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Column: The week before school started was summer’s last hurrah
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

In my childhood, this was the week (although at that time it was two or three weeks later). It was the last hurrah of summer. 

It was the time we knew school would begin and we would take an assessment of what we had or hadn’t accomplished. 

We had big dreams. We were going to build something, usually a hut or a fort. One summer, we dug a hole. We became convinced we were going to dig down to China. I don’t know if we ever realized that we were only six feet closer to China. We were convinced that by the end of summer we would be in Peking, the name they called the city back then. 

We rode bikes, horses, go-karts and anything else that might transport us down the street. There was swimming and other activities and of course, Vacation Bible School. 

In my final days of VBS, I got to carry the Bible. It was the super extra large size. I think it had more than 66 books. I’m pretty sure it had the book of Randy or Ed. It had lots of pictures of baby Jesus as well as Jesus on the cross. I think it had a picture of Zacchaeus up in the sycamore tree. 

We pledged allegiance to the Bible and asked that it would be a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path and I would hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God. 

Depending on what Mama had found on the sales rack, there might be a little more school shopping to do. 

I remember getting a Blue Horse pad with extra lines in it. I also got one of those Husky pencils, which was about a half-inch thick. Mrs. Joann Nash, my first grade teacher who is also a reader of this column, had a gadget that held about four pieces of chalk. She would make lines on the board similar to the pad. Every day, she would write something for us to copy. It would start off with something like, “Today is Monday, August 8.” 

She gave it a great effort, but I never was known for my penmanship.

Some kids would bring pictures from their vacations. It might be from some interesting-sounding place like Bacon Level, Alabama, or something glorious like St. Louis. 

Nobody had a picture of their vacation to China, but we got six feet closer than anybody else we knew. 

I spent some time last week at open houses at some of our local schools. It was great, but I miss the smell of sweeping compound and chalk. If you walked near the office you would smell the pungent aroma of a mimeograph machine and its purple ink. 

We did not have a copy machine or a computer in those days. 

I was glad to see some of my bus riders. They asked the most important question: Are we going to have snacks this year? Yes, if you obey the rules of the bus.

Our students are blessed with technology and a wealth of information. I hope this is the greatest year ever.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.