A trip to remember
By Whitley Clifton | March 26, 2020 11:54 am
Cherokee roses bloomed profusely on the old fences at Garfield Grammar School. If that weren’t enough, brown thrasher birds were plentiful on campus. The two were Georgia’s state flower and state bird. How could a small school be so blessed?
We had perfect teachers who read us Bible stories each morning and often quoted valuable lessons and proverbs from the good book. God always came first.
As the old reliable saying goes, there was also reading, writing, and arithmetic taught to the tune of a hickory stick. As much as most of us could do without the hickory stick, the teachers were strong disciplinarians who believed in the Bible’s admonishment if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child.
The school boasted the power of women teachers and as far as I know, there had been no men. Myrene Johnson was the principal, and she ruled the school with an iron hand and a warm, compassionate heart. Opal Brown, Jewel Toole, Mrs. Sconyers, and my favorite, Ms. Bossie Byrd, who was a preacher’s wife form Twin City, completed the staff.
Ms. Bossie Byrd was always stretching our little backwoods, country minds to a world beyond the dusty corn and cotton fields of southeast Georgia, which most of us hadn’t experienced beyond Emanuel County.
I remember we loaded the big yellow school bus to go on an excursion to the Savannah beach, Fort Pulaski, Savannah’s historic museum, and to top it off, we browsed through Sears Department Store, which was the biggest retail store we had ever seen. Our store, Toole and Cowart Merchantile Store in Garfield, was tiny in comparison.
I sat close to a window where I could get a close look at the ocean, which I had never before seen. As we neared Tybee Beach, all of the fifth graders started to make “ooh-s” and “ah-s” as we gazed out into infinity and an ocean that went on forever.
I thought to myself, in all my fifth-grade wisdom, that maybe the world was flat like the early explorers had thought. As far are I could see, it was all flat with no dropping off point.
Fort Pulaski was very educational but as silly as it seems, I was more interested in a huge fig tree that grew on the grounds because the tour guide said it was one of the largest in the world. As young as we were, we felt akin to the old moss-covered fort with its historic mote and its secret rooms and dungeons that stretched our fifth-grade minds and gave us a desire to learn more of Savanah’s history.
We toured the huge Sears complex and counted our loose change to purchase bogs of M&M’s and colorful jellybeans. Never before would our parents have consented for us to have so much sugar, but today was our day and our compassionate teacher, Ms. Bossie Byrd, turned a blind eye to our indiscretions.
A tour through Savannah’s historic museum was certainly eye-opening. The sun was shining bright and warm outside, and the birds were singing and making a nest for their future family.
But, inside this dark and dusty museum, with musky uniforms and clothing from the past, we just couldn’t relate to historic events that happened hundreds of years ago. After all, life was no, and we were only 10-years-old with many years ahead of us, or so we thought. Time has stolen our fifth-grade innocence and youth, but it will never steal our memories.