Darn: I change fifth grade classes #AtoZChallenge

Sepia Saturday 514. D is for Darn: I change fifth grade classes: Fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Endwell: My Elementary Years”— where my genealogy journey germinated. Wish me luck!

Starting with fifth grade, we Baby Boomers were disbursed among rental and other classrooms around Endwell while the school district scrambled to build larger facilities.

Methodist Church classroom drama

That’s how I ended up attending the first half of fifth grade in a classroom attached to the local Methodist Church — the scene of a major drama in my young life.

Methodist Church classrooms in 1993. This is where I attended the first half of fifth grade in rented classrooms — and where I got the shocking news that I’d be moved to another class after spring break! Photo: Molly Charboneau

I began fifth grade in Mr. Fenson’s class. He was a conservative , suit-wearing Nixon supporter and just nerdy enough that all one of my female classmates and I had to do was look at him, or each other, to burst into riots of laughter.

I was a veteran of Miss George’s strict fourth grade class (more on her in my letter M post) so being able to laugh until my sides hurt in fifth grade may have been an antidote.

But apparently not a good one, because next thing you know I was called into a one-on-one midyear meeting with our school principal Mr. Pierce — an event so earth shattering I entered it in my diary.

Thursday, Feb. 3, 1961, 11:45 — Today Mr. Pierce told me I am going to have Mr. Hazlett for a teacher when we move to the Junior High School. I will always try to hate him. ALWAYS.

A major change at a new venue

Wow, the humiliation! I didn’t know anyone who had changed their class midyear. So after spring break, I harrumphed into Mr. Hazlett’s fifth grade class in the Junior High building — the next place they housed us — and tried my best to dislike him.

Former Endwell Junior High building in 1993. Mr. Hazlett’s classroom was to the right of the door. I was switched to his class for the second half of fifth grade — and got to like it despite initial resistance. The building later housed  a credit union. Photo: Molly Charboneau

But he was young and handsome, wore his necktie loose with his shirtsleeves rolled up — and his pretty wife Sherry sometimes dropped by the side door near our classroom to visit. So a month later I had changed my tune.

Wednesday, Mar. 15, 1961,  4:00 — I like Mr. Hazlett much better than Mr. Fenson. Mr. Hazlett never yells. Mr. Fenson used to yell a lot.

My parents had a hand

Decades later I was reminiscing with my dad about my midyear fifth-grade class change, and it turns out my parents were behind the whole thing. How did I not know this before?

“You were doing terrible in school,” Dad said. “We wanted to get your little girlfriend’s class changed but her mom was Class Mother, so you had to switch instead.”  Turns out I did well in Mr. Hazlett’s class, so in retrospect the change was a good one.

True, when I told Mr. Hazlett I wanted to be a lawyer or a private detective as my vocation, he said, “Why don’t you try something more realistic, like being a nurse or a teacher?”

But I ended up becoming a genealogist and family historian — plenty of legal and detective work there — so I guess I got the last laugh!

Up next: E is for En-joie Pool and Elks Bake Shop. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of the other Sepia Saturday participants here

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22 thoughts on “Darn: I change fifth grade classes #AtoZChallenge”

  1. I think those middle school years were the time many people, including myself, received special life lessons and gifts. In 4th grade I thought a musical instrument would be fun and my mother let me pick the French horn. In hindsight there was no special teacher or ambition on my part that first led me to music. It was my mom who recognized it as important and later in 6th grade found a horn teacher for me. Sometimes we never know the path we are on until we look back.

    1. So true about life paths. I should have suspected I would take to writing as an adult, since I kept a regular diary — but I was well into my communications career before I realized its roots in my elementary years.

  2. How fun to find out something you hadn’t known before, and even better that the situation worked out well in the first place. I”m glad you got to put those detective ambitions to fruition.

    1. Me too. I was indignant about Mr. Hazlett’s career suggestions (clearly, because I have never forgotten them!). Turns out I knew myself much better than the adults in my life — and felt strongly enough to disregard them.

  3. I didn’t keep my diary. I also did not keep up with it very well at the time either thinking my life wasn’t interesting enough. I do have to laugh at the handsome Mr. Hazlett not being very modern in his thinking about women’s careers. He couldn’t get away with that today.

    1. Years later, in high school, I ran into Mr. Hazlett on the street. He and his wife Sherry had gotten divorced and he had left teaching and was selling insurance. He no longer looked handsome, either — and I felt in a small way vindicated for his sexist remarks.

    1. I am so happy that mine survived my family’s many moves. It’s an invaluable window to the past — like one of those letters to your future self.

  4. I love that you kept your diary. I burned mine, too many nosy people… I should have rented a safety deposit box instead haha!
    My fifth grade was traumatic for a few of us… half way thru the year our beloved teacher got sick and died of pneumonia! We got a very strict teacher in her place. One reason it scared me is because my mom got pneumonia every year and from then on I was terrified every time she got sick! Thank the lord she lived to past 90.

    1. There are many passages in my diary condemning my neighborhood girlfriends for reading it. My siblings also found it when I was in college and poured through it. I suspect my parents did, too. But now I am so happy to have this window into my past. Glad to year your mom had a long life — but I can understand your concern for her through the years.

    1. Me, too. I have a feeling their hidden hand was ever-present during my school years — especially because my mom was a substitute teacher, so she knew the principal. But I was still surprised to learn they were behind my fifth grade class change.

  5. My grade school had ‘high’ & ‘low’ grades meaning some kids started school (‘low’ grade) in Sept. & some started in Jan. I started in Jan. so began ‘low’ 5th grade in Jan. But the school decided to go to single grades when I was set to go into ‘high’ 5th in Sept. Instead, I got shoved forward into 6th grade meaning I had to cover a grade & a half in one year. But I didn’t mind because I hated my 5th grade teacher (for good reason) and loved my 6th grade teacher. Sometimes you get lucky! 🙂

    1. Interesting. We had single-year grades and my now-retired classmates and I still talk about whether they were an “old” fifth grader or a “young” fifth grader — depending on their birthdays.

  6. What a great vignette of your life as a pre-teen. Fifth grade I got substitutes, one right after another for some reason. Not much fun, and I’m surprised I passed. No diaries remain, if I even had them!

  7. Changing classes mid year can be traumatic. I’m glad it worked out for you. That’s awesome that you still have your diaries from that time. I threw mine out which makes me sad. I wish I’d kept them.Weekends In Maine

  8. That would have been tough but it turned out for the best. Staggering now to hear those blithe biases about what girls should or could do. Loved the diary note, and that you even kept a diary.

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