Fred Clark: An Old Town kid in the 1930s
By Fred Clark
I started kindergarten in the fall of 1937 and both Norm [cousin Norm Clark] and I went to Whittier Elementary School. During the war years we had big scrap
drives and we hauled all sorts of scrap and junk to the school yard. I can remember spending most of a week digging an old car body out of an embankment and
hauling it to school on our little wagons.
School days at Whittier, which had grades kindergarten through sixth, were much different then today's schools. The staff that I can remember, were Mrs. Morgan, Principal; Mrs. Lawson, 4th grade; and Mrs. Burgess, first grade. Before school, during recesses, during lunch hour and occasionally after school, we would play several rough and tumble games. Dodgeball and a game we called kickball were among the favorites. In kickball everyone was divided into two teams and it was sort of a free-for-all where everyone kicked the ball and each other until one side shoved the ball across the other team's goal. On rainy days we would have boxing and wrestling in the basement as well as other games such as musical chairs, dodgeball etc. On snowy days we would choose up sides, build snow forts on the playground and have big snowball fights. In the spring it was marble season. The kids would bring their bags of marbles to school and we would scratch out a circle in the dirt about five feet in diameter, hunker down and begin to shoot marbles. It was always for keeps, so you had better be pretty good or you would lose all of your marbles. In those days, there were no schoolbuses and no free lunches. Everyone made it to school the best they could, and they either went home for lunch or brought their lunches. We had a full hour off for lunch.
In today's world, if kids are caught fighting, they can be expelled and taken to detention; however, in our day, the only rule was that you had to leave the school grounds to do your fighting. If two guys had a problem they would go down the alley, usually with a big following. To get things started, each would put a chip of wood on his shoulder. One guy would knock the chip off the other guy's shoulder and the fight would be on, which was usually a combination of fists and wrestling around on the ground. At some point one would give up and maybe cry uncle and that would be it.
In the spring of the year, we would have Track Day at the school. This was a big deal and something we all looked forward to all year. There would be all kinds of races, relay races, high jumping, pole vaulting, etc. In order to practice, we would make jumping stands in the back yard which consisted of two posts planted in the ground with a bamboo stick for a cross piece. The bamboo stick was laid across nails that were hammered into the posts. We would spade up the ground for a soft landing. One evening while in the fourth grade, when I was practicing high jumping, I fell and broke my left elbow in three places. I was in a cast for six weeks and missed my chance to compete at Track Day. Also, for pole vaulting, we would use a stick or pole that came from most anywhere. The fourth grade was a bad year for me as I not only broke my elbow but had most of the childhood diseases, measles, chicken pox, etc.
The above is used with permission from “Growing Up in Old Colorado City,” by Fred Clark. He was a Whittier Elementary student in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He gave his younger- days account to the Old Colorado City Historical Society during his visit here last week.