The traditional way to say that school was about to open was something about the school bells. For those of you who wonder why bells were mentioned just check the lawns of some of the school buildings. School bells used to be a big thing. Every school had a bell.
I remember the first school that I attended. Everyone walked to school in those days. Once we arrived we stood in line outside the school until the school bell rang. When we heard the bell we were allowed to file in.
Everything was different back then. Schools were more regimented. We sat in traditional rows. There was no other way to sit in those old wooden desks that were bolted to the floor. The seat you occupied belonged to the desk behind you. If you were in the last row you had a chair to sit on. There were holes for ink wells. I do not remember using ink from an ink well, but I guess my mother and her siblings did.
Once you were in your classroom you sized things up. I remember how disappointed I was when my friends were not in my class. The only thing I could do was to meet them when school dismissed for lunch and walk home with them. Yes, you read that correctly. We all left school to go home for lunch. Our parents were responsible for feeding us. There were no free lunches. I am sure there were needy people in those days, too, but the school did not take care of them.
I think our lunch time must have been about an hour in those days. It was good for us. We did not have recess, but we did not need it. The walk home provided enough exercise as well as a release since we enjoyed our friend time.
It was on one of those walks at lunch time that I was the victim of an unfortunate accident. As I attempted to cross the street to get to school a man driving his car hit me and knocked me over. I guess I must have been late that day because I was alone.
My family and the staff had drilled it into all of our heads that under no circumstances were we to engage strangers. As soon as I righted myself I ran down the street to my aunt's house and disappeared inside. She let me call my mother at work. Mom had also received a call from the school since I never reported for the afternoon session.
The man who hit me insisted that I be taken to the doctor to be checked out. My mother picked me up at my aunt's and we went to the doctor. According to the doctor I was fine. I might have a headache since I hit my head on the car's wheel cover, but an aspirin would take care of that. I was allowed to go back to school.
When I arrived home at my grandparents' house the car that hit me was in the driveway. I was scared, so I went in the side door and sat on the cellar steps. I could hear my grandmother tell the man that the doctor said I was just fine. Of course, he volunteered to foot the bill. I did not leave my hiding place until the man left even though I heard my grandmother apologize because I should have arrived home.
Even in those days we were trained to avoid abductions and predators. What would that generation think of all that goes on today? Children should always be reminded to walk in pairs. It does not matter if they are boys or girls. Both sexes can become victims of sexual predators. There is even a mandatory registry for sexual predators today.
In spite of all of the safeguards children still are enticed by strangers to enter cars or go for walks. I remember having a group come into my classroom to teach the children about escaping from people who wanted to do them harm. The children were taught to slip out of their backpack or jacket and run while making a lot of noise.
There are so many innocent things that are no longer possible. Like I mentioned earlier we all walked. Today almost no one walks to school. Homes even have security systems to monitor when students get home from school. Are there more predators today? Honestly I am not sure. Maybe it is just more publicized. At any rate it is better to be safe than sorry.
After-school activities keep students at school longer. They are with adults as well as other students creating a safe environment. The older students are taught to look out for the younger ones, and for the most part that works quite nicely.
School bells are ringing this week around the country. Motorists are asked to exercise caution. Excited students often dart out when you least expect them. Some children ride bicycles or skateboards and forget all about the motorists who might not see them. Our Amish neighbors even ride horses and buggies to school.
When they say it takes a community to raise a child it is not just a trite saying. Everyone must be on the lookout for the students who live around them whether they meet a bus or are transported in a car.
School should be a safe place, a place where children go to learn and interact with friends. It takes all of us to make that happen. If something looks suspicious, call 911 and report it. You just may make the call that saves a child's life.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.