read various chapters of this autobiography by going to the Individual Stories menu to the right.

Thursday, January 1, 1970

Head Start and First grade at Parham Elementary in Little Rock Arkansas

Parham Elementary, I still recall walking on those steps.

In 1967 I started school at Parham Elementary. It was the elementary school my dad attended.

President Johnson's welfare initiatives included Head Start, a program that provided "comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families". I was poor, so I was in Head Start on its second year of existence.

I remember doing a lot of art projects in Head Start, especially making a collage of a frog I thought was a real challenge, listening to a teacher play an upright piano, and one more thing. Head Start was a new welfare state instrument, and this was the 1960's. So who would be involved in such an affair? Radicals. I put all this together years later in my forties. I had one thing I remembered from those classes that never made sense till my adult mind connected the dots to radicals: the women wore no underwear. And they didn't wear make-up. My first year of school was in Radical-ville!  (excerpt out of Athena Techne, Chapter 3 Straight Lines through Arkansas)

In 1968-9 was my first grade year at Parham. My teacher's name was Ms. Marshall. The South had just become desegregated within the last 10 years. The whole idea of blacks and whites in school was still hotly debated. Ms Marshall was black, and exuded more beauty, poise, classiness, and professionalism than anyone I had ever met. The school as a whole was neither predominantly white or black.

There were no tensions between races or feelings of tighter friendships for any race. I know it was just first grade, but I had actually experienced race tension a few years before in my great grandmother's neighborhood (Sunset Terrace gov projects) when blacks got out for a strong street presence after either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I distinctly remember the groups of blacks and they were not celebratory in demeanor, they wore scowls and I stayed indoors kind of scared.

...but first grade at Parham simply was nothing but good for me. No bullies, no mean people at all.

I don't usually retain memory of smells, but I recall the smells of the kitchen wafting into the playground in the morning before school. The school kitchen used an ancient butane stove. For decades after that I associated the butane with the very best in pancakes, because the single strongest memory of the school playground was smelling that stove and a teacher saying they were cooking pancakes.

Later that school year I got in trouble for the first time ever in school. We were watching a video, shown on reel-to-reel projected onto a white screen, and the lights were off. I was sitting between two girls. I started kissing both of them. It was one of the girl's idea, and...well...voila..manage au trois.

I didn't get in big trouble. Just scolded a little. One girl was white and the other black.

There was one stressful thing that happened at the school. Parham was at 15th St & Vance St and my home was at 1619 Broadway. My dad took me to and from school by car. One day I waited on the steps outside for over an hour. I waited for a long time then I cried. I remember an older boy saying to other kids something sympathetic about me. Then I remember my mom and dad driving up and my mom was so sorry. My mom didn't know how to drive, and had my 4 year old sister at home. It wasn't her fault.

Then, not long after that incident, my dad was really late picking me up at school. I decided to walk home. It was a one mile walk through inner city Little Rock. The first time it was...of course...a big deal in every way for a little kid. I walked two blocks down Vance Street, then turned right on East 17th Street, which I stayed on most of the way, then a right on Broadway at Mr and Ms Reeves house on the corner, and our house was the next one. When I was crossing 17th and Main I saw my dad blazing by with a worried look on his the adult world I was missing. I can't recall what happened at home but I wasn't in trouble at all, my dad may have been. My dad convinced my mom I could obviously handle myself with the walk home. I think I said it was easy. From that point on my dad took me to school and I walked home. I liked the walk, I got to see all the old homes and big trees.

The author of this blog also has two books available on Amazon. Athena Techne uses some of the autobiographical content of this blog and adds a philosophical perspective utilizing the ancient Greek god Athena.

Athena Techne :: Page

Autistic Crow Computer is a fiction set in Seattle, about an autistic boy and two crows. The book was written for young autistic readers, although reviews by non-autistics have been positive.

Autistic Crow Computer :: Page

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