Monday, February 8, 2010

Fifth Grade at McCollum Elementary

The "class photo" above is from my fifth-grade year at McCollum Elementary School, 1969-70. It obviously took some abuse at some point in time, undoubtedly from my younger sister in a fit of pique. I include my own picture -- taken sans glasses -- at the left in case anyone wonders what got scratched out.

My teacher in fifth grade was Miss Fifield, who was easily the youngest teacher (~25 years old at the time) I had in elementary school. She was also sufficiently pretty that I probably would have had a crush on her but for her somewhat conceited, off-putting manner. Her younger brother John was the star basketball player at Highland HS that year (he went on to play for UNM), and I remember she taped newspaper clippings of John's exploits on the wall behind her desk. (Which was of interest to me, as my brother Jeff played for his high school team that year and was actually assigned to guard John when they played Highland.)

The people pictured are: Top (L-R): Miss (Vera) Morrow (principal), Miss (Marilyn) Fifield (teacher), Patrick Sena, Cella Dewey, Stan Esquibel, Perri Stovall, Ricky Manes, Kaye Grass. Second Row: Tammy Massoth, Gerald S_____, Yvonne Cleland, Mark Brogdon. Third Row: Roxanna Davis, Danny Fox, Elisa Banda, Jeff Kainz, Brenda Burns, Rodney Nordstrom. Fourth Row: Debra Schwardt, Patricia Serna, Trina Stewart, Scott Felder, James Snider. Fifth Row: Duane Grammer, Tonya Farson, Howie Weimer, Laura Madrid, Kevin Kartchner, Cathy Ames, Kathleen Coombs, Toni Lopez.

That year was Miss Morrow's last year as principal of the school before she retired. I look back on her now only as a person to be avoided, if possible; however, I do remember being called into her office once that year. Some kid, whom I really didn't know, had gone around our neighborhood showing hard-core pornographic Polaroids (I still wonder where he got them) to other kids, including me. He must have been caught with those photographs at school, and apparently he told Miss Morrow the names of all the persons to whom he had shown them, whether on or off school grounds. Anyway, she called me in and asked me, "Who showed you The Pictures?" I honestly didn't know what she was talking about, so I replied, "What pictures?" which she took as evasion. Once I finally realized what she was referring to, I told her everything I knew in that regard (which wasn't much) and was forced to give her a graphic description of what the photos depicted, using a ten-year-old's limited (and crude) vocabulary. A very uncomfortable experience, notwithstanding the fact that I wasn't really in trouble for anything.

Brenda Burns was one of the cutest girls in my fifth-grade class; I had had crushes on her in first and third grades, and I think she actually liked me that year (or in sixth grade -- I don't really remember), but for some reason I shied away from her. She moved from the immediate area after sixth grade, and I later found out that she attended Del Norte HS. (I remember looking, in 1981, at my friend Ken Mantlo's 1977 Del Norte yearbook and seeing Brenda's picture; I commented to Ken that I had known Brenda in elementary school, and he told me that she had been the object of the lust of just about every guy at Del Norte.) Ironically, Brenda ended up marrying a member of the LDS church -- Tom Divett, brother of Dorine's good friend Ruth Divett -- and joining the church herself, although the marriage ultimately didn't last, and I doubt Brenda stayed active in church after she remarried. (I know she and Tom lived for years in the east mountain area in fairly primitive conditions.) One of Brenda's friends in the class was Kathleen Coombs, whom I saw a few years ago at Chuck E. Cheese's on Wyoming Blvd. here in Albuquerque. I decided not to intrude by speaking to her, but there was no mistaking who she was -- she looked almost exactly the same as she did in elementary school.

A sad case was Gerald S______, who was one of a mere handful of African-Americans at the school. Gerald was a bright kid and talented, but his life went off the rails in high school, probably due to drugs and drink. I understand he served two years in the juvenile detention center at Springer for his involvement in a killing that took place at my high school in 1976. And I remember sitting in the UNM law library, sometime while I was a student at the law school in the mid-to-late 1980s, reading the New Mexico Bar Bulletin. That particular issue contained the advance opinion from Gerald's appeal from a conviction of aggravated rape (which conviction was sustained). The facts of the case were pretty disgusting, leaving me to wonder what had happened to the promising kid whom I'd known years earlier.

Finally, I remember fifth grade as the year when The Brady Bunch first aired on TV. It quickly became my favorite show, and I watched it every week.