Subprimary 1957-58: My 68-year-old grandmother walked me, scared silly, to my first day of school. I got ruler-slapped for “writing with the wrong hand” by Miss Murphy. I am still left-handed.

Grade 1: Mrs. Robinson, a grandmotherly lady, welcomed our wide-eyed group into the school. She taught my parents also. We wrote with big pencils on practice paper with tiny chunks of wood.

Grade 2: Mrs. Ryder was our teacher. A pleasant lady, she blended “show-and-tell” into our lessons. A classmate, Sherry Withee, sang like a songbird.

Grade 3: We moved upstairs to Mrs. Thelma Dobbins’ room. I remember her more for being my sister’s favorite teacher.

Grade 4: We moved to Miss Nellie Nicholson’s room. Theresa Burns replaced Miss Holgate as principal. “I taught both your parents at Wallace. I hope you are more like your mother,” she said. I am now 57, but at age 9 I was just like my Dad. Sorry, Miss Burns.

Our team, the Pettingill Panthers, won the Gray-Y championship. I trust our banner and trophy are still in the case? We had great athletes, led by Mark Rolerson, Alan Hahnel, Steve Slovenski and Skipper Hoy.

Miss Nicholson was incredible, challenging you daily. I still check my grammar by diagramming the way she taught us. I remember playing “Eliza Jane” on flute-a-phones that cost $1.

Grade 5: R. Mason Bunker was our teacher. The girls swooned over him. Mr. Bunker and Mrs. Gibbs appeared in a Route 66 TV episode in the grand ballroom at Poland Spring Hotel, leaving us glued to the screen to pick them out. Mr. Bunker read “Johnny Tremaine” each day after lunch. We did our first play, “Jerry and the Squeegies.” I was selected a “patrol boy.”

Grade 6: Mrs. Gibbs welcomed us, breaking our class up into “wards” and holding a “city election.” She was a vibrant, beautiful woman with boundless energy. On Nov. 22, 1963, after Miss Burns had summoned all teachers to her office. Mrs. Gibbs returned, noticeably shaken. She closed the door and told us, “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. I don’t care what the Supreme Court says, if you wish to pray for him, do so with my blessings.” We did.

Skip Hoy, Roy Lever, Steve Slovenski and I had practiced an early form of air guitar-lip synching in Steve’s cellar for many afternoons. We found ourselves in wigs, on stage in the cafeteria “playing” our tennis rackets wrapped in aluminum foil to many Beatles tunes. As we finished, Mrs. Gibbs raced down the aisle toward the stage and gave the greatest Beatles’ fan swoon act ever. We all loved it.

Pettingill was where we played. “Come home when the streetlights come on,” our parents said. It was safe to do so then. A place where we learned and grew. Playground directors Dale Gagnier, Doris Belisle and Jeannie Sansoucy were saints to put up with adolescent boys trying to impress them.

When Pettingill goes, part of our lives will go with it. Forever.


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