Well, I am a week late with this post, but I actually have great memories of fifth grade, so here goes.
When I was growing up, school always began the day after Labor Day and 4 September 1962 wasn’t any different. I attended Roosevelt School #10 in Passaic, NJ. It was an inauspicious start to fifth grade because (1) I was sick and missed the first day and (2) my mother took my brother to his first day of kindergarten, reported me sick to the office and came back with the news I was dreading: I was to be in Mrs. Wallace’s class.
Mrs. Wallace had quite a reputation for being strict and mean. I was very quiet, well behaved and a good student, but I still had wanted to be in any other class except hers. Even worse, when I arrived at school the next year, I discovered that only one boy, Michael, from my entire 4th grade class, was in my 5th grade class. I remember wondering to myself how the two of us got so lucky.
In spite of what I considered to be a sad start, Mrs. Wallace was an excellent teacher. I learned a lot in her class. She did have a few quirks. For example, she didn’t give detentions, but most of the students were very well behaved. You see, she had an entire shelf of etiquette books in the back of the room. When someone misbehaved, they had to copy pages out of those books and the punishment was given in 10 page increments. For talking without permission, first offense, ten pages were assigned. There was even a class monitor whose job it was was to record everyone’s name if they were assigned manners pages, as they were called. The monitor also had to add slash marks after the name for each offense. I can’t remember for sure, but I think the boy’s name was Jerome. Poor guy – after just the first grading period, he had 47 slash marks after his name. I am surprised that his hand didn’t fall off. By the way, manners pages had to be completed during the school day, in addition to completing all the regularly assigned work.
I had a new best friend in 5th grade, too. Janie’s family had moved to Passaic from New York City. She was the youngest of seven children and they only lived two doors away from the school. That was important, as our school didn’t serve lunch. Everyone walked home for lunch and walked back to school after lunch for the afternoon session. I only lived four blocks away, but it was sure nice being invited to Janie’s house for lunch! It left a lot more time for jump rope and other games before we went back into the classroom.
Fifth and sixth grade girls had another opportunity available to them – they could try out for the cheer leading squad that cheered on #10 school in basketball games. I made alternate, which I think was pretty good with the 6th graders getting priority. I remember cheering at a few games, but I mostly remember going to Nadler’s Department Store downtown to buy the gold pull over sweater and my mom buying the purple fabric needed for the big “R” that she sewed on the front of the sweater. #10’s school colors, of course, were purple and gold.
Lastly, I remember a very special impromptu assembly that at least the upper graders attended. #10 School has a couple of famous past students – namely, the Shirelles and Joey Dee of the Starliters. Well, Joey Dee returned to his old elementary school with the band and they gave a show for all the students. At one point, he asked the kids which teachers should go up on the stage and dance the Twist with him. We all yelled for Mrs. Wallace, but she said no. I have no memory at all of which teachers could then claim to have danced with Joey Dee.
I didn’t know it at the time, but as 5th grade came to a close, that would be the last full school year I spent at #10 School. In December, during my 6th grade year, we moved to Wayne. Wouldn’t you know, as that year, I actually got the teacher I had really wanted – Mrs. Wachs – but that is a different story.