth. Perhaps that is why he didn't wear his teeth. Perhaps that is why he didn't have any teeth.

The little school was heated by a small  wood burning stove; It seemed normal at the time. There was a large bell outside that the teacher could ring by hand to call us in from recess and a small bell inside that he could ring to set us free. Outside there were huge stacks of wood that we promptly rearranged to create hallways and forts to play in. Many interesting games were played and invented inside those firewood walls. There was an old lady that had a small tiny old house right at the end of our school playground and sometimes when my parents were late to pick me up after school I would stay at her house. One day I spied her eyeglasses laying on a table and for some reason my young mind told me that I just had to own those glasses. Well I am somewhat ashamed of what I did then. To make a long story short, I stole those glasses and hid them in the big school woodpile. I left them there for a few days and by then word had gotten out about Grandma Whiteley's glasses being missing. After school one day I was outside, by myself I thought, waiting for my parents and I knew it was time to get rid of the incrimminating evidence of what I had done. I went to that woodpile, got the glasses, and threw them right down into the highway. It doesn't make sense now but at the time I was panicked and just wanting to be rid of them. Unknown to me, at the time a girl was also outside and seen me throw them. She went to investigate and found the glasses, amazingly unbroken, laying in the highway. She returned them to Grandma and I got my rear end warmed by my parents, then to add insult to injury I had to go face Grandma Whitely and apologize for my sins. I performed that deed very humbly because I didn't think my backside could take any more punishment that day.

We only lived a few miles from the school and Dad or Mom would load us up in the mornings and drive us in, and then come back for us in the afternoon. I remember while we were going home one evening, our old car threw a rod right through the engine block. That was it for that car but a good neighbor gave us a ride home. We got another car that was a big black and white station wagon. the engine in that one didn't last either. It smoked so bad that Dad often joked that mosquitoes didn't have a chance when that car was running. Dad rebuilt the engine in that old car but it didn't last. It started smoking again very soon. I guess it was just born to smoke and burn oil. When my parents traded that car they got a 1957 Chevy Belair and it was quite a car! It had a V-8 engine and it would move! We all loved that car and would beg Dad to "kick it into passing gear and pass another car". He would usually oblige and when that car "kicked into passing gear" it would squat the back end, lift the front end and leave out like a jet. It really was a car that had belonged to an old person and didn't have very many miles when we got it. It was my favorite of all the cars that my family owned. If I remember correctly the older car that blew the engine on the way home from school was the same car they took me to the doctor in when I was about 3 years old and accidentally got the tip of my finger cut off in the car door. Dad drove that old car for all it was worth to the hospital in town; racing it the full 15 miles to get my finger patched up. He drove it as fast as it would run, I think about eighty something mph and the old car took it like a champ. The very next day however a tie rod end right off and disconnected the steering. Luckily it happened on our property and didn't hurt anything, but it was hard not to imagine what would have happened if it had dropped that tie rod the night before while we were racing to the doctor. I think a cut off finger would have been the least of our worries. When we got to the hospital I vaguely remember sitting on a table with my cut of stub of a finger sticking up through a net of some kind. Even the night nurse was panicked because I was just a baby and had lost part of my finger. When good ol Doc Smith sent her to another room for some special scissors that he needed, she couldn't find them. The exasperated doctor finally went to find them himself and while he was gone my Dad fainted away. It was the only time in his long life that he ever fainted but he just couldn't bear the sight of my bloody finger and my screaming I guess. Mom was trying to hold my finger in that net whateveritwas until the doctor got back. She noticed Dad starting to get glazed eyes and toppling over backward. She tried to hold him and me both but finally had to let one of us go. Of course it was Dad that she turned loose and he went down and banged his head on the cement floor. Doc Smith came back in finally, glanced at Dad laying in the floor, then calmly stepped over him and went to work on my finger. A tiny nurse tried to get Dad up in a wheelchair to take him out for some fresh air. It was funny because she was just too little for the job, but somehow did it anyway. Dad soon woke up and when my finger was sewed up we headed back home. I have few memories of the time my finger took to heal but I do remember seeing the stitches and thinking that my finger was growing hair on the end.

Back then car accidents were frequent, and often people were killed or maimed. The old cars had metal dashes, bench seats, and no seat belts. When there was a wreck a fragile human body had little chance. I recall us coming up on a number of bad wrecks, often when we were on the way to church. One that I remember in particular happened when I was very small, and my memory has only retained bits and pieces of it. A car full of young people went off the road and hit a bank, overturning and throwing some of the kids out. The car was laying on one young man and there were bodies laying everywhere on the asphault. My biggest memory is how the blood was running down the pavement. In my mind it still seems like a huge amount of blood and sometimes I wonder if some of what I remember as blood could have been fluids from the car. One girl seemed to be unhurt and was running from one body to the next, crying and begging them to be ok. Of course they were not ok; several were dead. I have no idea who those kids were but they probably hadn't come very far when the accident happened. I bet they were from one of the neighboring towns. What a tragedy it was. I have no idea if they were driving fast or not but I think they probably were judging by the damage. I hope to never see another accident like that.

If my memory is correct, Dean School closed forever in 1965. The church however is still active. Like I said before, things have changed a lot since then. Not really all that long in years, but ions in change.