52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Back To School

September 1957…a new school year…a new school…a new group of friends…new books, pencils, and crayons. I loved school! I would be going to school for 60 years, and each school year planted a new seed of lifelong learning and reading.

That year, I was in second grade at a new parish school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Winchester, Virginia. The Sisters of the Holy Names would be my beloved teachers. Looking out the classroom windows, we could see the Blue Ridge Mountains in one view and the Appalachians in another. We were surrounded by apple orchards: Winchester is known as “The Apple Capital of Virginia”. Our school was out in the country, and we had an enormous playground with plenty of space for ball games and Red Rover.

There was much to learn in second grade: Baltimore Catechism questions and answers in Religion, carrying and borrowing in math, Think and Do workbooks in reading, animal studies in science, all enhanced with music and art. I prided myself on being a hard-working student who always had reading material close at hand. Why, even homework was a delight to me! I was totally, hopelessly in love with school.

Most of the kids in the class and school were new to me. They came from varying backgrounds; many of them had many siblings. It was an adventure to be invited to their homes on a Saturday to explore different neighborhoods in which to sidewalk roller skate and bike ride. I quickly connected with those who lived in my neighborhood of Forest Hills. We built forts, walked through orchards, and played in the park…kids having fun and enjoying the outside.

It is now more than 60 years since I entered that sacred classroom. Because of my Catholic education, I devoted 38 years of my life as an elementary teacher in another Catholic school as a type of pay back for all I enjoyed and learned.

Here is to another school year…bless our teachers and students…Lord, keep them safe and secure. Let our children learn love, kindness, generosity, and compassion from one another. Amen.

Footnote:  Of the 26 children in my class, I could remember the names of 22. I used Ancestry (Search/Births, Marriages & Deaths) to look for some of them. For many I found Virginia marriage certificates; information such as parents’ names, birth dates, levels of education was available. Many of my classmates have been married two-three times so there were also divorce decrees. The location of the marriages did suggest where people had relocated within the state. I did find the death certificate for one boy; in reading it, I discovered that his death was ruled a homicide in January, 1981. Then, I searched http://www.newspaperarchive.com to research the story. My heart goes out to his family. Sometimes, the ending of a story is just a keystroke away.

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